Published with the title “Five Factors Essential to The Success of a Glamorous Camping Site” with our permission in the Glamping Business Magazine, Issue 3, page 30, April 2016.
We love the thrill of camping outdoors. However, after having children we couldn’t get away as often or as easily as we would like. Carrying all the stuff became a major hassle. We became intrigued with the concept of glamping or “glamorous camping” and, after researching the industry, we decided to open a glamping site. Our final fling in the United States was a 6,000-mile cross-country adventure with our four children and two dogs. It was great preparation for our future venture. We moved back to Britain towards the end of 2014 and our first guests stayed in yurt Bronwyn in June 2015. Since then, we have received more than sixty 5-star reviews and anticipate a very busy summer 2016. Cautiously, we would say Barnutopia Luxury Glamping is a success, and we believe this is why.
1. We know what we want out of our glamorous camping business
It makes it easier to focus on what you need to do if you know exactly what is it you want from a glamping business. We want to make money. Of course. We need to make money. Doesn’t everyone? That’s not really knowing what you want. Specifically, we want Barnutopia to become our sole source of income. We know exactly how much income will sustain our family of six and all our animals comfortably. That’s our target. We don’t expect to get rich but, importantly, we want to enjoy the business. We don’t want it to become so big that we are don’t have time to sit and chat with guests over the campfire.
Think hard about what you want and need from your glamping business and plan accordingly. Have concrete goals.
2. We are practically inclined
A practical skill set is essential. Just like hotels, glamping sites come with a long list of regular chores. Add animals and you need the services of a Chief Animal Waste Technician (that would be me). Stay open all year and the British weather brings a new set of challenges. We have dealt with complete water failure, yurts that went green from algae, Storm Barney (THAT was scary) and so much rain we thought the dome tent might float away. We’ve lashed down yurts in the driving rain, resurfaced a driveway overnight so guests could park safely and replaced a septic tank in a few days. All with a smile and barely any inconvenience to guests. Oh yes, the pigs made a bid for freedom on one memorable afternoon and we mobilised the village to help find them.
Be ready to get your hands dirty at any hour of the day or night. You need to be ready for WHEN something unexpected happens and not IF.
3. We invest in promoting our glamorous camping business
Guest have lots of glamping sites to choose from. Yours may be the best value, most comfortable and unique glamping site in the British Isles. No-one will actively seek you out. You need to be everywhere online, and offline if the chance arises. We spend hours each day on social media. We pay for advertising and we do not resent commission due to online travel agencies (OTAs), aggregators, directories and websites that bring us customers. We have earned and paid for offline publicity in the form of editorials and articles. We try to be wherever our customers are.
Don’t begrudge paying for marketing and promotion. Either you have to spend time doing it yourself or you have to pay someone else to do it. Preferably both.
4. We iterate, adapt and change
Your original plan may not prove to be the best for your particular circumstances. We started with three yurts and planned to add up to seven more. Having survived our first winter, we are not so sure. We want to keep our yurts, and will improve their weather-proofing, but we have also added a stable, which stays fabulously dry all winter. We have a room over the old coach-house that would make a nice bunk room and our long barn would be perfect for weddings. We secured an alcohol license and planning permission has been submitted to expand accommodation, add a toilet/shower block and convert the barn into an event venue. We are constantly dreaming up new ways of expanding that don’t simply involve providing more of the same.
Be ready to rethink and deviate from your original plan. Take advantage of your unique set-up, location, other local attractions and activities to improve the experience for your guests.
5. We like our guests
It seems to us that glamping selects for nice people. We genuinely enjoy the company of our guests. We try to anticipate and accommodate guests’ needs before they ask and we welcome feedback. We treat our guests like family friends. This is not so much a calculated approach as a way of being. If you don’t like people, glamping may not be the business for you. We have guests who are coming back for their second, third and fourth stays, already. Guest reviews are full of positive comments about how great and friendly we are [blush]. You can’t fake that.
Treat your guests as you would like to be treated yourselves. A cliché, perhaps, but that’s because it’s true.
One final note; we often ask guests what it is that puts the glamour in glamorous camping and makes it an attractive alternative to traditional camping. Three themes have arisen consistently:
- No stuff to carry
- Real beds
And just last weekend, a lovely couple from south Wales were overjoyed with their experience. She’d booked six months ago and I’d “seen” her on social media frequently. When she arrived, I felt like I was greeting an old friend. We chatted a lot during their stay. Her husband summed up the perfect glamping experience when he said,
“I can’t believe I’ve just spent the weekend in a tent in someone’s garden, and LOVED it.”
THAT’s what I’m talking about.