Out & About with Kate Morel

A rustic revolution and why glamping sites should be careful how they sell themselves

The schools are back and the main glamping season is coming to an end. It has been a good one, with sunshine and blue skies seeing existing sites and booking portals experiencing a healthy increase in traffic and bookings on last year. For projects that are in construction it can go quiet at this time, having missed the boat for this season, a few types of glamping development find themselves best being shelved until next spring.

Glamping site
Pic: Getty Images

From the Diary
There are of course always exceptions to the rule in glamping, and this month I worked with a couple of established glamping sites where figures were down on last year, not up. It wasn’t difficult to identify why they weren’t performing, and suggestions to get business back on track were made.

Amidst the hype promoting glamping as an immensely profitable business option (and it can be), it’s also important to remember it’s a growing industry that develops year on year. I’m not suggesting we do a ‘Madonna’ and reinvent ourselves every six months, but we do need to monitor industry trends, the competition, review our offer, and keep our marketing up to speed.

There’s been a distinct theme to recent weeks – woodlands and timber. I’ve been to visit several potential glamping developments in woodlands and forests, been asked about rustic accommodation structures, treehouses, and talked at length about woodland activities as part of business models.

Even though facility standards are rising, there’s also a developing theme toward a more rustic style of glamping. Maybe the ‘rewilding’ leisure movement I blogged about in 2015 is properly taking hold in leisure accommodations. There was however, one structure project with a notable architectural departure from all this, unfortunately I can’t even hint at any details until the launch – ‘stay tuned’ as they say.

This month has also seen me spending a lot of time on a new venture of my own, one which weaves together a creative collaborative of the best industry suppliers and consultants. This venture is much more than an extension of my existing consultancy work because it pioneers a new design movement in the glamping industry. To say we are all excited about it would be an understatement!

Movers & Shakers
Or should that be ‘high flyers’ this month? If you and I are connected on social media, you might remember a post of mine from a couple of years ago about David McGowan, who shipped a decommissioned Boeing 767 plane to Sligo. The plane is destined to be converted into glamping accommodation where couples get married in the cockpit, and children slide down the safety chutes.

David’s plans don’t end there. He’s also got his sights on others forms of transport for conversion into glamping – a tank, double decker bus, a vintage train used in Orient Express, a yacht, an armoured personnel carrier, and a truck from the movie Black Dog. The site also has planning permission for an airport terminal where the control tower would be a bridal suite (presumably with ‘Radar Love’ or maybe the Top Gun soundtrack on loop), a cinema, coffee shop and education centre. As you can see, it’s quite an ambitious project.

Two years on however, the development remains grounded until additional finance is secured, around £4.5 million, by Mr McGowans calculations. One can’t but help admire his leading-edge vision and we look forward to seeing the completed project take-off sometime soon.


Industry Comment
If there’s one subject that regularly pops up, it’s ‘what defines a proper glamping experience’. Some industry colleagues insist it has to be five star or it’s not glamping, and others feel that as long as the location is good, a simple set-up qualifies – but a row of pods doesn’t.

One thing I’m sure we can all agree on, however, is that regardless of facilities or location, they need to be commensurate with the rental fees being charged, and clearly marketed via photographs and descriptions. Because when this doesn’t happen our industry reputation suffers, and frankly, some glamping simply isn’t being sold properly.

In an effort to promote better standards, the Glamping Association is working with Quality in Tourism which runs an accreditation system that includes glamping. Also, in an effort to promote better safety, the Glamping Association has published a handbook on regulations, snappily titled ‘The Glamping Association’s Legislative Essentials for Glamping Accommodation Lodgings (LEGAL) Guide’. It’s available as an e-book via Amazon.

Costa Rica glamping treehouseWhisk me Away
To Tree House Lodge, a small eco-resort on the southern coast of Costa Rica, sitting on the cusp of the Carribean sea and Gandoca Manzanillo wildlife reserve. It’s a rustic, creative, mini-resort development, typical of the South American forest style.

It’s all here – a beautiful location, white beaches, wellness facilities, engaging activities, and an interesting fusion of traditional builds with quirky architecture. In particular, take a look at the bathroom in the Beach Suite, or the walls in the Crystal House (the mini-golf though, hmm), and especially the loo in the treehouse! I can’t help but muse over the logistics of that, plumbing being what it is.

Costa Rica glamping treehouseThis development is one of my favourite kinds of glamping, because it immerses us in an experience of location and heritage. The video (take note) genuinely makes you want to be there, and the whole place very much brings back memories of my work on the regeneration project in Ecuador – the jungle and bamboo structures, and the stunning coastline. It also takes me back to travelling days in Mexico and Belize. There is something uniquely endearing and mysterious about this region of our planet; once visited it is never forgotten.

Right now, I can visualise myself swaying in the hammock on the deck of the Beach House, evening cocktail in hand, as the breeze billows through… pondering the meaning of life, and ignoring Tally’s deadline.

Till next time, Kate

About Kate
A rural, feral upbringing sometimes pays off. Growing up on a smallholding has its perks, such as a mostly unsupervised childhood spent building woodland dens, treehouses and blanket tents – resulting in an eye for a good stick, and a creative imagination. Kate says she could still rustle up a den, but admits, even though it would be a low investment project, it wouldn’t deliver much of an income. Unlike a glamping site.

Kate MorelThese days, Kate’s ‘den building’ is a more sophisticated adventure, involving a hand-picked team of industry specialists, adding to her many years of experience, knowledge and creativity, all applied to every project. Above all, Kate takes pride in providing honest, impartial business advice that’s in her clients best interest.

She is also, rather notoriously, always happy to talk at length about glamping, so if you have any questions about starting a glamping business, or just want a few pointers, her contact details are: info@katemorel.com, 07849 514588, www.katemorel.com, Facebook Group: Glamping Business Link.


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