Glamping: Here for a long stay

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GLACIER UNDER CANVAS
  • Glacier Under Canvas

A few years ago, glamping—a mashup term for “glamorous camping”—may have been dismissed by purists as a niche business or fad for wannabe campers. Recent trends, however, show that demand for luxury tents, private bathrooms and fireside butlers is on the rise.

The Resort at Paws Up, which opened with three luxury tents a decade ago, now offers 30 tents in five separate camps on their 37,000-acre property in Greenough. “Every other year since opening, we’ve added another six tents purely based on the demand for it,” says John Romfo, the resort’s vice president of sales and marketing.

Luxury camping site Glacier Under Canvas, which opened its second season on June 4, began fielding this year’s summer reservations back in December, and occupancy is projected to be higher this season than in its inaugural season, according to Crystal McDonald of Lone Peak Hospitality, a company that operates the Under Canvas properties.

“The demand is definitely very high,” McDonald says, adding that Glacier Under Canvas next plans to expand its services to hosting weddings.

According to the Outdoor Foundation, some 43.3 million Americans went camping last year in either an RV or at a campsite. While no glamping trade group currently exists to track how many of those campers were glamping, websites like Glampinghub.com now boast more than 1,300 glamping properties in the U.S. and Canada, with new properties added to their listings every month. Hospitality consultants like Washington-based Wanderlust Hospitality also report an ever-increasing interest in both the consumption and the establishment of new glamping campsites.

The possibility of new sites creates opportunities for landowners and small-scale hospitality ventures, says Scott Hale, chief experience officer at Wanderlust. Luxury camp-style lodging is a way for private landowners to share property they are passionate about, while also pulling in a potential income stream. In addition, the relatively low impact of canvas-walled accommodations makes it possible to set up glamping sites in more remote and majestic landscapes than would be possible with a traditional hotel.

“Hospitality is not an easy business, and the level of sophistication it takes to create a hotel or B&B is not possible for most people,” Hale says. “Glamping is far less invasive and it complements, rather than competes with, the environment.”

Romfo attributes glamping’s overall popularity to a marriage between comfort and cowboy country. “Our customer is a high-net-worth, they-can-buy-anything-they-want customer,” he says, “but they still want to give their family a glamping experience.”

In other words, glamping preserves the traditional appeal of camping—namely, proximity to nature—while outfitting the experience with amenities. The costs of glamping may exceed the nominal costs of traditional camping—a night at Paws Up starts at $1,255, while Glacier Under Canvas' most luxurious tents begin at a more modest $314 per night—but price tends not to deter the typical customer.

Romfo reports that Paws Up now employs 300 people at its resort, about 30 of whom are butlers who attend specifically to the resort’s glamping guests.

“Glamping is not a trend anymore,” Romfo says. “It was a trend eight to 10 years ago, but now it’s definitely a thing.”

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