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Campers drive boom in the business of ‘glamping’

June 4, 2014

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This family went glamping on the beaches on the Isle of Wight.

You know that phenomenon when a certain word or phrase suddenly starts cropping up everywhere you turn?  Sometimes such a buzz can mean that a topic is ripe for a business or financial feature, and for me lately the term has been “glamping.”

The trend of luxury camping is not new but for some reason seems to be in the zeitgeist this spring – and my latest hint was last weekend on my Memorial Day jaunt.  When “glamping” hits the famously rowdy “snake pit” of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway infield, you know its entered average Americana and might be worth a closer look.  It’s a neat twist on the small lodging story, if you’ve been thinking about a piece on area bed & breakfast homes or other small inns.

Indy track officials touted a variety of glamping options, which got a lot of attention from national news outlets, from cots to cushy beds, all in an enclosed area with extra security, trailers that featured bathrooms & hot showers and communal amenties like a fire pit and volleyball net.  Price tag for this year’s Indy 500 glamping ranged from $900 (the cots) to $1,100 for a queen-sized bed; the multi-night packages included race-day tickets, parking, complimentary ice and other elements.  We scoped out the “glamp” and while a mite close for comfort to the hard-partying snake pit, it looked like an interesting way to attend the event, and as though people from a variety of ages were giving it a try.

The concept of luxury camping dates back centuries and the kitschy term is at least several years old – but as a recent CNN Money report noted, this year “Glamping goes mainstream.”  CNN reports that the lodging option is gaining popularity even at music festivals catering to younger people, and that companies beyond the glamp operators – such as awning and tent rental firms – are benefitting from the trend.

Business Insider says the Wall Street crowd is eschewing beach vacays for glamping in the Adirondacks, and here’s a piece about glamping in Vermont.

This very nice Kansas City Star article about a couple in Kansas who have fitted out their rural property to attract glampers, complete with outdoor spa, covered wagon and antique quilts for the guest beds. Can you find any new glampsite operators near you?  What are they staking on this new biz and how are they standing out from competitors?  What are guests willing to pay to not rough it in the outdoors or the vintage RV?

Glamping tent with table and chairs
This tent easily sleeps two families. With table, chairs and cookstove, it’s glamping with no cramping.

Again, profiling the business model of the glamping venues is an interesting premise for a biz feature, but seek out other businesses that are benefitting too, from purveyors of vintage campers  to tent renters to sellers of old and antique camping equipment like plaid coolers and metal lawn chairs, which hard-core glampers use to fit out their cozy digs.  Claw-foot tubs for outdoor soaking a heavily featured in glamping ads; see if there’s a run on them in your region lately.

Books, websites, magazines and social media boards cater to glampers, too.  This firm, Retro Hospitality, helps venues add amenties in old Airstream trailers; and of course the industry has ginned up its own observance, “International Glamping Weekend,” set for June 7-8 this year.

And in an interesting twist, CBS reports that residents in ritzy Hamptons areas are renting out their beach homes and “glamping” in trailer parks to turn a buck from summer vacationers.

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