As Bridget Jones stomps through the Glastonbury mud, complaining, her friend reminds her that they’re not camping, they’re glamping. “Putting a ‘gl’ in front of it doesn’t make it better,” Bridget replies.

Britons attached to the comforts of a hotel or holiday cottage may once have agreed. But when Bridget Jones’s Baby came to cinemas in 2016, this sentiment was behind the times. In the same year, “glamping” was added to the Oxford English Dictionary, having had notable online search numbers since 2007. This more glamorous form of camping had been steadily, but certainly, evolving year-on-year.

Sleeping bags were swapped for duvets and wool blankets, camping mats were replaced by mattresses. Discomfort, in fact, was exactly what the industry had been working to remove.

As a concept, glamping began as a way to sip your coffee while the morning frost melted around you, and as sheep bleated in the next field, with a proper bed and toilet close at hand. But glamping is no longer a nudge up from its more rugged little brother.

Among the UK and Europe’s glamping specialists is Canopy & Stars, which formed in 2010 with just seven properties. Today it has more than 660 places to stay among its collection, including windmills, buses, boats and even a UFO treehouse.

Trebus, an ex-mobile library in Cornwall, is available through Canopy & Stars (Photo: Canopy & Stars)

Its market report for 2023 mentions glamping’s “dramatic shift away from its origins in bell tents, yurts and geodomes to more substantial, year-round spaces.” It also refers to a study by market research firm Arizton which found that Europe’s glamping market was expected to grow by 11 per cent between 2019 and 2025.

Those who go glamping are spending more when they do.

Canopy & Stars’ booking data from over the past five years shows that the average nightly price has increased by nine per cent per year, on average. Average booking lengths have also increased during this time.

The company points out that the rise in what customers spend per night should be seen in the context of other changes in booking behaviours, such as guests who are more willing to spend on a UK break as staycations have exploded in popularity and who are booking longer and more luxurious stays.

Over the past year, more spaces have been added to the site and prices have remained fairly static, it says.

There are glamping fans whose experience pre-dates this period of growth, but who continue to prefer this type of accommodation. Take Carla Judge, from Brighton, East Sussex. Her first glamping holiday was in 2014 and since then glamping trips have taken her from Wales to California.

“There was not as much choice then, and you had to shop around to find availability,” she says. Does think she think the price of glamping has spiked?

“I do, but then I think the price of everything has gone up,” she adds.

Judge finds that when travelling with her family for short breaks, glamping is often more affordable than other options in the UK. “I think there are still many glamp sites that are rustic and have very low pricing.”

That said, how many customers still opt for the type of tent Bridget and her friend were staying in at movie-land Glastonbury? Last year, canvas materials like these made up three per cent of Canopy & Stars’ revenue share. Its range has shifted in response, with a reduction in tents and a growth in cabins and treehouses.

Canopy&Stars Alice Cottingham
UFO, a property in Sweden, includes a wood-fired sauna (Photo: Canopy & Stars)

A willingness to shapeshift has paid off for the company, with revenue increasing by more than 180 per cent over the last five years and doubling in the period from 2019–22.

Among the UK’s glamping options, you can find treehouses with underfloor heating, huts with fully-fitted kitchen-diners and add-ons, such as hampers stocked with champagne and cheese.

Yet bell tents still hold an appeal, especially at festivals. Will Hayley is the founder of Spring Classic Festival in Woolacombe, Devon, which is taking place from 1–4 June this year. Hayley says: “There’s been a huge increase in demand for our bell tents and we haven’t increased our prices at all for this year’s event.

“We’ve managed to do this because of the increase in demand.”

Some long-term glampers still return to the basics. Alison Allen, a regular Canopy & Stars customer who’s taken family holidays in glamping accommodation for more than a decade, is among them.

“We tried some more luxurious glamps after Covid, but have gone back to comfortable, but more basic (stays),” she says. “Less is more when it comes to switching off from a stressful world”.

Entrepreneurs continue to tap into this urge. Matt Kerry is the founder of the Wanderlust Camping Club, which specialises in glamping and unique accommodation, and owner of glampsite The Hide at Manton Bay. He cites the government extending permitted development rights from 28 to 56 days in 2020, which has allowed people to use their agricultural land for leisure purposes, as providing a further boost to the sector; pop-up sites sprang up in response.

The Hide at Manton Bay, Glamping In Rutland Matt Kerry, Wanderlust Glamping Club wanderlustcampingclub@gmail.com
The Hide at Manton Bay – glamping In Rutland (Photo: The Hide at Manton Bay)

“During Covid, lockdown’s various challenges and restrictions meant lots of people got into the world of glamping who might not have tried it before,” he adds.

William Wilberforce moved into Harrogate’s Markington Hall, the ancestral home of the abolitionist of the same name, back in 2012, with his wife, Julie. In search of an additional income stream to support the expensive upkeep of the old house, the couple decided to develop the land into a glamping site.

Three bow top gypsy caravans formed the foundations of Copper Beech Glade, but the couple wanted an easier-to-maintain option that could be used and enjoyed all year around. They settled on building a treehouse. Current projections for the soon-to-launch accommodation are four times the revenue generated by all three caravans.

“Glamping has in some ways strayed from its origins, but this was in part down to a saturation of the market, and owners having to constantly come up with something different, to stand out from the crowds and attract visitors. This is how hot tubs and pizza ovens entered the picture,” Wilberforce says.

Now, the rising cost of living is affecting the sector. Wilberforce explains that providers are working under rising costs, including increases in insurance, regulations, health and safety requirements.

There is also the expense of keeping up with market-led improvements and expectations, including in facilities, amenities and green credentials.

The future of glamping relies on its customers. Kerry adds that while many site owners are feeling the slow start this year, “which is probably due to the financial uncertainties at the moment,” he predicts a flurry of last-minute bookings once the summer arrives.

“The contrast between a luxurious space and the wild outdoors is the experience people want these days,” he adds.

Holidaymakers looking for cost-effective glamping accommodation might consider Allen’s approach: “After picking an area, setting and a style of glamp, I generally check for at least basic lighting, the source of heating suited to the season, somewhere comfortable to sit, relax and read and whether there’s a USB port, phone signal, so I can research day trips out”.

from:inews.co.uk

published 2023-05-16 13:00:00