Best Practices & Insider Tips for Glamping Professionals
The ‘glamping’ trend is exploding worldwide. Capitalizing on the growing popularity of providing unique outdoor experiences is an easy way for any CanvasCamp owner to earn some extra cash. Whether you are looking to offset your mortgage payment, start your own glamping business, or just fill up the tank for your next adventure, we’ve got some tips to help get you started.
...or just some expert advice on how to start your own glamping business
What is Glamping
Camping - Just Easier
Glamping - mash up of “glamour” and “camping” - is a form of camping involving accommodation and facilities more luxurious than those associated with traditional camping. It’s a real word, so widely used and recognized it was adopted into all major English language dictionaries by 2017.
Glamping is also a buzzword that is applied to a wide range of accommodations styles.
Camping is getting out into nature for an overnight stay. Meeting the very basic human needs of food, water, and shelter requires a lot of work and gear, even in ideal weather conditions. Glamping is a simply a means of making camping more approachable, accessible, and comfortable.
The rapid rise in popularity of glamping experiences has made it a valuable marketing keyword that has been co-opted by a wide range of lodging that have absolutely no relationship to camping – including cabins, cottages, tiny homes, and even hotels. The rush to capitalize on the growing market demand for glamping has diluted the search term. It’s become a catch-all phrase to appeal to people looking for an overnight stay in the general vicinity of open space or water.
The majority of people searching for a glamping experience are looking for some type of camping experience- including tree houses, Airstreams, covered wagons, and (most notably) tents and tent variations like tipis and yurts. According to Airbnb, there was a 10 fold increase in searches for tent stays in the summer months of 2018 over the summer months of 2020.
This article focuses on starting a real glamping business – which usually starts with and should always include tents!
Glamping Industry Growth
The US Glamping Industry has been rapidly growing and was forecasted to reach $1 billion by 2024 with a compound annual growth rate around 12%. The advent of the global COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated that growth.
A mix of cultural, generational, and economic changes and trends have set the table for the explosive growth in the camping and glamping sectors.
Desire for unique stays, new experiences, and adventure.
Staycationers and locavores are rising, looking for experiences within 100 miles of home.
More frequent local travel, less frequent plane trips.
Access via the sharing economy (think HipCamp or Airbnb).
Heightened priority on health and wellness driving popularity of ‘nature therapy’ – aka being outside.
Avoidance of crowded areas – not only for social distancing! Travel culture is shifting away from tourism and towards exploration.
Camping and glamping is viewed as more economical and repeatable activity than a vacation.
Sustainable and conservation motivated travel aka ‘eco-tourism’ rising.
Urban and suburban populations seeking an escape to nature.
Families are placing a priority on getting their kids outside and using camping to do it. Half of all glampers have children.
Working remotely is enabling people to travel more often, and stay longer.
Outdoor recreation is diversifying. POC’s make up half of first time campers. Hispanic/Latinx represent the fastest growing glamping demographic.
Boomers aging out of DIY camping are embracing glamping.
Gen Xers are seeking nature over screen time, and more inclined bringing their kids camping.
Millennials love of nature and experience lead them to spend twice as much as any other age group on outdoor recreation and travel. Half of all glampers are Millennials.
90% of Gen Z campers (kids and teens) report they intend to camp as adults.
In 2020, nearly half of all campers were first timers or resumed camping after several years. Travelers that have camped or glamped before, are significantly (2-4 times) more likely to do it again. Campers are more likely to glamp, glampers are more likely to keep on glamping, kids and teens exposed to habit are likely to keep it for life. New growth in participation, increased frequency of current participants, and an extremely high retention rate makes glamping and camping the most significant investment opportunities in both the travel and outdoor recreation industry. The market was hot before, now it’s even hotter – and expected to stay that way for many years to come.
Key Considerations Before Starting
Do you have space? Can you find some?
A luxury canvas tent can be pitched just about anywhere. Proximity or access to parks, rivers, beaches, resorts, and other outdoor recreation magnets is a plus -- but not a requirement. Turnkey camping experiences can often be a destination in themselves for folks just looking for an escape.
Many people don’t have to look further than their own backyard for a space suitable to host glamping guests.
Glamping experiences can also be offered alongside existing businesses. Businesses can use glamping as a way to diversify their income channels, increase brand awareness, and build stronger customer relationships. Vineyards are famous for capitalizing on the lasting loyalty of customers that have participated in a sip and stay experience. Farms and ranches everywhere should consider pitching in on the tent stay.
Not part of the landed class? Don’t be afraid to approach landowners with a proposal to share in the revenue generated from a tent camping experience on their property. Leverage tools like OnX Hunt Maps to figure out who owns land you are interested in. Seek out land for sale that has been listed for a long time with no takers. Approach your county, state, or federal land managers to explore options for a public-private partnership.
Consider being mobile. The demand for custom tailored glamping experiences greatly exceeds the number of people willing to do the work to create them. Glamping events are a largely underserved market. The flexibility to move tents around to cater to groups, retreats, and weddings, is a great way to win new business. Pack up and hit the road to provide glamping options at other venues, festivals, or events. Or you can simply rent out a DIY glamping package to folks without the gear. Leveraging mobility to diversify your revenue stream will keep you busy and keep your investment earning.
Do it for love, or money, or both. The glamping business can be rewarding both financially and emotionally. Consider what you’re looking to achieve and how glamping might benefit you. Renting out a tent can be an easy way to make a little extra money and meet new people. Building a glamping empire will require a more significant investment, with the ultimate reward of working for yourself in the outdoor recreation industry. Whatever your aspirations, getting started with offering one or two tents is a great way to test the market and get a feel for your affinity for the commercial side of glamping.
Cost to Entry
Starting a small business might seem daunting, but getting into the glamping game doesn’t require much capital investment or time.
Starting from scratch, you can expect to spend approximately $2,000 on a quality tent and essential furnishings. Adding extra amenities and luxury items – like alfresco hot tubs and wood stoves – will drive up your cost per unit, but will also increase the price you can command per night as well as attract and retain more customers.
Building your own website, gearing up to accept payments, and doing your own marketing can be expensive and time consuming. Listing your tent on a platform that is both set up for tents, and has a large audience relevant to your experience, is usually free, fast, and easy. HipCamp or Airbnb is a great place to start, and they provide liability insurance to their hosts.
Making More Than Money
Making a profit on your CanvasCamp tent makes those adventures you’ve been putting off more accessible. If you’re a CanvasCamp owner, or considering becoming one, you already know the investment and gains involved aren’t just about the dollars. It’s the quality of life, the connection with others, and the enjoyment of the outdoors that holds the real value in the equation. So get inspired! Be the catalyst! Get Outside!
Building your First Glampsite
Start Today, Scale Tomorrow
Even if your end goal is establishing a 100 unit glamping mecca, get started right away with one. This first tent is going to teach you what you need to know to grow. Your ‘show tent’ will be how you test your product, market, and environment.
Start with Tents
High Demand - Low Capital Investment. Providing an authentic experience creates an intimate relationship between travelers and locations, customs, and culture. Tents bring you closer - physically and emotionally. Tents are also temporary structures that do not require building permits! You can move them, store them, sell them, and rent them off site! Prove your model with a flexible product.
Choose the Right Glamping Tent
Do Your Research. Compare sizes and styles to choose the best tent to bring your vision to life. Buy tents that perform well in your specific environment. As a business owner you will want a product that is durable, easy to use, and repairable. Customers look for comfort, style, and features that make it easy to crack a window in the summer or light up a tent stove in the fall. Get your hands on the product and test it yourself. You can always add different sizes and styles to expand your offering, but you want to maintain enough uniformity to provide a consistent experience for return customers and referrals.
Shabby Chic Ain't Cheap. All other factors held equal, furnishing and amenities can make the difference between commanding $60 per night and $600. It is also the most variable expense. Invest in comfort first: 1.) The Tent 2.) The Mattress 3.) The Lights. Don't skimp on the basics - do discount decorations. Shipping platforms make great bed frames! Kitschy, mismatched, vintage furniture and rugs could be your niche! Interior design is an art not science. Get creative!
Create your First Listing
Pick a platform to create your first listing. We recommend HipCamp or Airbnb to get started because it’s easy, free, and is a gateway to the largest audience. Spend a good deal of time reading over the listings of the most popular and successful tents on the platform and model yours accordingly. Be sure to include LOTS of really great pictures. Your first impression will be a single thumbnail image and the most important one, so make sure it’s excellent.
Invite some friends over and do a practice run. Have them read your listing on HipCamp or Airbnb first and do an exit interview to get some honest feedback on how well you described your experience, and how well the experience measures up. Setting the appropriate expectations and surpassing them is the key to a five star rating.
Make it Measurable
Do the Math. Budgeting and forecasting is not just for business folk, it’s simple math and good conservative estimates. Costs less revenue tells you how much you can expect to make over time. Know before you start how many nights you need to book at your minimum price to break even on your investment.
Know Your Market
Get the lay of the land - and where you're at. Research what the going rate is for overnight glamping in your area. HipCamp, Airbnb, Glamping.com, and GlampingHub are great places to start. Choose a price point that fits the level of finish, service, and location for the season. Start low and work your way up as you get the hang of catering to guests and improving your experience. Set your customers' expectations properly and you'll always be able to exceed it. Earn your stars, don't over promise them.
Plan on making money and know what you want to do with it. If you are turning away business because you’re booked, that’s usually a good indicator that you can use some additional capacity. If you want to keep your operation small and workload light, invest in those luxury amenities to increase your price point. Even if you're taking money out of your business to put in your pocket, make sure you set some aside for the maintenance, repairs, and replacements necessary to keep the operation running.
Not all nights are equal. The value of the experience for the individual guest should be reflective of the nights they occupy. If it’s a holiday weekend in a tourist hot-spot you can raise the price point. If it’s a random Wednesday in the rainy season, be the bargain. Too many businesses miss the mark between profitability and customer satisfaction simply because they lack dynamic pricing.
A dormant tent represents an opportunity for additional revenue. Summer holidays and weekends are the low hanging fruit. Tapping into the mid-week market can double or triple your return on investment. Extending your season through early spring and late fall with wood stoves, or catering to hunters in need of a basecamp, can generate additional capital to expand capacity during peak season. Connect your guests with nearby activities and events to extend their stays. Keep in touch with your guest after they leave, follow them on social media and invite them back to stay again and tell them to bring a friend.
Define & Refine your Guest Experience
Memories over Amenities
Glamping is not just for the FANCY. Experiential tourism is in demand. People create meaning through direct experience, and that meaning is becoming more important than amenities. Yes, cable TV and a hair dryer are convenient, but those creature comforts are not what is driving people to go glamping. If you've got a slice of outdoor heaven, there is a market for outsiders like you looking to share it. A five star experience is reflective of your guests satisfaction, not extravagance.
Glamping doesn't have to be Bougie
Luxury is cool, snobbery is not. Don’t get hung up on the concept of fancy if that’s not your wheelhouse. Glamps are diverse with varying levels of elegance and modernity. However, “Glamping” doesn’t speak to everyone. Tents are rugged, technical, and can be marketed toward a broad range of people that are looking for a more primitive experience. You do not need red carpets and white gloves to be successful. However, if ultra-premium is your niche, get after it!
Embrace your Niche
Play to your strengths. Take stock of your location and what would draw a person to visit. You don’t have to be everything to everyone. If you’re decorating with antlers and deer skin, don’t describe it as a whimsical garden retreat for vegans. Be consistent, genuine, and transparent. All parties involved will be happier for it.
Get the Word Out!
Renting is the new owning. Collaborative consumption, the economic model of providing access to a good or service without sole ownership through renting or sharing, is changing the game for individuals and entrepreneurs alike. Camping without the hassle and commitment of purchasing, transporting, setting up, taking down, and storing your own gear is opening up the outdoors to people who would have not otherwise considered it. There is a platform for renting just about anything you can think of; luxury canvas tents included! HipCamp, Airbnb, Glamping.com, and Glampinghub.com are excellent ways to market and rent your tents.
A particularly crafty glamp site operator was struggling with bird poop on her tent. She started posting pictures of some of the birds in the area to birding groups on Facebook and ended up with a cult following of avian enthusiasts booking in to her glamp site and recommending the experience to their friends. She picked up some feeders and second hand bird identification books on Amazon and captured the hearts, minds, and return business of a diverse group of bird watchers that had never considered glamping before.
Promote that LOCAL Vibe
Everyone wants to be an insider. Empower your guests to make the most out of their visit by recommending local activities, restaurants, or points of interest. Local knowledge and personal recommendations go the extra mile to make your guests stay special. Collect brochures from local businesses that visitors may be interested in. Leave a map to your favorite neighborhood bakery for breakfast in the morning. Suggest a hike that hasn’t made it to the guidebooks yet. Make sure you introduce yourself to the business operators and leave a card to promote your business.
Get Expert Advice
Learn from the experiences of others
Reach out to companies and individuals that have experience in the glamping business. CanvasCamp has worked with hundreds of new and expanding glamping businesses and offers free consultation services. Although the industry is growing - it's still in the early stages and most major players are receptive to talking with like-minded glamping entrepreneurs. Conferences like the The Glamping Show USA are a great place to network, learn, and get inspired. Stay at a few glamping sites and gain some first hand knowledge of the customer perspective.
Inspired?! Talk with the Experts on How To Start A Glamping Business
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