Nicole Laframboise considers the skills necessary to run a successful glampsite.
3pm – your check-in arrives, they are excited to be here and looking forward to putting their feet up. You go over the liability waiver, confirm the nightly rate, offer a hot or cold beverage and show them to their accommodation.
An hour later, they are back looking for you; with questions regarding their unit, or a favour to ask. You are happy to help. Now there is time to grab dinner, watch your TV show, or take the dog for a walk. Before you turn in for the night, you might take a wander past the guests to ensure they are settled for the evening.
This sequence depends on what you plan to offer, but nonetheless, you will have one – welcome to your new lifestyle as the glampsite operator.
Irregular hours, strange requests, questions, concerns, excitement, praise; you can have it all, but are you prepared? I warn you, there will be trying moments and your best people skills will be called upon.
Are you ready for housekeeping duties such as making beds, water delivery, laundry and, if you so choose, providing meals or a welcome platter? You will also become a tour guide to all things local. The guests will have plenty of questions for you, so get to know the tourist spots, local shops and food producers.
The right person
Think you have what it takes? People who enjoy caring for others and who come from a ‘position of servitude’ do well in this industry. Warmhearted, good listeners tend to have more bookings and repeat guests. Managing stressful situations is also handy; pair that with being a creative problem solver and you start to fit the bill. Sleep lightly and be quick to respond should the need arise.
Fond of the great outdoors, the glamping operator is knowledgeable in local wildlife, its habits, behaviour and random fun facts for guests to take home. Make note of what you love about your property and share that with your guests.
Pride of ownership shines and your property becomes an engaging piece of art to move around in. You get excited when finding that perfect piece, be it a planter, reading chair or accent pillows.
Facing challenges proactively
Let’s not completely sugar coat this, operating a glampsite is a business, and venturing into this requires some technical insight.
Discovering that not all guests are tidy can be frustrating, yet you can provide simple solutions to offset this. Leave a broom and dustpan, or a note on the desk letting guests know where the rubbish and recycling facilities are on-site. Find ways to streamline your efforts and, if convenient, let the guest manage some of that responsibility for you.
Site work happens daily, monthly and annually – make a written forecast of when work requires execution and list specific tasks to be undertaken at those times. Activities might include: tent set up/tear downs, underbrush and leaf mulching, gardening, seasonal décor switch outs, and inspection of facilities for both safety and aesthetics.
Set office hours or risk your sanity. Glampsites are most often sole proprietorships, and although the outlook may seem like an enjoyable walk in the park, you will still need time to run for groceries, make medical appointments and spend time with friends. Don’t be afraid to mark a couple days off during the week where your business is either ‘closed for upkeep’ or whereby guests understand that they are ‘on their own from 2pm until 5pm daily’.
At times is seems everyone is a critic, so hold dearly those who loved their experience and focus on them. Deal with all online complaints publicly – they are a fact of modern-day business life, and everyone is watching your rebuttal. This is a great opportunity to show off your business’s practice of courtesy and respect for all guests. You get extra points if you can convert an internet fiend into a lifelong cheerleader for your business (yes, this is possible).
Making the business profitable
The biggest hurdle in turning your glampsite into a model of success is your ‘target demographic’. This term gets plenty of publicity, but seldom do business owners really, truly nail it.
So how can I help you with this? Identify the age, social standing, hobbies, annual income and interests of your best guest (the one who will see value in your offering and be happy to pay for it). Now take it a step further; what does a person like that do on their weekends? Where do they go? How do they spend their money? What matters most to them? How many dogs, cats, children, cars, shoes and books do they have? See where I’m going with this? You need to essentially create the perfect guest in every detail – only then can you market to them.
Next up, review what your glampsite needs to be in order to attract that guest. If your guest’s dog is an only child make sure to provide lush accommodations for the four-legged lodger, and perhaps a welcome treat that is locally made and organic. Or is this a sport dog that loves to get dirty? Opt for a kiddie pool filled with water and safe toys on hot summer days (and a specific towel for doggie use).
List ways that you can create an exceptional service for guests who have:
- Mobility concerns
- Small children
- A fear of critters
- Traveled a long distance
You should now have enough rich data and context to develop your brand. But don’t be scared – I am not suggesting that you harshly label your charming experience into a corporate model. Express your offerings through sight, sound and words to engage the audience you want at the price you need – that is your brand. You’ll start booking out once potential guests can identify your brand as the finest in its class.
Identify similar business platforms both locally and abroad; by no means do I suggest copying their service, however, that knowledge will allow you to better position yourself. Should another glampsite be within close proximity to yours, pick up the slack where you feel they are lacking. For example, an intimate adult-only site may interest those whom, until now, only had family-centered options.
Stay current on industry trends and incorporate those that fit into your company’s image. Go to conferences and industry shows, they will inspire you. Network with others in the industry and ask the hard questions, there are many new friendships to be found in this business.
Be competitive. Casually stalking your competitors is socially acceptable so long as you do not troll their pages, being unkind has never been an effective business move. Social media makes this incredibly simple. Get familiar with how Google and Facebook analytics can relay information about your online traffic in comparison to similar businesses. Using Facebook Insights, you can ‘Compare the performance of your page and posts with similar pages on Facebook’, which is a very powerful tool when trying to perfect your marketing model.
Ready to delve deeper?
If you’ve made it this far in the article and still have an interest in setting up a glampsite, congratulations. Now the hard work comes into play. You’ll need to research planning restrictions, bylaws and assess your property for best use of land. Choosing a name that reflects your brand and establishing a budget are next (this should be part of your five-year business and marketing plan).
Reach out to those in the industry, refine your experience until it is truly unique, and share your passion with the world. You are entering one of the most desired outdoor tourism movements happening right now, and that is very exciting.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nicole Laframboise is the owner/operator of Elements Luxury Tented Camp, located on 89 acres in the heart of the Ottawa Valley, Canada. With previous interests in accounting, property, construction and farming, Nicole welcomes visitors that want to interact meaningfully with nature. www.outdoorhotel.ca