HORSEee^CAMPING: Starting a new tourism business

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By Kellie Parkin

More than 20 property owners gathered at Black Prong Equestrian Center Tuesday to learn how they might turn their land into a horse camping enterprise. Some people came from as far away as Tallahassee, Chipley, Perry, Miami and Tampa for the all-day class.

The workshop was co-sponsored by University of Florida IFAS Extension and the Original Florida Tourism Task Force, Natural North Florida.

Horse camping requires a few things from a property: Level surface, safe corrals, no drainage into the camp site, enough room to unload, a hitching rail, and a water source for the horses, said Helen Koehler, President of the Goethe Trail, a volunteer group dedicated to nature-based equine tourism. Regulations depend on in which county the property is located, she said.

“Horse camping is not new, we’re just finally getting someone’s attention,” Koehler said.

Sharon Liggett, Chair of Original Florida, gave an overview of business development and how to get started. She said she sees businesses spending all of their financial resources on business plans, and never enough focus on marketing. “Marketing is how you connect your buyers to the services or product you have.”

“The first thing you do is define your product,” she said. Then comes the research. Will the market sustain what you want to do? What are your goals and objectives? What resources are available? “You need something distinct – and then you draft your preliminary mission statement.”

She also recommends a SWOT analysis. SWOT looks at what is both helpful and harmful in each of four categories: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

This is the tricky part. “Be brutally honest with yourself – sometimes that is really hard to do,” she said.

Once you know your SWOT, you need a strategic plan that focuses on marketing, community involvement, and advertising.

“You have to think outside that local circle – but you also have to start there to make sure you have your bases covered.”

For more information about horse camping, contact Helen Koehler at (352) 486-7040.