Glamping Business & Extraordinary Outdoor Eco-Accommodation

Extraordinary experiential and unique outdoor hospitality accommodation can also be referred to as serviced accommodation, hotels, holiday lets, boutique and eco-accommodation or unique vacation rentals. However, for the purposes of this article, I will be referring to it as glamping and will be highlighting essential elements about this industry, worldwide trends and extraordinary new ideas that are beginning to emerge in the marketplace.

Glamping is one of my areas of expertise and I have been talking enthusiastically about it on the public stage for many years and have been working in the industry since 2010. Much has changed since then.

Outdoor hospitality ideas and extraordinary outdoor accommodation trends were eagerly discussed at this year's Glamping Summit, where I was invited to speak. This is one of the biggest extraordinary outdoor hospitality events held in the USA and attracts visitors from the US, UK, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. 

This is one of many events I enjoy speaking at across the world and their success highlights the booming glamping industry and predicts a rapid advancement in the near future. It also demonstrates the very strong connection between glamping and eco-tourism, assisting our efforts to protect the environment while also meeting the demands of our customers, which have recently changed significantly.

In Europe, and especially the United Kingdom, businesses have been making the most of this growing industry trend and those who once set up as a small business are seeking to professionalize now as new opportunities continue to open up.

More recently, the U.S. has started to go in the same direction as unique vacation rentals are growing in popularity and early adopters, such as Under Canvas and Collective Retreats, are making a significant impact in this corner of the hospitality market by attracting significant investment. But more about them later.

It is also very interesting to see more micro businesses successfully hosting at home. As a result, whether you are professionals offering holiday rentals or an individual looking for a side hustle, this is an income-generating trend you definitely need to start paying attention to.

The Rewards For Early Adopters

Early adopters offering unique outdoor vacations will always reap the rewards of gaining a competitive advantage. That’s exactly what Under Canvas has done with their incredibly successful offerings in 9 locations in the U.S. and they are continuing to expand. However, their huge growth has gone relatively unnoticed by others.

I first highlighted Under Canvas as a company to look out for back in 2012, but now they have 60+ full-time staff and 150+ seasonal employees who serve their sites. The owners recently sold a minority share for $17 million and they predict they are set to receive $100 million in revenue over the coming years.

I met Sarah Dusek from Under Canvas at The Glamping Summit. She believes that glamping allows the adventurer or traveller to disconnect from the stressors of life and reconnect with nature. I couldn’t agree more as being outdoors with families and friends, making memories with the people who are important to us, and even recharging yourself while being outdoors, are some of the key reasons why glamping is here to stay.

Listen to Sarah's epic business success story on the podcast here - Episode #15, From Nothing To A Multi-Million Luxury Camping And Glamping Business.

Changes In Customer Behaviour And New Trends In Experiential Hospitality

It is clear that customer behaviour is changing and this opens up opportunities for early adopters with new outdoor hospitality ideas to reap the rewards by gaining a considerable competitive advantage.

With the growing trend of this industry from the U.K to the U.S., you can gain more leverage to acquire huge success and revenue in the future if you are an early adopter and start meeting the changing needs and behaviours of customers.

This leads to more opportunities for businesses since disheartened holidaymakers are in need of a great alternative for their vacation experience while they’re in their home country.

There are many reasons for the changes in customer behaviour, which is driving the success of glamping. This includes the aftermath of the worldwide financial meltdown in 2009 and the beginning of the pandemic more recently, which put many holiday companies out of business and left tourists stranded, disappointed and with changing priorities about how they want to spend their holiday time with family and friends.

The political turmoil of many countries has also resulted in an unstable world and nervous holidaymakers, leaving them looking elsewhere to fill their vacation time with lower risk holidays in their home country.

In addition to this, a recent study revealed that nearly 70% of millennials want a personalised travel experience on their vacations rentals while 72% of millennials would prefer to spend money on experiences than on material objects. It was noted that this same demographic is 23% more interested in travelling than the older generations, which is great for outdoor hospitality experiences and home hosts.

Rental professionals should note that the type of experiences in demand are the accommodation and facilities and additional services such as painting, educational experiences, massage, yoga, bushcraft and so on.

The key to getting this right is for an outdoor hospitality business to tap into the needs of the customers they serve and to stand out from the crowd.

Pitch-Up in the UK recently highlighted how buoyant the outdoor hospitality sector is and noted that glamping is clearly on the rise, particularly, the ‘fixed’ types of accommodation such as pods and cabins. They put this partly down to the rise in booking ease through smartphones and tablets to allow for last-minute, shorter bookings.

They also noted that glamping pods and lodges make up nearly 60% of their glamping bookings, which could be a result of this unique accommodation rental becoming more widely known.

However, this is no cookie-cutter business and significant success has been achieved by those hosts who step away from the crowd and offer something truly unique and special. I cover a few case studies to demonstrate this with Kudva in the UK and The Hideout in Bali.

Another significant influencer of the growth of glamping and outdoor hospitality experiences is the increase in celebrities wanting to get involved in the trend. History has shown us that whatever celebrities do, mainstream society soon follows.

So this looks great for glamping as the Kardashians, the Beckham’s and the Royal Family have recently chosen this type of vacation as their new romantic break of choice.

Outdoor Hospitality As An Environmental Ambassador

The advances in off-grid technology also provide a solution to limitless access to different locations where one can set up their glamping business.

Some farmers and landowners also adopt the glamping business and gain profit as well as accolades in their income portfolio from joining the industry.

Cameron Brown from the Thriving Collective was the opening keynote at The Glamping Summit. His inspiring message was to “utilise one’s talents to provide a positive impact on one’s life, to other’s lives and to the environment”.

Glamping as eco-tourism, celebrates our artistic expression as well as environmental ethics while also profiting from it, making it a win-win for us and the environment.

Glamping goes hand-in-hand with eco-tourism when the tourist wants to visit and experience natural environments, intended to support conservation efforts and observe wildlife.

Today, travellers want to experience a personal, authentic and unique vacation and a new level of glamping and eco-accommodation is providing just that.

Glamping incorporates off-grid technologies and in-destination experiences that immerse us in nature, so it is the perfect fit for growing customer needs.

However, travellers want to be a part of immersive and environmentally sensitive experiences without compromising on the luxuries and glamping also allows for this too.

I interviewed Ruben Martinez, the co-founder of Glamping Hub, for my glamping business podcast, who noted that the industry was in an exciting time of development. This has been further demonstrated by the increase in investment in the industry.

Outdoor Hospitality As An Economic Warrior

After the last financial meltdown, academics revealed just how robust outdoor hospitality, and especially glamping, had been in the face of worldwide challenges, allowing it to thrive while other areas of tourism failed. The same is being demonstrated during the pandemic-related worldwide recession.

However, the Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism noted that Glamping worldwide was an area in need of academic research and called for a study regarding “…outdoor hospitality, its successes and challenges, particularly in its stellar performance during the recent global financial slowdown…”

More recently, IBIS Worldwide reported growth in the outdoor hospitality industry of 1% and revenue of 3 billion. They also noted that this surprisingly solid growth in the industry followed the economic slump, which bucked the trend of many other sectors.

More recently a large survey from Grand View Research reported: "The global glamping market size was valued at USD 2.1 billion in 2018 and is expected to expand at a CAGR of 12.5% from 2019 to 2025."

In addition, the 2019 KOA Report - Kampgrounds of America - talked extensively about glamping, where it had been almost ignored in previous years. More specifically it noted that 45% of its campers wanted to experience glamping over the following year. This doubled from the previous 2018 report. 

No Need To Own Land Or Buildings To Be Successful

It is also interesting how certain glamping models, such as the pop-up hotel, do not use bricks and mortar to bring value to their business.

This is particularly notable for those who do not wish to dedicate valuable resources towards purchasing land. Instead, they have a 5-year lease with landowners and invest in the customer experience, which brings them rich rewards of a different kind.

Peter Mack of the ever-expanding Collective Retreats, fascinatingly declared “We have no intention to own real estate or even buildings”.

New Outdoor Hospitality Trends and Innovation

The booming prospects of this outdoor hospitality industry should not be ignored by vacation rental managers as it leads to a great opportunity for entrepreneurs and early adopters, particularly in the unique and ever-changing glamping and hospitality industry that we see today.

In my opinion, customers are telling us this isn’t just a fad or a trend that will fade but instead is a new industry segment that has a promising future for a sustained and profitable business. However, with that type of growth changes continue to occur, which makes this a very interesting place to be.

When the industry first arrived, a very simple service impressed customers. While that still has a place in the market, the emerging demands of in-service experiences and higher levels of Instagram-worthy nature vacations are in more demand, and this is when the bravest businesses are often the most successful.

Outdoor hospitality trends are now being judged by their uniqueness, either through service delivery or method of service.

It is all about creating a rich and wonderful experience for guests, depending on what those particular guests want, and this can vary significantly.

Kudhva in the UK, for example, is one case in point. Their USP fits with perfectly with their outdoor adventure-minded customers, allowing them to deliver a service that is environmentally sensitive to the area and yet allows a standard of outdoor hospitality and vacation rental to be delivered in a unique way that raises the level of unique offering for young, adventure-minded, architecture fans who love being outside.

This is just one example and there are many more to enjoy.

For me, this makes the outdoor hospitality industry incredibly interesting and I'm excited to see what the up-and-coming glamping hosts of tomorrow deliver in the next instalment of business development.

If you would like to find out more about how to start a glamping business and are just at the beginning of your own journey, you can grab some tips and resources here to help you get more excited about Inspired Camping.

If you are already keen to get started and need the business plan templates and cash flow examples to help you move forward, then you can find those here.

Sarah Riley

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