The idea of camping without earwigs might therefore seem fanciful, but what might once have been an impossible dream is now actually within our grasp. What’s more, all the other inconveniences which might dissuade discerning human beings from spending their holidays in a tent can also be avoided – and not just by heading for a five-star hotel instead. In short, camping can now be glamorous.
Glamorous camping, or ‘glamping’, has recently been making great strides in South East Asia as the region catches up with a trend which has been established for quite some time in other parts of the world. While the term itself can be extended to other forms of accommodation besides tents, the defining feature is that the guest enjoys minimal separation from the natural environment. Unlike traditional camping, however, the element of discomfort is removed, so hot baths, luxury mattresses and air conditioning may all be available, along with someone else to put the tent up before you arrive.
In South East Asia, Thailand currently leads the way with almost 40% of a regional total which numbers around 530 tents. Median rack rates are also the highest in the region at US$340, while Indonesia is also a strong performer. With only 29 properties operating in ASEAN at present, there is certainly room for expansion, with the UK providing an excellent example of how this particular niche can develop.
When the global recession hit Britain eight years ago, consumers were forced to cut back on holiday expenditure. Overseas hotel stays were abandoned out of necessity in favor of cheaper camping trips – and entrepreneurs quickly realized that if camping could be made a little more comfortable, there was money to be made. As the economy recovered, the sector continued to thrive, with consumers eager to get close to nature and enjoy all the attractions of camping in the great outdoors with none of the downside.
In South East Asia today, the upscale sector is by far the largest, at 53%, with a further 13% classified as luxury. The most common locations feature forests, with beaches a distant second, as customers seek authentic experiences away from the beaten track. The advantage to developers of course is that the timeframe required to create a resort under canvas is lower than for traditional construction, and the costs are also greatly reduced, although the need for exclusivity can rather limit the scale at any particular site, with developments of just 19 tents the current average.
One further advantage is the flexibility of providing what is essentially a temporary form of accommodation. Indeed, some tent manufacturers are quick to point out that their products can easily be removed from a site if necessary, leaving a minimal ecological footprint.
According to C9 Hotelworks market research, the fact that glamping properties can be quickly developed in relatively remote destinations means that Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and those parts of Indonesia which are far removed from the tourist trail are prime candidates for investment, with wellness or sports activity themes likely to become useful additions to entice guests to try something new. With the earwigs safely banished, it seems unlikely that this particular niche will stay small for long.