Oakvale is a glamping success story. Terresa Banyard and her husband Chris, set up their glamping site after suspecting they were going to be made redundant. In a very Richard Bransonesque approach, together they threw about some ideas of what to do and when glamping kept popping up as an option they just went, “Why not?”
It was a timely decision. Not only was it one that fit with the sort of lifestyle they aspired to, but the Welsh government were promoting tourism business opportunities. Hence why they chose Wales for their location.
Realising that sustainability was the way forward they chose to create something that was completely off-grid but still offered the full facilities. Not a farm but a unique setting where nature was able to flourish, and guests could immerse themselves in it. Immersion; along with five-star facilities.
“Camping out in the wild but with a private flushing toilet, a proper shower, private kitchen, hot tub and a four-poster bed!” Terresa explains, “Not everyone who loves the great outdoors wants to sleep on the floor after all!”
THE PERFECT BUSINESS FOR THE PERFECT LIFESTYLE.
Lifestyle was a big motivator for Terresa and Chris. Both of them love working outdoors even if it’s raining hard or freezing cold and neither of them would voluntarily go back into an office. Glamping presented them with an amazing opportunity to have a working situation that encouraged them to get outside and bask in the elements. However, Terresa admits she did at the start misjudge just how much work it would take.
“It was a lot harder and took a lot longer to get planning than we imagined,” she says, “We found our land in mid 2015 but didn’t secure all the planning we needed until late 2016. We had originally planned to set up a very generic, seasonal glamp site that catered for families with pets. However, our final planning consent prevented us from having large groups or dogs on site and insisted on a more sophisticated services set up than we’d planned.”
Not to be so easily outdone, they decided to make the most of it and to offer something that would be open all year, exclusively for couples with the best facilities they could achieve in the middle of a meadow! This took more time to build and was a lot more expensive than they had budgeted for but they finally opened in April 2018. And then the moment of truth.
“We had our first guests,” Terresa explains, “And then our first review- which was fabulous- and then after that bookings came a lot faster and we have exceeded our targets for the first 3 months!”
KNOW YOUR CLIENTELE, KNOW YOUR PRODUCT
Targeting professional millennials that appreciate nature and quality down time from their busy lives, Terresa has found that glamping success is about providing the right experience for your guests.
“People stay at hotels when they’re doing other things. People come glamping for new experiences and to create good memories,” she explains, “We do everything we can to make sure that the experience starts from the moment they arrive.”
She reveals that she or her husband will always make the effort to contact them before their stay for a little bit of reconnaissance. If it’s a special occasion or just a break from their normal routine it is useful, as hosts, to know ahead of time.
“Either way, we’ll have the hot tub ready for their arrival and the fire lit in the yurt if it’s cold outside,” she says, “We also provide a welcome pack with a few locally sourced items and a greeting card welcoming them to Oakvale.”
Terresa and Chris live on site, so they always meet the guests upon arrival and talk them through all the onsite facilities. They also find out about how much camping or glamping experience they have. Guests have been grateful for this, because there have been a couple who would have been too embarrassed to mention, that they didn’t know how to light a fire. Because Terresa or Chris were on hand they could show them how to do it properly and safely with no embarrassment.
IT’S A TEAM EFFORT
Oakvale is completely off-grid and solar powered meaning that daily chores are even more important to keep their business running smoothly. On paper the work load is split evenly. Although Terresa says her husband may not agree with this.
“He will say he does more than me but then he doesn’t see emailing, tweeting or updating Facebook as work!” Terresa says, “He is responsible for site services, grounds and maintenance, pest control and waste disposal. As we are completely off-grid the site services are a major task, particularly monitoring and adjusting our power usage throughout the day to match the solar power available. He also chops a lot of wood! I do most of the cleaning and all the laundry and ironing. I also manage the business, finances, purchasing and bookings. I maintain our website and the listings on the various booking platforms and also manage our social media accounts.”
The gorgeous Yurt is provided by Mongolian Yurts Direct, a reliable supplier with reasonable pricing and the results are out of this world. The yurt, the locale and the ‘off-grid’ nature of the site is so far removed from anything else out there that it has to be seen to believed.
Terresa is starting a blog about the site and her own experiences there as a way to connect with new and old guests. It’s definitely part of the attraction to be able to share in this insight. Giving the site a marvellous sense of realism and peace.
“During our first autumn on the site I found myself sitting on the edge of the meadow when I realized that the crashing sound I could hear around me was the sound of leaves falling through an oak tree,” she says, “It struck me then that I had never “heard” autumn before! This is the sort of personal experience that I am planning to share on the blog.”
And she has been inspired by her guests as well as they often share the various “firsts” they have experienced while being at Oakvale. Some are first time glamping, first time in a hot tub, first time in a four-poster bed, first time in Wales or first time away from the kids in over a decade.
“Before their stay at Oakvale, some had never lit a fire or eaten a hot marshmallow before. Many had never seen a bird of prey, never seen a frog up close or heard a giant dragonfly’s wings or walked through a meadow,” she says, “Two separate guests have now seen shooting stars for the first time and one had never seen the Milky Way before. “
For Terresa, this is the cherry on the cake. To be part of the reason why guests finally have the experiences of the outdoors in a new and unique way. The making of those memories.
“You shouldn’t work for a living you should work for a lifestyle,” Terresa says, “I spend several hours a week in front of my computer but I can open the door next to me and feed the wild birds from my hand. I get to share people’s wide-eyed wonder with a world we all take for granted. Somehow it doesn’t seem like work!”
Facebook: Go Eco Glamping.