SPONSORED FEATURE: Manx-man pioneers glamping in Oz and takes on the globe with superior eco structures, writes Rachel Beadle.
Eco Structures Australia, provider of globally renowned, superior glamping solutions, sprouted its first shoots in humble red soil in Australia’s far northwest – the Kimberley. Karl Plunkett, originally from the Isle of Man, landed on Australian shores in 1985 with a dream to bring travellers up close and personal with nature without sacrificing creature comforts. His eco vision became a reality with the birth of Eco Beach in 1996 – a pod of elevated wooden beach huts on an isolated, pristine stretch of the northwest Australian coast. The remote eco resort pioneered ecologically sustainable tourism in Australia and won many national and international awards, including the Britain’s Sir David Brand award in 1998, but was sadly decimated by Severe Category 5 ‘Cyclone Rosita’ in 2000.
However, from the ashes, a ‘phoenix’ opportunity arose – the chance to re-design the resort’s eco accommodation to meet the demands of a new, emerging, more sophisticated eco travel market: the ‘glamping’ market. These glamorous campers were slowly, but steadily infiltrating world tourism. Karl redefined his philosophy as “building for the future” and donned his design cap. His new accommodation product must not only exude comfort and style to meet the demands of this new market well into the future, but also be architecturally designed and engineered to withstand the elements and potential weather extremes. It must be a truly sustainable product.
Enter award-winning Eco Beach 2! An eco ‘village’ resort of quality, lightweight, aesthetically appealing, semi-permanent structures, nestled discreetly into the natural coastal vegetation. Eco Beach 2 soon became the talk of the tourism world with other accommodation providers seeking to incorporate the versatile eco tents and villas into their own products.
The ‘Glamping Collection’
Eco Structures Australia was soon founded upon this demand, and launched its first ‘Glamping Collection’ of pre-fabricated tents, modules and gazebos for the global market in 2005. Karijini Eco Retreat in Western Australia’s spectacular Karijini National Park was one of the first resorts to jump on board. The fact that the park is remotely located in a highly ecologically sensitive pocket of the harsh Pilbara region didn’t faze Karl. An Eco Structures team, experienced in logistical planning for remote construction after the Eco Beach build, was soon dispatched from Broome (1,000km away) and erected 50 tents in just 45 days.
By 2013, Karl’s Eco Tents were dotted around Australia in some 20 spectacular natural environments from the Kimberley to Queensland and as far south as chilly Victoria. Then the international orders started trickling in from the jungles of Costa Rica, the coastal desserts of Oman and the pristine, white sand beaches of the US Virgin Islands. Eco Structures’ latest accolades include signing a distributorship with China’s Vines Resort Group and partnering with Matt Stephenson of Event in a Tent, UK to take on the UK distributorship.
Growing with your budget
When asked what gives Eco Structures’ tents the edge, Karl says, “After 30 years in green tourism, we’ve perfected a superior, cost-effective product that’s both environmentally and economically sound. Our clients love the fact that they can start small and add on elements of our product as their business grows – a bit like lego.”
‘From little things big things grow’ aptly describes Eco Structures’ edge on the glamping supply market. For less than a quarter of the cost of a traditionally built en-suited alternative, you can pitch a high-end Eco Tent to kick off your business and achieve the same (in some cases higher) room rate. When your budget grows, you can gradually increase your floor space by adding on an extra room, a breezeway or some decking to enhance the view and up the luxury. The Eco Structures’ modular concept offers great flexibility – your space, your way, in your time. And the products are designed to be easily transportable and assembled. They come flat-packed (with all structural steel, fixings and canvas clearly labelled) in kit form with step-by-step instructions that semi-skilled labour can piece together.
And if you don’t have the time or inclination to erect the tents yourself, Eco Structures can send a small team anywhere in the world to do it for you. Experienced in setting up small to large glamping resorts in a range of global climates and environments, the team’s passports already boast stamps from the Middle East, Costa Rica and the Americas. This superior service of nurturing your glamping project from dream to reality, equates to a timely, stress-free journey for clients.
“A great feature of our Eco Tents is that they are semi-permanent,” says Managing Director Tom Butterfield. “Our customers can easily dismantle them with minimal effort to change location or to avoid severe weather damage. Their suitability in all climates also ups their versatility. The insulated canvas provides an extremely effective barrier for artificial heating, say in the UK or cooling in the tropics of Australia.” It’s no wonder that Eco Structure’s Eco Tents are taking the world ‘by storm’!
The product’s versatility doesn’t stop there either. The Eco Tents, which come in three different sizes (as Standard or Deluxe), are not only ideal for the tourism market – they have solved accommodation and space solutions for events, school camps, mining camps, pastoral needs, spare rooms, holiday homes, outdoor events, dining/kitchen space and even home office space. Whatever drives your need for space, Eco Structures can ‘pitch’ a suitable tent product.
25 year guarantee
Engineering the tents to withstand severe weather, such as cyclones, means they are naturally superior in quality. Architecturally designed to exceed the Building Code of Australia standards, they are constructed with quality, hot-dipped galvanised structural steel and fixing components with a 25-year guarantee, and 100% Australian-manufactured durable canvas that is treated with an anti-fungal-mildew-rot resistant formula and is UV stabilised for maximum sustainability. The optional decking is made from a sustainable, renewable wood composite product that is termite proof and very low maintenance.
In keeping with the true nature of glamping, the tents also boast green design features such as a small, low-impact building footprint so they can be elevated to maintain the flow of air and Mother Nature underneath. The innovative ‘Eco-Anchor’ footing system has minimal impact on sensitive ecological areas and withstands the vigour of high wind locations. The neutral colour canvas makes for very discreet dwellings that blend in with a diverse range of environments: bushland, rainforest, desert, rolling alpine hills or coastal dunes. When nestled into the natural vegetation, the tents are barely visible (even to local wildlife and birdlife!), offering glampers a very exclusive, intimate (yet canvas-protected) experience with nature.
Like a versatile outfit that can be dressed up or down, so can the interior of an Eco Tent. You have the freedom to unleash your creativity and really customise the interior space to lift it to whatever level of luxury you desire. Think cowhide floor coverings and chandeliers or simple backpacker-style bunk beds. Eco Tents can become whatever you desire.
The Eco Structures family of clients now exceeds 50 and includes 650 tents across seven countries and four continents. Recent Australian projects include Banu Banu Resort, Venture North Outback Tours and Mary River Resort in the Northern Territory; Village Roadshow Theme Parks (Paradise Country) in Queensland; Rhino Lodge in New South Wales; Big 4 Holiday Park Inverloch in Victoria and Olio Bello and Coalmine Beach Holiday Park in Western Australia. From small retreats such as Olio Bello olive grove in Margaret River, Western Australia to large international resorts such as Cinnamon Bay Resort on St John Island in the US Virgin Islands, Eco Structures Australia is leading the way in providing cost-effective, stylish, quality-driven, sustainable tented accommodation solutions.
With the advent of airing opening up the accommodation business to anyone seeking to earn a rental income, Eco Tents, with their structurally sound, sustainable nature are proving to be a popular investment choice. Payback periods are significantly lower, return on investment higher and the environmental construction impact is minimal.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about our clients, their clients and the environment,” says Karl Plunkett. “We’ve created a product that is financially accessible and meets the comfort expectations of glampers without compromising the environment.”
Whether you’re starting from scratch or looking to diversify an existing product range to tap into the glamorous campers of the world, pitching an Eco Tent in your ‘backyard’ is for life – literally. Each tent’s one tonne of hot-dipped structural steel comes with a 25-year guarantee and the canvas panels are fully interchangeable. On top of this you become part of a whole new global family!