Do you have childhood memories of camping with your family? You probably remember the smell of freshly toasted s'mores over an open fire. Perhaps you told a few ghost stories that gave everyone goosebumps. Camping is a favorite pastime for families across the world. Over 40 million people camp annually in the United States alone. The fancier campers in that 40 million sparked a whole new word and industry: glamping.
Why? Because for many of us, camping is great except for the whole roughing it thing. Not everyone enjoys wrestling with a tent, melting under the summer sun, or swatting away blood-thirsty mosquitoes.
Glamping is the perfect Green Acres compromise for families looking to enjoy the outdoors without entirely giving up their penthouse view. This form of "glamorous camping" lets vacationers participate in camping activities while still enjoying electricity, WiFi connectivity, running water, or a real mattress. And this fashionable getaway trend isn't going away anytime soon.
The Great Outdoors Meets Louis Vuitton in This Multibillion-Dollar Industry
Glamping first became a trending search phrase in the United Kingdom back in 2005. A few years later, this opulent camping style made its way to the United States. Lexicographers added the once slang word to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2016. While the term is relatively new, campers have always sought innovative ways to make their campsites more comfortable.
The novelty of glamping hasn't fizzled out. If anything, it's become hotter than ever before. During the 2020 pandemic, glamping became the ideal socially distanced getaway. And the cost of luxury camping is much less than booking a room in a five-star hotel.
According to Grand View Research, the global glamping market size reached $1.88 billion in 2020. Furthermore, economists predict the industry will continue to expand at a CAGR of 14.1%, reaching $5.41 billion by 2028. And if you want a piece of the action, now is the perfect time for an outdoor-loving entrepreneur to take the glamping world by storm.
Glamping Brands Reinvent High-End Camping
Sure, glamping sounds like fun for visitors, but is it actually possible to make a decent living in the industry? The answer is a resounding yes! Several companies have surpassed the 8- and 9-figure marks serving glampers. Need some inspiration? Here are some leading glamping brands to keep on your radar:
In 2013, Neil Dipaola and Ryan Miller launched the first AutoCamp in Santa Barbara. The duo saw a desire for luxury outdoor vacationing and decided to jump in headfirst. They began renovating Airstream RVs into fancy hotel rooms, and the concept was an instant hit with glampers across the country.
Five years after launching, AutoCamp raised an additional $115 million for a nationwide expansion project. The company also partnered with Airstream to build custom campsite suites. What makes AutoCamp one of the premier glamping providers? The brand offers unique outdoor experiences. There's something for everyone, from adrenaline adventures to romantic escapes to old-fashioned family fun.
Disillusioned by the hospitality industry, Peter Mack wanted to create something totally different. In his mind, lodging should be more than just a room to shower and sleep; it should be a place for travelers to come together and explore. So in 2015, he turned his vision into reality and founded Collective Retreats. The brand offers luxury accommodations, mouth-watering culinary experiences, and once-in-a-lifetime adventures to all visitors. It combined two of his favorite things—five-star hotel amenities and the outdoors. And this never-before-seen model also attracted eager glampers from across the world.
Collective Retreats started with a single location in Texas Hill County. Today, the brand offers additional glamping experiences in Vail, Yellowstone, Hudson Valley, and New York City. By December 2017, the brand had a valuation of $50 million. In June 2021, Mack announced the company raised a $23 million Series C funding round, led by Fireside Ventures.
Not every successful glamping startup is its own lodging facility. One of the most successful serves as a listing platform for other glampsites. In 2013, Alyssa Ravasio launched Hipcamp to help connect adventurers with the best camping experiences. She realized reserving a campground wasn't a cut-and-dry task. There were no centralized booking sites, and she could only find fragmented or outdated information. Hipcamp sought to change that.
Campers adopted Hipcamp right away, and the brand earned a reputation for being the Airbnb of the outdoors. It now features over 420,000 listings for campgrounds, glampsites, tiny homes, RV grounds, and yurts. By 2019, Andreessen Horowitz valued the brand at $127 million. It soon garnered the attention of other noteworthy investors, including Jay-Z and Will Smith. And in January 2021, the company raised $57 million in a Series C round.
Understanding the Glamping Consumer
Glampers are a young and diverse group. KOA reports that millennials dominate the market share, making up over 48% of glampers. Gen X comes in a close second, and zoomers round out the top three. Boomers and beyond are the least likely demographics to book a glamping retreat.
Glampers aren't your everyday campers. Instead of roughing it outdoors, glampers seek a more refined, lavish camping experience. Think of it as camping, but better. Vacationers still get to be outdoors, but they don't have to deal with the headaches and hassles of traditional camping. In other words, today's campers would rather forego leaking tents for something a bit cozier. These are the tops things glampers want:
- Resort-like accommodations
- Bathrooms, preferably with running water
- Full-service kitchens
- WiFi access
- Beds with high-end mattresses
Ready to take the glamping world by storm? Plan to provide posh amenities these adventure seekers can't get elsewhere.
You might also want to check out this sub-niche, RV accessories.
If You Build It, They Will Come
Glamping increased two-fold in 2020. There are thousands of traditional campgrounds across the US. But most don't offer an all-inclusive glamping experience. Luckily for you, it's possible to build a glampsite nearly anywhere. Got a multi-acre backyard? Pitch a few luxury tents. Know an established real estate agent? Hire them to help you purchase a vacant campsite. Own some ocean-front property in Arizona? Well, you get the idea.
Opening a turnkey glamping facility with all the bells and whistles is sure to put your brand on the map. Follow these steps to get started:
Step #1: Pick a prime location.
Visitors prioritize campgrounds that have something unique to offer. For example, a location near local parks, beaches, rivers, or wildlife reserves is sure to become a hot glamping destination. And if you already own an outdoor business, you may be able to transform it into a glamping retreat. For instance, it wouldn't take much to add a few dome huts or high-end tents to part of a family vineyard.
Step #2: Pitch your first tent.
Glampers want high-end accommodations. But you don't need to start with expensive cabins or fancy dome huts. Instead, you only need a single tent to build a glamping empire. Just make sure the tent you select reflects the needs and wants of your target audience—pinching pennies now will only hurt your brand down the road.
Step #3: Add posh furnishings.
Lucrative glamping facilities know how to turn a bare tent into an exclusive retreat. The right furnishings and amenities can transform a $50 overnight stay into one that commands a $500 price point. Of course, comfort should always lead your buying decisions. So look for plush mattresses, durable furniture, and plenty of lighting. And if you can afford to install electrical outlets or have access to modern plumbing, even better! Just remember to decorate with a specific style in mind. Anything goes, from mismatched vintage to Hollywood chic.
Step #4: List your glampsite.
A compelling listing is the number one way to book your glampsite, but a poorly written one could cost you dearly. What does your site offer that others don't? What should glampers expect when they visit your facility? Answer these questions, and always include tons of high-resolution photos. Successful listings create FOMO in the reader and ensure they book before closing out the site.
Post your listing on a variety of camping and lodging platforms. The two most popular are Airbnb and Hipcamp, and both services will list your facility for free. You only pay a small commission whenever someone books your property. (These sites also make it easy to scope out your competition!)
Step #5: Scale your glamping business.
Lots of five-star reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations will ensure your glampsite stays booked all year long. And it's up to you to scale your business to accommodate even more glampers. After all, there's nothing worse than turning away potential customers because you ran out of tents.
Reinvesting profits back into the business is crucial, especially in the beginning. You can use the money to buy more lodging, upgrade furnishings, or install additional amenities. Use customer feedback to help determine where to spend the most money. But also keep enough on hand to cover any emergency repairs or maintenance.
The Cost Factor of Starting a Glamping Business
Buying, building, and operating a glamping facility may seem out of reach, but it may not be as expensive as you think. Most of your capital will go towards finding a glamping site. Buying land varies depending on the location, and a real estate agent can help you negotiate a fair price. Choosing a place in a remote area will help you get the most bang for your buck. And if you already own land, that's even better.
Your next biggest expense will be the glamping tent. Once again, the cost will vary greatly depending on the style and size you choose. Cheap dome tents start at about $1,000. But all-inclusive luxury tents with plumbing hookups and electricity cost tens of thousands of dollars. That's why it's best to start with something basic and upgrade as your business grows.
Camping has always been a favorite pastime, but today's travelers prefer something more luxurious. They want an outdoor environment that offers five-star amenities and unforgettable experiences. So glamping is now the getaway of choice. And it's also an ideal business venture for adventurous, outdoor-loving entrepreneurs.
In 2020, the glamping industry hit $1.88 billion, and this number should continue to climb upward at a steady pace. And with nearly 50% of millennials planning to stay at a glampsite in the next twelve months, the glamping trend doesn't appear to be going away anytime soon. What are you waiting for? Now is the ideal time to steal this business and build the next 8- or 9- figure glampsite.