Futureproofing Business

Canopy & Stars’ co-founder Tom Dixon uses booking stats to help glampsites secure a sustainable future, in all senses of the word.

Campervan set up on hill at sunset

Since 2010, Canopy & Stars has curated a collection of the most inspiring places to stay in the great outdoors, connecting independent owners to guests in search of a ‘life more wild’. We are a leading marketing and booking agent in the glamping industry and are proud to have a 98 per cent owner retention rate. Having worked with over 750 successful glamping sites, we like to think we’ve learnt a thing or two along the way!

Let’s start with the good news; the glamping industry is still growing. Since Canopy & Stars launched 10 years ago, we’ve seen a huge growth in the number of glamping spaces in the UK and the appetite from guests has not faded. There’s been 1.8 million searches online relating to glamping in the past 12 months alone, and at Canopy & Stars we are seeing even stronger growth; our bookings are growing by 20 per cent year on year. Right now is a great time to start your journey into the glamping industry and to create a sustainable business, both economically as well as ecologically.

Across the travel industry there is a trend towards staycations; a Barclays Report from earlier this year cited that ‘52 per cent of all consumers surveyed will take most or all this year’s holidays in the UK’. Those aged 25-34 and 35-44 are the most likely to see the UK as a main holiday destination and 90 per cent of Canopy & Stars bookings are within the UK. Classic destinations such as Cornwall and the Lake District remain popular, but we are seeing the biggest rises in guest numbers in the North East and the Midlands.

The industry remains short-stay focused and guests are booking their breaks earlier and earlier; as of September 2019 we are seeing a 41 per cent increase in bookings for next year and we have been opening our owners’ calendars earlier to meet this demand.

There are other macro trends that are supporting the growth of the industry such as a greater appreciation of the value of time in nature for health and wellbeing. Plus of course the desire to have sustainable low impact holidays with a low carbon footprint. Glamping has a key role to play here and has the potential to be an exemplar for sustainable tourism.

The outdoor holiday industry is shifting quickly and growing in new directions; we are considering progressive ways to evolve the industry and helping owners to do the same by thinking bigger and smarter. After collating our data and expertise, we’ve found 10 trends that will help you ensure your glamping business is ready for the future.

House on the side of a lake

1. Breathtaking locations are key
With staycation on the rise, UK holidaymakers want something beyond the expected and to see an exciting, dramatic setting. Places near to rivers, lakes, quarries, ancient woodlands, walled gardens and private beaches all work. Planning can be a challenge, but don’t let this stop you from exploring options on your land as these places will continue to stand out in years to come. If you don’t have what might immediately be a breathtaking location, then that doesn’t preclude you from creating an incredible experience. Just work with what nature has provided and make the experience connected to what’s special with the setting you have. If your site lends itself to a certain type of space or experience, go with that, and don’t force something that just doesn’t feel right.

Cabin in clearing of the woods2. Consider a year-round experience
Glamping has evolved from its early days of canvas and summer seasons; we are now seeing year-round bookings and owners should consider how to make the most of this opportunity. Our winter bookings have seen between 30-40 per cent increase year-on-year over the last two years. Look at winter-proofed structures with heating and insulation to make sure your space is a great place to stay all year. On average our cabins receive around a third of their bookings in peak season periods, so demand and income potential for you is year-round, if you get the experience right.

3. Bold designs
Stay ahead of the curve and be bold with your ideas! Guests want something that they can share on social media, so think differently and creatively about a structure that will really get you noticed. At Canopy & Stars we’ve worked on all sorts of places – from giant beehives to floating cabins – and can offer advice to those looking to get their dream off the ground through our consulting services.

4. Outdoor experiences
With people choosing to stay close to home, guests are looking for more than just a place to stay; they want more excitement and elements of play that connect them to the great outdoors. Wild swimming, outdoor cooking on an open fire and wildlife spotting are all great ways for guests to feel like they’ve had a more holistic stay. A trend with no signs of slowing down is outdoor bathing; our Hot Tub collection remains our most popular with over 17,000 searches for places with a hot tub each month! Traditional wood-fired tubs remain the most popular, but some owners are opting for outdoor bathtubs or showers as a more manageable option. Dive deeper into experiential features and consider what your land can offer – you might be able to offer cider pressing if you’re situated in an orchard, or stargazing if you are in a Dark Sky Reserve.

A room with a freestanding woodburner in the centre

5. Occasion vacations
Over 50 per cent of all Canopy & Stars bookings in 2018 were celebrating an occasion (the most popular include special birthdays, anniversaries and honeymoons). Bear this in mind when designing your experience; small touches can go a long way and some of our sites offer an option of a private chef or romantic hampers. Don’t forget the surprise element on arrival – this could be as simple as a bottle of local wine or some homemade chocolates.

6. Pets love glamping too
We have seen the number of stays with pets grow by nearly 60 per cent in the last two years and this trend shows no signs of slowing. Go the extra mile and don’t just accept pets, positively welcome them as part of the family with special treats on arrival. One of our spaces, Yurt Sanctuary in Somerset, has a ‘doggy spa’ for pets wanting a treat and owner, Michelle, dog-sits if guests want an evening at the pub without their pup.

7. Wellbeing
Wellness tourism is growing twice as fast as global tourism, and this presents a huge opportunity for those in the outdoor holiday industry. Connection to nature is incredibly important, not only for our wellbeing but to give us a greater understanding of our natural world and how we can look after it. One of our main goals is to facilitate this connection, and as a glamping site owner you can too. Consider offering therapies, such as yoga, massage or meditation run by professionals or even facilitate a self-led experience. One of our spaces has created a woodland reflexology walk, giving guests the opportunity to feel different textures under their feet and explore the local area.

8. Running a sustainable business
We are in the middle of a climate crisis and consumers are demanding more ecological awareness and action, whether that’s from their friends, families, employers or brands and businesses they ‘buy’ from. As part of the glamping industry, you are naturally connected to the land and in a position to teach guests about the wildlife and ecology unique to your site. Really try to extend this thinking in everything you do and how you do it. As an example, Canopy & Stars has pledged to plant a tree for every booking as part of our response to the climate emergency and, with our community of owners and guests, have an ambition to plant one million trees in the next five years. This is just one of the ways in which we are trying to do more. Nature has in so many ways given us our business and so we want to make sure we give back.

Woman sat in hot tub on deck of wooden hut9. Future Growth
Whether you are new to glamping or have an established space, it’s important to consider ‘what next’ and how your business might expand in the future. We act as a business partner for our owners; we give them ongoing advice and support to help them grow their business and keep abreast of trends. A whopping third of our owners have added new spaces since they joined the collection and this number is only growing.

10. Find the right people
Working with the right people will allow you to grow your business in the right way. You can consider this at every part of the experience; ensuring that the bathroom products are kind to the environment, providing local produce for guests on arrival to support your local economy and celebrate what’s special about your location, to finding a build partner that works collaboratively with you. Of course, who you market your site with is just as important and at Canopy & Stars we are dedicated to celebrating ‘better travel’ and doing things differently; our specialist team can act as an extension of your business and make sure the right guests find your space. This hands-on support and partnership approach is valued highly by our owners. We are striving to create a community of like-minded guests and owners and to connect things together.

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom DixonTom Dixon is managing director at Sawday’s Canopy & Stars, a collection of selected and inspected special places to stay and experience the great outdoors across Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Scandinavia. From humble beginnings in 2010, the agency has grown to more than 500 places; everything from treehouses, yurts, and converted horse trucks, to cabins, Gypsy caravans and Iron Age roundhouses. Championing the small and independent, and being an advocate of sustainable tourism, the team genuinely cares about what they do and how they do it. 0117 204 7802 / www.canopyandstars.co.uk

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