The Beginner's Guide To Starting a Successful Glamping Business

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In this Boostly Spotlight podcast, Liam Carolan discusses glamping with Nick Purslow from Glampitect. The episode emphasizes Glampitect's role in aiding individuals to start a glamping business, addressing planning permission challenges in the UK.

Purslow highlights the lucrative nature of glamping and provides practical advice, stressing the importance of checking local regulations and dealing with challenges like regulatory barriers and funding needs, especially in the U.S.

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[00:00:00] Liam: Okay, so welcome to the Boostly Spotlight series. This is on the Boostly podcast. My name is Liam Carolan and in this mini series, it's a little bit different from our normal podcasts. We're going to focus on businesses, products and services, which you as a hospitality owner need to know about and things that can help your business.

[00:00:20] So today we're talking all things glamping. Perhaps you're a host who already offers glamping or somebody who's got some land and you're thinking about offering glamping, or maybe you just know somebody with some land and you just would like to know how you can advise them to get started. Well, today I'm excited to be joined by Nick Purslow.

[00:00:39] Let's dive in. So Nick, welcome along and thank you for being here.

[00:00:42] Nick: Thank you for having me, Liam. Appreciate it.

[00:00:45] Liam: So, why don't we get started by you introducing yourself, and how you got started in, this industry?

A bit about Nick & Glampitect

[00:00:50] Nick: Yep. So, um, my name is Nick. I started with Glampitect UK, uh, in 2020. Uh, that company started in 2018.

[00:01:00] Uh, when my business partner, um, he started his glamping site on the north coast of Scotland called NC 500 pods. Um, he, in the process of doing that, he realized that it wasn't enough help for people in his position. So, um, straight after he set up that, that glamping site, he started Glampitect UK.

[00:01:16] In around 20, 2018, 2019, uh, and the aim of that was just to guide people through the process of starting a glamping business. Uh, the main hurdle being planning permission in the UK, uh, you have to apply for permission to your local council to build. And, um, yeah, once you've got that over the line, then you can officially sort of construct your glamping business and start taking guests in.

[00:01:37] Um, so that grew fairly rapidly. I joined in 2020, uh, just as kind of a helping out, with content and marketing. Uh, but gradually took on more responsibility, uh, took part in different teams and departments and learned a lot more about the whole setup process and saw how things were done. Uh, and yeah, we're at the Glamping Show UK in 2021.

[00:01:59] So nearly a year ago, pretty much. Uh, we've had a good show and on the Saturday night, um, we're out having a few beers and I just said, let, let me crack America for you. Um, and that's where it started. And then, you know, what followed was a lot of research reaching out to people in the American industry.

[00:02:16] Um, and yeah, and, and now we, we launched a couple of months ago in the U S at Caledon and what we do is, is fairly similar as we aim to guide people through the process of starting a glamping business.

Why Glamping?

[00:02:26] Liam: Why glamping in general? What is it about glamping?

[00:02:29] Nick: I think glamping, the reason why it's getting so much attention at the minute as a, as a business investment is.

[00:02:35] The, returns you can get are incredible. Um, if you do it right, it's not uncommon to see, see returns, you know, your, your, your whole investment return in two or three years. Uh, I think partially because you can get a lot of units on a slice of land. Let's say you've got an acre, two acres. You can get five, six, seven, eight units, uh, whether they're tents or pods or anything like that.

[00:02:56] Uh, and you can be charging upwards of a hundred, a hundred dollars a night and a hundred dollars will be on the low end. You know, there are places like in Maine, um, you know, north of the, you know, north of the north of New York where. They're charging like 400, 500 a night for safari tents and things like that.

[00:03:12] And, uh, because you can get so many, you know, you don't want to pack them all in, um, but, but you can get a fair amount of units onto your land and to be able to charge 100, 200, 300 a night for each of these, the returns just speak for themselves as there are costs associated with it, but. It's, you know, it's just cleaning and power really, and they're the, they're the two main costs and operating costs.

[00:03:36] And yeah, it's just, it's just a fantastic investment opportunity and it's capitalizing on people's desire to experience the outdoors and get a little bit closer to nature when, you know, maybe in the, in recent years they've We've drawn from it a little bit, um, but also retaining that sense of luxury that you don't necessarily get with traditional camping.

What would you need to get started?

[00:03:53] Liam: If I was a host, uh, what would I need to get started? So if I've either got some land or I know somebody with some land, what would your advice be to me?

[00:04:03] Nick: Yeah. So I'll talk about the UK and the US here because there are differences to the system, but the principles are generally the same, uh, in both countries, I'd recommend before you do anything else before you buy.

[00:04:14] Any, any glamping units before you, before you buy any land unless you've got land, you want to make sure that you're in the right place to legally be able to build a glamping project. So, in the UK, you can apply for, planning permission no matter what and whether or not you'll get it, depends on your council's policies.

[00:04:37] And generally what they think about the project. The US is a little bit more restrictive, but the principles are the same. You've got to, you'll be able to see how likely you are to get permission to build based on what your councils say in their policies rules and regulations, which are all publicly available.

[00:04:52] You'll also be able to look at how your council or your county have. dealt with previous glamping applications in the area. If you go online they've got some portals and you can request information. Um, so the first thing I'd always check before you spend any time or money on. Is this a good idea is make sure that you can build a glamping project on your land I've heard horror stories of people who, you know, spend thousands and thousands of dollars on glamping tents and everything like that, only to find out that they can't build.

[00:05:19] So the first thing I do is reach out to a company like Glampotect to figure out, okay, is this going to be legally permissible to build? And then, you know, I'd start looking into the feasibility and how much is this going to cost to set up. Am I in the right location? Um, you know, business-wise, you know, is there going to be enough visitors coming in?

[00:05:36] Am I going to be able to attract visitors? Uh, and then later down the line, you'll need to get all your permissions, uh, you know, submit a site plan to the, to the, to the council or the county in the U. S. Um, stand in front of, of a public meeting and argue your case that this is going to be. benefits the local community.

[00:05:53] But before you do anything like that, just do your prechecks to make sure that it's even worth pursuing at all.

[00:05:58] Liam: What would you say are the biggest challenges you find? You're in contact with a lot of glamping businesses. What, are some of the big challenges that glamping businesses face?

[00:06:07] Nick: Well, generally what I've just said it's, it's, it's getting started.

[00:06:10] Uh, I'll focus on the U S for a little bit. Um, In the U. S., every piece of property is given a particular zoning designation. Uh, so you might be in an agricultural zone, you might be in a residential zone, whatever. Um, and your, your local county or city will have specific rules and regulations about, um, what is allowed to be built in these particular zoning districts.

[00:06:33] And a lot of people are just in a zoning district where… You're not allowed to do anything like a glamping style or camping style development. It's just simply not allowed. A lot of people are actually in counties where no matter what zoning district you're in, you're not allowed to do anything like that.

[00:06:46] So that is the biggest hurdle, I'd say, which is why it's so important to check, you know, are you allowed to do this before you even think about any of the other stuff? So the regulatory barriers, I'd say, are the biggest issues. The other one is funding, um, in the UK, a lot of people, a lot of our clients generally have cash to do it.

[00:07:05] Um, you know, they're generally landowners. They have cash. They want maybe five or six glamping pods in the U S it's a bit different. I think the culture is more geared towards getting funded anyway, that, you know, first thought is right. Let me get investment. People are more prepared to. You know, spend time getting investment rather in the UK, it's a bit more, okay, have I got the money or have I not?

[00:07:26] Um, and so yeah, access and funding is generally a big obstacle because you have to show investors or banks or whoever that this is going to be a viable business opportunity, which is where something like a feasibility study. which will give you your financial projections can help, um, but because that is so in-depth, it doesn't come to you cheaply either.

[00:07:43] So you've got, you've got to have a bit of cash to be able to invest in, get an investment if you see what I mean. So, that can be quite a barrier as well.

[00:07:49] Liam: With a focus still on, on your products, how far, you know, sort of, it sounds like you hold the hands of, of people looking to get started all the way through.

[00:07:59] When does that? Handholding let go when, when are your services finished and the person then starts, uh, you know, on their own

[00:08:06] Nick: generally once they've got all that permits and applications, um, we can help with websites because if I saw website people who want. Um, so that's generally like the sort of last stage, although we can help with ongoing marketing to once they've opened their doors, we've done that for a couple of people because, you know, the knowledge that that my business partner, Cullen, Um, Garner from, from having his glamping sites in Scotland.

[00:08:35] They've got like 70, 000 followers across Facebook and Instagram. So like we, we never understand marketing too. Um, so we can help, with ongoing marketing, but generally our sort of main body of services. pretty much ends the day that they're able to open their doors.

How important is direct booking for glamping?

[00:08:48] Liam: How important is it for, uh, direct bookings for, for glamping if we just go on a slightly different angle now?

[00:08:55] Mm

[00:08:55] Nick: hmm. Yeah, no, so I, I love, I love Bootsy stuff and I reached out to you guys because, because I, uh, completely agree with, with everything you guys say. Um, the, I mean, I, I would, I would generally recommend when, when starting, uh, because you've got so many units to fill. It's not like a traditional Airbnb where you've just got one house to fill.

[00:09:13] Um, you know, I, I'd always recommend going on Airbnb and booking. com and places like this to start with, uh, when you're just trying to get as many bookings as possible. Uh, but, but from that, once you're, you know, got a reasonable occupancy rate, absolutely everything should be geared towards getting people, to rebook through your website.

[00:09:30] And you should have a good website from day one. Um, again, my business partner Callum, when he started his glamping site, had his website ready long before. The site was opened. Um, he was able to get direct bookings before the site was open, which gave him a little bit of cash to sort of give the final push.

[00:09:46] Um, and yeah, it just makes complete sense to focus on your website. It's a stronger brand. And also you don't have to pay out commissions. And as, as Mark will say, you know, you're not under the. You know, you're not owned by, uh, whatever the CEO of Airbnb is called, I forgot his name. Um, yeah. So yeah.

[00:10:06] Um, direct people to your website and, you know, if someone books through Airbnb, for example, for their first day, offer them incentives to book through their website and, you know, capture their marketing channels and everything like that. Um, but yeah. Um, direct bookings are massively important and will save you a lot of money in the long run.

[00:10:23] Liam: Having a blast. Going to get

[00:10:24] It's on the Bruce Lee podcast. Bruce Lee. Let Bruce Lee 'cause it's so hard on the tees. Loosely. I looked up those rhymes. Don't write it, just do it loosely.