In the past couple of years, traveller interest in glamping (a luxurious alternative to camping) has skyrocketed. Many glamping operators around the world had a fully booked summer and generated record-breaking profits this year.
Hosting guests in cabins, pods, teepees and treehouses has never been a more promising business opportunity. But, as with all new ventures, starting a glamping business is challenging and poses some unexpected risks.
To help you take advantage of the glamping boom, we’ve created a guide that will take you through all the steps of how to start a glamping business.
Whether you’re a small business owner getting into the accommodation industry for the first time or an experienced property manager looking to add glamping properties to your portfolio, we’ve got your back.
We even asked our friends at Quality Unearthed for actionable insight on what it takes to run a glamping business. So let’s get right into it.
Out of the many different factors that drive the popularity of glamping, the most important one is undoubtedly travellers’ desire to experience the outdoors and spend time in nature.
Travellers had already been looking to escape from busy city life before the pandemic, and prolonged lockdowns only strengthened this need.
So much so that, according to Evolve’s 2022 Travel Trends Forecast, 58% of travellers say they are interested in exploring the outdoors (with secluded mountain and rural escapes taking the lead), while only 15% put urban experiences at the top of their list.
Besides the chance to experience the outdoors, glamping also offers a more comfortable way of doing so than traditional camping.
As a result, glamping had already started to become popular before the pandemic. The 2019 North American Glamping report by Kampgrounds of America found that:
Currently, the glamping market size is valued at USD 2.35 billion (up from USD 1.88 billion in 2020) and is forecasted to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 14.1% from 2021 to 2028, according to a recent market analysis report by Grand View Research.
To capture the growing demand, more and more businesses around the world are investing in glamping sites. Simultaneously, booking platforms where travellers can book glamping-style accommodations are springing up – and drawing the attention of investors. For example, UK-based online marketplaces HolidayFox and Wildpoint recently raised pre-seed funding rounds to fuel their growth.
If you want a slice of the glamping cake in the 2022 spring-summer season, now’s the time to start thinking about starting your own glamping business – or adding glamping properties to your existing vacation rental portfolio.
Here are the steps to take, with insider tips from Thom James, Marketing, Operations and Owners Team Manager at Quality Unearthed, an agency that manages over 200 unique glamping properties in the UK.
Scouting locations is a good place to start, as this will determine your opportunities and constraints. The ideal place to set up a glamping site is one that’s surrounded by nature (and outdoor activities like hiking, biking and kayaking) but can be easily accessed by transportation.
“Many of the owners we deal with use surplus land or buy plots of land with the intention of turning it into a space where they can start a glamping site. We are also seeing a sizeable number of owners diversify current land, such as farms and agricultural land into second-use spaces for glamping sites,” said Thom.
Speaking of “repurposing” pieces of land, many glamping property managers decide to partner with landowners through a revenue share model and install glamping units on their properties.
“This can be a viable way of securing land without the need to purchase expensive bits of real estate, but you have to do your homework. Often, you need to agree on who provides not only the service but also the utilities for making the site a viable destination, suitable for people to stay at,” Thom said.
“It’s not just about the share of revenue that dictates this; you need a proper consultation process where each interested party knows and understands what they are responsible for. We’re lucky that we have been a part of this type of process, so know the things to look out for and what often gets overlooked, but if you can make the figures and the agreements work and secure a long enough lease, then this can work as a viable glamping business proposal,” he added.
There are so many fun and unique glamping property types, it’s hard to choose. Instead of relying on your intuition, it may be worth looking at what’s popular among travellers.
The 2019 KOA report we referenced above found that 42% of travellers seek cabins when searching for glamping accommodation, while 14% seek treehouses, 10% yurts, 9% tiny homes, 9% on-site RVs, 7% safari tents, 3% covered wagons and 3% teepees.
In our previous article on the best glamping sites to get listed on, Pitchup told us that their best-performing accommodation types are glamping pods and bell tents, while Glamping Hub cited treehouses, tiny houses and cabins.
“Each glamping unit where the owner pours in their heart and soul is a worthwhile investment because guests will see this care and attention and respond to it,” said Thom.
“But there are certain types of structures that simply tend to perform better. Treehouse structures are still by far the most desired type of structure, but there is huge merit in the uniqueness and quirkiness of an abode, too,” he added.
What’s most important is that you make the most of the land you’ve chosen and create something unique that travellers will not have seen before.
“Special and distinctive structures capture the imagination and can be lucrative for site owners, so anything out of the ordinary continues to capture the attention of the seasoned glamping audience. Also, think about your facilities. Hot tubs and outdoor baths or showers are also very popular right now,” said Thom.
Once you’ve found the perfect piece of land for your glamping site and decided on your chosen property type, it’s time to ensure legal compliance.
The type of permissions and licences you’ll need depends on a lot of different factors, like the number and type of units you plan to build and the facilities you plan to provide. There are also country-specific requirements, so be sure to check with your local authorities.
In a nutshell, this is how it works in the UK:
“You will in almost all circumstances need to get planning permission from a few different aspects. This can be in regards to the change of primary use for the land, and also for the erecting and installation of your temporary or permanent structures, and the utilities needed to service them,” Thom said.
“If the offered glamping activities you want to provide occur for more than 28 days in a year, consent for change of use of the land is required, which dictates that most glamping sites will require the application and approval of planning,” he added.
Do not skimp on obtaining all the necessary permits and licenses: if you do, you could face costly fines and penalties that make it impossible to get your glamping business off the ground.
Before you get into glamping, it’s crucial to understand the unique operational needs of glamping units, which are vastly different from those of traditional vacation rentals. You’ll need to plan ahead and figure out how you’re going to handle the operational challenges that running a glamping site will throw at you.
“Typically, as glamping sites tend to be more rural, and the stays a lot shorter, to maximise occupancy and returns, it can be a juggling act to handle everything you need to turn enquiries into paying guests and all that comes in between,” said Thom.
“Marketing, answering questions and queries, requests, booking platforms, payments, etc. These all take up huge chunks of time and don’t often always lead to bookings, and then you also have to juggle doing this even when you have guests, and on top of that throw in cleaning, hygiene, check-out and new check-ins and be there for any issues that occur,” he added.
Of course, small business owners can turn to agencies like Quality Unearthed and have a lot of this burden lifted off their shoulders. Agencies also assume a lot of the marketing and paid search costs for you, leaving you with more money to focus on the guest experience.
But if you’re looking to manage your own glamping units, you’ll need the right technology and infrastructure in place to stay on top of your marketing and operations. That’s what we’ll talk about next.
Vacation rental technology has come a long way in the last decade.
Today, every vacation rental owner can benefit from sophisticated technology solutions through agencies like Quality Unearthed who have robust, integrated tech stacks designed to maximise efficiency and minimise the risk of human error in both operations and marketing.
However, if you’re planning to manage your own glamping properties, you’ll need to find these solutions yourself. It’s important to look for providers who specialise in outdoor accommodations and cater to the specific needs of glamping sites, from multi-unit management to specialised marketing.
Firstly, you’ll want to work with a PMS like Anytime Booking or Elite Dynamics: both of these companies have extensive experience in the outdoor rental industry and specialise in managing outdoor accommodations like holiday parks and glamping sites. You can read more about them in our article about the best technology for managing outdoor units.
Secondly, you’ll need a channel manager like Rentals United that allows you to connect to a large variety of booking sites where travellers can discover your offering and automatically sync your listings.
You can also get listed on vacation rental metasearch engines like Holidu and HomeToGo where travellers go to compare deals, as well as Google where millions of travellers search for accommodations every day.
Last but not least, you can advertise on niche websites like Glamping Hub where adventurous travellers search specifically for glamping-style accommodation.
With its large variety of channels and high-quality API connections, Rentals United can help you expand your reach, attract travellers from all over the world to your glamping site and incrementally increase your bookings.
Don’t take our word for it. Read the story of Tiny Away, a glamping property manager with 50 tiny houses in Australia, who’s been able to increase their occupancy, bookings and revenue by 10% with the help of the Rentals United channel manager.
We hope this guide helps you get started with planning your glamping business. Let’s recap the advice above:
Can’t find the answer you were looking for above? Let’s answer some frequently asked questions about how to start a glamping business.
Glamping businesses can be extremely profitable if you find the balance between having low expenses and charging high nightly rates (and having high occupancy). This will depend on many factors like your location, your property type and the effectiveness of your marketing strategies.
The target market for glamping is getting broader and broader. According to the 2019 KOA report, 48% of glampers were Millenialls, 28% were Gen X, 12% were Gen Z, 9% were Baby Boomers and 3% were mature travellers. A 2020 report found that while the 18-32 years age group dominates the glamping market, older audiences are growing. Glamping is especially popular among couples and families with children.
A great glamping site is in an attractive location, ideally surrounded by nature, with access to outdoor attractions (like viewpoints and beaches) and activities (like hiking, cycling or kayaking). It’s a unique spot away from the hustle and bustle of big cities easily where travellers can relax. It also needs to be easily reachable by transport.
In most cases, you need planning permission before you can apply for a glamping license. Different countries have different rules, so check with your local authorities what permits and licenses you need to apply for.
Are you ready to start attracting travellers to your glamping properties? See how our channel manager can help you maximise your reach and revenue.