Tom Critchley from Caboose & Co. shares his expertise on designing the perfect event glamping zones.
Having spent the last 18 months in national lockdown there will be a public clamouring to fill diaries with as many large-scale events and social occasions as possible. The sense of anticipation for these events to deliver a spectacle like never before is palpable and event organisers need to plan ahead to ensure that as an entire sector we do what we do best and put on a show.
With home experiences only getting more immersive, think large 3D TV screens, surround sound and virtual reality headsets, it creatively forces us to up our game further when out on site. For us at Caboose & Co., that means working with event organisers to help maximise people’s enjoyment of an event by extending the length of stay and offering pop-up accommodation that is just as much of a talking point as the entertainment itself.
Now more than ever the public wants to embrace the opportunity to not rush home after the final song and continue enjoying overnight hospitality – it allows more time to be together with friends or family, experiencing something new and making memories. This increase in demand is precisely why our flat-pack glamping pod with viewing platform, the Maverick Hard Deck, was recently launched, catering for a growing market of individuals to whom basic camping has never appealed by providing an alternative option.
Glamping, over camping, is quickly being deemed the essential way of ‘how to do a festival’ so sites need to cater for all desired comfort levels. Festivals have led the way in glamping for the last 30 years, but it’s only recently in comparison that non-music events have also recognised that extending the guest experience can be a vital additional component – for example camping villages at The Open Golf Championship, Badminton Horse Trials and the Rat Race Dirty Weekend.
In my opinion, the trick to creating an event camp- or glampsite that is going to deliver on wow-factor is to ensure it has its own identity and a welcoming feel on arrival. The site deserves to be a destination in its own right just as much as any other part of the event. Apart from the obvious need for essential facilities, guests are looking for that comforting feeling of walking into an area and instinctively knowing they are with likeminded people. The site should be a quieter haven where they can escape the mayhem of the main event for a few hours if need be.
These days, a shower block and row of portaloos in an empty field is not going to cut the mustard so take the time to invest in creating home-from-home comfort and a sense of familiarity. In order to achieve this and deliver it successfully, site planning should begin as early as possible. It’s vital that the location of the site is given just as much weight and consideration as where the main stage would go. This is the only way you are going to ensure that the guest experience at your event is unparalleled.
Working out the placement of your key services (like water in and waste out routes) is key – this will be the backbone on which all other decisions are hung. Put yourself in the shoes of a reveller and think about their journey to the site – where can guests park on arrival, how far do they have to walk, what accessibility alternatives are there, what terrain are they having to cart belongings over?
On arrival at the site itself, have a clear strategy in your head regarding the level of hospitality and guest welcome that will be offered. A basic campsite requiring minimal check-in will have very different crew and infrastructure requirements to that of a VIP pop-up hotel with a personal concierge service. Find what naturally fits your event’s tone and logistically work backwards from there.
Keeping glampers happy
Regardless of the hospitality style you are opting for, the common denominator across all sites is the desire to keep glampers happy. My recommendation is to ensure you have a dedicated and experienced cleaning team to keep the whole area, but particularly the toilets and hot, high-pressure showers, looking neat and fresh 24/7. The positive impression guests leave with as a result is worth its weight in gold; it projects a well-run site whilst deterring guests from making mess.
A good bar within the campsite helps to create the identity previously advised and provides an alternative option for those wanting to carry on enjoying themselves whilst slightly away from the main buzz of an event. Visible security operating a rigorous wristband process offers the comfort to campers that the site is alert to unwanted guests or antisocial behaviour.
Scaling event site capacity up or down to reflect a change in anticipated demand can be a very tough thing to do and your options may be limited depending on the site you are working with. In normal circumstances, the best advice is for organisers or glampsite managers to ensure tickets or pitches are on sale as early as possible, giving you time to scale up if a higher demand requires it.
Knowing your target audience is not only vital for campsite design but also for ensuring your targeted branding resonates to effectively convert into sales. A young crowd will be looking for an affordable party atmosphere, whereas the ‘seasoned’ festivalgoer with a family will be seeking a quiet, peaceful night sleep with the option to dip in and out of the party.
This summer in particular, however, pre-planning is nigh-on impossible with the constantly-moving goalposts of when post-lockdown events can resume once again. As an industry we are used to working to tight deadlines but, with the financial uncertainty and cashflow dilemmas many organisers have faced, this has delayed the announcement of so many dates we usually expect to see.
At the point of returned confidence, the pressure on our sector to propel from 0-1,000 at the drop of a hat will be like nothing we’ve experienced before. On the whole, I’m not sure the general public is aware just how many months of logistics planning and site building goes into constructing a three-day festival – there may be an expectation that fingers can be clicked and sites pop up immediately, which will dramatically decrease lead-in times for site installation and ticket sales. Every cog in the wheel this year and into next will need to display adaptability and a flexible can-do mentality in order to pull off events late in the season.
Every event and contractual agreement is different, so start having conversations as early as possible with glamping operators or event organisers directly to find a format that works for all parties involved. There will be plenty of discussions to be had around an agreed commission structure on bookings taken or liaising with nearby land owners to operate your own site complementary to the event’s own offering.
There is no set format but essentially whoever takes the bigger risk gets the bigger reward when it goes right. Financially, each glamping operation is different with so many variables in place to affect the profit margin; the goal in the first year for any operation or supplier is simply not to lose money – simple but true! After that, collectively work as a team to build on the brand, not just of the whole event but of the glamping site itself, scaling it to add more services which act as additional revenue wins for you, eg. pop-up massage treatments, beauty bars, pool table or hot tub hire etc.
Finally, take time to consider which accommodation structures will be hired and aim to select a range that provides customers with choice at different price points. As glamping becomes more mainstream, with bell tents, yurts, safari tents and tipis becoming commonplace, customers will continue to seek out an accommodation experience that has never been seen before. The Caboose & Co. range usually causes a stir as converted shipping containers or brightly-coloured ‘space-age’ tents don’t usually appear in green fields, but equally it’s about those added-value experiences. As well as the accommodation units themselves, think about private discos in a yurt, hot tubs for VIP pampering or private dining on a Caboose Maverick’s roof terrace above the Maverick sleeping quarters!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tom Critchley has over 15 years’ experience in the live events sector, installing and operating glamping sites for world-class festivals and sporting events internationally.
Whether you are seeking to purchase pop-up accommodation options to provide versatile, off-grid rural stays, source a summer hire fleet or require campsite management consultancy, Tom can help. Get in touch – firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01273 086368.