An insightful interview with Crown and Canopy Co-founder Edward Busby about how some glamping sites have capitalised on the last year and how yours can too.
Glamping operators have found themselves in a unique position as a result of Covid 19 and Lockdown. Where the main selling points of glamorous camping, namely the isolation, privacy and boutique accommodation have made them the ideal option for staycations in the UK.
To highlight what has happened and how operators can make the most of this opportunity, we caught up with the leading glamping consultants, Crown and Canopy and spoke with co-founder Edward Busby. This is glamping’s time.
NOT THE TIME TO HOLD BACK
Jumping straight in, Edward explains that this is not the time to be complacent and that operators need to make this period of change work for their sites. Self-catered accommodation and holidays-in-isolation are at the top of the travel requirements and at the same time government guidelines are openly endorsing these boutique stays. Despite this, for many sites, it has been a blessing and a curse.
Although many glamping sites, when able to operate, have been very busy over the last year, they have also had to adhere to strict protocols for guest safety that has cost time and money. And, as for sites with shared facilities, some have found it difficult to operate.
“For obvious reasons, sites that are fully self-catering with en-suite facilities for each unit, have found these protocols easier to manage,” Edward says, “This has also made them more attractive for customers wanting to book.”
“On this basis,” he adds, “Developing accommodation with private cooking and cleaning facilities as standard has proved to be a great idea and one that can also contribute to higher nightly rates as a result.”
COVID’S EFFECTS ON GLAMPING
The past year has shone a spotlight on the glamping industry as the ideal staycation option. By design, glamping is typically remote and self-contained and now caters for a broad demographic of guests seeking a range of styles from basic to extremely luxurious. As a result, this increased potential in an already flourishing marketplace.
The travel bans have presented an opportunity with considerably more people choosing to staycation in the UK. Research in 2019 by Barclays showed that one of the main factors for people taking staycations was a positive experience. So, it stands to reason that the vast number of people who enjoyed a glamping stay last year as an alternative to their usual holiday abroad, are very likely to choose this again. It offers a high quality, convenient, greener, and cheaper option than going abroad.
“These factors, and the existing positives driving the glamping industry in the right direction, may have resulted in a new catalyst for major growth,” Edward says, “Crown and Canopy are investigating these impacts by measuring growth over the last year compared to rates and other measurable factors. The results will be published in this year’s edition of the Essential Glamping Business Manual.”
CLEAR ADVANTAGES TO GLAMPING
Currently, there is a clear example of the glamping advantages being played out in the UK. Self-catered accommodation, which includes most glamping sites, are being allowed to open before other more ‘traditional” operators such as hotels, BnB’s, and campsites.
This can be partly explained by the perceived light-footedness of the industry. Safety has become a primary concern from government officials, through booking sites, individual destinations and to the guest themselves. For many sites, taking on the recommendations to combat Covid 19 was a simple process of increasing what they were already doing.
Crown and Canopy’s research demonstrates this clearly in occupancy rates of the past year. Edward explains, “Most glamping sites in the UK, when open in 2020, have experienced extremely high occupancy of between 90-100%. Whereas after speaking to hoteliers and venue operators, it has been clear that this has not been the case with offers and deals used to stimulate bookings.”
It has certainly been an interesting year for the sector, and Edward doubts that they were alone when worrying about what the year might look like 12-months ago.
Luckily, contrary to those thoughts, the industry has clearly been well placed to operate in these uncertain times and this has driven more investors and landowners to the forefront.
“Early last year, when things really began to get dicey, our primary concern was about how our clients would react to the news and the uncertainty,” says Edward, “Crown and Canopy have worked very hard to be the first port-of-call for newcomers to glamping, but nobody had ever experienced anything like this. So, we had to make sure that clients were well informed with facts rather than theories.”
Fortunately, their worries were soon quashed during the first lockdown in spring 2020 when they were inundated with enquiries. The ball had dropped, and landowners, estates, and organisations wished to engage in consultancy and development work.
As a result, Crown and Canopy undertook approximately 120% more work in the past year than 2019. Edward mainly attributes this to a number of factors. Firstly, clients had the time during lockdown to step back and make new plans. Secondly and thirdly, the growing potential of the glamping industry as a whole and many people endeavouring to leave the city in search of new opportunities. Said opportunities either involving them utilising their existing land assets or, in some cases, setting out and purchasing land and property with a view of launching a new business.
“Overall, this has fuelled a feeling of hope and prosperity for the industry and a surge of development that we will see hit the market over the next year or so,” says Edward, “Assessing how glamping has managed to benefit in these times has also created a much needed feeling of certainty for the future when everything else around has felt unstable.”
WHAT AREAS SHOULD YOU BE LOOKING AT?
The key areas for owners to focus on right now are undoubtedly preparation and planning their sites, perfecting day to day operations, marketing, and safety and usability. Also, Covid 19 has had a lasting impact on how things are run, but sites can’t allow themselves to be creatively stifled by it. Edward reveals below the main areas that glamping site operators should be looking at.
ACCESS AND LAYOUT
Edward explains that when planning your site or adapting your current one, it is important to think about access and layout to accommodate the customer mindset with regard to social distancing. This may include incorporating en-suite and self-catering facilities wherever possible. Keyless access is also another purposeful consideration as it enables guests to arrive without the need for meet and greets. As well as reducing the contact touch points.
In terms of operations, incorporating Covid safe protocols is a considerable factor. This includes elements such as more regular and thorough cleaning cycles, management of shared facilities to ensure guest safety, and cleaning process documents for staff.
Clear messaging is important to communicate to prospective guests at this time. Highlighting that a site is safe and prepared, listing the facilities it may or may not have, as well as the expected proximity to other guests. No matter how you usually reach your guests, there are always small but essential ways that you can improve the communication. For example, announcing the new safety procedures on social media as well as in newsletters is always a great way to keep your business relevant.
THE ESSENTIAL GLAMPING BUSINESS MANUAL
All of the above elements, and many more are covered in the latest edition of Crown and Canopy’s Essential Glamping Business Manual, which has become the bible for hospitality investors and current site owners.
One of the reasons is the importance that they place on up-to-date facts and figures. Their research is conducted year round and as an example, readers of the manual will find that the first section outlines the current and future opportunities in the sector based upon this research. The facts and statistics can’t be found elsewhere, and the insight into current and developing trends are a fundamental roadmap for those businesses in the know.
“Each year,” says Edward, “We add in new sections to the manual. This year, these will be about developing accommodation with a sustainable ethos, from choice of materials to infrastructure and operational management. This section is based upon our findings from developing a sustainable outdoor accommodation development design guide for The National Forest.”
BASE YOUR BUSINESS ON THE FACTS, not the hype.
Edward believes that one of the most valuable elements for people who purchase the manual is the sections around financial expectations. The honest, no-holds barred approach enables readers to create worthwhile and reliable projections based upon relevant industry information. Covering the essential things like average nightly rates for all structures, day to day operational costs, and estimated investment figures.
“The last year has put glamping through its paces,” says Edward, “And, thanks to this, the industry has matured greatly over the last year. Site owners, new and old will need to up their game to remain relevant. To avoid missteps, owners and operators need to keep up to speed with new information and findings and base decisions on facts rather than assumptions.”
*As seen in The Logbook. The Lost Executive cannot be held accountable for any results had by making use of the services and skills of this business. Even if they involve massive satisfaction and success.
ADDRESS: Barton Hill Farm, Kentchurch Hereford HR2 0BZ
TELEPHONE NUMBER: Edward Busby Cell: (0044) 07837162452