Following on from our recent feature regarding standardization within glamping we looked to The Glamping Show for answers. Considered to be the voice of the industry by site owners and suppliers they discussed with us the considerations potential and current suppliers may have for this market.
Laura Golding is Conference Producer for both The Glamping Show in the UK and The Global Glamping Summit in the US. The Glamping Show has built up its network of exhibitors over the last 4 years, allowing the Show team a first-hand view on how suppliers are faring. Laura, therefor, has an insight to what approaches bring success in the industry and which emerging trends are shaping it.
TLE: In your experience what should a business consider before becoming a supplier to glamping?
Laura: The exciting thing about the glamping industry is the pace at which it’s expanding. As demand grows from guests for unique and individual glamping experiences, we’re also now seeing incredible diversification in the supplier space. There is no standard format for glamping and so many elements are involved in creating a memorable guest experience. So, in many ways the sky really is the limit for suppliers!
Having said that, it’s tempting to think this makes the glamping market an easy one to break into. In reality, you won’t get very far by bringing a new product to market just to be edgy and turn heads.
My first tip is to remember that your customers are looking for a product that solves a real problem or meets a genuine need for their glampsite.
Secondly, creativity and thinking outside the box are a must. Glampsites offer a wide variety of travel experiences. It is totally unlike the hotel industry where there are standard sized rooms, standard facility lists and set visitor expectations. As a glamping supplier, your ability to innovate and create a novel solution or enhancement for the visitor experience is what will set your product apart from the rest.
Thirdly, glamping is entirely defined by the visitor experience and that filters straight through to glamping suppliers. As a supplier you need to be invested in the success of their site, not simply making your sale. In practical terms, your product design needs to be spot on, you need to be willing to guide your customers to make the right choice for their specific site and you have to have a plan for dealing with aftersales and maintenance issues.
TLE: Are there any statistics available on how long glamping sites stick with their chosen suppliers? In which case is the relationship still closer to a “cottage industry” rather than mainstream hospitality?
Laura: I would say that the glamping industry is very different from mainstream hospitality. In the UK it has always been surprisingly well connected and collaborative – much more about community than competition. I was curious to know if this is also true of glamping outside the UK and our experiences with events in the US show that it is.
As a result, supplier and customer relationships tend to last. It depends somewhat on the product, for example structures, sanitation solutions and booking software are a big investment and difficult to replace. Smaller items or accessories with a shorter lifespan are clearly less set in stone. In practice, an operator will tend to stick with a supplier until there’s a problem.
It’s worth noting that when there are problems with a particular supplier, you can expect the community to share! Reputation and trust are so important in this industry and you can be sure word will get around.
TLE: Judging by The Glamping Show, what lengths do suppliers go to so they can accommodate the requirements of their clients?
Laura: At The Glamping Show we see many suppliers taking time to talk to one another, as well as to potential customers. A surprising number of partnerships come out of these discussions and, in my view, this is what makes glamping a fresh and creative industry to work in. With a constant dialogue between products and the community, there are no shortage of problems to solve and ways to solve them!
A single supplier will always be part of a bigger puzzle. Heating and lighting solutions for example, have to work within the structures already on glampsites and already on the market. If you have a heating or lighting product installed within the material of the structure you’ll clearly need to do your research and talk to other suppliers to get the product right.
Visitor safety is also paramount and is as critical a consideration for suppliers as for glampsite operators. One severe safety incident could irreparably harm the entire industry and, understandably, glampsite operators are keen to know the safety credentials of any purchase they’re researching.
TLE: As the industry is still a young one, are suppliers generally on the same page as glamping sites with regards to goals and long-term ambitions?
Laura: We all want this emerging industry to realise its full potential and that point is still way off on the horizon. Suppliers and glampsite operators need to be on the same page in terms of goals and long term ambitions for us to get there.
TLE: What have you found has been the biggest challenges for suppliers to help this industry realise its full potential?
Laura: The most pressing challenges faced by glamping suppliers fall into the following categories: health and safety for visitors and those working on glampsites; sourcing sustainable materials; building a reputation with the customer base and pricing appropriately for the market.
All glamping suppliers face their fair share of challenges. It’s not easy to build a beautiful product, ensure it meets all the safety regulations, use sustainable materials, maintain flexibility to work with varied locations, weather conditions, spaces and still come in at a price the market is willing to pay. Then you still have to face the challenge of building a reputation and trust in a tight knit community.
Clearly those suppliers who are invested most heavily in the glamping industry are those whose products are most specialized for glamping and outdoor accommodation. Accommodation and structures, heating, kitchens, bathrooms and waste management immediately come to mind and they are key players in realizing the full potential of this industry.
Yet the industry is maturing to a point where there’s room for a raft of other suppliers who have established elsewhere, but want to test the outdoor accommodation market. Creating a unique and memorable visitor experience is key for glamping operators over the next few years and the smaller products, the finishing touches like cooking equipment, interior décor, outside furniture and outdoor play equipment are going to be increasingly important.
TLE: What can suppliers do as a first step to build themselves up?
Laura: Building partnerships with other suppliers is an excellent way to stay ahead of the curve and reach new customer audiences without compromising your particular expertise. We’ve seen a lot of this among The Glamping Show supplier community in the last 12 months or so.
The key thing for suppliers in the glamping industry is keeping up with it as it evolves and being flexible enough to keep up with your customer’s businesses as they evolve with it.