It’s safe to say we’re a fan of glamping and smoothing the edges of roughing it… and we’re not the only ones. This leisure activity is attracting a new market into the camping and tourism industry, full of people who like the idea of camping but hate the idea of roughing it. It seems you’ve noticed this too and are keen to join the staycation party in the hospitality industry. This is why we were very excited to speak to Jakie Jewell from Classic Glamping about how someone could go about starting a glamping business if they had access to a plot of land. We talk about the permissions you need to set up a glamping site and the basic knowledge and systems required to run it.
But before you read what Jakie has to say, make sure you sign up to be part of our glamping business network so if you’re a business owner or simply a dreamer thinking of a retirement plan or a way out of the day job, you’ll get to hear about vital news before anyone else and get access to a step by step guide for starting a glamping business of your own.
Tell us a bit about Classic Glamping.
Classic Glamping is the younger sibling of Classic Cottages, the holiday cottage specialists in the West Country with almost 40 years experience in the industry. Back in 1976, Tony and Clare Tregoning started the business with no idea where it would end up. Their founding ambition was to change the way holiday cottages were perceived by guests, as basic boxes with nasty furniture and a tin pot saucepan. In short, they wanted to make self-catering more of a pleasure. They worked with the owners of the cottages to turn them into homes. So you could arrive after a long drive, to flowers and homemade cake on the table, a fire all ready to light and everything in a kitchen to enjoy a full roast dinner. This set a new standard for the industry and created a sea of change in holiday accommodation. We are going about glamping in a similar way with 3 very important guarantees to our guests that no other agent can boast:
1. You get your own bathroom – a hot shower in every one of our glamping accommodation.
2. You get your own private toilet – not the compost type, one that flushes.
3. You get the service of a company who tries harder and you are covered by our standards across the board.
How much land do you believe should be allocated to providing a glamping area for one safari tent and its inhabitants?
Ideally at least half an acre however, the more area available the better. Classic Glamping is all about providing outstanding glamping accommodation in great locations with space, freedom and privacy to enjoy the countryside – a totally different experience from your average campsite. Ideally the location should provide some form of unique attraction; it may be a working farm, centred in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, have easy access to the coast or simply be adjacent to a copse or woodland.
With this in mind what would you recommend is the largest and smallest overall area for a glamping site?
This really depends on the location. For example, if you had a plot of land with sea views and a short distance to a beach, you could comfortably market three safari tents on a one acre plot due to the advantage of the coastal location. If you had a plot of land situated inland, four to five tents on a five acre plot would maximise your potential income without over accommodating the site and without sacrificing the overall experience we are selling.
What is the process for applying for and gaining planning permission to have a site on land?
Planning permission is required but it should be a much lighter touch than for a permanent structure. A number of planning departments/councils have a stated aim of assisting in the development of tourism and many are supportive of farm diversification which can help with the process.
Does it matter what type of planning consent already exists on the land, e.g. already equine or pasture consents exist?
In that circumstance, the land would require a change of use as part of the application.
What planning pitfalls or problems have you experienced so far with this process?
Encouragingly we have not experienced any problems with the planning side. Two of the sites we market are in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and both these applications went through without any hitches. However, the pre-planning work was covered extensively. One of the sites also sits on a Site of Scientific Special Interest which was a little nail biting and costly but thankfully nothing was found during an archaeological dig so all was well!
Do you have any top tips to help a landowner gain permission for such a site and possibly to avoid the above problems?
My advice would be to employ a planning consultant that knows something about the subject of glamping and that has a proven record of permissions granted in your area. A planning consultant has the tools to be able to immediately identify if there may be any area of issue with the land and ensure that the application runs smoothly. The downside is that they can be costly but I do think it is money well spent in the long run.
What key skills do you think someone should have if they are thinking of starting a glamping business, and particularly how would someone know if they are cut out for the job?
I think the most important experience is some form of background in the hospitality industry and particularly in providing holiday accommodation. It can be quite a demanding job, particularly during the summer months, but very rewarding at the same time.
What level of investment is needed if they wanted to set up the kind of glamping area you recommend and what would this buy?
Having done extensive research in the market we have concluded that the accommodation that maximises return on investment is the large safari tent, accommodating six persons (plus a baby in a cot). The safari tent is set on a raised wooden platform with an extended deck and flysheet at the front. At the rear there is an extended covered area housing a shower and WC unit, a fridge and a mains power socket. The interior consists of two partitioned bedrooms configured as a double and a twin, and further sleeping accommodation in the form of a double den bed. The main living space comprises of a kitchen-area with sink and wood-fired range, a dining-area with table and chairs, and a comfy seating-area adjacent to the range. The unit is connected to mains water and electricity and is serviced by a septic tank. The set up costs per unit run from around £25,000 to £30,000 which, if you compare this to purchasing a holiday home to let in the West Country, is very good value!
What returns can an investor expect to receive for their investment?
Obviously this varies depending on location and facilities but, marketed through Classic Glamping, you are looking at between £12,000 to £15,000 net profit (after deduction of our fees) per safari tent.
What else would you like to mention to get us excited about this idea?
The West Country is a renowned holiday destination but holiday accommodation in the most viable locations is becoming limited and indeed expensive to purchase. Luxury holiday accommodation is becoming ever increasingly popular and glamping captures this ‘luxury’ market but also provides a very different and very real West Country holiday experience. We predict that there is going to be rapid growth in this sector and we feel that providing the right glamping accommodation is a very viable proposition for any land owner.
Do you have any advice on the type of office systems someone setting up a glamping site might need, including: storage, maintenance, signage, email, stationery, bookkeeping and accounts, public liability coverage, reservations and administration?
If you use an agent, like ourselves, to market your glamping accommodation there is very little administration and no requirement for marketing or taking bookings and payments as we take care of all of that. You would need public liability insurance and indeed insurance for the accommodation itself and we work with a company in the West Country that specialises in this. You would need to think about storage of all your soft furnishings during the winter months as, depending on the location, we tend to advise closing the safari tents down between mid-November to the end of February. Therefore you would need to remove and dry store mattresses, linen and anything that could deteriorate being left ‘outdoors’ during these months.
For more detailed information on the benefits of letting your accommodation with us, visit our website www.classic.co.uk. For more glamping business news and alerts, please sign up to the Inspired Camping business network.
Another very important bonus of joining up with Classic Glamping is that all the accommodation being marketing through Classic Glamping will have the added benefit of appearing on two web sites, the newly launched, Classic Glamping and the well established big brother site Classic (the latter having an average of 5,000 visits a day and a database of over 70,000 customers that have booked with us over the last 6 years).
Big thanks goes to Jakie Jewell.
Picture Credits: Classic Glamping, Barefoot Glamping and Paul Ryan-Goff