Industry Insights: Kate Morel

Stay up to date on the glamping industry with Kate’s unique insights

From the Diary

Bed in a bell tent
Photo: Getty Images

This spring has added several new events to the diary, one being a conference hosted by Helpful Holidays/Sykes Cottages and Stags Property Agents, held at the stunning Bovey Castle in Devon. The talks included advice on buying property, tax, mortgages, insurance and holiday cottages, whilst I shared some industry trends and tips on successful glamping. If you’re thinking of renting out a holiday property, these locally focussed conferences are worth attending because they bring together experts who know the area and understand what will work best for your business.

This last month has also involved a lot of desk work. Firstly, I am trying to write a book, actually I’m trying to finish a book I started several years ago – it may never be completed but if it is, you’ll be the first to know. The question is, will it be a ‘How To’, a ‘Confessions of’, or ‘It Shouldn’t Happen to’ … answers on the back of a postcard to the usual address. More importantly, I’ve been writing design briefs and reports, including investment figures which due to misconceptions around glamping can be higher than is sometimes anticipated, so I thought we’d take a closer look at this.

Compared to traditional buildings, setting up a glamping development requires less investment, however, it still isn’t always quite as cheap or easy as sometimes imagined. To put an estimated figure in the frame, for five cabins plus utilities such as a waste treatment system, electric, water, groundworks and landscaping, the costs could be anything from £150-300k – maybe more, maybe less. The final figure depends on the size and quality of the cabins, the level of facilities, FF&E (furnishings fixtures and equipment), and the proximity of existing utility sources, as well as the planning application. For example, the cost of connecting to mains electricity can vary immensely from a few hundred pounds to tens of thousands.

On the other side of the calculation however, if we look at potential revenue figures for our five units we can start to see how returns might work out. The following chart provides a broad example of potential revenue using a sliding scale of rental fees and days let per annum. Staying with our five unit cabin development, it’s worth noting that some cabins are unlikely to rent out for over £150 per night although there are, as always, exceptions to be found.

 

5 UNITS Days Let
£ Night 100 150 200 250 300
£75 37,500 56,250 75,000 93,750 112,500
£80 40,000 60,000 80,000 100,000 120,000
£90 45,000 67,500 90,000 112,500 135,000
£100 50,000 75,000 100,000 125,000 150,000
£150 70,000 105,000 140,000 175,000 231,000
£200 100,000 150,000 200,000 250,000 300,000

 

I hesitated to include this chart because there are so many variables that can affect the rental fees and occupancy of a glamping development. Also, there are limitations to its application – in reality, few glamping sites charge a flat fee throughout the year, plus feasibility on high occupancy + high unit numbers + high fees, is limited. I wouldn’t use this chart to project rental income, but it sometimes forms part of the advice I give, because for anyone new to holiday rentals, it outlines the basics of how we begin to forecast revenues.

Glamping Grows Up

A powerful influence that shapes how an industry develops is customer demand, and this is changing within our sector. Glamping is growing up and our guests’ expectations are maturing. At every level, there are now many more glamping sites for guests to choose from, which means glamping is in the same boat as any other hospitality business – guests can shop around. Some are looking for better appointed structures, such as warmer accommodation, a hot tub, better kitchen facilities, en-suite bathrooms and flushing WCs. Some want deeper, more meaningful experiences, yet others simply want value for money. In short, for existing sites, whatever our target guest profile or USP this is no time to rest on our laurels.

It’s also worth noting that most types of accommodation – pods, cabins, safari tents, bell tents etc, are now commonplace and that guests are developing a level of discernment around the structures themselves, even treehouses are coming under scrutiny. Choosing the best structure, creating a strong business model and a robust USP remain our keys to success.

Whisk me Away

Glamping pod by a beach

YAB YUM RESORT
MANDREM, GOA, INDIA
www.yabyumresorts.com

A lava stone’s throw from Ashwem beach in Goa, these domes epitomise everything I admire about indigenous cabins. They are fantastic examples of glamping because:

– They use local materials – lava rock, palm leaves, mango wood, local clay, as well as local skills – just look at those ceilings – gorgeous

– The originality of the design – OK, I’ll admit they look like they’ve been modelled on Cousin Itt from the Adams family (or more kindly, a coconut) but they’ve designed and built something totally unique

– The honesty of the furnishings and décor – you are fully immersed in the location and culture.

– The inclusion of wellness treatments and activities – a perfect business model/USP for its tranquil, forest-meets-beach location.

Glamping cave in Australian mountainsLOVE CABINS’ ENCHANTED CAVE
BILPIN, BLUE MOUNTAINS, AUSTRALIA
www.lovecabins.com.au

Meanwhile, in Eastern Australia, whilst their treehouse is inspiring on epic proportions, it was the cave that drew me in and captured my imagination. What makes this stand out:

– The way they have worked with the natural shape and nature of the rockface to create a truly unique space.

– The sharp juxtaposition of hotel-room comforts within the rawness of a completely natural setting

– Their evocative description: “The cave stirs something in our biology – a primitive memory of our beginning, of when we lived in a simpler world and simpler times”. For me at least, this description epitomises the very core, the DNA of glamping, and the feelings it should evoke in us when we experience these places.

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