What does it take to be a successful glamping site owner?
One year into running our successful glamping site, a recent article in Farmers Weekly about starting a glamping business set me thinking about our venture more strategically. And, as you can imagine, an invitation to speak at the forthcoming 2016 Glamping Show really focused my mind.
So here are my thoughts on the top 10 traits you need to be a successful glamping site owner.
1. Have a clear vision of what a successful glamping site is for YOU
Income is a simple and clear measure of success but there are others. We see 5-star reviews, our guests’ enjoyment, the steady increase in bookings and the interest shown by our Facebook fans and local media (“Pitch Perfect”, Shropshire Review page 7 and “From Globetrotting to Glamping”, Shropshire Star) as indicators of success.
2. Be knowledgeable about glamping
Research, read, review, visit, try it yourself. There is no substitute for personal experience. We love wild camping and we’ve done a lot of it. We’ve also stayed in countless hotels. It’s important to understand what appeals to glampers so that you can offer them what they want. We think “glamorous camping” (glamping) combines the adventure of camping with some of the comforts of home. It’s for people who don’t necessarily want the camping bit to be the entire experience, and we call it “Camping Without Carrying.” The result for guests is more time and freedom to enjoy the countryside, be outdoors and relax in a rural environment.
3. Offer a unique experience for glamping guests
Why would guests want to stay at your glamping site? Is it the fabulously well-equipped yurts? The delicious food you serve? The farm produce you supply? The peace and tranquility? The views? Your animals? I’ve done a lot of reading and research and every single successful glamping site I’ve found has had something that made me think, “Ooh, I’d like to stay there!” Try to look at your farm or property with fresh eyes. When we first moved into Tanycoed Farm we were completely blown away by the stunning views of the Shropshire and Powys hills. Now, our focus is on the fence that needs fixing, the roof that needs repairing and the animals that have to be mucked out. But we often step back and imagine ourselves as guests arriving for the first time.
4. Have practical skills
By their very nature, most glamping units are not permanent and, especially in Britain, may have to survive wind, rain, mud, mildew and more. Who is going to clean and maintain your glamping pods, yurts, shepherd huts and bell tents? Will those structures withstand scary weather? As survivors of Storm Barney, we have first-hand experience of lashing down our yurts in gale-force winds and driving rain. What about shared facilities? Can your water supply handle the demand? Are your shower and lavatory facilities adequate? How much room do you have for parking?
5. Build a great web presence
Your web presence is everywhere you appear in words, pictures or interaction online. The web presence for a successful glamping site encompasses your website, online booking interface, social media posts, comments, likes and shares, advertisements, business listings, positive reviews, negative reviews and more. It’s important to have a well organised and informative website, a couple of active social media accounts, presence in online directories and excellent online reviews. You can rate your web presence with this checklist.
6. Nurture and value relationships
You can and should have relationships (and not just transactions) with your guests, potential guests, local businesses and other glamping sites. We’re all in this together, and ensuring we have good relationships means we are more likely to get returning guests, new guests, help when we need it and advice from others in the know. Apart from the fact that this is just a nice way to deal with all of humanity, you just never know who might one day make a difference from a business perspective.
7. Be ready to adapt and diversify
Most successful glamping sites don’t start life as glamping venues. They are working farms, smallholdings or properties with underused land or outbuildings. Until you try it, you may not know what will work best. We love our yurts, but they are hard to maintain in the winter. This is why many glamping sites close during the winter months. We have learnt an enormous amount over our first winter and need to make some changes before our second. We have also decided to convert our spare stables into accommodation and our long barn into an event venue. Neither of those initiatives were in our original plan.
8. Provide an excellent service
An excellent service isn’t the same as a perfect experience. Don’t fret about the little things that go wrong. Apologise to your guests and put the problem right as quickly as possible. Most folks understand that stuff happens occasionally and appreciate a rapid response to issues. When we had a complete water failure (someone had left a tap running all night), we hired a bowser and refilled the tank within two hours. And when visitors mentioned their “heated” yurt was chilly, we ran into town and had a better heater blasting out warmth within the hour. By acting promptly, we emerged unscathed from both those glitches because our guests realised and appreciated how much we cared about them.
9. Genuinely enjoy your guests
If you don’t like people, a glamping site may not be the business for you. Part of the experience for guests staying at a quirky and interesting glamping site is YOU. We always take the time (usually more than we should) to chat with our guests, and often end up exchanging life stories. We’ve laughed and even cried together. Our guests are a bountiful source of encouragement, ideas and motivation. All of them.
10. Be passionate about your business
If you truly want to build a successful glamping site, you need to think, breathe, eat, sleep and dream about your business, at least initially. However, if you think of it only as a business, you may hamper your success. Running a successful glamping site is a lifestyle choice. If you aren’t excited at the thought of furnishing a stable, holding a party in an old barn lit with a thousand fairy lights, or turning out at 10 p.m. to tow a guest from the “Unsuitable for Vehicles” road their misinformed GPS directed them to, then perhaps glamping isn’t your passion.