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The rise in demand for glamping allows UK farms to flourish

With a surge in demand for agritourism accommodation, farmers continue to flourish in an ever-growing sector. Danusia Osiowy takes a look at how to tap into the market and why glamorous camping is at a record high. 

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could glamping glam up your farm?

The number of people opting for glamorous camping holidays in the UK has continued to rise year-on-year.

 

Glamping, as it is commonly known, embraces outdoor living, maximises the picturesque scenery of the rural countryside and includes some special home comforts along the way.

 

According to market researcher, Mintel, more than 17 million camping and caravanning trips were taken by UK adults in 2016, a figure which it says is expected to rise to more than 21 million in 2020.


Brexit has also influenced the rise in camping trips.

 

Dan Yates, founder of Pitchup, a UK campsite and holiday park booking website, says: “The sector is likely to benefit from Brexit more than other sectors of the tourism industry, as we appeal to savvy, budget conscious travellers who are looking for ways to make their holiday spend go further. The weakness of the pound has also driven inbound bookings.

 

“Over the last year (March 2017-18) we received 76 per cent more bookings from UK customers for the UK, compared to the same period two years ago, and 59 per cent more bookings for the UK from foreign customers.”

 

With UK staycations on the rise, many farmers have diversified into agri-tourism.

 

So, what do you need to know if you are thinking about starting a glamping enterprise?

 

Google Trends reveals ‘glamping’ attracts 17 per cent as many searches as ‘camping’, compared to just six per cent five years ago.

 

Simon Thomason, glamping consultant and owner of Glisten Camping, shares his advice on the essential information farmers need to know who are embarking in high-end outdoor agritourism.


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Planning

 

The whole essence of temporary structures means many people think you don’t need any planning, but permission will almost certainly be required for the change of use of agricultural land or woodland to use for glamping.

 

The easiest thing you can do is apply for a 28-day camping license, but that’s not going to give you much of a business.

 

The essence of glamping is to get as close to nature as possible in luxury surroundings and enjoy great views, peace and unpopulated landscapes. There will be some planning policy which will conflict with what you’re trying to achieve.

 

For example in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the visual impact of your site will be measured against the economic benefits of the site.

 

The process can take a long time as well. It can range from six months up to four years, depending on the complexity and appeals process.

 

This can seem a daunting task, but if you conduct a feasibility study to see how likely it is planning will be approved, you could save yourself thousands of pounds.

Services and facilities

THE biggest debate is always about en-suite accommodation or shared facilities.

 

En-suite accommodation is in high demand in the glamping industry and helps extend the season and gain a greater rate.

 

The cost of installing the infrastructure is obviously more expensive, but it has a quicker return on investment, than shared facilities.

 

Heating is essential as creating a cosy atmosphere will help bookings in the shoulder months.

 

There is a growing trend in winter glamping, so if you can create a nice space with a log burning fire and rugs, then you will appeal to this market.

 

Hot tubs or outside baths are luxuries that people search for when looking at glamping.

 

There’s a big debate on whether WiFi is an essential item in every accommodation unit, but it’s one of the top search items when people are looking for glamping breaks.

 

The other question is whether you offer self-catering or provide food. This is a crucial decision.

 

If you want to offer a hotel experience and provide breakfast and dinner, then you need to understand the costs for setting up a restaurant and the operating costs to decide whether it’s worth it. This works better for sites that have more than 10 units, as the dining numbers make it easy to operate.

 

Communal fire pit areas, playgrounds all depend on what type of guest you want to attract, the location and how many units you have.

Marketing

 

IT’S not easy to attract guests in such a competitive marketplace. The debate is whether you do the marketing, or use a booking agency to do that for you. There are benefits to both.

 

Word of mouth is one of your best marketing tools, but when you start up you don’t have that to take of advantage from. Once you’re established, having a returning guest will cost less to attract than a new guest, so it’s important to build a strong relationship and incentivise to encourage them to spread the word.

 

Develop your own social media channels, but also advertise on glamping specific websites and use agencies that don’t want an exclusive deal. This means you’ll get exposure from a number of options.

 

At the end of the season it’s always important to see what works for you, but allow around 15-20 per cent of your budget to be put towards marketing.

 

Good photography and video content is essential to sell your experience. Don’t scrimp by thinking your iPhone photo is good enough for your website.

 

A glamping holiday is an emotional sale, so you have to create those moments which best describe your experience and capture them. Whether it’s the view from the tree house, the hot tubs at night, the hammock in the orchard, or a group of people enjoying the fire pit, it will help transport people to your site instantly and make them book.

Identifying access and security on site

 

People need to feel safe and secure from the moment they arrive.

 

Parking next to their accommodation is a guest’s preferred option but if they can’t, well landscaped paths with good lighting is essential.

 

Your insurance will expect you to have a health and safety policy in place so a risk assessment of your site, the units and guest activity will be essential.

 

Don’t forget people are on holiday and sometimes they leave their common sense at home, so you will have to cover for every eventuality.

 

People often forget there are significant infrastructure costs in setting up a glamping business, even if it’s only a couple of units.

 

Access is always one of the biggest investments as most glamping experiences are off the beaten track.

 

On some occasions the infrastructure costs for access have been the stumbling block to a site going ahead.

Utilising surroundings

 

FARM tourism is its own sector in the tourism sector. Educating guests on rural life and as to how things get to our supermarkets is an attractive proposition for families.

 

Many farmers have built their glamping experience around their daily duties, so everything from collecting the eggs, to milking the cows have been offered to gets to give them a real authentic experience of what it’s like to be on a farm.

 

Creating an experience that educates and inspires people is a very rewarding experience. What you do on a daily basis might seem run of the mill, but to someone from a city it’s a different world.

 

What one person thinks is a great experience, an other person may hate. Knowing your audience is the key to delivering a great glamping experience for them.

 

It’s certainly not about creating a home from home, but rather creating something unique you haven’t done before.

Nature

 

THE trend in glamping will see a focus on creating more immersive and holistic experiences, which extend beyond the space itself and fully embrace nature and the seasons.

 

Nature has a wonderful effect on us as human beings. Whether it’s raining or a beautiful cold sunny day, it inspires and challenges us at the same time. Capturing this in a glamping experience is what will help you stand apart from the rest.

 

Don’t be afraid of explaining to guests and the wider industry about why you have developed your experience and how to enjoy it.

 

Glamping means you attract people who don’t usually camp, so helping them getting the best out their stay is a challenge but very rewarding.

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