More than just an extra revenue stream, to offer glamping accommodation at festivals opens up a whole new clientele writes Ian Hamilton.
Ten years ago ‘glamping’ didn’t exist in the lexicon of hip-talk. There were just a handful of ‘pre-pitched’ accommodation providers supplying units for festivals. However, in a short period of time (from 2005 to 2010) the scenario changed dramatically. The demand for pre-pitched accommodation (later to morph into glamping) at festivals was suddenly in demand and grew from basic tipis and yurts with air beds, to all manner of structures, with ever increasing interior luxuries, with plenty of new entrepreneurs joining the market to provide them.
It was this move, I think it fair to say, that led the way in glamping as a holiday choice for many, especially as the demand for staycations increased due to the economic climate. As the market expanded, glampers’ expectations changed and they started to pay more attention to what was going into their tents rather than the structures themselves. Yurtel were one of the first companies to put a full blown bed inside its yurts at festivals. That is when things started to change and a very small market became very big, in fact a multi-million pound market in temporary real-estate.
Today, practically every major festival, and many of the smaller ones, presents some sort of additional accommodation to the ‘bring your own tent’ offering. Organisers quickly learned that there was a considerable amount of money to be made and that hundreds of people, who had already paid for a ticket and the right to pitch a tent, were prepared to spend even more for a pre-pitched glamping option.
Offering glamping also extends the appeal of the festival experience to a whole new clientele. This has gone hand in hand with the change in image which many festivals have undergone in recent years. There is no better example than Glastonbury; originally very much ‘underground’ it now appears on many people’s bucket list. This change in perception has opened up different sectors of the market and even different ‘classes’ of festival goers. The comfort and ease of festival glamping means more families and, at the big name festivals, the ability to ask sky high prices. Perhaps the pinnacle of festival glamping is Camp Kerala at Glastonbury, where supreme concierge service in sumptuous Shikar tents can set you back over £8k, although you also enjoy access to gourmet food, a cocktail mixologist, a spa and ultimate kudos.
Of course, the level of luxury and the price commanded will alter dramatically from festival to festival, and guests will be just as comfortable in a £450 family-size tipi at a smaller festival with lesser known acts. However, more importantly, for organisers offering glamping at the lower end of the market there is still plenty of margin left to make it a worthwhile investment.
There are three basic models for an organiser who wants to offer glamping at an event:
- Full package: an organiser hires a contractor to manage the whole glamping operation. The contractor sets up the tents, furnishes them and provides the guest services. The organiser will receive a percentage of the bookings taken, which may be handled by the festival or the contractor.
- Dry Hire: a contractor provides the tents and furnishings but nothing else. It is then up to the festival organiser to arrange security and guest services. The organiser may pay a fixed fee to the contractor and keep the rest of the money from the bookings, which it handles directly.
- DIY: Some big festivals are giving it a go themselves. Michael Eavis (Glastonbury) has recently purchased 1,000 coloured canvas tents from China to add to his pre-pitched accommodation. This option takes a huge amount of investment, not to mention logistical and staffing capacity. Smaller scale festival organisers probably have enough to worry about without trying to arrange their own glampsite, but it can be done.
How many tents?
The number of glamping units a festival organiser can sell depends on many things including the type of accommodation being offered, the demographics of the event and the organiser’s budget. A small- to medium-sized festival will have attendance from between 3,000-10,000 people. A sensible start for a glamping concession would be between 15 and 30 units.
It makes good sense to offer a range of accommodation options to give guests choice, and this may mean working with a range of suppliers. As in the tourism industry, consumers are now looking for more and more interesting structures so it is now not uncommon to see Airstream caravans, glorified sheds, even Japanese-style pop up hotels. Each option will appeal to a different demographic and help a festival stand out from the crowd.
Of course, adding a glampsite to a festival does come with costs above and beyond that of the contractor supplying the units. Fencing, security, special wristbands, luxury toilets and showers, etc all have to be factored in, and the location of the site needs to be carefully planned. As part of the package, organisers usually try to locate their pre-pitched accommodation conveniently near to the stage and amenities (but not too close to be affected by noise) and may also designate a special car park for ease of access. All these will add to the appeal of paying a premium for a more luxurious festival experience.
A good supplier
As with everything, finding a good contractor is so important. Once the type of accommodation has been chosen there are some basic aspects to look for. Experience is everything in this industry, as is documentation. Ensure contractors have all the necessary Health & Safety policies, public liability insurance, etc. Then start the negotiations: what price, how much can I make, can suppliers agree to my terms? It’s always worth negotiating as there is a big difference between supplying units to an event like Glastonbury or to a boutique festival. Suppliers know everyone needs to make some money and it’s in their interests to support events of all sizes.
Deer Shed Festival 7
22-24 July – Baldersby Park, Topcliffe, North Yorkshire, www.deershedfestival.com
About: Deer Shed is a family-friendly music, art and science festival. With a capacity of 6,000, it has an intimate feel. Acts include Richard Hawley, Everything Everything, Beth Orton, Anna Calvi and Steve Mason.
Accommodation: A range of pre-pitched accommodation options is offered over two nights – tipis (from £450), yurts (from £260) and 1980s retro tents (from £200).
Bookings: Bookings are managed through the accommodation supplier who provides a full, turnkey package.
Festival No 6
1-4 September – Portmeirion, North Wales, www.festivalnumber6.com
About: An annual art and music festival held at Portmeirion, Wales, attracting 15,000 people. The festival presents a wide range of music genres including rock, folk, house, techno and dance. 2016 acts include Noel Gallagher, Echo and the Bunnymen, Hot Chip, Roots Manuva, Super Furry Animals and Bastille.
Accommodation: As well as a campsite of pre-pitched tents, a range of bell tents (from £760), yurts (from £1,510), luxury tipis (£1,465), ‘Emperor’ tents with memory foam mattresses, fluffy bath towels and even a Chesterfield lounge sofa (£1,465) and Airstream caravans (£4,510) are on offer. Guests also have the option of booking into the ‘No. 6 Boutique Retreat’ which provides a reception, concierge service (offering phone charging, a private restaurant and bar) and a dedicated spa. Accommodation here includes yurts (from £2,675), Bedouin tents (from £2,765) and bell tents (from £2,290).
Bookings: Bookings are handled by the organiser through its website. Suppliers provide a turnkey service. The ‘No. 6 Boutique Retreat’ is managed by the festival organiser itself.
About the Author
Ian Hamilton is the owner of TIPI GURU and has been supplying pre pitched accommodation to the festival industry for over 10 years with 30 years in and around festival culture. TIPI GURU can be found at some of the largest UK festivals including Glastonbury, Download, the Isle of White Festival, Latitude, Festival No6, as well as smaller, boutique events. For further information and free advice please contact Ian at firstname.lastname@example.org / 07889 288982 / www.tipi.guru