Kate Morel offers her advice on glampsite security and how to get the balance right
Growing up on a Shropshire smallholding I clearly remember my parents’ rather blasé approach to security – they left keys in cars at night, tools and equipment in unlocked barns, and rarely bothered to lock the house. We lived on a quiet lane with little passing traffic and always knew the passers-by anyway. The only on-site security was the chicken wire buried three feet below ground to keep Mr Fox from digging his way to a chicken supper.
That was a long time ago, but even now in some parts of rural UK, communities don’t feel that they have to worry too much about unwanted visitors stealing their possessions away. I for one adopted my parents’ attitude toward security when many years later I bought my own smallholding in Powys. Maybe I should mention it was a low crime area and the nature of the location made it unappealing to would-be thieves. This easy going rural approach, in my experience at least, also applies to some glamping business owners. During site appraisals for agency Quality Unearthed, when I ask how accommodation is secured, very often the answer is that it isn’t. Sadly it’s increasingly important to be more cautious and for those who like statistics, especially if you’re just at the buying stage, it’s easy enough to find online crime records for any postcode.
We might well ask if we genuinely need to concern ourselves with security on a glampsite, especially if it’s remote and the only access is right past our front door. Depending on the area, site layout and access, the answer could still possibly be ‘yes’, and perhaps increasingly so. Glamping sites and accommodations are as vulnerable to theft as any other holiday let.
Reasons to focus
If we are not doing so already, there are a few reasons why we might want to focus on security. Glamping worldwide, let alone in the UK, is just gaining momentum. There are years of development ahead, which I believe will see more glamping sites at all levels come onto the market. It’s not unreasonable to assume that customer demands and expectations will also continue to increase, and in fact it’s already happening, resulting in more high-end glamping or at least better facilities and expensive add-ons.
Also, let’s not forget that there is a lot of information provided online these days. Detailed ‘how to find us’ directions, satellite maps, descriptions and photographs on websites are all part of our marketing. I do wonder if we sometimes provide more ‘in advance’ information than we need to. Most of this is essential for would-be guests. However, it also exposes our accommodation to less welcome ‘visitors’ who might want to relieve us of a few choice items one night.
Admittedly a lot of glamping sites are well off the beaten track and don’t have easy vehicular access, but they might not be completely safe. I’ve visited many glamping sites with public footpaths nearby, making it easy for people to stroll in when nobody is about. You might think this rather unlikely, but during a site visit earlier this year I actually saw it happen. The person in question didn’t take anything but certainly had a good look inside the glamping accommodation before returning to the public footpath behind and disappearing up the lane. To be fair he was no doubt just curious and who wouldn’t be, but the potential for items to be removed, and quickly, was certainly there. The owner was aware of the issue and planned to fence off the path and add security cameras, but I can’t help feeling that guests might be uncomfortable about the close proximity of a public footpath – not to mention guests’ and walkers’ issues around cameras.
Even if we believe that our glamping site is safe and totally inaccessible to theft, we still need to consider security for guests’ peace of mind. The reason security and lockable structures are on my list of appraisal questions is because more guests are asking about it – they are concerned about their safety, and that of their families and possessions. As glamping becomes more popular, attracting people who aren’t used to remote rural locations and dark nights bereft of street lights, I can only see it becoming a more important part of some guests’ booking criteria.
A cautionary tale
I recently spoke to glampsite owners who’d experienced the unthinkable, just four weeks after opening. They woke up to find that during the night a van had been driven right past their house to their yurts and thousands of pounds worth of equipment, furniture and accessories had been stolen as they slept. Those responsible even had a nose through the guest comments book!
The owner had taken out insurance, but it transpired that the policy required the accommodation itself to be locked and secured. While the yurt doors did have locks on them and were used by guests, when unoccupied they were left unlocked. This was in the hope that in the event of a burglary an unlocked door would avoid a forced entry, resulting in no structural damage and a less expensive, quicker return to ‘business as usual’.
Naturally the insurance company initially refused to pay the claim, stating that the policy requirements had not been met. So, if you’re leaving your glamping structures unlocked when unoccupied, it might be wise to check the small print in your insurance policy. The ‘locked doors’ caveat wasn’t made clear at the time this owner took out the policy so eventually the insurance company paid the claim, but it took a long time. Fortunately for the owners they were able to replace the stolen items from their own back-up store, funds and home, in time to be ready for the next customers.
There are many ways we can safeguard our glamping sites, provide deterrents and reassure our guests. The level of security needed and desired at each site is going to vary. It could be something as simple as locked gates right up to sophisticated entry and camera systems – and everything in between. Controlling vehicular access is an effective way to secure a site, and this means gate security of some sort, which can be quite sophisticated. Number plate recognition cameras and automated gates only allow cars to access if they are registered to enter on that date at that time. They will even send a message to let you know that a particular guest is approaching your reception, depending on the style of gate, and could also add an element of exclusivity.
If that seems a bit OTT for your glamping site, there are of course security cameras and motion detector systems – not taking in the badger run, obviously! Depending on the level of security you want, some of these systems will send messages to your chosen number if anything suspicious is noticed, giving you the chance to check things out.
Security was one of the main issues we had to consider during my work in Ecuador earlier this year. However, the solutions were less technical, including attractive but effective fencing and 24 hour guards. At the other end of the scale, if your site offers a farm experience, there is always the ‘retro’ option – geese. I hear that llamas are pretty good too!
It’s important to get the right balance. Obviously the chosen security system needs to provide the necessary safety and deterrent, but it also needs to be discreet and not make guests feel overlooked. We’re selling back-to-nature holidays and blatant high security features are detrimental to that. In a lot of ways, glamping and security aren’t happy bedfellows! However, there are many companies offering varying levels of security products, and every site is different so it’s difficult for me to suggest specifics here. A chat with a local, well established, reputable company would be my first port of call.
In most businesses, theft can impact on trade far beyond the value of the stolen goods, and in holiday lets, usually while an insurance claim is being assessed, we have to take care of imminent guests. Cancelling holidays upsets guests and damages reputations, in addition to the loss of income. Even if you’ve insured against ‘business interruption’ this situation can create a bad relationship with customers and cause cash flow problems, especially if you have to reimburse guests before your claim is paid – assuming it is paid.
Having spoken to a lot of people and been asked about insurance many times, it seems the common understanding is that glamping represents something of a ‘grey area’ in the holiday accommodation sector. I can understand why. Even though some structures are temporary and made of canvas they do not add up to a campsite, and although some are furnished as well as (if not better) than some holiday cottages, they’re not a ‘property’. Every glamping site I’ve visited is unique; it’s what makes glamping so exciting and fun, but I can see how this might create problems for insurance companies that don’t know the ‘product’ or industry.
This ‘grey area’ assumption doesn’t have to be the case if you find a reputable insurance company that knows the industry and takes an interest in your business. There are insurance companies that understand glamping and want to make sure each site gets the right and appropriate level of cover. One company I know of offers basic cover with add-ons depending on your site requirements. This seems a logical approach to glamping site insurance. So if your insurance company isn’t asking you the right questions and working with you to give you the best cover for your particular set up, shop around.
Finally, while being sensible about security, let’s keep it in perspective, remain optimistic and hope that most of us only encounter one ‘theft’, like the Portuguese glampsite owner who noticed one day that a tree rope swing had disappeared. It turned out it hadn’t completely vanished into the ether, but had been reincarnated as a tether for a neighbour’s goat!
About the Author
Kate Morel represents Quality Unearthed, one of the few dedicated glamping holiday agencies in the UK. Known as the ‘Glamping Guru’ she has spent years working closely with landowner and tourism organisations, visiting locations and providing consultancy advice and support. This, along with her previous experience in sales and marketing, property restoration, design and hospitality, gives her a unique set of skills and perspective on setting up a glamping business. 01348 830922 / www.qualityunearthed.co.uk