John Maddy sums up the challenges and opportunities facing the glamping industry and introduces the NFU Mutual backed Canopy, a new association for the sector.
Since its humble beginnings our sector has seen an unprecedented uptake, which has led to new audience demographics and the introduction of new types of accommodation and offerings. All very exciting, but how do you know you are operating safely?
One thing I have always thought is that this industry has lacked the glue to join it all together. Small business owners have limited support when they set up and struggle to find all the information in the right place.
When my business partner Richard Coulter and I opened Long Valley Yurts in 2008, we were very conscious that there was a distinct lack of guidance and regulation. Having worked within health and safety in our previous careers we recognised the importance of doing things right from the start.
We didn’t have the luxury of owning our site locations and in working with partners it was essential that our product was bombproof. We meticulously went through each and every item used inside and out, from the fabric of the structure to the metal on the stoves to the colour of the paint on the floor. A lot of conversations were had! It was a steep learning curve.
I’m sure you will have had similar conversations yourself when setting up or changing things around. We just knew our offering needed to be the best quality we could afford and, above all, be safe. However, trying to find any guidance in the early days to help us on our journey was nigh on impossible. And if you don’t hold any health and safety knowledge then you don’t know that you’re doing anything wrong!
Nowhere to turn?
A lot of small business owners operate in a grey area with regards to compliance and health and safety through no fault of their own. This is because there is no existing representation and guidance. Some manufacturers in the past have also exploited this and have been on a steep learning curve too, most of the time at the customer’s expense.
We live in a world now where our every move can be recorded or photographed. Through social media it can be made public almost instantly for the whole world to see. If a customer has a negative experience they can make their feelings very clear (and public) and if the business owner isn’t on the ball they might not even know!
In the hotel sector for example, the accommodation will have a star rating defining the room in terms of what the guest can expect for their money. The camping and glamping sector isn’t like this and two companies may have the same style of tents, similar pricing but offer a completely different quality of experience.
We are all responsible for creating an offering that is the best it can be, for keeping our customers safe and ultimately returning time and time again. We need to start thinking more long term.
Boom time for staycations
The Great British public have rekindled their romance with holidaying once again on our fair isle. They want something different and boy, we have responded.
Fundamentally, people are seeking more and more from their holidays in the UK. The rebirth of the staycation has once again brought the public back to nature to reconnect with family and friends.
In the current climate the camping and glamping industry has come to the rescue. The coronavirus outbreak has brought the world to its knees and now, more than ever, our industry is best placed to offer sanctuary and respite to the UK public coming out of lockdown.
It has been a slow start with a lot of uncertainly and lack of clarity from government and supporting organisations. There seemed to be a race to get some advice out in the public domain but the translation to our industry was left with holes and more questions than answers.
Created in direct response to rapidly changing needs in the industry, Richard and I founded Canopy, an independent member organisation for the glamping and camping sector. The association’s ethos is to raise the bar for health and safety and general standards within the industry, providing a security blanket to new and current providers, manufacturers and suppliers. Our aim is to inform and guide but ultimately to promote self-management and decision making for all.
Taking time to raise standards, train staff and reassure your customers is a great way of winning business, as well as instilling trust in customers to return time and time again.
It’s important for owners to understand and manage their own standards and we have created extensive industry specific guidance to help navigate the impact of Covid-19 on your business, and a number of specific industry courses. These nationally accredited health and safety qualifications are unique for our industry and are open for everyone.
The courses cover a multitude of subjects and top up modules cover extras such as use of wood burning hot tubs.
Supported by NFU Mutual we have put together guidance for its members as well as some top tips for keeping you, your business and your customers safe during this time. In partnership, we will be delivering a live-streamed presentation on navigating and managing glamping or camping businesses through Covid-19. This will be free for anyone to attend. We will be posting dates and times on our Facebook page and website.
We are really passionate about sharing best practice and creating a community that is world-renowned for its quality and expertise. If any of this resonates and you would like to find out more, have a chat, or get support and advice please get in touch.
About the Author
John Maddy is a glamping industry pioneer and co-founder of Long Valley Yurts, one of the longest established and largest independent glamping companies in the UK and Canopy, the association for the glamping and camping industry.
In 2020 John and long standing business partner Richard Coulter consolidated their expertise to launch Canopy, an association for the glamping and camping industry.
Created in direct response to rapidly changing needs, Canopy is an independent membership organisation providing industry specific training, support, qualifications, accreditation, auditing and consultancy. It promotes representation, regulation and best practice raising the bar for quality, safety and service. www.canopy-association.org.uk / firstname.lastname@example.org