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6 guests-a-resting: Lillydale Host Farm & Bungaree Station

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The New Age farm-stay businesses might be an agribusiness innovation, but it’s not only showing fellow farmers that they have assets they might need to look at in these drought-ridden times – they’re also showing city slickers a thing or two.

The owners of Lillydale Host Farm, 90 minutes southwest of Brisbane are a classic case in point. Lillydale Host Farm is a farm-stay property, located in the foothills of southeast Queensland's Scenic Rim.

“We started in 2000 because we had a really big drought,” says Rebecca Hardgrave, the daughter of the founders, Doug and Pamela Hardgrave. “It was something to supplement my parents’ income but it has grown.”

Rebecca says her Dad was surprised at the growth in the first year but it has continued to surprise them year after year.

The farm aims to give visitors the opportunity to experience authentic Australian rural life in a hospitable and personal-service oriented environment. It also has resolved a little issue that Pamela and Doug have had to work out.

“Mum always wanted to travel but Dad wanted to stay put,” Rebecca explains. “With Lillydale mum gets to meet people from all over the world.”

But this is not just good old country comfort – its prodigious list of awards tells us that this is a professional tourism outfit. Trying to explain the farm’s success, Rebecca points to the wonderful scenery at Lillydale Farm and the drive of her innovative parents.

“It’s all based on customer service; we really look after the kids and that makes the parents happy to come back again,” she says. “Mum and Dad come up with the ideas but they run it by the staff to see what they think.”

Their business acumen has been acknowledged with Pamela winning the 2006 Business Owner Award at the 2006 Telstra Queensland Business Women's Awards, and the farm has jumped through the hoops to be granted eco-tourist status, showing they’re right on the pulse of modern tourism.

Driven by tradition

Across the country to South Australia and another farm has turned its hand to farm-stay tourism, yet the driver was not drought but tradition.

Sal and George Hawker, along with their children, have created a farm-stay business famous for down-to-earth country hospitality at their family property, Bungaree Station. It too has won numerous regional and national tourism awards.

The family’s heritage goes back to 1840 when the Hawker brothers shelled out more than four thousand pounds for 2000 sheep from NSW for two Pound 10 Shilling per head. On Christmas day 1841, the brothers came to a place near the Hutt River, selected a spot for a slab house and called the place by its aboriginal name – 'Bungurrie' meaning ‘my country’ or ‘place of deep water’.

Over time 'Bungurrie' was anglicised to 'Bungaree' and established as a sheep run with 100,000 sheep by the mid 1880s.

It has taken out countless awards includingthe National Award for Heritage, Cultural and Environmental Tourism as well as the prestigious R. M. Williams Outback Heritage Award.

So why did the Hawkers turn to tourism?

“Due to the village-like nature of the buildings at Bungaree Station, it was logical at the time because these buildings were no longer used by staff, to convert them into accommodation for guests,” Sal explains. “The buildings that are left empty soon fall into disrepair and we saw it as our duty to maintain these buildings due to their historic significance to the rural industry, the state and the nation.”

Like Lillydale Host Farm, Bungaree’s Sal says the customer experience is very important and their dedication to the task has seen repeat business at the heart of the farm’s tourism success. And of course, there’s innovation.

“One needs to monitor the needs of the consumer and make changes accordingly,” Sal says. “We now cater for conferences, weddings, birthday parties but still look after individuals.”

The Hawkers learnt their new business on the job as they were founding members of the SA Host Farm Association that later amalgamated with the SA Bed and Breakfast Association to become the SA B&B & Farmstay Association.

Asked what she has learnt from the experience, her tips should be noted by others in the tourism game.

Sal thinks first impressions are important, as you often don’t get a second chance. And like Lillydale, kids are crucial.

“If the children are kept happy then the parents generally return time after time,” confirms Sal. “All visitors bring joy, some when they arrive and some when they leave.”

If you’re looking to work on your business rather than being stuck in it, book in for a complimentary business assessment today with Switzer Business Coaching.

Important information: This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. For this reason, any individual should, before acting, consider the appropriateness of the information, having regard to the individual’s objectives, financial situation and needs and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.

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