Glamping, short for glamorous camping, has evolved into a popular way to experience the beauty of nature without sacrificing the comforts of home. Unlike traditional camping, which often involves roughing it in a tent and sleeping bag, glamping offers amenities like real beds, electricity, and sometimes even climate control.
Over the past few years, I’ve observed a growing interest in this style of outdoor living, not only among seasoned outdoor enthusiasts but also among those who are new to spending time in the wilderness. Starting a glamping business can be a rewarding venture, combining a love for the outdoors with entrepreneurship. In this article, we’ll delve into the essential steps for how to start a glamping business on your own, from selecting the right location and gear to marketing your unique experience.
What is Glamping?
Glamping is a fusion of glamour and camping, offering outdoor enthusiasts an upgraded experience in nature with the amenities and luxuries you’d typically find in a hotel or bed-and-breakfast. Unlike traditional camping where you might be required to set up your tent and cook meals over a campfire, glamping usually involves pre-set accommodations, often with features like comfortable beds, electricity, heating or cooling systems, and sometimes even a kitchenette and private bathroom. These amenities allow you to connect with nature in a relaxed setting without worrying about the logistical challenges often associated with a more primitive outdoor experience.
This is easily the fastest growing sector in the vacation rental industry. To get a deeper understanding of what kind of accommodations you might expect, you can check out my article on what is a glamping tent.
Types of Glamping Tents
Choosing the right type of glamping unit largely depends on your target market, location, and the experience you want to offer. Each of these options has its own unique appeal and set of advantages:
- Bell Tents and Canvas Tents: These are some of the more classic options when it comes to glamping. Canvas tents, including the bell-shaped variety and safari tents, offer ample space and can easily fit luxuries like a real bed, carpets, and sometimes even air conditioning. Their robust canvas construction makes them adaptable to a variety of climates, and their aesthetic appeal adds a touch of elegance to your glamping setup.
- Yurts: Originating from Central Asia, yurts are round, sturdy structures made with a wooden frame and heavy-duty fabric walls. They are spacious and can be equipped with amenities like wood stoves, making them ideal for colder climates. Yurts also offer a more unique and culturally enriching experience due to their historical origins.
- Caravans (Parked RVs): For those who prefer the conveniences of home on wheels, parked RVs serve as an excellent glamping option. These fully-equipped, mobile accommodations offer everything from a kitchen and bathroom to a comfortable sleeping area, providing a homey experience in the heart of nature.
- Treehouses: Elevate your glamping experience—literally—by opting for a treehouse. These glamping structures offer a whimsical, bird’s-eye view of your natural surroundings and can be incredibly cozy and romantic. They’re often equipped with basic amenities and sometimes even luxurious features like hot tubs.
- Tiny Homes and Glamping Pods: These are small, fully-equipped houses that offer all the comforts of a full-sized home but in a compact space. Ideal for those who want to maintain a low environmental footprint while enjoying modern amenities, tiny homes can be customized to offer a wide range of luxuries.
- Bubble Domes: For a futuristic and immersive natural experience, bubble domes are clear, inflatable structures that offer 360-degree views of your surroundings. Imagine stargazing from your bed or watching the sun rise and set without ever leaving your cozy space. These units often come with basic amenities and offer an unparalleled way to connect with your environment.
Step by Step Guide for How to Start a Glamping Business Successfully
Embarking on a glamping business journey is both exhilarating and demanding, filled with countless considerations, from location and type of units to marketing and logistics. Below is a comprehensive guide to navigate you through the key steps of launching your very own glamping business.
1. Market Research
It’s obvious that the global glamping market size is huge, and conducting thorough market research is the cornerstone of any successful business. Start by identifying your target audience. Are you aiming to attract local outdoor enthusiasts, tourists, or perhaps even corporate retreats? Once you know your audience, survey the existing market. Identify your competitors, understand their strengths and weaknesses, and find your unique selling proposition that will make you stand out from other glamping accommodations. What can you offer that they don’t?
Beyond competition, consider seasonality. Will your glamping business operate year-round or will it be seasonal? This could significantly impact your revenue projections. After collecting all this data, decide on your glamping business structure. If you’re new to the glamping industry, a franchise might offer more support. A corporation could be ideal for larger ventures, while an LLC offers flexibility and tax advantages. Each comes with its own regulatory and tax obligations, so consult with a business advisor or attorney to make an informed choice.
2. Pick a Location
The adage “Location, Location, Location” holds especially true for the glamping business. The natural setting is often the star of the show, so choose a location that offers beauty, tranquility, and engagement with nature. Look for glamping sites near natural attractions like national parks, beaches, or scenic countryside. However, also consider accessibility. Your glamping site should be relatively easy to reach by car or public transport, as overly complicated or treacherous routes could deter potential glamping guests.
Before committing to any land purchase, check local zoning laws to ensure your intended glamping business is permitted on that parcel of land. Consult with local authorities about the permits you’ll need, both for land use and for the structures you plan to build. Land quality assessments and environmental impact studies may also be necessary.
3. Set Out a Glamping Business Plan
A comprehensive glamping business plan serves as your roadmap, outlining your glamping business goals, the strategies to achieve them, and the resources required. In the context of a glamping business, this plan should include details on the types of units you’ll offer and the amenities that will accompany them. Will you offer a range of units like bell tents, yurts, and treehouses, or focus on one type? What will be the spacing between these units? A tightly packed layout might allow for more units but could compromise the sense of seclusion many glamping patrons seek.
Consider utility requirements as well since water and electricity will need to be run to each unit. The farther a unit is from these utility sources, the more it will cost to connect them. Additionally, plan for communal spaces, if any, and other facilities like a reception area, bathroom and shower facilities, and potentially a café or dining area.
4. Secure Finances
Financial planning is integral to turning your vision into reality. Create a detailed budget that covers land acquisition, construction or purchase of glamping units, infrastructure for utilities, and interior and exterior amenities. Don’t forget operational costs like staffing, maintenance, marketing, and insurance. Make sure all these finances are in a glamping business bank account that’s separate from your personal finances.
Once you have a clear picture of the financial outlay, explore your options for raising this capital. Personal savings and bank loans are common choices, but you could also consider angel investors, venture capital, or even crowdfunding. Ensure you also have a contingency fund for unexpected costs; the last thing you want is to halt your project due to unforeseen financial constraints.
By giving these initial steps the attention they deserve, you’ll be laying a strong foundation for your glamping business. The devil is often in the details, and these early decisions can make or break your venture. So, take your time, do your research, and plan thoroughly.
5. Purchase a Glamping Site and Apply for Permits
Once your financing is secure, move ahead with purchasing your chosen land. This is where your prior research on zoning and permitting comes into play. Make sure all land contracts are clear and legally sound, and it’s often advisable to consult a real estate attorney familiar with local land use and zoning laws. After the purchase, initiate the permit application process for constructing your units, laying utility lines, and other associated needs. These permits can often take time to get approved, so build that into your timeline.
6. Purchase a Tent or Glamping Unit
Now comes the exciting part: buying the actual structures where your guests will stay. This is the moment where your earlier decisions on types of units come into play. Consider the durability, size, and aesthetic appeal of each unit, as well as the ease of setup and maintenance. While a bell tent might be simpler to install, structures like yurts or treehouses will require more extensive construction. Always consult with professionals for installation to ensure safety and compliance with any local building codes. Keep in mind that delivery and construction can take time, affecting your launch date.
7. Prepare Your Glamping Site and Facilities
Before your glamping units arrive, you’ll need to prep your land. This includes clearing debris, leveling the ground, and perhaps adding gravel or concrete foundations, depending on your unit type. You’ll also need to plan the layout for utilities. Electrical, water, and possibly gas lines will need to be laid, and you’ll have to decide how to manage wastewater. Depending on your location, you may also need to consider environmental protections, such as erosion controls or wildlife fencing. Employ professionals for these tasks to ensure everything meets local regulations and standards.
8. Build It Out With Tasteful Décor and Amenities
The décor and amenities you offer play a significant role in defining your guests’ experiences and the reviews they’ll leave. The interior should reflect the ambiance you want to create, be it rustic chic, minimalist modern, or extravagant luxury. Remember, part of the allure of glamping is its combination of outdoor adventure with indoor comforts. This could mean high-quality beds, climate control, kitchenettes, and stylish furnishings. For the exterior, consider adding decks or patios, outdoor seating, fire pits, and even an outdoor cooking area to make the guest stay more engaging.
9. Plan for Guests
Having prepared the glamping site, it’s time to focus on the guest experience. Create a smooth check-in and check-out process, either digitally through an app or physically at a reception desk. Keyless entry is great options for glamping business owners. Then, work out the logistics for housekeeping and maintenance. Will you hire full-time staff or contract these services? How will you handle laundry, waste disposal, and regular cleaning?
You should also plan on how to manage cold weather, warm weather, buggy times of year, and wet times of year. This includes buying a tent that has lots of mesh, and planning on having a tent heater of some kind so your guests can stay warm in the cooler months. Read on: Are Glamping Tents Warm?
10. Plan for “Just in Case” With Insurance Protection
You’ll need different types of insurance to cover various aspects of your glamping business. Property insurance is vital to protect against damage to your units and other facilities. Liability insurance is crucial in case a guest gets injured on your property. Business interruption insurance can protect your revenue stream if unforeseen events like natural disasters halt your operations. Consult an insurance advisor to customize a package that best suits your specific needs.
11. List and Promote Your Glamping Business
Visibility is key. No matter how incredible your glamping site is, if people don’t know it exists, it won’t be successful. Start by creating an attractive, user-friendly website with professional photographs of your facilities, detailed descriptions of amenities, and an easy booking system. Optimize your glamping site for search engines to increase visibility.
But don’t stop at just a website. Leverage social media platforms like Instagram, which is perfect for showcasing the aesthetic appeal of your site, and Facebook, where you can build a community around your brand. Running targeted ads on these platforms can also help you reach potential customers. You should also consider registering your glamping accommodation on travel and booking platforms like Airbnb, Booking.com, and specialty glamping directories. Don’t underestimate the power of word-of-mouth; encourage satisfied guests to leave reviews and perhaps offer referral discounts.
12. Host Guests
Once everything is in place and your doors are officially open, it’s time to focus on providing an exceptional experience as a glamping host for your guests. This begins with a smooth check-in process, whether that’s face-to-face or contactless through digital means. Offer a warm welcome, perhaps in the form of a welcome basket with local products or essential camping supplies.
Throughout their stay, be available for any questions or issues that may arise. Small gestures like offering recommendations for local hikes or setting up a communal evening campfire can go a long way in enhancing the guest experience. After guests depart, prompt them to give you feedback, both positive and constructive, so you can continue to improve your service.
13. Take Care of Your Tent So It Lasts a Long Time
Your glamping units are your primary asset and, as such, require ongoing care to ensure they remain in top condition for as long as possible. Different types of tents and glamping structures will have different maintenance needs. For instance, canvas tents might require periodic waterproofing treatments, whereas wooden structures like treehouses may need annual inspections for wear and tear. Develop a maintenance schedule and stick to it. This can include off-season repairs, regular cleaning, and amenity updates. Always use high-quality, durable materials that are suited for the environment they will be in. The longer your units last, the better your long-term ROI will be.
Tips for a Successful Glamping Business
Running a glamping business is much more than just setting up a few luxury camping tents and waiting for bookings. Long-term success is contingent on a blend of unique offerings, strong business relationships, and continual refinement of the guest experience, all while balancing efficiency and effort in your operations.
Offer Something Unique That Targets a Small Niche Market: The first key to success is differentiation—what sets you apart from other outdoor experiences? Consider targeting a niche glamping market that aligns with something special you can offer. Maybe your glamping site is near fantastic mountain biking trails, and you can offer rental bikes and guides. Perhaps you’re in a region known for its local wines, and you can arrange winery tours or tastings. By focusing on a niche, you not only set yourself apart from competitors (and attract guests) but also create a more memorable experience for your guests.
Form Business Relationships: Strong relationships can serve as the backbone of your glamping business. This can mean forming partnerships with local businesses to offer services or amenities that you can’t provide on your own, like guided tours or special dinner packages. It could also mean networking with suppliers for better rates on amenities, or even teaming up with influencers or travel bloggers to get the word out about your glamping site. Strong business relationships can help you expand your offerings, reduce costs, and increase visibility—all crucial factors in the long-term success of your venture.
Keep Improving the Guest Experience: Never rest on your laurels; always look for ways to enhance the guest experience. Whether that means installing hot tubs, offering new activities, or simply finding a more efficient check-in process, improvements big and small can lead to better reviews, repeat customers, and ultimately, increased revenue.
Automate Where You Can, Work Hard Where You Can’t: Efficiency is critical, especially as you scale. Use technology to automate tasks like booking, billing, and customer communication. This will free you up to focus on areas that require a personal touch, like guest services and facility maintenance. Some tasks can’t be automated, and it’s in these areas—like preparing a welcome basket or arranging special activities—that your hard work and attention to detail will shine through.
By incorporating these tips into your glamping business strategy, you’re setting yourself up for a higher level of success. It’s the nuanced attention to the guest experience, combined with efficient operations and strong business relationships, that will help elevate your glamping business above the competition.
How to Set Up a Glamping Tent
Setting up a glamping tent is an endeavor that blends aesthetics, functionality, and safety. First, start by identifying the precise location where the tent will be pitched. The ground should be flat, well-drained, and free from any rocks or debris that could damage the tent or create an uneven base. If the tent is of a canvas or bell variety, you’ll typically lay down a groundsheet first. However, for more permanent structures like yurts or wooden platforms, you might need to lay a more substantial foundation. Make sure to stake down your tent securely, following the manufacturer’s guidelines, to ensure stability in different weather conditions.
Once the tent is pitched, run electricity and water lines, if those amenities will be offered. Again, safety is paramount, so it’s recommended to hire professionals for electrical and plumbing work to ensure everything is up to code. You’ll also need to think about ventilation and insulation at this stage—adding windows, vents, or even climate control systems like fans or heaters depending on your location’s climate.
Now comes the creative part—interior design. Decking out the inside of your tent requires a careful balance of style and functionality. High-quality, durable furnishings are essential, as these items will see a lot of use. Consider storage options for your guests, like built-in cupboards or shelves. In essence, you’re aiming to create a comfortable and visually appealing space without sacrificing the practical elements required for an extended stay in the great outdoors. This is where your choice of décor, furniture, and lighting really helps to define the unique experience that guests will enjoy while staying at your glamping site.
How to Build a Glamping Tent
Building a glamping tent involves a combination of craftsmanship, technical skill, and a keen eye for detail. Unlike traditional camping tents, glamping tents often feature sturdy, semi-permanent structures and come with amenities that you’d expect to find in a boutique hotel. Therefore, the construction process is a bit more involved but also provides an opportunity to create a truly unique and luxurious space.
Begin by selecting the type of glamping tent that suits your glamping business model and location, whether it’s a bell tent, canvas tent, yurt, or something even more unique. Each type has its own specific construction requirements. For example, if you opt for a yurt, you’ll be dealing with a wooden lattice framework, radial rafters connecting to a central crown, and possibly an insulated felt lining. A canvas wall tent might require a metal frame and should be treated for weather resistance. It’s crucial to refer to specific guidelines or experts in the type of glamping structure you choose, ensuring that it meets safety standards and is appropriate for the climate and conditions in which it will be used.
Once you’ve chosen the type of tent, proceed with the glamping site preparation. This involves leveling the ground, removing any obstacles, and potentially installing a foundational platform. From there, construct the tent framework. Whether it’s wooden beams for a yurt or steel poles for a canvas tent, make sure all materials are high-quality and treated for outdoor use. For many types of glamping tents, you’ll want to install insulation and weatherproofing measures like liners or double-walled construction.
After the structure is solidly in place, focus on utilities. If your glamping tent will feature electricity, plumbing, or heating elements, it’s generally best to consult professionals to install these systems. It’s also the right time to consider how to make the tent secure, possibly with lockable doors or even a simple coded lockbox for valuables.
By paying attention to each of these elements, you’ll not only create a safe and durable glamping tent but also offer a luxurious experience that can rival traditional accommodations. Given the variety of tent structures and the range of amenities you can include, the sky’s truly the limit when it comes to building a glamping tent that stands out from the crowd.
Is Owning a Glamping Business Profitable?
Owning a glamping business has the potential to be a profitable venture, but like any business, it’s dependent on a variety of factors including location, marketing, and the overall guest experience you provide. Glamping tends to attract a demographic willing to pay a premium for unique and comfortable outdoor experiences, making it possible to charge rates that can be significantly higher than those of traditional camping sites.
The overhead costs can vary widely depending on the level of luxury camping and amenities you offer. High-end glamping setups with features like electricity, heating, high-quality furnishings, and private bathrooms will require a substantial initial investment but can also command higher nightly rates.
However, profitability is not guaranteed. It requires effective marketing to attract glamping guests, as well as exceptional management to operate efficiently. Seasonality can also be a challenge; glamping is often a seasonal business depending on your geographical location, meaning revenue may be inconsistent throughout the year.
Also, the guest experience must be top-notch to encourage repeat visits and positive reviews, which in turn help sustain and grow the glamping business. Therefore, while glamping business models can indeed be profitable, achieving that profitability requires a well-thought-out glamping business plan, continuous effort, and a commitment to providing an exceptional guest experience.
How Much Does it Cost to Start a Glamping Business?
The initial cost of starting a glamping business can vary widely depending on a multitude of factors including location, type of glamping units, amenities, and scale of the operation. On the lower end, if you’re setting up a few basic canvas tents on land you already own, your startup costs could range from $10,000 to $20,000. This would cover the tents themselves, basic furnishings, and possibly a small budget for marketing and initial operations.
However, for a more elaborate setup with multiple types of units like yurts, treehouses, or bubble domes, equipped with amenities such as electricity, plumbing, and high-end furnishings, the costs can easily exceed $100,000. In some instances, particularly when purchasing land or building permanent structures, you might be looking at an investment of several hundred thousand dollars or more. Additional costs to consider include permits, insurance, utilities, and staffing, among others.
Keep in mind that these are upfront costs, and operating expenses will continue as long as the glamping business is running. Therefore, a detailed glamping business plan template outlining all potential expenses and a realistic revenue model is essential to assess the viability of your glamping business. This will not only give you a clearer picture of the initial financial commitment required but will also be instrumental when seeking loans or investors to help finance your venture.
Pros of Owning A Glamping Business
One of the most attractive aspects of owning a glamping business is the potential for high-profit margins. Glamping has gained significant popularity as a travel trend, attracting a demographic willing to pay premium rates for a unique outdoor experience with the comforts of home. This allows you to generate substantial revenue if your glamping business is well-executed. Additionally, the lifestyle benefits can’t be overlooked. If you love the outdoors, a glamping business lets you immerse yourself in a setting you’re passionate about. The glamping business also offers the opportunity for creative expression, as you’ll be tasked with designing inviting and unique spaces that stand out in an increasingly crowded market.
The glamping industry is relatively flexible in terms of scale and scope, allowing entrepreneurs to start small and expand over time. With modular units like tents or yurts, you can test the waters before committing to larger, more permanent structures. Moreover, the operational demands, while substantial, are often less than those of a full-service hotel, making it somewhat more manageable for a small business owner.
Cons of Owning A Glamping Business
However, there are also downsides to consider. The initial capital outlay can be significant, especially if you’re aiming for a high-end experience with premium amenities. Land acquisition, permits, utility setup, and the costs of the glamping units themselves can quickly add up. Moreover, depending on your location, your glamping business might be highly seasonal, which can create cash flow challenges during off-peak months.
Operational complexities are another consideration. You’ll need to provide excellent guest services, maintain the units, manage reservations, and handle marketing—each of which demands time, money, and expertise. There’s also the challenge of keeping up with evolving consumer expectations. The glamping industry is still relatively new but is quickly becoming competitive, requiring ongoing investment in amenities and marketing to stay ahead. Lastly, like any business that depends on the tourism industry, economic downturns or external factors like pandemics can hit hard, making it imperative to have a solid glamping business plan and financial cushion to withstand market uncertainties.
Starting a glamping business is an intriguing blend of outdoor adventure and modern comfort, offering significant revenue potential for those willing to invest time, money, and creativity. However, it’s not without its challenges, including high startup costs, seasonality, and operational complexities. Despite these hurdles, with the right planning and a focus on guest experience, a glamping business can be both profitable and fulfilling. If you have a passion for the outdoors and a knack for the hospitality industry, this burgeoning glamping industry could be your ticket to success.
Are glamping businesses as profitable as a vacation rental business?
The profitability can differ, but glamping businesses have the potential for high-profit margins, sometimes ranging from 25% to 40%. Vacation rentals, on the other hand, typically see profit margins between 15% and 30%. However, these numbers can vary based on location, amenities, and operational efficiency.
How much land do you need to start a glamping business?
The amount of land required depends on the scale and type of glamping business you wish to start. A smaller operation with a few tents may require only a couple of acres, while larger, more elaborate setups with multiple units and amenities could necessitate significantly more land.
How do you start a glamping business?
Starting a glamping business involves several steps, including market research, picking a location, creating a business plan, securing finances, and purchasing your glamping units. Operational aspects like guest check-in/out procedures, housekeeping, and marketing are also key to a successful venture.
Do you need a permit for a glamping business?
Yes, you will likely need various permits to start a glamping business. These can include land-use permits, building permits, and potentially even special permits for things like guided outdoor activities. Always check with local and state authorities to ensure you have all the necessary legal approvals.
How much do glamping businesses make?
Earnings can fluctuate significantly, but well-run, high-end glamping businesses in prime locations can generate annual revenues upwards of $100,000 to $200,000 or more. Smaller operations or those in less popular locations may see revenues in the range of $30,000 to $60,000. These figures depend on various factors such as occupancy rates, pricing, and guest satisfaction.