Starting a glamping business: how to turn dreams into reality

Creating a glamping business is a daunting but exciting journey. The initial stages can be stressful, but the rewards of a thriving glamping site are undoubtedly worth the time, money and effort invested in making it happen.

Getting a glamping operation up and running takes hours of planning, calculation and preparation. As an award-winning dome manufacturer, TruDomes have supported a wide range of nascent glamping businesses. We understand the details that these businesses need to master. With that in mind, we’ve offered a few thoughts about what it takes to turn your glamping dream into reality.

Start-up costs

If you already own land, the necessary financial investment is relatively modest compared to many other property, leisure and hospitality businesses. That said, there are several areas that shouldn’t be overlooked: on top of essentials such as utility connections and facilities, you should consider work required on access roads, parking, groundworks and the design and build of a website.  You need to consider ways to enhance the appeal of your site, so it could be worth some extra investment in some cosmetic landscaping and luxuries such as hot tubs. Spending money on features that differentiate your site from others in the locality will pay off in the long run. Make sure you shop around plenty of contractors to assess the cost of any work. If all of this sounds a bit overwhelming, you have the option to commission a glamping feasibility study, which compiles a set of financial projections to the level of detail you need.

Then, of course, you need to consider what type of glamping units you want to offer. They can vary enormously in cost, so this is an important decision. In our opinion, you can’t beat the wow factor of a dome for the ultimate glamping experience. We might be biased, but numerous TruDomes clients and millions of holidaymakers agree!

Forecasting revenue

Once you’ve worked out the cost of setting up, your next step is a forecast of your revenue based on the number of units, the nightly rate and your occupancy rate (percentage of available units that are booked) across the period that you intend to open for business. The occupancy rate can be difficult to estimate, so do as much research as possible about the unit type in your region. This report from Visit Scotland is an example of the kind of data you can find.

You also need to do some homework about the unit rate in your area, particularly what any competitor sites are charging.  Check out their pricing and set your rate accordingly – if you’ve invested in luxury extras, you might have scope to charge more.

Once you’ve estimated your likely income, you’ll need to deduct your operating costs to estimate the site’s profitability. Make sure you put together reasonably accurate figures for utilities, cleaning and maintenance, laundry, consumables, marketing and insurance.

Planning applications

If you want to operate for longer than 28 days, then you’ll need planning permission pretty much regardless of the type of glamping unit you have. A planning application can be a real headache. It will consume many hours of your time, but it’s worth doing properly – a poorly prepared application is very likely to be refused.

Your application checklist needs to cover various essentials: location plan, site layout and road/parking plan drawings, drainage plan, design and access statement, technical drawings, access drawing and market research statement.

Putting thought into the design of your site will help your application. Councils will look more favourably at attributes that support sustainability and unobtrusive designs that harmonise with their surroundings, minimising visual impact. Make sure your site access by road is more than adequate to ensure that your application isn’t scuppered by the highways agency. Proximity to bus stops, cycle routes and public footpaths will also work in your favour, especially if your location is particularly remote.

Build your business online

Strong online presence is essential for a glamping business looking to maximise its revenue. Customers should be able to book a stay via a facility on your own website. Ideally, they should be able to search availability, fill in a form and pay a deposit to secure their pitch. Relying on bookings by phone or email no longer cuts it.

The functionality of your website should be backed up by a visually appealing design, an engaging marketing message and an active presence on social media platforms. In the early stages, your website is likely to struggle for visibility in Google searches dominated by long-established external booking sites.

With that in mind, signing up to online booking agencies – the likes of Airbnb or Pitchup – will get your name out there and help customers to find you. Over time, as your business develops, you should be able to reduce your reliance on these agencies and attract most of your bookings directly, bypassing their commission.

Seek out as much expertise as you can

We hope this overview offers some food for thought.  You can find plenty more information online to help with your preparation and planning. TruDomes were recently namechecked in Glampitect’s ultimate guide to starting a glamping business in the UK which provides comprehensive guidance expanding on the detail we’ve provided here. They also provide advice on how to start a glamping business in North America.

Glampitect is a superb resource for any would-be glamping business. They offer in-depth expertise on a wide range of subjects, including planning permission and feasibility studies.

If you aspire to build your own glamping business, the most valuable piece of advice we can offer is this: be hungry for information and make detailed, all-encompassing research the foundation of your concept. Follow your dreams, but make sure you have a robust and reliable roadmap!

 

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