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Saving Regional Australia through the Airbnb of farming

As drought again takes hold in parts of Australia, the nation’s largest landsharing website, Youcamp.com, is calling on governments of all levels to recognise that opening up private land to tourism is a way to future proof regional Australia.

Youcamp.com, which allows farmers and landholders to open their land to paying tourists is a way for private property owners to join in the profits from the emerging share economy.Hosts are able to list not just accommodation but also activities such as farm tours and any of the other countless types of “adventures” available on private land. Youcamp is the Airbnb of the outdoors and Airbnb for farmers.Many Youcamp hosts are discovering that setting up boutique tourism businesses is a way to not just supplement much needed on-farm income but also to create sustainable private land enterprises that are not subject to the vagaries of climate change. By bringing city Australians onto farms as visitors, it also creates a window into the lives of rural landholders and the challenges that they face. Many Youcamp guests are also coming to realise that some of the best and most spectacular campsites are actually on private land. In addition, many of the camping, glamping and other options listed on the website offer travellers much greater privacy and choice compared to national parks. For example, many Youcamp properties allow guests to bring their dogs and horses. And it is not just the landholders who benefit. While visiting regional Australia, guests also spend money in communities that they may not otherwise be able to visit. “While private land camping is legal across all of Australia,” says Youcamp co-founder, James Woodford, “some governments make the process of approval excessively onerous and expensive. "We want to see more state and local governments follow the lead of more progressive councils such as Temora and Noosa, which are embracing the opportunities land sharing provides.” “It is not about replacing existing camping and accommodation options but rather creating a much greater mix. One of our mottos is that landholders should not just be farming sheep and wheat but also people.”​ “We literally get feedback that innovative ways, such as this, to make extra money from the share economy enables some families to stay on the land and provide employment opportunities for their children “We are also calling on city-based Australians to help their regional cousins by choosing a farm-based escape rather than heading to Bali.” "When we first launched our national land-sharing website Youcamp here in the Eurobodalla back in 2013 we had no idea that it would become the biggest of its kind in Australia and change the way people enjoy the outdoors."

"We hadn’t heard of the share economy. We weren’t tech-savvy city hipsters. We were just Bingie landholders who loved gathering with friends and family beside a fire on our 100-acre property.

"Our idea was simple – allow travellers to somehow connect with farmers and other landholders to access campsites on private land.

"Some of the most beautiful places in Australia are on private land and by opening up properties we were offering travellers a chance to enjoy the outdoors with less crowds and more flexible rules, such as being able to bring pets and horses.

"For landowners it was a chance to make extra income.

"Over time we have come to realise that we are not just revolutionising the way Australians enjoy the outdoors, we are also revolutionising farm life and building a bridge between urban and rural Australians. Our website is a way for landholders to drought-proof their properties, by providing a consistent income in spite of the vagaries of the climate.

"What we had no idea of was how complex and inconsistent the regulation of private land camping is. In NSW primitive camping legislation gives landholders a framework under which they can apply to their local government for approval to have travellers stay. "here is also an exemption that allows people to camp on private land for a limited number of nights per year but does not allow landholders to charge fees.

"Some councils such as Temora, in the Central West of NSW have welcomed Youcamp with open arms, allowing landholders to apply for a permit, and be approved in a sensible and low cost manner. But most, including the Eurobodalla, are still not sure what to do with a website like ours.

"What we are saying is that landsharing is a win-win for campers and for landholders." "It’s an idea whose time has come and it is time for councils and governments of all levels to apply sensible regulation and make it easy rather than hard. And the worst situation of all is for governments to block their eyes and ears and hope the share economy goes away. We need sensible regulation."

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