There’s gold in them thar glampers!

The gold rush to get into the glamping business was on naked display at the Arapahoe County Fairgrounds in Colorado the past few days, where organizers of the Glamping Show USA 2022 were giddy over the turnout. With 141 exhibitors–readily matching the numbers found at more traditional camping trade shows, such as those hosted by ARVC or KOA–and attendance up more than 40% over last year, the scent of greenbacks was unmistakable.

And no wonder. As reported by Whitney Scott, chief operating officer for KOA’s own glamping brand, Terramor, roughly one-fifth of both the glamping and non-glamping public is willing to pay more than $350 to spend a night in a safari tent, yurt, covered wagon or teepee. Why, there’s serious money to be made from rope and canvas!

But as in any gold rush, prospective glamping entrepreneurs must also contend with grifters, fast-buck artists and other camp followers (pun intended). Some nibble around the edges of the industry; some are welcomed into its bosom. Most can be detected and avoided by those who keep their brains engaged, but all the rah-rah boosterism and sugar-plum visions that infuse such events can dull the critical faculties.

One attempt to cash in on glamping entrepreneurs’ ignorance is by peddlers of supposedly comprehensive market research. An outfit calling itself The Business Research Company, for example, contends that its market report, released last month, includes statistics on “glamping industry global market size, regional shares, competitors with a glamping market share, glamping market segments, market trends and opportunities, and any further data you may need to thrive in the glamping industry.” The report also “delivers a complete perspective of everything you need, with an in-depth analysis of the current and future scenarios of the industry.”

All that, it should be noted, is crammed into just 175 PDF pages. Available at the low, low price of just $4,000–but really, how can you put a price on such crucial market data?

Well, Allied Market Research–an equally obscure market research company–is willing to do so, and for less! Its glamping research purports to be twice as extensive, at 400 pages, and is available for a mere $3,570. And really, how can you put a price on tortured syntax, like the the study’s claim that it “provides an in-depth analysis of Glamping Market along with current trends and future estimations to elucidate the imminent investment pockets”? Unimpressed? Consider, then, that the study’s authors “not only engrave the deepest levels of markets but also sneak through its slimmest details for the purpose of our market estimates and forecasts.”

Wow.

Meanwhile, at the show itself, a schedule featuring less than a scant dozen workshops on the intricacies of creating and operating a glampground chose to devote one of them to . . . “influencers.” Specifically online influencers, as represented by Mike and Anne Howard, who for the past decade have been wandering the globe while depending on the kindness of strangers, whom they repay by saying nice things about them on their various social media blogs. The Howards, a/k/a HoneyTrek (because they’ve been “trekking” from the first day of their honeymoon), claim to have acquired 340,000 followers; be nice to them, and those followers can learn all about you, too.

Or that’s the carrot; how many of those followers can be converted into paying customers is anyone’s guess. But for the owner of a glamping resort, this is all presented as a low-cost win-win: get favorable online exposure in exchange for providing “a lovely room, meals and activities,” although some influencers may also “require a fee for their time and digital assets.” Back in the day when commercial radio could make or break a singing career, this was derisively known as “pay to play,” but we live in a different, more nakedly transactional age today.

“Remember,” the Howards explained in the show program, “the more you give them (be it money, room nights or experiences) the more you’ll get in return. . . so be generous, it all comes around!” If only.

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Author: Andy Zipser

A former newspaper reporter who worked at a variety of newspapers, from small community weeklies to The Wall Street Journal, I finished my "normal" work life as the editor of The Guild Reporter, official publication of the union representing newspaper workers. On retiring, I and my wife bought a campground in the Shenandoah Valley and--with the help of our two daughters and their husbands--operated it for eight years, first as a KOA franchisee and then as an independent family-owned RV park. We sold the campground in May, 2021, and live in Staunton, Virginia, a short walk from our grandsons' home.

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