Glamping has grown up: from tree houses to yurts with Wi-fi, the luxury camping concept has moved way beyond canvas
A new class of traveller is embracing Instagram-friendly and unusual accommodation, expanding glamping from its original tents and luxury to include any place to stay that is quirky or off the beaten track
Do you yearn for a yurt with Wi-fi and a hot tub? Glamping – a portmanteau of ‘glamour’’ and ‘camping’ – has been around for a while, but the original concept of canvas with added comfort has recently morphed into a new, much wider concept where accommodation only has to be one thing: quirky.
Everything from deluxe tree house hideaways and vintage-style Airstream camper vans to off-the-grid luxury villas and log cabins with a hot tub under the stars are now offered under the guise of glamping.
It’s a movement that started in the US and in Europe, largely inspired by luxury tented safari camps in Africa. You can still find basic ‘canvas hotels’ that will rent you a canvas tent containing a mattress, a bedside table, a lamp, but not much more. The modern take on the concept increasingly means all-mod-cons.
“The people who frequent them are seasoned travellers,” says David Troya, CEO and founder of GlampingHub.com, an online booking website focused on nature, travel and experiences. “They’re people that are experienced enough to be looking for something different, which is why they are drawn to the idea of glamping.”
Troya also says that glamping tends to appeal to large families and groups of friends looking for somewhere special to spend time together. “The seclusion of the locations allows them to connect with their loved ones in a special way,” he says.
“Glamping means special experiences in the great outdoors,” says Tom Dixon, managing director at Canopy & Stars, a search engine for ‘special places’ across Europe. “Glamping has a really wide appeal as the type of experiences are so varied, from off-grid cabins and remote yurts where the experience is more basic, to luxury tree houses.” Canopy & Stars includes converted horse carriers, Romani caravans and even an Iron Age roundhouse.
Perhaps its most quirky is The Beermoth on the Inshriach Estate in the Scottish Highlands. It’s a former fire truck renovated into a home for two. A close second is the Goji treehouse in Herefordshire, England; a bright red, spherical, cocoon-styled treehouse hanging 10 feet off the ground. It even has a wood burner.
This emerging niche of the travel industry may be concentrated on the US and Europe, but there are plenty of glamping options in Asia, too. You can stay in a luxury safari tent set on an elevated canopy walkway overlooking the Gaoligong Mountains in China, a secluded log cabin among nomads in Tibet, or a tree house near Sigiriya Rock, Sri Lanka. Other properties on GlampingHub.com include luxury safari tents in an abandoned village in Yunnan, traditional wooden Malay houses with air-con and a pool, and authentic thatched huts in rural Ninh Binh, Vietnam.
Not surprisingly, glamping as a trend has partly been fuelled by the rise of social media, with travel bloggers and Instagram influencers looking for unique photos without having to rough it.
So is there now such a thing as a ‘glamping’ industry’? “There is definitely a growing number of hosts and guests that are interested in secluded accommodation in nature, and it is becoming more formal,” says Troya, who will take part in the first global glamping summit this April in Denver, Colorado. “Travel choices are being driven by a desire for enriching and authentic experiences and a real connection to nature and place,” says Dixon, whose Canopy & Stars has seen a 50 per cent rise in bookings since 2015. “We see this trend continuing to grow, and the glamping industry is evolving to reflect this.”
Championing creative, independent people and the great outdoors, glamping is about more than just novelty value. It’s also a way of making sure your holiday benefits local people in often off the beaten track places.