It is only January and you’re probably not thinking of camping as you look out on the cold, dark days, but if you’ve ever considered opening your own glamp site on your land, now is exactly the time you need to start thinking about it.
arah Slattery of thetravelexpert.ie says consumers have high expectations and it takes more than you might think to run a glamp site successfully.
“Glamping means ‘glamorous camping’ so consumers expect the stay to be better than an average campsite,” says Sarah.
“They expect comfortable accommodation, electricity, light, ideally an ensuite, a cooking area… preferably with a private deck/BBQ, shower facilities — ideally private.
“Wi-fi is expected to be available too. It is not always available in cabins/tents, but there should be a communal area for wi-fi at the very least.”
Depending on the market you are trying to attract, it might be worthwhile adding some attractions for your guests, according to Sarah.
“Families like to have some activities laid on, perhaps farm animals to meet, a pizza making class, a slide/zipline/play equipment, as well as a communal fire pit,” she says.
“Adult-only glamping sites usually don’t have entertainment, unless possibly a Yoga class or similar, or other activities nearby.”
Location is important, says Sarah, and you must have “plenty of open space, and room for a private cooking/BBQ area is expected”.
Before starting work on developing your glamp site though, a few key decisions have to be made.
“You need to think about the clientele you want before you start,” she says. “Couples will want more than a basic glamping pod.
“If catering for families, you might need to build some cabins with a separate bedroom and have a communal BBQ area for families to meet up.
“Decide whether you are going for luxury/unique experience or the lower end of the market — there are plenty of mid-range sites and glamping pods in Ireland.
“The more unusual the design the better — think tree houses, glass roofs, unique fire pit/cooking areas. Regardless of the type of accommodation, I suggest having an ensuite with shower and private BBQ with chairs.
“Leave plenty of space between tents/cabins as people like having their own space.”
‘Farm glamping isn’t a side job, it’s a full-time job for most’
Chris O’Sullivan (Goat’s Path Farm and Pod Park, Bantry, Co Cork)
“Getting planning permission over the line for anything can be a long and trying process,” says Chris.
“If you want to start a glamping site, you need to be prepared for that and to have the determination to keep going even when things aren’t as straightforward as you had hoped.
“I was refused the first time but I had the persistence to push on and try again, and I got it.
“The most challenging thing about opening a glamping site for me was that I did it on my own — I didn’t get much funding and I worked three jobs to get it across the line. It wasn’t cheap or easy and it took sheer determination to get to where I am now.
“If I could go back in time I would have hired a project manager. I didn’t have one because I wanted to save money but it made the whole process harder, having to manage everything myself.
“Hiring a project manager does cost money but it is definitely worth it in the long run.”
Sourcing the pods or structures you want has become easier, Chris says, but getting companies to deliver on time can be a challenge.
“There are now a few manufacturers that make them — more than there were a few years ago,” he says.
“But I’d say to anyone who is looking into getting glamping pods or structures, make sure you are happy with the manufacturer and ensure they can deliver at the agreed time. I’d suggest getting a contract in writing to ensure they can deliver what you want and when you need it.”
Giving yourself enough time to get the work done is essential, says Chris, and setting unrealistic time-frames isn’t helpful.
“There are always delays : give yourself more time than you think you’ll need. You won’t be open in 12 months from the day you decide to do it — it takes longer, and you need to accept that before you start on the journey.
“Setting realistic goals is key because it keeps you on track and keeps you motivated when you achieve them.
“Setting unrealistic goals and an unrealistic timeline for getting work done just puts more pressure on you and it’s not helpful.
“The last six months before opening were the most challenging, trying to get everything lined up .
“We were fortunate that we opened when we did — during the pandemic when staycations and farm accommodation were in huge demand, and the business took off with a bang. That’s not always the case: it can be slow for some.”
If you’re opening a glamp site as a farm diversification, you should be prepared to spend less time on the farm and more time on the glamp site, says Chris, as it “takes over”.
“Your farming system will more than likely have to change to accommodate the glamping, even if you don’t think it will at the start,” he says.
“I had been breeding Dexter cattle but when the glamping took off I had to switch things up a bit and now I just do dry cattle. I also keep other animals to complement the glamp site and pods.
“You will probably have to accept that you will be spending more time at the glamping than on the farm — farm glamping isn’t a side job, it’s a full-time job for most, but it does depend on how big you go.
“During the off-peak season, I spend a lot of time improving things on the farm because I just don’t have time during the rest of the year.”
‘If you think you can just open a glamp site in your back garden with a couple of pods and make an easy living, you’re wrong’
Joanne Dillon (Doonbeg Pods and Cottages, Co Clare)
“You have to know your market before you set up a glamp site, that’s essential,” says Joanne. “You need to know what type of customer you are aiming for — whether that’s families, couples, cyclists, hikers etc.
“For me, it was an easy decision. We are close to a beach and we are a couple of miles from the nearest village, so we knew our location would be more suitable for people with children, rather than couples who might like to go out on the town or shopping.
“You also need to decide what type of glamp site you’re going for — whether it’s going to be minimalistic, pared-back and basic, or middle-of-the-road like ours, or high-end luxury.
“Location is really important: you do need to have attractions or amenities around you. The beach is the big one for us .
“If you are on a scenic hill setting or if you are near a lake suitable for fishing, these are things you should build your business around.”
When someone books a glamping stay, the main thing they are looking for is somewhere clean and safe, particularly when travelling with children, says Joanne.
“I get a lot of people ringing me looking for advice on starting up a glamp site.
“Often people think about putting in hot tubs with their pods, but I always tell people to think long and hard before putting in a hot tub.
“Hot tubs are only really suitable if you are aiming for couples rather than families. Although they may look enticing, they’re a lot of work. They require a lot of man-power to keep them clean and hygienic.
“Cleanliness is a given when people book a glamp site — they expect it to be spotless, and it takes time and money to keep it that way.
“In my opinion, adding things like saunas, steam rooms and hot tubs only adds to the pressure you are already under. The power it takes to run them should not be underestimated either.
“My only regret is that I didn’t put a bathroom into each pod — we have shared toilets. I’ve discovered that people don’t like having to share a bathroom or washing facility with other people, and it can cause issue.
“For this reason, I am only going to rent my two pods together this year — people will have to rent the two for two nights and the cost will be €400 and the sleeping capacity will be eight.”
Opening a glamp site on your land isn’t as straightforward as some may think, says Joanne, and getting insurance can be tricky.
“If people think they can just open a glamp site in their back garden with a couple of pods and make an easy living, they’re wrong — it’s hard work and it takes plenty of money to do it right.
“It’s no walk in the park and the workload is heavy, between washing, changing beds, pressing linen and scrubbing showers.
“I think the glamping market is getting over-saturated — pods and sites are popping up everywhere throughout the country.
“Insurance can be a huge issue too. I often have people ringing me asking how I managed to get insurance because they can’t get it.
“I have no magic answer, I just think I got in at a good time, when glamping was relatively new to Ireland and the market wasn’t flooded as it is now.”
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