The word “glamping” was coined over 15 years ago, and in that time it has changed remarkably from the initial concept, which was for a glamorous version of camping. At its most pure, the term glamping refers to a holiday experience that is a few steps up from traditional camping. This means a tent you can walk into and stand up in rather than crawling in on your knees, a proper bed (or at least a taller air mattress than you’d use in camping, and not a sleeping bag in sight.
Glamping meant having a few home comforts to hand, like a private toilet, hot showers, somewhere to cook (with utensils provided) and even access to electricity to charge phones. Indeed accommodation like this was what Canopy and Stars started out with in 2010, but thirteen years on there are comparatively few bell tent like options among the 660+ places to go. Last year, canvas based glamping options made up just 3% of their revenue as more people opt for more luxurious accommodation.
It could be argued that some of the glamping options that are available now are less closely related to the initial idea of glamping, and more closely aligned with boutique hotels and holiday cottages. It is not uncommon to find treehouses with central heating, fully stocked kitchens and luxury bathrooms that you’d expect to find in a 5* hotel. These options have clearly come in response to demand, but they also drive the expectations of glampers for more and more luxury touches.
The rise in popularity of UK based holidays, driven by the twin forces of Brexit-related airport queues and Covid lockdown restrictions mean that glamping customers are looking for something a little out of the ordinary, and with some indulgent touches, and nothing fills those requirements quite like a converted windmill with a hot tub and 360º countryside views. These season-proof structures are also a boon for glamping accommodation owners as they can be easily rented out year round, increasing revenue and offering lower off-peak prices for those on a budget.
Vehicle conversions are a sort of middle ground between traditional glamping and the purpose-built structures that are popping up everywhere; there’s a distinct line between something static and plumbed in, and something that is still technically off-grid and mobile, like a converted horse box or bus. Restored shepherds wagons and Roma caravans are also the sort of structure that meet the original definition of glamping, and were often offered alongside bell tents, safari tents and tipis at the first glampsites.
There are still many glampsites which follow the traditional definition of glamping, although they can be harder to find on booking platforms as they’re less in demand by customers. Of course, the cost of living crisis making everything more expensive means that even glamping can be pricey, but less so if you opt for a bell tent or tipi with the glamping touches but the rustic, back-to-basics ethos of a camping holiday
Glamping in bell tents continues to be popular at festivals where it’s not practical to bring in a whole host of converted helicopters, house boats and shepherd’s huts, but where festival-goers want the option of comfortable accommodation. It’s especially popular for festivals because it means not having to bring any bedding, tents, chairs or camping kit leaving more luggage space for outfits and provisions.
We wonder whether rising prices will see more holidaymakers opt for glamping holidays more in line with the original definition, or whether people still want the novelty of a treehouse or a glamping pod with all mod cons.