It can be rightfully questioned whether tourism is truly helpful to a local economy and therefore whether it is worth investment and encouragement. One study about equine tourism suggests that the least profitable equine businesses – riding schools and breeders for instance – have the best impact on the surrounding community (via economic multipliers) because they tend to spend most of their income locally. “Activities needing to allocate some revenue to returns on capital and wages, e.g. boarding enterprises and professional trainers, had somewhat lower multipliers.” (1) So how helpful an equine tourism enterprise is to a local economy depends on the type of enterprise that it is.
One question that has been asked by equine tourism researchers is whether equine tourism can be considered sustainable tourism. This is an important question because in some places sustainability merits special investment. The answer to the question is ‘it depends.’ “Sustainability is based upon three key aspects, something called the ‘Sustainability Triangle’. These are: Environment, Society, Economy. Horse tourism contributes to keeping people ‘on the land’, providing income in areas which often have few sources of it. Further, much of the income from horse tourism businesses is spent locally, into the local society, providing direct local economic benefits.” (2) Where it can be demonstrated that equines contribute positively to the health of the environment, as is the case with Fell Pony conservation grazing, for instance, then a second leg of the triangle is created. Finally, when the native breeds being used in the tourism enterprise have cultural value, such as the Fell Pony does, then the sustainability triangle has the potential to be completed.
Lindberg, G. et al. “Input-output analysis of the Swedish and Norwegian horse sectors: modelling the socio-economic impacts of equine activities,” The new equine economy in the 21st century. EAAP Scientific Series, Volume 136, as accessed 3/31/19 at https://www.wageningenacademic.com/doi/abs/10.3920/978-90-8686-824-7_2
Evans, Rhys, et al. A Good Practice Guide to Equine Tourism. HLB Rapport Nr. 2 – 2015, as accessed 3/31/19 at http://hlb.no/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/HLB_rapport_2_2015_final.pdf p. 14.