The growing glamping trend brings together comfort and the great outdoors-whether for a weekend getaway or as a way of life.
Glamorous camping—aka glamping—is more than camping for people who want a weekend in nature but don’t want the challenges that come with being outdoors. Glamping is fabric at its best. It’s soft shadows that play on the veil that stands between what’s outside and what’s inside. It’s luxury and simplicity. It’s romanticism and adventure. “People ask me what the difference is between spending $16,000 on a tent and spending $16,000 on a hard structure,” says Paul Zway, owner and founder of Belize-based Exclusive Tents International, a company that custom designs everything from individual luxury tents for backyard use to multiple tents for five-star resorts. “I tell them: There’s nothing sexy about a hard structure; there’s a lot sexy about a tent.”
And Zway should know. He, his wife and four dogs make their home in the Belize rain forest in tents his company designed and fabricated. Zway says his company goal “is to share with people the ability to interact and live with their environment on a more intimate level.” He continues, “We design tents to allow the user to enjoy and experience the surrounding environment and not be isolated from it, yet still be extremely comfortable.”
Glamping structures can take several forms, including yurts and tents; huts and cottages; cubes, pods and domes; and treehouses. Most are skinned with fabric but hard-sided structures such as log cabins are also a part of the glamping scene.
MORE OF A GOOD THING
Though the idea of luxury camping is nothing new (think tent cities of the Turkish Ottoman Empire and African safaris of the 1900s), the glamping phenomenon is growing exponentially around the world, enough to now warrant a glamping exhibition—The Glamping Show—which took place at NAEC Stoneleigh, Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, U.K., in September 2016. This was the second year for the three-day exhibition that attracted exhibitors from 36 countries and touts the tag line: “The Meeting Place for the Glamping Industry.”
The trend has been slower to take hold in the United States than in many other countries, but it’s gaining momentum in that part of the world as well. “All of our glamping customers seem to be expanding and growing their businesses,” says Ivy Fife, marketing manager for Colorado Yurt Co. in Montrose, a company that makes yurts, tipis and tents. “Five years ago, glamping was a fairly small percentage of our customer base. Now, we rarely go a day without someone calling to talk glamping.”
Zway, whose company is trying to open up the market in the U.S., posits that part of the reason the U.S. market has lagged behind might be a lack of understanding of the possibilities glamping can bring to land use. “There are organizations in the U.K. that assist land owners who are looking at alternative land use to generate more income,” he says. “A lot of people who have land and are looking for an alternative income stream can consider adding glamping structures [to their property].
“For example, we’ve got an associate—Emanuela Padoan—who has a small boutique glamping resort in Venice, Italy, as well as one in Bali. She decided that with existing infrastructure she could expand her hospitality with tents, which she did.”
Since then, Padoan’s resorts—Glamping Canonici di San Marco in Italy and Glamping Sandat, Ubud Bali—were both finalists for the 2015 Villegiature Awards, an honor for the best hotels in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East selected by 22 renowned journalists and foreign correspondents from around the world.
Luxetenten.com in Emmeloord, The Netherlands, creates glamping structures for resorts and campsites in countries including Holland, France, Spain, Italy and China. One of its customers—TerSpegelt campsite in The Netherlands—won the 2016 ANWB Media innovation award in the category of camping for its “water lodge.” The lodge is a Luxetenten.com enlarged safari tent equipped with a mezzanine that was installed over the water.
In 2016 the company designed and developed the Luxury Lodge, “a perfect and unique safari tent which has the same orientation and measurements as a mobile home,” says Marcel Boot, Luxetenten.com’s local field manager.
The model will be available in two sizes with space for four to eight persons. “Even without any build yet (except at the tradeshows) we have already sold 200+ Luxury Lodges,” Boot says. “We design, develop and produce all of our tents and so far we have launched a new model every year.”
Individuals who want to expand their private living space are also prime candidates for glamping structures. “Our yurt business is approximately 50 percent sales to individuals or families and 50 percent to businesses and institutions,” Fife says. “Some people live in them permanently, while others use them as backyard guest houses, cabins, studios, offices or rentals. Our business and institutional customers include resorts, summer camps, campgrounds, glamping resorts, ski areas, state and national parks, spas, yoga studios and many more.”
Fife says tipis are more commonly used for family gathering spaces, summer camps, campgrounds or glamping, while tents are very popular with summer camps, resorts and glamping destinations. “In all cases,” she says, “the benefits are the unique quality of the structure, the affordability and charm.”
For many who like to travel internationally, glamping is a more environmentally friendly way to do it. Ecotourism, as defined by the Ecotourism Society Board of Directors, is “responsible travel to natural and cultural areas that conserves the environment and sustains the well-being of local people,” and is a concept embraced by French designer Pierre-Stéphane Dumas who created BubbleTree in 2006. “BubbleTree is a new approach to temporary accommodation for leisure and ecotourism,” Dumas says.
“It is based on the following basis: minimum energy, minimum material, maximum comfort and maximum interaction with the environment.”
The spherical structures, called Bubble Lodges, are constructed without metal frames, made possible by a special turbine ventilation system that continuously blows air to maintain the shape of the structure. The continuous flow of air also renews the air inside the structure and prevents humidity. “Our project’s greatest challenge has been to implement technical solutions that are simple, high-performing and ensure low power consumption,” Dumas says. “Mastering the principles of atmospheric pressure variations has been crucial, as deviation from the normal conditions we live in may cause discomfort at the eardrum and middle ear or affect our vestibular system.”
Bubble Lodges’ modular assembling system allows them to be fixed together to create a variety of combinations tailored to each site and local weather conditions.
FROM EMERGENCY RESPONSE TO LUXURY CAMPING
Madrid, Spain-based E. Rebull S.A. designs and manufactures Ctents, modular structures made with fiberglass ribs and steel that support the poly-cotton and PVC fabric skins. The company produces several models, from 9 to 72 square meters or more.
Ricardo Benítez and Emilio Rebull developed Ctents luxury glamping tents to be suitable for any terrain, and without ropes or other obstacles inside the structure. And though they initially developed them as emergency response structures, they are also used for glamping, safaris, festivals and other temporary, semi-permanent and permanent uses. “During the process of constructing a scale model for the Spanish Red Cross, we realized that tent technology had scarcely evolved since the Roman era, apart from individual tents for extreme weather conditions,” Benítez says. “Most of the larger tents continued to have some poles, with fabrics lying on them and some guy ropes to keep them tight. And the majority were heavy to transport, not palletizable and very annoying to put up.”
The resulting design uses two main semi-elliptical arches to support the tent body, with between five and seven arches to support the flysheet, depending on the model size.
Glamping brings together the best of two worlds—all the splendor Mother Nature has to offer in posh, elegant accommodations. Whether it be in a tent, a bubble, a yurt or a dome, it seems glamping is a trend whose time has come. Perhaps the Glamping Show’s website says it best: “Attracting a completely new customer base, glamping is unique, quirky and has an extended season that brings more earning potential to existing and new outdoor businesses.”
Sigrid Tornquist, a writer and editor based in St. Paul, Minn., is a frequent contributor to IFAI publications.
The custom nature of glamping structures allows them to be designed for weather extremes, from hot arid climates to humid rain forests to snowy mountainous terrains. Exclusive Tents International’s basic canvas is a spun polyester treated with anti-rot, waterproofing and UV protection for warmer climates, a canvas with an insulated weave that provides a blockout effect, and a full insulation product, which is two layers of canvas with a hollow fill insulation between.
Ctents tents have a wide inner surface that provides thermal insulation due to its permanent 25 cm-wide air chamber between the flysheet and the tent body.
The Colorado Yurt Co. offers an insulation package that incorporates AstroShield™ reflective insulation and a washable, flame-resistant polyester lining. AstroShield is a multi-layer air-bubble insulation sandwiched between two layers of aluminum sheathing that creates a vapor barrier and reflects heat in both directions to keep occupants warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.
Manifold technical solutions have been developed by BubbleTree to heat and cool BubbleTree’s Bubbles. One of them is a system connected to the ventilation tube, with ground-coupled heat exchangers for geothermic solutions. Sun shields and heating systems are also available.
While it’s true that being amid nature’s splendor is the main attraction when glamping, luxury interior finishings are also highly valued—and expected. Paul Zway from Exclusive Tents International often refers clients to interior designer and client Emanuela Padoan, whose own luxury tents boast refined furnishings, such as a round bed, a bed with a white mosquito net, a canopy bed with inlaid wood or a handcrafted bamboo bed.
Accessories for luxury glamping tents Ctents can be provided by the company at customer request, such as inner separating curtains, personalized panels, beds, stoves, LED lighting and solar energy panels.
Luxetenten.com’s standard tents include the floor base, tent and interior, but it also offers styling (such as lighting) or complete technical installations to create a turnkey solution.