Quality Unearthed’s Tim Rees explains why ‘seasonality’ is the new buzz word in glamping
Winter – not a time of year you’d automatically associate with sleeping in the great British outdoors. But think again! What if we were to tell you that your natural winter experience can also include underfloor heating, hot showers, roll top baths and cosy wood burning stoves? Interested? You won’t be the first – indeed, glampers nationwide are turning their attention to what had previously been considered as the off-season months. Seasonality is the buzz word of the moment in the glamping world, and the notion that you can only reasonably go glamping between the months of March and October is fast becoming a thing of the past.
The glamping scene in the UK is fast developing, as demonstrated by record attendance to shows such as The Glamping Show and the Farm Business Innovation Show, with more and more landowners, campsite operators and self-catering businesses turning to this alternative and exciting holiday industry than ever before. The speedy evolution of this popular industry means that not only have the types of structure on offer become increasingly unique, but the duration of rental periods is also expanding, meaning that guests to these alternative abodes are able to enjoy the wildness of Britain in all its perennial glory. After all, we all love a sprinkling of snow over the mountain tops, frosty leaves cracking underfoot, and a good, chunky bobble hat on a crisp, clear, starry night. But we love crackling fires, a warm bed and an excuse for a mug of hot chocolate to defrost our noses, too.
What, then, does this myth-busting transformation in seasonality mean for those interested in glamping? Our research over the last four years has shown us that online search trends for winter glamping holidays have doubled between 2014 and 2017, meaning that guests and site owners have seen the demand in winter glamping opportunities rise significantly… and it doesn’t show signs of stopping.
Here’s Quality Unearthed’s guide to setting up a successful and sustainable all-season glamping site.
Your all-season site
Do you have a parcel of land that’s prone to flooding during the rainy months? A steep hill that becomes treacherous when icy? A woodland spot where branches regularly fall during high winds? You can see where we’re going here… planning your all-season glamping spot is as important as choosing the structure itself. Now we’re not saying that you should avoid interesting and adventurous places to site your glamping creation. We encourage the courage of a cantilevered cabin or the thrill of a converted boat gliding across treetops. But the ethos of glamping is being in tune and accord with Mother Nature, not battling her every time the seasons change. What may be a fantastic spot in the warm summer months may be trickier for you and your guests during the winter. Try to think ahead and make the experience easy and enjoyable at all times of the year.
Your all-season structure
Gone are the days when glamping meant a posh tent and a hole in the ground for your loo. At Quality Unearthed, we’ve found an increasing number of unusual structures being converted and modified to suit all-weather stays.
There are, of course, some structures that fare better than others during the winter months. Cabins and treehouses have become the structures of choice for UK and European glampers over the last 12 months, with a surge of Christmas stays in cosy wooden abodes allowing for warmth and the feeling of a winter wonderland lodge stay. In fact, a third of people asked by a popular tabloid newspaper in May 2017 said that a treehouse stay would be their dream staycation, no matter what the weather.
Earth sheltered housing, or Hobbit Houses, offer the bonus of being well insulated due to the soil and grass which covers them providing external thermal mass, as well as protecting against wind and rain. And the introduction of high performance natural insulation products in the building of eco pods means your glamping experience can be ‘Scandi cool’ as well as efficiently warm.
Canvas structures can prove to be a little trickier. Not as windproof as other, more robust structures, a well-insulated yurt or safari tent can be just as cosy during winter months as they could be packed thickly with natural insulation. If canvas abodes are your structures of choice, then it’s the canvas itself that needs careful consideration. The juxtaposition in requirements comes since all-season canvas structures need to both keep water out and expel moisture from the inside, to stop the canvas from rotting. Although the greater proportion of modern canvas is highly water resistant, it’s difficult to find material which is waterproof, breathable and durable. We advise that you seek advice from specialist companies before spending any money on your structure to ensure the longevity of your investment.
Cool (or warm) extras
For many, one of the highlights of a glamping stay is the ritual of stacking, lighting and relaxing in front of a roaring fire. Marshmallows are optional, but we know that our guests love the sepia glow, hugging warmth and almost instant gratification they get from creating their own fire. But installing a wood-burning stove is not the only way in which you can keep your guests in balmy bliss during brisker bouts.
There’s no need to go to Iceland to experience a soak in steamy water while staring at the stars – the installation of a hot tub can give your guests the same experience from your own patch of paradise. Our research shows that guests prefer a stay with a hot en-suite shower, so why not allow a little homegrown hygge with the investment of a roll top bath overlooking a lake or woodland scene?
Underfloor heating was the great trend of 2017, and by using a biomass boiler or a solar thermal panel, heating your alternative accommodation this way could be up to 90% cheaper than a conventional radiator system.
You may wish to opt for electric heating or small boiler systems, and while this is a viable way of heating your structure and will keep your guests toasty, it’s important to assess the initial cost of getting services out to your site. This can be costly if your location is very rural, and can involve a lot of disruption to the ground leading to and around your site, meaning that you’ll also have to factor in landscaping costs.
Don’t forget that making your structure warm and inviting doesn’t have to cost the earth or be overly fancy, either – a well-placed sheepskin rug, a few fluffy blankets and hot water bottles for cooler nights can also warm the cockles without emptying the bank account.
Leading by example
When it comes to all-season glamping, we believe we know our stuff. We’ve been at the forefront of the glamping industry since 2013, and have seen its evolution from warm weather holidays to guests taking advantage of the beautiful British countryside, enjoying the colour and character that every season brings. Why not visit Sussex in the spring, the stretches of sandy beaches and ancient islands at Pembrokeshire in the summer, hike miles of upland Britain in Autumn and cosy up in Cornwall for Christmas? We don’t stop when the school holidays end, and neither should you. We’re quickly dispelling the myth that glamping is a summer activity, and our array of all weather, all season structures are proving incredibly popular all year round.
If you’re still not sure about how to go about setting up a structure that guests can enjoy whatever the weather, giving you a consistently healthy return on your investment, then Quality Unearthed offer consultancy appointments and consultation documents tailored specifically for your project. We’re happy to come and have a cup of tea and advise you on all aspects of your glamping adventure, ensuring a smooth business experience for you and an enjoyable experience for your guests – don’t be left out in the cold, give us a call!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim Rees is the managing director of Quality Unearthed, a specialist agency promoting some of the best alternative holiday abodes in the UK. Having spent a number of years living in unusual places and working on off-grid homes, Tim spotted an increase in demand for holidays offering a more grounded, back to nature experience. He started Quality Unearthed in 2010 and can personally recommend each holiday represented for its accommodation, location and overall experience. 01348 830922 / www.qualityunearthed.co.uk