By Andy Zipser
The gold rush to get into the glamping business was on naked display at the Arapahoe County Fairgrounds in Colorado this past week, where organizers of the Glamping Show USA 2022 were giddy over the turnout. With 141 exhibitors–readily matching the numbers found at more traditional camping trade shows, such as those hosted by ARVC or KOA–and attendance up more than 40% over last year, the scent of greenbacks was unmistakable.
And no wonder. As reported by Whitney Scott, chief operating officer for KOA’s own glamping brand, Terramor, roughly one-fifth of both the glamping and non-glamping public is willing to pay more than $350 to spend a night in a safari tent, yurt, covered wagon or teepee. Why, there’s serious money to be made from rope and canvas!
But as in any gold rush, prospective glamping entrepreneurs also must contend with grifters, fast-buck artists and other camp followers (pun intended). Some nibble around the edges of the industry; some are welcomed into its bosom. Most can be detected and avoided by those who keep their brains engaged, but all the rah-rah boosterism and sugar-plum visions that infuse such events can dull the critical faculties.
The price of research
One attempt to cash in on glamping entrepreneurs’ ignorance is by peddlers of supposedly comprehensive market research. An outfit calling itself The Business Research Company, for example, contends that its market report, released last month, includes statistics on “glamping industry global market size, regional shares, competitors with a glamping market share, glamping market segments, market trends and opportunities, and any further data you may need to thrive in the glamping industry.” The report also “delivers a complete perspective of everything you need, with an in-depth analysis of the current and future scenarios of the industry.”
All that, it should be noted, is crammed into just 175 PDF pages. Available at the low, low price of just $4,000. But, really, how can you put a price on such crucial market data?
Well, Allied Market Research–an equally obscure market research company–is willing to do so, and for less! Its glamping research purports to be twice as extensive, at 400 pages, and is available for a mere $3,570. And, really, how can you put a price on tortured syntax, like the study’s claim that it “provides an in-depth analysis of Glamping Market along with current trends and future estimations to elucidate the imminent investment pockets”? Unimpressed? Consider, then, that the study’s authors “not only engrave the deepest levels of markets but also sneak through its slimmest details for the purpose of our market estimates and forecasts.”
Meanwhile, at the show itself, a schedule featuring less than a scant dozen workshops on the intricacies of creating and operating a glampground chose to devote one of them to … “influencers.” Specifically online influencers, as represented by Mike and Anne Howard, who for the past decade have been wandering the globe while depending on the kindness of strangers, whom they repay by saying nice things about them on their various social media blogs. The Howards, aka HoneyTrek (because they’ve been “trekking” from the first day of their honeymoon), claim to have acquired 340,000 followers. Be nice to them, and those followers can learn all about you, too.
Or that’s the carrot: How many of those followers can be converted into paying customers is anyone’s guess. But for the owner of a glamping resort, this is all presented as a low-cost win-win: Get favorable online exposure in exchange for providing “a lovely room, meals and activities,” although some influencers also may “require a fee for their time and digital assets.” Back in the day when commercial radio could make or break a singing career, this was derisively known as “pay to play.” But we live in a different, more nakedly transactional age today.
“Remember,” the Howards explained in the show program, “the more you give them (be it money, room nights or experiences) the more you’ll get in return … so be generous, it all comes around!”
PREVIOUSLY FROM ANDY…
Andy Zipser is the author of Renting Dirt, the story of his family’s experiences owning and operating a Virginia RV park, and of Turning Dirt, a step-by-step guide for finding, buying and operating an RV park and campground. Both books are available through bookstores or at Amazon.com.
yeah these #’s sound suspicious – I personally wouldn’t pay $350 a night to stay anywhere unless it was for a very special occasion. We invested in a nice travel trailer so we could enjoy it in a cheap camp site. 🙂
We have actually spent time in safari tents. . . in Africa on safari and the cost per day including the game drives and 3 meals was less than $345 (not much but) It is exciting to hear large animals – hippos, zebras, elephants walking by the tent in the night. Not so exciting to hear your neighbors kids squalling because they can’t sleep.
Glamping such a worthless word. It’s just camping people. Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are to blame.
Since when has simply going camping not been good enough?
Even “camping” is becoming questionable. I see very few campers. Most people just trailer now.
Though I would not pay this kind of money to spend a night, I look at this as a reinvention of the past – the past that Holiday Inns wiped out. In the 40s, 50s and early 60s, as a kid, when we vacationed we stayed in cabins, Travel Courts, which were the forerunner of motels. Some out west were actually set up as a series of tipis. Back then those cabins were the over-nite / weekly places for the common travelers. Now in the internet age, they have been re-realized as “glamping” with a price to go with it. Had those Travel Courts been able to hang on they would be back in style,, if they had upgraded to electricity, a/c, pools, and all of today’s creature comforts and entertainment. We’ve reinvented the wheel and inflation.
I could see this being a profitable add-on to campsites in exotic or A-list destinations. For the other 99% of campsites, good luck with this. Personally, I see this as a one-and-done experience for a lot of people, or at best doing it every few years.
“…roughly one-fifth of both the glamping and non-glamping public is willing to pay more than $350 to spend a night in a safari tent, yurt, covered wagon or teepee.”
Interesting considering the oft quoted statistic that roughly one half of households in the US cannot come up with $500 for an emergency and the vast majority are completely underfunded for future retirement.
Absolutely right, Spike. I think that speaks to the ever-widening wealth gap in our country, as the middle class is increasingly hollowed out.
It’s a screwy new world. With hundreds of millions of people in the US, some of them like to try camping in ways that seem odd to us, and without sinking tons of time and many thousands into equipment they would have to store. It’s not for most of us, but there are people with busy lives and tons of cash, who want to make one phone call and let a camping trip happen. And with every new ‘industry’ there are schemers trying to make a buck any way they can.
Not sure how paying for stays is any different than what resorts have always done for travel writers in conventional magazines. And the young folks aren’t reading Travel & Leisure, they are consuming internet blogs from influencers. If they are too naive to realize they are being sweet-talked, they will either have a blissful uninformed time, or wise up.
The title phrase “Much of the public” was watered down to “1/5th of the public” in the article. Yes Andy, the title piqued my interest to read your article. Fooled again!
Sorry you felt misled, Friz, although I’d argue that 20% of anything is indeed “much.” But without trying to weasel out of anything, I’ll just note that headlines are composed by editors, not reporters/writers.
I have found the same thing with many articles on this site. The headline leads you to believe one thing, while the article never quite backs up the inflated claim of the headline. Therefore, I don’t really believe half of what I read on this site. It’s overblown to get more eyes on the page and clicks on the ads.
My reaction, people have more dollars than sense. I guess this is the result of paying people $15/hr flipping hamburgers. Lol
LoL indeed. Pretty sure it’s not people making $120 a day paying $350 a night.
Concur. The result of a portion of the populace having more money than sense.