Camp Katur is nestled among woodland and meadows within the 250 acre Camphill Estate in North Yorkshire
Open Air Business talks to Kerry Roy who welcomed her first guests to Camp Katur in April 2013. The site offers an eclectic mix of accommodation, including a tipi, bell tents, pods, geodomes, unidomes and safari tents as well as the latest addition, a yellow 1970s caravan named Betty.
What made you decide to start offering glamping accommodation?
For many years I’d wanted to run my own business doing something I enjoy and feel passionate about. Setting up a site offering unique accommodation was my dream. Following a restructure within the organisation I worked for, I was offered voluntary redundancy. Taking it enabled me to pursue my dream and I haven’t looked back. We began planning, developing and marketing in October 2012 and welcomed our first guests in April 2013.
How did you research the business before starting it?
In my previous job I was able to stay regularly in quirky and unique places, which included glampsites. I visited and researched many sites online and spent time sourcing and comparing various types of accommodation and holiday trends. I have a degree in business and marketing, which gave me some knowledge of starting up and I enjoy delving into changing trends. As an avid traveller, hospitality is something that I’m naturally interested in and passionate about. My partner Dave and I travel widely and love to stay in places that are outside the norm. I’ve had great help and support from Dave as well as from family and friends. Dave also owns an IT company so his technology/website expertise has been very useful too.
Tell us about your location and site
We are very lucky to be located in a part of North Yorkshire that is also known as the ‘Gateway to the Dales’. There are an endless list of places to visit, attractions, culture, events, outdoor activities, history and natural beauty.
Our ‘glamping village’ is nestled among woodland and meadowland within the 250 acre Camphill Estate. With various adventure activities available on site, including an aerial extreme high ropes course, a 200 metre zip wire, quad and segway treks, football, golf and various team building activities, guests can choose to fill their days with adventure, relaxation, or by exploring the beauty of the surrounding area.
The on-site cafe, activities and equestrian centre are all separate businesses so we have little control over menu changes, timings, offerings and so on, which can prove problematic as, once guests drive on to the estate, many assume we are all part of one large business. However, overall it’s a huge advantage having so much going on in the grounds. We are also the only estate in the UK to have a bobsleigh run used by Olympic champions and a clear 360° panoramic dome in the woodland, where you can sleep under the stars.
How did you tackle getting planning?
Planning was a fairly simple process. Initially we got planning for six units and then increased it during year two and applied for permission for a further 19 units. We currently have 15 units. We chose to operate from the beginning of March until the end of October, which is what our planning and campsite licence also stipulates. We may increase this to all year round in future, but in the meantime it’s all about a happy work-life balance, and winter is a time for us to travel and explore.
What glamping accommodation do you offer and why did you choose it?
We offer varied alternative accommodation. I prefer the term ‘alternative’ because too many people nowadays perceive glamping as a luxury canvas hotel and not all glamping structures/interiors offer five star luxury. Glamping covers a wide range of abodes from budget to luxury, and for our business we felt offering a broad range was key to attracting a wider audience and to suit more pockets. It also looks more interesting as a site, keeps things fresh by enabling us to add something different each time, and gains a good customer return rate as guests want to experience staying in different types of accommodation.
Describe how you researched and sourced your glamping units
We researched and sourced mainly online within Europe and further afield as it was vital to get good quality at a good price. Glamping trade shows didn’t exist when we started, but now there are two main shows that I always try to visit to see what’s new: The Glamping Show and the Farm Business Innovation Show.
We have used various UK suppliers for bell tents, who mainly manufacture abroad, and have found some perform better than others. The only units we renew each year are the bell tents because they are cheap to purchase and by the end of the season are starting to look shabby, especially those with log burners inside.
How do you publicise your business?
We’ve had some fantastic national and international press coverage as well as a few TV appearances. We have been listed more than once as one of the top 10 glamping sites in the UK and won a ‘highly commended’ award as part of the local tourist board Welcome to Yorkshire’s White Rose Awards.
Pictures speak a thousand words and social media is a great way of sharing our unique offering. It is important to update channels regularly rather than bombard followers with too much nonsense, invest a little in paid targeting, and keep up to date with fast changing social media trends as this is key to marketing a business and more cost-effective when done correctly.
How would you describe your ‘style’ or unique selling point?
Our style is alternative accommodation in a tranquil setting where guests can choose adventure, relaxation or both. The word ‘katur’ means happy in Icelandic, and with so many adventure activities available on the estate, our motto is, ‘Come and discover your outdoor happiness.’
We are unique because of the broad range of accommodation we offer and we keep people guessing about what might be coming next. Our camp is four star rated and provides a clean and friendly service in a great location.
How did you choose your interior decoration?
Each abode needs its own style to complement its origin. We have accommodation that reflects different countries and styles. For example, the tipi is furnished with items I bought while in India, the bell tents have a more British interior feel and the pods have gingham curtains, heart shaped trinkets and fur throws to reflect a more Scandinavian style. The geodomes and unidomes are more modern/contemporary, and the safari tents vary with solid luxury furnishings that reflect a more home from home feel. Betty, our new yellow 1970s caravan, will have a vintage retro look.
What challenges have you faced?
The British weather can sometimes be challenging. I have had many sleepless nights when storms have blown in or heavy rain has continued for days on end! All our accommodation is solid and has withstood some harsh weather conditions, and although it can put a dampener on guests’ moods and experience, most embrace it.
What are your plans for next season?
Since opening four years ago, we have invested in additional units every year. We also continually maintain and develop other facilities such as the barbecue facilities, communal seating areas, children’s play area, solar systems and so on. We do have some big plans, but for now they are for us to know.
Describe your average day mid-season
Much of my time is spent on new developments, as well as overseeing and managing the general running of my team, marketing, finance, events, keeping a close eye on competitors, pricing and analysis of our target audience. My favourite time of day is early evening, seeing and listening to our guests happily chatting, laughing and drinking around their campfires while inhaling the aromas of all the barbecues.
What do you enjoy about the business?
It certainly has its challenges, but I didn’t come into it thinking it wouldn’t. At the end of the day every business has challenges and that’s part of the fun, providing drive and ambition to succeed. I’ve always been ambitious, so having the freedom to turn my dreams and visions into reality and express creativeness is rewarding and enjoyable. I’m not one to sit back and get too content. For me a lot of the passion is in starting a business and getting my teeth into new developments. It’s a huge learning process and I don’t always get everything right, but I thoroughly enjoy the work, new found work-life balance, freedom and continuous learning that it brings. I also have a fantastic little team who love their jobs.
What other outdoor hospitality sectors do you operate in and how do they integrate with your glamping operation?
Outdoor weddings are popular for us. We have various venue options including a stunning woodland ceremony area, a large rustic barn and an orangery room, plus acres of meadowland and woodland. We have few limitations and encourage quirky, wacky, personal touches; after all, a wedding should reflect the personalities and lifestyles of those tying the knot.
The estate also plays host to some great events and festivals throughout the year, which are increasing in number. Our biggest annual event is the Dubs Int Dales Festival, which takes place over the last weekend in September and is now into its fourth year (www.dubsintdales.com).
What advice could you give to someone coming into the industry?
Personally, I find starting a business easy. Making it a continuing success in all areas is the hard part; the bigger a business becomes and the bigger your team becomes and your role can start to change. If you think it’s going to be easy, you’re mistaken! It’s a 24/7 business during opening season and there’s a heck of a lot more that needs doing than cleaning a few rooms, checking in guests and taking bookings!
WASHROOM / WC FACILITIES
Norfolk Timber Frames – 01553 409934 / www.norfolktimberframes.co.uk
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Kirklington, Bedale, North Yorkshire, DL8 2LS
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