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.”


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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Cognitive dissonance

If you want to experience mental whiplash, pick up the most recent copy of Woodall’s Campground Magazine and open to page 3. The top and middle of the page feature Noah’s Ark pictures and stories of recent flooding of campgrounds in Louisiana and Pennsylvania. Subsequent pages have stories about KOA reopening its Florida Keys campground, four years after it was demolished by Hurricane Ida, and about California’s campgrounds working “to stay on top of [the] wildfire situation.” America’s campgrounds, in other words, have been getting pounded by extreme weather.

But then, as if to declare that not all is gloom and doom, at the bottom of that same page 3 is a story headlined, “Glamping Show USA Anticipates Large In-Person Event.” Oh, those plucky glampers.

The glamping extravaganza is scheduled to start this Monday in Aurora, Col., and organizers say registration is “way ahead of the pace” from the pre-Covid display in 2019. More than 50 glamping “structures” are being featured, from tipis to yurts to large tents, cabins and conestoga “wagons”–all of which, it should be noted, are sitting ducks for destruction by flood or fire. RVs, if nimble, can be moved out of disaster’s path relatively easily. Structures, even lightweight canvas ones, not so much.

On the other hand, there may be heightened demand for more glamping opportunities these days: it turns out that the Veranda Suite at the Beverly Wilshire has been closed until next year for renovations, which is sure to create a demand for alternatives. The roof-top Veranda Suite, for those who haven’t kept up with this sort of thing, includes a 2,140-square-foot terrace on which is perched a 10-foot tall, 16-foot diameter tent, outfitted with a queen-size bed, crystal chandelier, marble lamps and fur rugs. It also has an unparalleled view of the Los Angeles skyline, backlit by the occasional forest fire in the surrounding foothills.

That’s $3,500 a night that would go a whole lot further in Aurora, where first-class hotel rooms can be had for less than $200.

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