Widespread interest in glamping gained momentum during COVID-19, and experts say the tremendous growth in this form of camping — one that combines luxury accommodations and outdoor experiences — is going to be a big part of the outdoor hospitality industry for years to come.
Delivering the wonderment of camping with the benefits of a comfortable night’s sleep — all while eliminating the barriers of buying, maintaining, schlepping and storing camping equipment — glamping successfully bridges the gap between traditional camping and resort vacationing to provide a “best of both worlds” experience.
Is it any wonder that more and more people are getting into glamping?
According to the first 2022 North American Glamping Report (sponsored by Terramor Outdoor Resorts in partnership with Sage Outdoor Advisory), glamping is gaining in awareness and acceptance and is “fast becoming a standard option” in the leisure travel industry. One in five leisure travelers plan to glamp in the future, the report states. Of those who have glamped, 74% plan to glamp again soon and 40% have made glamping a part of their regular vacation plans. The result? More and more glamping parks are being developed to meet this increased demand.
From 2012 to 2022, according to the North American Glamping Report, the industry experienced a 310% increase in short-term glamping rentals available through online vacation rental sites (from 1,540 to 6,339); and a 290% increase in operating glamping businesses (from 59 to 230: defined as businesses having multiple units available and a website where customers can make direct bookings).
Woodall’s Campground Magazine (WCM) recently interviewed some glamping industry business leaders and park operators to ascertain their thoughts on trends and park priorities. In addition to confirming the reports on increases in glamping travelers and glamping businesses, here’s what else we learned:
Trend 1: Prioritizing Eco-friendly Practices: Across North America and the world, glamping resorts prioritize eco-friendly practices, showing by example how to be good stewards of the environment; and glampers, while appreciating some luxury in camping, also appreciate and respect nature and our planet’s sustainability.
Sustainability is a very significant worldwide concern, and in a 2022 report by Booking.com, 80% of travelers surveyed globally said sustainability matters to their accommodation choices, as cited by global travel experts and glamping industry leaders Mike and Anne Howard, of HoneyTrek.com.
The Howards have circled the world for the past 11 years, traveling to 74 countries across all seven continents, and founded HoneyTrek.com to chronicle their journey of “The World’s Longest Honeymoon” and share their glamping expertise with the world.
In their latest book, Comfortably Wild, the couple dedicated an entire chapter to conservation, detailing inspiring properties they have visited that are “improving the land, empowering local communities and inspiring guests to be stewards of the environment.” Mike and Anne write that the majority of glamping properties they have visited were designed to tread lightly on the earth, and they hope that eco-friendly will become the world standard.
They applaud campground resorts that promote sustainability efforts: renewable energy sources; water conservation; reducing, reusing and recycling; providing water refill stations; avoiding single-use plastics; using refillable containers for shampoos, conditioners, coffee creamers and so on. In sum, being respectful of the environment because doing so is the right thing to do — and the practice attracts eco-conscious guests.
In thevacationer.com’s annual Sustainable Travel Survey, Report & Trends 2023, more than 82% of American adults say sustainable environmentally friendly travel is Very Important or Somewhat Important to them; 74% plan to make more eco-friendly travel decisions; and 71% would pay more to lower their carbon footprint.
Sustainability-savvy glampers support sustainable glamping operations.
The Howards recommend that park operators attain environmental accreditations and publicize the badges on campground marketing materials, as travelers are looking for these badges. Share your sustainable journey on your website and social media: prospective guests want to hear about your actions and want to participate.
The Howards share their journeys and expertise across six social media channels, and they launched HoneyTrek Glamping Consulting & Creative Services to help budding and existing glamping parks improve their guest experiences and increase their business through a variety of strategies they’ve learned.
For example, based on what they have seen in 11 years of glamping around the world, Mike and Anne share design and construction advice for reducing a park’s impact on the environment; knowledge of renewable energy power sources and strategies to reduce power consumption; conscientious water-saving strategies; ways to work towards a zero-waste goal; and more.
According to the Howards, eco-friendly properties can be listed on KindTraveler.com, “the first socially conscious Give + Get hotel booking and media platform that empowers travelers to positively impact the communities and environment in the destinations they visit.”
WCM spoke with Talaz Lake Tahoe Eco Camp, which is slated to open in 2025. The park is prioritizing eco-friendly practices.
“Everything that we do is eco-friendly and sustainable, which is at the core of our values,” said Rachel Bowers, founder and project manager for the Talaz Lake Tahoe Eco Camp.
Talaz, meaning ‘giant surge of a wave,’ is an approximately 11-acre park in Zephyr Cove, Nev., that is within walking distance to a Lake Tahoe beach and close to Heavenly ski resort; and a five-minute drive to the stateline and the city of South Lake Tahoe, Calif.
Bowers plans for the new camp to use locally sourced materials including pine, and local workers to build hard-sided year-round units in this snowy area. She also plans to include seasonal platform pop-up tents and is exploring tree-house glamping. Talaz Lake Tahoe Eco Camp will use eco-friendly soaps and cleaning products and be pesticide and plastic-free, will strongly promote recycling; and will be utilizing a geothermal or heat pump solution for heating and cooling.
Bowers also plans an education center where guests can learn how to protect the environment; and will offer nature walks, e-bike rentals and activities that enhance the eco-glamping experience.
Trend 2: One-of-a-kind destinations, once-in-a-lifetime experiences — differentiating if possible, with something unique
For many parks, a particular setting in Mother Nature is already the ‘Wow’ factor. Other park operators like to add some additional glamourous, unique touches.
“People are looking for that ‘Wow’ factor, an unforgettable experience,” Anne Howard noted. “I would recommend thinking about how you can differentiate yourself and do something architecturally unique and awe-inspiring.”
“Doing something memorable gets your park featured in the press and provides notoriety for your business,” said Mike Howard.
The Howards note the luxury mirror cabins that literally blend into the natural landscape and reflect the trees and nature back on you and the one-of-a-kind treehouses found at Asheville Glamping near Asheville, N.C. In the 2022 North American Glamping Report, 55% of survey responders rated a preference for treehouses as an accommodation option, but out of available accommodations in the market, only 2% are treehouses.
In addition to treehouses, tents, cabins, tiny homes and Airstreams, some glamping parks offer domes, yurts, teepees, wagons and trains as unique options.
Some parks with no natural water features have created man-made ponds for serenity and ambiance.
Speaking of uniqueness: there is only one place to go in North America for medieval glamping — The Good Knights Medieval Encampment of Three Hills in Alberta, Canada. Travel back in time with Sir Dan and Lady Linda Smith, and stay in one of the park’s lavishly furnished medieval tents or a hobbit-like burrow. The park provides a wide array of activities including medieval costumes, archery, sword-fighting, Saturday night feasts and a whole lot more.
Even with all the custom medieval tents, and activities going on, Dan Smith said the park is always building something new.
“Our Burrow just opened in December 2022, and this year we are developing a new area: the Wanderer’s Hideaway with a Caravan Camp,” noted Dan Smith. “Next year we will build a new commercial kitchen to help us prepare our feasts.”
Huttopia, a European-based worldwide glamping company created in 1999 in France now has more than 60 properties around the world, including six in North America. The company just opened a resort in California’s wine country with 70 glamping tents by a vineyard on Six Sigma Ranch.
The company’s main formula and value is “Keep it simple.”
Huttopia co-founder Céline Bossanne, who comes from a camping and not a hotel background, shared that Huttopia is for “people who seek natural beauty, simplicity and connection to the great outdoors and each other.”
She is seeking guests who enjoy Huttopia and want to return again and again to some of its many sites, in favor of those who may want to check something off their bucket list, move on and not return.
In the French version of ready-to-camp, original and fully-equipped platform tents and cabins combine the serenity of nature and the comfort needed after a long day of exploring. WCM visited Huttopia Southern Maine and explored the wooded property on a pond which included tents, cabins, a beautiful reception building, café, store, pool, games, walking paths, kayaks and paddleboards.
In Ithaca, N.Y., Firelight Camps’ mission is to create a “comfortable, stylish and revitalizing camping experience that awakens appreciation for nature, inspires adventure and deepens connection with family, friends and community.” Founded in 2013 by Bobby and Emma Frisch, Firelight Camps invites guests to share their elevated camping experience and enjoy the magic. The park features campfires, waterfall hikes, foraging hikes, outdoor yoga, locally sourced breakfasts and more. A highlight is its very popular upbeat outdoor music nights, where the entire Ithaca community is invited.
In Bar Harbor, Maine, near Acadia National Park, Terramor Outdoor Resort creates unforgettable experiences and extraordinary stays under the stars, notes Jenny McCullough, senior director of marketing and operations.
The park features tents designed to provide the comforts of a resort with the adventure of the outdoors and the beauty of nature. Terramor has learned a lot since opening in 2020. Through listening to guest feedback, it has adapted operations and added amenities. Small changes like adding more hooks in the tents and providing in-tent safes had a huge impact on the guests’ stay. The Terramor team pays very close attention to reviews and surveys, meeting each week to discuss results.
Trend 3: Wi-Fi is expected to be more widely available
People love the outdoors, but sometimes they do need their Wi-Fi. According to the 2022 North American Glamping Report, 52% of all travelers expect to have Wi-Fi while glamping, the highest expected amenity, and the 2023 North American Campground and Outdoor Hospitality Report states, “The influence of Wi-Fi on how much people are able to camp continues to grow,” with 40% of campers reporting that Wi-Fi has “a great deal of influence” on their ability to camp more.
Travelers who can work remotely can camp for longer, on a workcation.
“Idealistically, we want to unplug, but Wi-Fi is kind of a must,” noted the Howards. “The good news is that if guests know they can check their emails, get a little work done and stay in touch with family, they will stay longer because they know that if they need to, they can get things done and not stress about it.”
Trend 4: Glamping park operators are hosting more families with children
Over 60% of households who went glamping did so with children, and 75% of leisure travelers are interested in glamping experiences with activities for both children and adults, according to the 2022 North American Glamping Report.
Glamping park operators WCM interviewed are seeing this trend at their parks.
“Families embrace glamping as an easy entry into the world of camping,” noted Bobby and Emma Frisch. “Parents really value unplugged time with their kids and exposing their children to the great outdoors.”
McCullough pointed out that resorts like Terramor offer a way for families to connect in a setting that is unlike anything they may have at home and the Howards noted that some glamping stops offer interactions with farm animals, unique activities and other amenities that appeal to families.
Trend 5: Social media is everywhere. Your audience is there and your business needs to be there, too
Marketing today is so much more than your website, print ads, Google search results and TripAdvisor reviews.
“We are very intentional about how we market our property,” explained McCullough. “As a company, we have followed KOA’s approach to understanding our customers through research and data. This has allowed us to hone in on our target audiences within the digital and media landscapes. Having a strong presence on social channels has been a priority for us.”
Most glamping park operators interviewed are on social media, with many prioritizing Facebook and Instagram, and also working with influencers, bloggers and photographers.
“We love working with influencers, bloggers and photographers and find it is an authentic and easy way to spread our message of getting more people outside,” noted Bobby Frisch.
“Even if you are not a social media person, your audience is and your potential glampers are,” highlighted the Howards. “At least reserve your name across all the platforms so that even if you don’t post daily, someone else can post and give you some nice credit.”
Looking for further advice? The Howards note that park operators, particularly those off-grid, should discover ways to offer at least a few units with bathrooms. Some campers need them and will pay more.
Park operators should also discover ways to provide at least some water in the tents for washing hands and face and brushing teeth, such as a water jug or a small sink.
Every glamping operator should also recognize that nature and privacy are selling points, so avoid overcrowding your campground with too many sites.
No matter how park operators tackle glamping, research shows that the trend has staying power and that campers are ready to enjoy the great outdoors — with a touch of luxury.