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Safari tent, yurt, cabin or shepherd’s hut – which structure is best for my glamping business?

Weighing up which glamping structure could be best for you

Put simply, glamping sites generate a very quick return on investment, most will pay for themselves within two and a half years. However, the most important factor in making it work is choosing the right structure for you. The key ingredients are the right location, the right style of accommodation and excellent facilities.

Location – what is best?

Ideally, your location will have some form of unique attraction. It may be in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, have easy access to the coast, have far-reaching views, be situated around a lake or simply adjacent to a copse or woodland.

However, you can make up for location by making the landscape magical. For example, water can be added if you don’t already have it, and woodlands can be created to form your desired setting.

What do you want to offer?

The type of structure must fit in with you. Ask yourself, do you want it to be seasonal, appealing more to families, or year-round, potentially appealing more to couples.

It’s also good to decide how involved you want to be. Are you going to be able to handle flexible changeover days and accept short breaks, or will you stick to one fixed changeover day and full week bookings only?

Will you be there to meet and greet your guests and then leave them to it or will you provide ancillary services, such as meals and bike hire? All of these factors go into choosing which business structure is right for you.

How important is income?

If you are looking to earn a good income from your glampsite then you need to make the best of what you have, fit the build to the location you have and make the most of the market you want to target.

To maximise your market, you need to appeal to the widest range of guests possible, so it’s good to be open to accepting kids and pets. Or, if you are going for the couples market, consider creating a unique romantic retreat.

In the glamping market, it’s good to be different, to stand out from the crowd. It’s a competitive marketplace and unique sells. Put yourself into your build but don’t overdo it.

If you have water nearby, make the most of it e.g. a sea view or a pond for fishing. If you don’t then you might be able to make it. For example, hot tubs can make a significant difference.

Location v structure

Sites close to activity spots work particularly well for the family market, whereas romantic snugs can be more rural if they have their own ‘desirable feature’ (e.g. a hot tub).

Choose your site carefully to maximise views but also think about protection from the weather and create a landscape to seduce, especially in rural locations. Shepherd’s huts work particularly well tucked into the landscape whereas a windswept hill location has to be really dramatic to work.

Target market

Families and couples don’t normally mix. Families want their kids to have other kids to play with and couples don’t want to play with anyone. Therefore, positioning a safari tent for six near a shepherd’s hut for two wouldn’t usually work, so it’s best to choose one or the other to target.

Taking pets extends your market into a category who almost have to holiday in the UK, particularly if you are in a rural location, and it can also potentially extend your season too.

Other hints and tips when considering establishing a glamping site:

  • Invest in good photography. A professional photographer is a must
  • Allow space and make sure each unit has its own territory. Beyond three units can start to feel like a holiday park so be careful with orientation or create clusters if possible
  • Focus on the accommodation rather than the add-ons. Cooked meals and bike hire can help but the decision is made on the place they are going to stay in
  • Ensure you have planning permission for the site you are proposing

The maths*

Structure  Approximate cost  Net income
Safari Tent £30,000 (inc. services) £12,000 - £16,000
Yurt £20,000 (plus services) £8,000 - £12,000
Tabernacle £44,000 (plus services) £12,000 - £16,000
Shepherd’s Hut £40,000 (plus services) £10,000 - £15,000
Airstream (bought new) £60,000 (plus services) £12,000 - £15,000
Special (e.g. cedar yurt) £100,000 (inc. services) £30,000 plus

*Price estimations correct as of November 2017 based on an annual return

The above are very rough guidelines and all assume you buy the structure from a manufacturer or similar. In addition to this, you may have to consider maintenance and replacement costs, but for example, the lifespan of a safari tend can be anything up to ten years.

DIY and self-help projects will reduce build costs dramatically e.g. a gypsy caravan or bespoke cabin. However, you will not necessarily have a choice as the location will often determine the viability or each accommodation type.

Overall, when looking into setting up a glamping site it is most important to:

  • Be honest with yourself about what you want
  • Work well with what you have and create what you want when possible
  • Maximise your market

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