Ancillary Income

Glamping guru Kate Morel offers some creative ways for sites to boost their revenue

This month, Tally has asked me to share some ways in which we can optimise a glampsite’s profitability through ancillary revenues. Even if glamping isn’t your area of interest, most of these ideas could also be applied or adapted to other types of holiday, so do keep reading. As usual, I’ve tried to condense everything into one article while still covering all options and levels of accommodation on offer – please pick out whatever might be relevant for your business. My aim is to provide a little inspiration, to get you thinking about creative ways to add value to your guests’ experience, and by doing so, in return, creating a more profitable business.

If you’re getting to know me by now (and I hope you are), you might already appreciate that I won’t be focussing on the predictable option of ‘just charge extra for everything’, even though, to a point, this approach can be considered at budget level. On the up-side, charging for some extras provides guests with choices on how they spend their hard-earned holiday money, as well as adding revenue streams. On the down-side, however, taken to an extreme, this can be compliant with a tactic that lures guests in with enticingly low rental fees, but then makes them fork-out for every little thing once there, unreasonably increasing their final holiday cost. I’m not a fan, frankly.

With mid to higher end rental fees, it becomes less acceptable to ask guests to pay extra for facilities that should be included, although charging for additional luxuries and treats is perfectly acceptable. As always, it’s about striking the right balance and making our offer as appropriate as possible for our guests and the level of accommodation.

Anyway, enough chit-chat, let’s explore some options.

Pic: Getty Images

Back to basics
The most common consumable for which glampsites charge is firewood for log-burners, campfires and hot-tubs. Even I was surprised to hear that one site sells over £20,000 worth of wood a year, but then it is a big site. Most sites will provide an initial supply inclusively, and once that’s used up, charge for logs and kindling thereafter. The type of wood provided should depend on what it’s being used for; stoves and hot-tubs need dry, seasoned wood to get a good heat, whereas a campfire hardly warrants premium oak logs, in fact, that would be a terrible waste of noble wood. If the site has its own managed woodlands and supply, that’s great, but I’d still suggest still charging something for additional supplies. If firewood has to be bought in, find a reliable local supplier. Or check if ‘Certainly Wood’ deliver in your area, it’s a family-run company, supplying sustainably managed firewood.

Pile of firewood
Pic: Getty Images

It’s not unreasonable to charge for logs; glamping may have developed beyond its grass roots, but there’s still opportunity to educate, with some places still encouraging respect for our natural resources. Wood may indeed grow on trees, but it doesn’t self-manage, fell, cord, chop, transport or stack itself; it’s not a bad idea for us, and guests alike, to remember and appreciate that.

Depending on the size of the site and level of accommodation, other consumables could include: foodstuffs (homegrown or locally sourced), hampers, barbecues and breakfast packs (locally sourced if possible), toiletries and sunscreen etc. Other, glamping-lifestyle items might also prove popular, check out Eco Incentives’ range of products – I found a few useful things in there.

Selling consumables on-site provides a convenient facility for guests, as well as making a little extra profit, although obviously if there are just a couple of accommodation units, a fully stocked shop isn’t going to be viable, so keep it simple. Also, on-site shops can be time consuming to upkeep, and not so profitable when we misjudge products and volumes.

Some sites also charge for things such as towels, duvets/covers, Wi-Fi, hot showers and gas for camping stoves etc. We’re veering towards a regular campsite set-up here, so it depends where the accommodation sits on what I call my ‘glampometer’ (feel free to smile, I think it’s funny too). If rental fees are low and the offer is quite basic, then some of these could be considered upgrades. At the mid to high end, however, they should all definitely be inclusive.

Stamp of approval – branded products
Personalised, branded merchandise and accessories in some form or another suit some glampsites, and it’s possible to get just about anything produced with a logo on it these days. I’d be looking for something imaginative – products that cleverly marry into the glamping lifestyle and the site’s USP. Is there something special about your place that can be developed to branded merchandise status?

Value the experience
Other ancillary incomes can be generated directly from the experience that you’re offering, giving guests a chance to take home products that they used while there. For example, if you offer spa therapies – sell the spa products (fragrances are so evocative), if you provide courses – sell the materials/equipment/how-to books (maybe write your own?). If you give art or drawing classes, sell your art and drawings, or prints and cards. There are many more – what experience souvenir might your guests buy and take home?

Wherever possible, give guests the opportunity to upgrade and enhance their holiday. On their arrival, if a better-appointed accommodation is still unoccupied give them the option of paying a little extra to take it. Maybe not quite the full price, rather like a flight upgrade, or include a bottle of wine or other incentive. Are they celebrating? Would they like a more luxurious welcome hamper, including Champagne and flowers?

Cycling in the woods
Pic: Getty Images

Get moving – sports equipment hire
Sites that possess, or are within reach of, outdoor activities have potential to hire out sports equipment such as bicycles, canoes, surf boards and wetsuits. Choose good quality, reliable equipment so guests are safe and the equipment is always available – especially if guests can reserve the hire in advance. Customers are, naturally, unhappy when advertised facilities aren’t available and usually want compensating. ‘Buy cheap, buy twice’ doesn’t do these situations justice; there are far wider implications.

Yoga class.
Pic: Getty Images

Go on, spoil me – health and therapies
Another growth and profitable tourism genre is ‘wellness’ – personal health and pampering. So here we’re offering things such as yoga classes, alternative therapies, spas and treatments. Large yurts are a great space for some of these; it might be something you could run yourself, or invite in local therapists to work with you. If your site is suitable, maybe consider marketing it as a retreat venue for therapists and teachers looking for unique places to run their courses.

Soak it up – hot tubs
Hot tubs really do have to be the easiest way to boost an occupancy rate and revenue, and not just for glamping – for any holiday accommodation. If a guest is looking at two similar glamping offers and yours has the hot tub, you’ll get the booking. If you charge for use (and logs for wood-fired models) they also provide a good ancillary income, although costs are often worked into rental fees. They’re powered by electric or a firebox, and as most glampsites are off-grid, the latter are usually easier to install. The wood-fired models are also made of wood and look great in a glampsite setting, complementing the expected natural ambiance.

I receive regular requests for recommendations and my usual ‘go-to’ is a mid-priced, quality tub from Naked Flame Eco Hot Tubs, because I’ve seen the products and had good feedback from owners about quality and customer service. There are, however, plenty of others online, do check customer reviews and choose wisely. As with sports equipment, guests will expect to be compensated if advertised facilities aren’t available, and if a hot tub is out of action they are likely to cancel altogether.

Learning zone – courses and workshops
People love to learn and try new things, so adding classes to your offer is an effective ancillary and creates engaging experiences for guests. Sport activities could include surfing lessons, mountain biking, rock climbing and 4×4 driving; I know one place which teamed up with a local airfield to offer flying lessons. But not everyone has a head for heights, and down to earth activities such as foraging, bush-crafts and cookery classes are very popular. There are, however, literally dozens of fun and interesting courses, workshops or short masterclasses we could create. They don’t have to be on-site either, we can collaborate with other companies. It could be something as simple as you sharing your passion for bread-making – artisan baking is totally on trend right now, or for those with the nose, maybe a wine tasting session with a respected wine merchant. Companies such as Tanners Wine Merchants, in Shrewsbury, for example, would be a perfect business to collaborate with. They are a well-established and respected merchant, offering professional wine tasting sessions, in gorgeous settings.

Paws for thoughT – furry friends
For a lot of guests the whole point of a staycation is that they can take their pets with them, and they are happy to pay a little extra to do so. Some places charge a flat fee, others per dog, or it’s worked into the rental price. Occasionally, you might find a shower blocked with dog hair or muddy paw prints all over the bedding, despite requesting that pets stick to their own beds. However, it’s no secret among holiday accommodation providers that accepting pets increases occupancy. Also, don’t forget to add dog treats and toys etc. to the shop, and do check out the The Dog Treat Company – their online shop doesn’t have a check-out trolley, it has a bowl.

You may have gathered by now that some of the things I’ve mentioned can rather nicely be crafted into an effective USP. Although we have relied on unusual structures to provide this for us in the past, guest expectations are increasing in some areas. So please, do take these ideas and apply them, or if you feel I could assist to create, or even reshape yours, please drop me a line.

Kate Morel provides an objective and impartial advice service to individuals, estates and companies interested in creating a successful glamping business. / / 07849 514588.

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