“Glamping,” a combination of the words “glamour” and “camping,” is a growing trend in the vacation rental industry. Broadly, glamping brings upscale leisure into the great outdoors, giving vacationers time in the natural world with the comfort of five-star accommodations.
Learning how to start a glamping business could allow anyone passionate about the outdoors to translate that passion into a profit-making opportunity. Read on for some tips and tricks for starting a glamping business, including a sample business plan.
A Primer on the Different Types of Glamping
As you consider how to start a glamping business, one of the first things you should do is familiarize yourself with its various types of accommodations. Listed here are structures and other options you might consider offering to guests as you work out how to start a glamping business.
If you’re interested in how to start a glamping business, there’s a pretty good chance you spent vacations in your younger years camping in a tent with family and friends. But tents used in glamping are very different from the tents you may remember.
For one thing, tents used in glamping may be permanent or near-permanent canvas or similar material structures erected above a wooden or other foundation. Often, the foundation will include a deck for outdoor enjoyment.
Inside a glamping tent, you’ll likely find a full-size bed, and maybe some smaller beds, all outfitted with luxurious bedding. Glamping tents also are likely to have a stove, and depending on how far away they are from utility service, may also offer full electrical service to guests.
Yurts are perhaps the first type of structure to come to mind when thinking about how to start a glamping business, since they feature prominently in this type of vacation adventure.
Yurts are round tents, often with a domed roof, that most often sit atop an above-ground platform. As with tents, glamping yurts can be luxuriously appointed. Or, they may be minimally enhanced if the intent of the glamping business is to provide a backcountry experience, albeit in comfortable style.
A step up from tents or yurts in the world of considering how to start a glamping business are structures known as tented cabins. These vacation rental options include some of the characteristics of a permanent structure, such as walls and porches.
At least some of the rest of the structure, though, such as the roof or some additional sleeping or lounging areas, will be built of tent-style material.
Just as many state parks offer cabins for groups of guests from couples to families, they can also be an option when considering how to start a glamping business. The level of utility services in cabins will, of course, depend on whether they are on or off the utility grid.
But as with other glamping accommodations, they can be outfitted with upscale furnishings, bedding and other amenities designed to provide a high level of comfort and luxuriousness..
While so-called “tiny houses” — permanent homes measuring just a few hundred square feet — have struggled to find a place as regular housing, they make a perfect option as you consider how to start a glamping business.
Again, depending on how they are situated with utilities, tiny houses can range from fully-equipped homes — with electricity, running water, bathroom facilities and other amenities — to more austere structures.
Tiny houses lend themselves to being organized as neighborhoods. That approach might be a good strategy for how to start a glamping business handling family reunions, corporate retreats, weddings or other communal gatherings.
Another thing that aspiring glamping business owners may remember is taking off for adventure with a travel trailer towed behind the family car. These days, vintage travel trailers are easy to find for sale, and they can be readily updated with new appliances and modern furnishings.
Set up permanently on a piece of property, refurbished camping trailers are a great option for considering how to start a glamping business. They’re available in sizes that can be used by couples or by families, and can easily create a “retro” vibe for vacationers.
Cabooses and Other Structures
While it may be difficult to find and move them, old railroad cabooses can be updated into getaways for couples or small families.
Another option to consider as you ponder how to start a glamping business is old metal shipping containers. They are used to transport goods by sea and rail and are routinely available for a few thousand dollars.
If you opt for shipping containers as accommodations as you work out how to start a glamping business, understand they will require significant work to be transformed into upscale accommodations.
Choosing an Accommodations Option for a Glamping Business
So, how should you choose the accommodations you’ll provide with your glamping business? One of the first things you’ll want to consider is the weather. For example, if your area gets a lot of rain, tents or yurts might be a poor choice.
SImilarly, if you live in an area where vacation business is centered on families rather than couples, you’ll want to stay away from options like smaller camping trailers or tiny houses, where space is at a premium.
Also, if older visitors frequent your area, you probably should stay away from options that lend themselves to more rustic living with limited amenities.
In short, as you ponder how to start a glamping business, you’ll need to carefully think about the type of glamping you should offer to ensure a sustained return on your entrepreneurial investment.
How to Find a Glamping Business Location
There are lots of online real estate sites where you can find land for sale as you move into how to start a glamping business. But you might also have some luck by putting the word out among family and friends that you’re interested in finding some land.
However, just finding a tract of land won’t necessarily lead to success with a glamping business. For one thing, your business property should be located within easy daytime driving distance of major population centers to help ensure a steady stream of guests.
Also, you’ll want to be sure your chosen tract is distinctive in some way, perhaps by offering fantastic sunset views. Or you might choose a tract offering real seclusion deep in the natural world. Another option might be a tract with proximity to big-city entertainment districts.
In short, choosing land for your glamping business should entail more than just finding vacant acreage where you can throw up a few tents, or build a few cabins, or bring in some refurbished camping trailers.
Zoning and Other Laws Related to a Glamping Business
Before buying a tract of land as part of the adventure of how to start a glamping business, you need to be aware of governmental regulations that apply to the acreage that will govern what you can or can’t do with the property.
Your first step before buying a piece of property should be to determine whether its existing zoning will allow you to establish a glamping business. If the property is not properly zoned, but you still want it, you can require that the owner get the zoning changed before you purchase the property.
There also will be other government regulations that could impact your plans as you embark on how to start a glamping business. For example, the local government might require that your glamping land have sewer service rather than simply using septic tanks or other waste disposal methods.
There also might be minimum or maximum density requirements dictating how many, or how few, glamping structures you can have on your property.
And, you also might be required to collect a local accommodations tax from your visitors.
Before you move forward on any land purchase or other preparatory steps for your glamping business, be sure you have a complete understanding of any applicable laws and regulations.
Financing Options for a Glamping Business
As you’re deciding on the type of glamping business you want to operate, and finding the perfect piece of land for it, you’ll also need to be thinking about how you’ll finance the business.
The most familiar option will be debt financing or taking out a loan to get your business up and running. But don’t stop with considering a traditional bank loan. The federal Small Business Administration and Department of Agriculture have programs through which you could get better loan terms from your bank.
A third option could be equity financing, in which interested investors financially back your project in anticipation of future returns. One advantage of attracting investor financing — think “Shark Tank” — is that your investors likely will have business experience to help you with your entrepreneurial endeavor.
FAQs on Starting a Glamping Business
Now that you’ve gotten an overview of the challenges and opportunities for starting a glamping business, it’s time to explore some of your questions as you continue to work things out. Read on for some more specific guidance on becoming a glamping entrepreneur.
What types of insurance are needed to operate a glamping business?
In setting up a glamping business, you’ll need several types of insurance before welcoming your first guests. Here is a quick look at the insurance you should have as part of your work in how to start a glamping business.
General liability insurance is the most important insurance for your glamping business. It will cover some circumstances you might face, such as a patron who is injured on your property and demands that you cover their medical expenses.
Other instances in which liability insurance is beneficial include coverage if an employee accidentally injures a guest, or a competitor files a lawsuit against your business over some allegedly unfair business practice.
If an incident at or involving your glamping business puts you at risk of exceeding the limits of your general liability policy, a commercial umbrella policy can help make up for the shortfall.
A commercial property insurance policy will cover property damage at your business associated with fire, stormy weather, flood, or other natural disasters.
A relatively new development in the digital age, data breach insurance can protect you if computer hackers succeed in gaining access to your computer system and wreaking havoc with credit card numbers and other personal information from your customers.
How much land is necessary for a successful glamping business?
If your glamping business is in the mountains or a forested area, having no more than one yurt, cabin, or other accommodation per acre is a good idea. But if you’re operating a beachside glamping business, you could space units on quarter-acre tracts as long as they face an expansive ocean view.
But don’t think you need to build out your acreage to that density immediately. Starting with a couple of units and adding to your inventory as you gain experience is a great strategy in how to start a glamping business.
What are some other things to know about operating a glamping business?
As you work through the mechanics of how to start a glamping business — finding a location, getting startup money, and ensuring you’ll be operating legally — don’t forget the need to publicize your business to the people you’re hoping to attract.
Keep Up With Marketing
Marketing your business will be an ongoing project and should be a large part of what you do to sustain your enterprise. One of the best things you can do to avoid not getting enough traction for your business is to hire a professional website designer for your project.
Among the things that a website designer will know how to do is to boost the SEO (search engine optimization) of your website so that it comes up frequently and in a high placement among people searching online for a glamping adventure. Don’t forget social media pages, too!
Don’t Neglect Maintenance
On a more practical level, be sure you are keeping up with, or even anticipating, the maintenance needs of your glamping site. Nothing will tank a glamping business faster than structural deficiencies in its accommodations, unreliable utility services, or neglected roadways and other amenities.
Prepare for the Off-Season
Depending on the focus of your glamping business, be aware that you will have off-season times in which revenues will dip or disappear. If you’re operating a coastal glamping business, you won’t be making much, if any, money during the winter months. And if your glamping business is in a skiing area, your business will stagnate during the summer.
While those times can be challenging if you’ve not prepared financially for them, off-season weeks offer an ideal opportunity for maintaining and updating your glamping business.
Wrapping up How to Start a Glamping Business
Armed with the basics of starting a glamping business, you should have a foundation for getting your plans in motion.
Along with the business plan included in this post, check out the wealth of information on our Glamping page at Beyond The Tent.
- About the Author
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Jim Thompson grew up tent camping with his family, and was introduced to backpacking with the Boy Scouts. He attended a military college, where he was introduced to rappelling, an outdoor activity which he has not pursued.
Jim holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Georgia, and spent 35 years as a newspaper writer and editor before become a writer for Apple Pie Media.
Jim can be reached at email@example.com