*As seen in The Logbook.
Glamping has been named one of the most prominent and influential movements in hospitality. While luxury camping has been present for decades, with camping sites offering luxury accommodations as an addition to their normal pitch sites, it wasn’t until fairly recently that “glamping” has found its footing and become its own mainstream industry. It is a booming market for entrepreneurs looking to enter into the hospitality industry as destinations and suppliers, but many experts agree that what it is now most in need of is a standardization model to lock-in the value for guests and enthusiastic glampers.
The Logbook spoke with Laura Golding, Conference Manager for The Glamping Show who have been taking incredible strides to legitimize glamping and bring it into industry maturity. Laura’s experience of organizing Glamping Business events hosted in the UK and the US and particularly the work she’s done with industry leaders has given her an informed perspective on the industry’s future.
What Would Be the Benefits of a Glamping Standardization Model?
Laura explains that there are three ways a standardization model will benefit glamping owners. Firstly, it will help owners manage quality and visitor expectations, secondly it will educate operators on meeting safety & regulatory requirements and thirdly it will promote collaboration among glampsite operators to share knowledge and best practices.
“At the moment,” she says, “Without any industry-wide standardization, the only way consumers have to compare different glamping experiences is by price. Clearly this isn’t transparent enough for consumers and, worse, opens the entire industry up to exploitation by those simply looking to make a fast buck.”
Standardization, therefore, provides a way to inform consumer expectations during their research process and before they arrive at a glampsite. Having clear standards for glamping sites helps ensure that the holiday a visitor has chosen really does meet both their needs and their budget. Providing them with an experience in line with what they’re expecting.
Sadly, she reveals that they have a really good case in point about safety. The fires in California at the moment. One of the areas affected is very close to a number of tourism and hospitality sites, including glamping sites.
“We’re not yet sure what the impact on the California tourism community is, but it raises many questions about how operators know they’re doing all they can to keep their sites safe. How they can ensure visitors know their safety is paramount and how operators can prepare for any slow-down in sales that may result from events like these.”
With clear standards in place, operators have a set of guidelines to help them make decisions and also have an obvious support network to reach out to for help and advice.
Challenges in Reaching a Standard
If a model was put in place, there is the concern that there may be those who are planning to set up a glampsite or already own one who are unable to meet the standards once they are defined. The Logbook enquired as to what provisions could be made so that small to medium enterprises don’t suffer because of radical changes.
Laura’s expectation is that the glamping industry will largely avoid this by working collaboratively to define standards that are informed by and supported by existing glampsite owners.
“The industry is already very collaborative,” she says, “And, as we’ve seen at The Glamping Show, discussions and seminars on standards are well received by members of the industry. Current thinking involves creating a number of streams, for example from high-end luxury such as high-end resort or hotel quality, down to the more rustic experience. This will give glampsite owners choices about where to identify their site and what they’re aiming for and preserve the diversity in the industry, which is important and not something worth sacrificing.”
The point in having standards isn’t to be a blocker to setting up or running a business, more a guide as to whether a business plan and expectations are realistic. If an owner wants to attract a glamping visitor audience but are not planning to provide what they expect then this flags up a decision point. Should the owner add in the missing elements or change their branding and target a different audience altogether?
Protecting the Smaller Sites
But, would standardizing glamping put some sites into a position to monopolize the industry? We asked Laura how we could manage this, to ensure that the smaller and entry level sites don’t suffer.
In Laura’s view however, standardization is far more about fishing out the people who are misbehaving and taking advantage of the industry than about allowing larger sites to have a monopoly.
“Standards will allow new starter or smaller sites to more easily identify where they fit in the industry and then give them an industry-wide tool to manage visitor expectations,” she says, “Crucially, it will help a site to attract the right kinds of visitors for them based on their offer and their niche.”
Glamping is an industry that thrives on collaboration and community and the discussion on industry wide standards is already creating a more collaborative environment. Glampsite owners already see the value of comparing best practices and sharing inspiration with each other.
Is it Really a New Concept?
‘We are already aware of a handful of very credible organizations that are focused on standardization of the glamping industry with a view to creating an industry backed rating system.” Laura says, “It is definitely an ongoing process; particularly as the glamping industry is growing and evolving so quickly. I am excited about their progress already and expect to see concrete outcomes in the next 12-18 months.”
This would not affect suppliers as strongly. The supplier perspective is generally from a manufacturing process rather than a service or hospitality process. Suppliers have their own sets of safety and quality standards that will be different for each type of product or material used.
“This may be a discussion point to raise later, once glamping industry standards are in place,” Laura adds.
Glampsites live and breathe social media and the power of it to unlock word of mouth recommendations for glamping and outdoor tourism businesses is impressive. Defined industry standards can only support with driving awareness through social media marketing as they provide a shortcut to the things that matter most for visitors.
According to Laura, many smaller glampsites don’t have much budget or time for marketing, so anything that gives them standard terminology to use to describe what they offer will save them time. They can then focus on marketing themselves on the things that make their site unique.
From a visitor’s point of view, standardization is essentially about having transparency on the standard check-list of what’s offered by all glampsites in a specific category.
“That makes it much easier for me to recommend a site I loved staying at to my social networks with a clear description of what it offers or who it’s ideal for.” She says.
How can the Media help?
Media and publications can really help by raising awareness on just how beneficial standardization will be for the whole industry. From those who are still researching and planning, those who have just launched their first site or those who are growing and looking to expand.
Laura says that The Glamping Show, sites and owners, need to see support from the media in promoting glamping as a fully-fledged industry. One possessing high standards that is here to stay. The industry already generates serious tourism revenue and has a fantastic potential to grow further. However, the industry will only be hindered as long as the idea persists among the general public that if you stick a tent in your garden you can call it glamping and make some money.
“Glamping needs to follow the trajectory of other tourism sectors by developing clearly defined standards and accountability across the industry for upholding them,” Laura says, “Only then can we unlock it’s full potential.