Having identified a way to rejuvenate the changing holiday park scene through glamping, Mark Scott turned his attention to creating the UK’s leading safari tent supplier
Favourite tipple: Red wine in the winter and white wine in the summer, if it ever gets here.
Last holiday destination: Chamonix, searching for snow.
Cats or dogs? I have a springer spaniel called Tick-Tock, named by my young son Cameron.
Current boxset / TV must watch: Man in the High Castle – because it’s based on a cat in a box that was dead and alive.
Something people may not know about me: I like murdering the guitar.
How you got started in the business
I was an IT project manager, and found myself working at Haven Holidays in the old Rank Leisure days where I spent many very happy and informative years looking at and analysing marketing and customer data. I then spread my wings, and started providing data analytics to many of the larger holiday groups. Around 2007, this analysis led to a realisation that the market was changing and the demands of the clients were for higher quality and more adventurous holiday experiences. Selling caravans was getting more difficult so, to attract a new demographic, I considered glamping as an option. It was a way of getting to different people who would never normally consider a caravan park as a destination or consider buying a caravan. High-quality tents with proper beds, kitchens and shower rooms would attract a new set of people that would go on to buy statics and lodges on the same parks.
The history of Clear Sky
Clear Sky was formed six years ago, to market and sell safari tents to the holiday park market. In the beginning, we spent a lot of time educating potential clients what exactly glamping involved. We worked hard to prove the ROI to landowners and holiday parks alike. To get the ball rolling, we set up our own glamping site on my farm so we could provide real numbers and demonstrate how it can help a landowner, or farmer, improve the income from their operations.
Our first challenge was to find a design that would work for the holiday park market as well as the farmer and landowner. I approached a number of UK companies, but none were able to provide the high quality and low price we were aiming at, so we teamed up with a factory in Europe. From the start, we have maintained a high-quality approach to both our products and our service, and this has paid off through many long-term relationships with the major park groups, as well as with land owners and smaller camping and touring parks. In our first year, I sold one tent, and that was rather by accident. We now sell over 150 tents a year in the UK, and have exported to France, New Zealand, Greece and Portugal.
The appeal of Clear Sky safari tents to glampsites
The Clear Sky tents are all the highest quality, made from fireproof canvas, and designed to be left up all year round and withstand the harshest UK weather. Our range of safari-inspired tents provide flexible layouts perfect for the family and couples market, and with our large size, double storey tents our clients can maximise their night rate with some achieving over £450 per night in peak season. There are no crown posts, so the internal space is fully open, and no guy lines so there is less in the way of trip hazards. The tents come in a range of colours and sizes to make sure the client has the best option to suit their specific situation.
The ‘tent to income’ ratio is excellent, and we would expect a site to make back its capital investment within the first year. We provide a full, all round service that covers everything from an initial free of charge site visit through to an eventual site opening. As we run our own site we can also provide full on-site support and advice 24/7 when needed.
The appeal of Clear Sky safari tents to end users
The tents from Clear Sky are safe and resistant to all weathers, providing the reassurance that UK holidaymakers demand from their accommodation. The natural cotton canvas, which is the only canvas approved for use by the scouting movement in Europe, is fully breathable and provides for a warm tent that doesn’t suffer from sweaty condensation.
How would you describe the state of play in the glamping industry?
The UK glamping market has changed significantly since I started my own site seven years ago. Then, you could get away with some cheap furniture from the local charity warehouse; call it shabby chic and you would get early glamping adopters. We were 84 per cent full in the school holidays in our first year. However, the demand now is for much more upmarket interiors, higher specification tents, new and innovative tents and a wide range of on-site comforts, such as electric, hot water and even fully-equipped bathrooms. This trend will continue, but at some point, the investment to move things up market in this way will start to cross over with lodges. As many planning authorities are now considering glamping tents as permanent structures, the initial barrier in the way of planning permission is the same.
I believe that we will see more innovative and interesting approaches to colours and modern interiors, following The White Company and Farrow and Ball interiors and exteriors we see every day in house magazines. I also think the market will begin to broaden with some sites offering more adventurous environments and some offering 5-star luxury and all levels between. In particular, I believe the bell tent market will demand high quality tents that last more than six weeks.
How have you personally impacted the industry?
When we started our business, we were a disrupter by offering low price, high quality tents to the market place. Our ability to manufacture over 400 tents per year ensured reliable supply within a reasonable time frame all year round.
I was the first person to provide a complete service for clients who wanted to get into glamping. My approach of high quality and known price opened the market up for landowners and farmers by providing them with certainty of return. The development of the all-round service (from initial dream through planning, setting up a web site and into opening a site and providing on-site support) is still unique in the market place.
Major achievements of Clear Sky safari tents as a business
- The largest supplier of high quality, all year-round safari tents in UK
- Year on year exponential revenue growth
- Year on year increase in numbers and range of tents sold
- Introduction of two storey tents to the UK
- The leading supplier of safari tents to the holiday parks market, with the top five groups as our clients
- Very high customer retention based on our attentive customer service approach
- Introduction of a full range of furniture made from recycled scaffold boards
Plans / innovations for the future
In the coming two seasons, Clear Sky will extend its range of products aimed at the glamping market sector in line with our mission statement: “To evolve Clear Sky to provide a wide range of innovative products to the holiday park and land owner/farmers market within the UK. The products must be new and innovative, and disrupt the existing market perception.”