By CHRISTIANE BARRO
Queen-sized beds, electric blankets, bar fridges and candles – none of these items are what you would expect to find at a campsite. But they’re becoming more common, as glamorous camping, or glamping, increases in popularity.
What was remote-area specialist luxury accommodation only a couple of years ago has become firmly mainstream, with the opening of rooftop glamping at Melbourne CBD hotel St Jerome's – The Hotel this autumn.
The Australian Traveller reported a strong growth in the number of glamping resorts that emerged in 2014. This boom has opened up a diverse range of opportunities for luxury tent travellers to experience places from wildest Northern Territory to quaint and cosy Daylesford or Werribee's Open Range Zoo.
Its rise in popularity has not only been seen in Australia, but has become an established international trend within the tourism sector.
Businesses within the UK are able to explore the opportunity of launching a glamping resort through its Glamping show next month. Japan is also set to open its first luxury glampsite near Mt Fuji in October this year, with the concept of "Glamping on a hill".
Businesses such as Melbourne’s Happy Glamper say this type of outdoor luxury is largely attracting a range of non-campers who still want to experience nature and its beauty.
Happy Glamper client manager Jessie Curtis-Griffiths believes glamping reaches a new market who want to camp but without any of the hassles often involved.
“Outdoor enthusiasts can experience nature and the comforts of home without the hassle of finding camp space, setting up tiny nylon tents that leak and suffering in cramped sleeping bags,” Ms Curtis-Griffiths said.
“Traditional camping will always have its place. Glamping is largely reaching out to the demographic that would never try traditional camping.”
The options go from romantic getaways to family gatherings. “Glamping can be extremely luxurious and be the equivalent of a 5-star hotel with canvas walls,” Ms Curtis-Griffiths said.
The Avant-Garde Camping Company is also one of the only glamping businesses to hold permits to stay local national parks in Sydney, introducing clients to the world of national park camping.
Jennah Hallam from Avant-Garde Camping said glamping was popular with people who had never tried camping before.
“We found a lot of our guests are first-time campers and do not have a lot of experience camping,” Ms Hallam said.
“Glamping is great to test the waters, easing you into the world of the serious camper.”
Glamping businesses also take care of setting up camp, possibly the hardest aspect for new-time campers who have never assembled a tent.
“We travel out to the site, pitch the tent complete with cutlery, cooking utensils, fire wood, toiletries pack, warm blankets and bedding, chairs and local information on the campground for you to explore over the weekend,” Ms Hallam said.
Avant-Garde Camping client Emma Scott went glamping with her husband to celebrate their anniversary.
Ms Scott said she and her husband loved camping but had little time to spend on organising a camping trip and ensuring they had all the necessary equipment and gear.
“We are both studying and working full-time at the moment, so by the time you get the tents set up, get everything ready and pack the car, it takes the enjoyment out of it for two or three days,” she said.
The convenience of having everything organised and prepared before their arrival made the experience easier and more enjoyable.
“It was so relaxing, so peaceful, it was just gorgeous. It was amazing to rock up and everything was done, we did absolutely nothing for the whole weekend, and we got to pack up our stuff and go home,” Ms Scott said. “We left feeling completely refreshed and regenerated.”
Ketchup’s Bank Glamping’s Leona Taylor said they chose to apply a more traditional Australian approach to glamping.
“Our key features are comfort and luxury inside an elevated structure to allow guests to retreat to a dust and ‘critter’-free environment with private ensuite facilities and queen ensemble beds with electric blankets for winter,” Ms Taylor said.
Rates starting from $250-$300 for a night are relatively average for the glamping market. The prices then vary depending on the standard of accommodation and glamping experience.
But is it camping?
Rafiuddin Muneer took the traditional approach and went camping near Anglesea. He thinks glamping misses the point of camping.
“Although luxury camping is a great way to get newbies involved … the point of camping is to get away from city life, the luxury, and the toilet rolls,” he said.
Regular outdoor camper Steph Dodds agreed it might not be camping in its true form.
“My definition of camping is walk in/walk out, carry everything on your back,” Ms Dodds said.
“I don’t think it can even classify as camping, that to me is a rustic hotel … it takes away from camping because you’re not leaving any creature comforts behind … the things you would normally have at home.”