Ouachita Wilde is a luxury glamping tent business started by the mother and daughter team, Stacie and Madison Bartow, based in Mena, AR. As a family that’s always been passionate about hiking, camping and the outdoors, working in a capacity that allowed them to experience more of this while giving others the opportunity to do so as well was always the dream.
Glamping is a growing segment in the US, with 91% more bookings for highly secluded accommodations in 2020, when compared with the same in 2019. For this reason, and especially because people are encouraged to spend time outdoors as a way to maintain a safe distance, there’s also an increasing proportion of the population looking to start their own glamping business.
This, of course, comes with its own challenges, which is what we wanted to learn more about from Stacie and Madison. We spoke with them about how they got into glamping, the challenges they faced and things every prospective glamping owner should keep in mind when thinking about getting into this space.
The Basics of their Glamping Operation
Ouachita Wilde, as mentioned earlier, is a two-person glamping operation, with three tents currently part of their portfolio.
Stacie and Madison focus on “popup” style glamping experiences, which includes setting up for events like birthdays or weddings, and also pitching their tents in places within a certain radius of Mena, AR, upon guest requests.
The Costs of Starting Up
One of the first considerations when looking to start up a glamping business is the cost that goes into getting up and running with operations.
While there a few different things to consider, the most apparent cost is the glamping tent. It isn’t uncommon to spend upwards of $1000 on a luxury tent, along with any essential furnishings you need for the tent, like a mattress, chairs and a table and lighting inside the tent.
“It’s not just the tents. There’s the furnishings, upkeep, trailer if you do pop-ups, the time and also your area. We live in a more rural/small town but it’s touristy for the beautiful scenery and we have amazing four-wheeling trails that are a big draw so we do more campsite setups.”
Beyond just operational expenses, it’s also important to think about all the marketing costs you’d have to incur to get your name out there and start getting heads in beds. This could be as simple as building your own website, to more nuanced aspects of running a business like creating paid social campaigns, working on SEO or getting listed on major booking platforms like GlampingHub or Airbnb.
Amenities and Facilities for your Glamping Business
Generally, there’s a wide range of amenities and facilities you can offer at your glamping site. It’s a good idea to research other glamping businesses or resorts in the area and understand the kinds of people that would want to stay at your site.
You should also think about whether you want to be on the more “glamorous” side of glamping, or the more camping side.
If it’s the former, you can go so far as to provide WiFi and warm showers. If you’re looking to stay on the more camping side, you can provide just the basics in addition to the glamping tent, like a fire pit and cooking essentials, as well as basic bathroom facilities.
A good rule of thumb is to “try to think about things [you] would want if [you] were renting and provide those to the extent possible,” as Stacie mentions.
At Ouachita Wilde, Madison and Stacie provide linens and pillows, as well as outdoor furniture. They also supply air conditioning, access to electricity and cooking basics for guests to be able to prepare meals.
Choosing a Glamping Tent for Your Business
When it comes to glamping, there are a few different kinds of accommodations you can offer. These range from more familiar shelters like luxury glamping tents and cabins, to more unique accommodations like domes or treehouses.
Generally, a canvas tent is a great place to start because of how easy it is to get going with it. It’s also a relatively smaller investment than something like a cabin might be.
Glamping tents from White Duck Outdoors, for example, usually take just 15-20 minutes to set up. A cabin or dome, on the other hand, may require a lot more upfront effort and cost before it’s fully ready to go.
Stacie sums this up well: “We would love to eventually have a glamping resort with other accommodations, however, tents are what we have started with and will always have in our lineup.
“[Tents] are portable and there’s nothing like the experience of hearing rain on the canvas tent or seeing the shadows the trees make on the ceiling when the sun shines just right. It’s truly beautiful and nothing at all like camping in a normal polyester tent from the store.”
Marketing Your Glamping Business
You could have the most beautiful glamping setup but marketing your business and attracting guests is still one of the biggest challenges.
There are several different marketing channels you could rely on but it would take some testing and experimenting to figure out the one that works best for you.
These channels include digital marketing avenues like paid social media, Google ads, sponsored listings on platforms like GlampingHub or SEO. You’ll probably find that this will constitute a larger proportion of your marketing spend.
“We rely heavily on our social media platforms as well as word of mouth/referrals, and I’m actually listed on Airbnb as well,” Stacie told us.
You could even explore more traditional advertising avenues like TV, radio or podcasts. If you provide a stellar glamping experience, your guests and customers will also do your marketing for you, which could help with word-of-mouth referrals.
Although not directly a marketing channel, another way to stand out from the competition is your nightly rates and offering packages like a discount for longer stays. That said, you should be mindful of rates at nearby glamping sites and try not to undercut them, as this could adversely impact an otherwise friendly industry.
Make Your Glamping Business Stand Out
With glamping businesses coming up more quickly than ever before, and with a larger proportion of the population seeking unique glamping stays, it’s important to think about your value proposition and what makes your resort stand out.
For Stacie and Madison at Ouachita Wilde, that’s memory foam mattresses.
“Our guests really love that and they sleep so much more comfortably than on an air bed,” Stacie told us – but that’s not all. “We include pretty well all of the equipment needed to camp and cook so our guests really only pack their clothes and their food items. We want to take the work and stress out of camping as much as possible.”
Memory foam mattresses elevate guest experiences and there are a few different ways you can offer a memorable stay to guests. One way to come up with this is to think about your own hobbies and how you might turn them into experiences. Do you like woodworking? Offer guests the opportunity to make their own creation in a workshop!
Just like any other business, starting a glamping site isn’t easy and requires hours of effort and dedication.
In the words of Stacie, “It can be hard work for sure! You setup and tear down in the weather. Whatever that is, so very hot or very cold depending on your area. It can be stressful if you really care about your guests experience and it requires a lot of laundry.”
Consider your location, competition, community and hours available to make your glamping dream a reality.