How luxury camping changes the game for The Ridge Outdoor Resort.
At the foot of the Smoky Mountains (US), you’ll find The Ridge Outdoor Resort: a campervan and glamping resort that aims at the high-end market with guests who are looking for a luxurious stay. Being one of the first and few resorts that purchased glamping tents and offer glamping in the area, we thought it would be interesting to take a closer look into the challenges and results of their glamping journey. We spoke with Director of Operations Jessica Hale about everything from distinguishing your site, to stylish accommodation and return on investment. Read more to discover how you too can benefit from glamping!
As always, it’s important to distinguish your site from others in the area. The Ridge Outdoor Resort is the only destination in the area that is based around high-end glamping. ‘Our glamping tents are fully furnished. They have linen and full kitchenettes, which makes them more high-end than the bring your own bedding accommodation others offer.’ The Ridge Outdoor Resort offers glamping tents to create a competitive edge. But that’s not all they do to set their site apart.
‘Our pool and amenities make our site more like a resort. Destination weddings are a big thing over here, so we also have a huge event centre to accommodate that. With our versatile accommodation options, we can welcome guests that have campervans but also provide guests who don’t with a comfortable stay in a glamping tent or tiny home.’ The takeaway? By diversifying your accommodation options, for example by buying safari tents, you can accommodate different guests.
‘Guests in our area are mostly family-oriented. We are right at the foot of the Smoky Mountains and there at the foothills is also the Pigeon Forge amusement park. So, there’s a lot to do in the area with kids or for people looking for entertainment.’ Your site’s location partly determines what guests you attract, so figuring out who visits your area can help you focus your marketing efforts and make strategic decisions. However, it’s not just location that defines your guests, time of year can impact their demographic as well. Jessica notices the following: ‘During summer, we mostly see families. In fall, we host many retirees, older guests, and hikers. We act on this with both our accommodation and marketing and are therefore able to successfully extend our season.’
Besides location and time of year, offering glamping tents can also attract new guests and increase turnover. ‘Glamping in our eyes is that you have everything, from a safari tent with full bathroom to a kitchen, Wi-Fi and television – the whole lot, but in a tent. People who said they would never camp, are now glampers.’ With glamping tents, you enable yourself to attract a new audience to your campsite, guests who before would have never thought to go camping. Glamping offers the experience of camping with the comfort and luxury of home. With glamping tents, you give your guests what they desire. ‘Our guests are looking for a full bath, and because we host so many families, multiple rooms. Our Stardust and Sunshine glamping tents are perfect because they are bigger than our tiny homes.’
People who said they would never camp are now glampers.
When buying glamping tents for campsites, there are some things to keep in mind. According to Jessica, guests sometimes seem to forget that they’re still tents because of the luxury they offer: ‘We have heat and air units in our tents to keep them comfortable. However, temperatures vary a lot around here and with it 35 degrees outside, you can’t help but notice it because it’s a canvas structure. People seem to sometimes forget that due to the unexpected luxury and comfort of our tents wow them.’
Before buying your safari tents, it’s key to determine what it is exactly you are looking for. ‘We looked and researched for quite a while before purchasing our tents. We were definitely looking for tents that had wooden beams instead of metal poles and we like that there are no ropes. People are always walking around, so tie-downs could cause a safety hazard. With these criteria, I found YALA luxury canvas lodges and sent an e-mail directly to them. Back then, there was no contract with US dealer Tent Masters, so I picked everything from the catalogues without seeing it first. Luckily, the quality of the tents was as advertised, thick canvas and sturdy construction. Right when my tents got stuck in customs, Tent Masters had become a dealer and they immediately helped. Both YALA and their dealers have been amazing when it comes to service and support.’
With glamping in the US, as with most places around the world, there are several rules and regulations. ‘Our biggest challenge when purchasing the tents was that the city really hadn’t seen anything like these before. The city considers them permanent structures because we don’t take them down in winter. YALA offered great support when replacing the bedroom screens with Velcro screens and provide a zipper in the back for an extra exit in order to adhere to fire-safety rules.’ YALA’s global sales network has expanded tremendously across the globe, so you’ll experience great support locally, no matter your location.
What sold us was the quality of these tents, we love the thick canvas, wooden beams and clean lines.
‘We are very happy with our glamping tents and aim for lasting success. Our marketing is quite aggressive you could say; we continuously ask our guests for feedback, what they like and don’t like. Because everything is so new, we haven’t gone stagnate at all. People are just in awe and excited to come back and see what we do next. We have a lot of repeat guests because they enjoy our glamping tents and we’re always doing something new and thinking outside the box. We want to be the first in a lot of things, especially in this area. That way, we maintain our edge.’
The Ridge Outdoor Resort has a property of 50 acres, only 20 of which are developed so far. For the coming seasons, the aim is to gradually expand and improve. ‘We have a timeline that we’re working on for each season. We constantly improve and have a plan to grow our business. This year, we’re doing a swimming lagune and we will put up two additional Stardust glamping tents. Next year, we are looking to purchase and put up even more tents, we’ll go for YALA again for sure. That’s the look, feel and quality we like and that fits our resort. To have something for every guest, would love to expand the range of models we’re offering, from the simple Bell Tent all the way to the Aurora.’
When it comes to results, we at YALA often get asked: ‘What’s the return on investment of glamping?’ We decided to forward the question to Jessica. Her answer? ‘Two. It took us two seasons to make all of our money back. Not just the purchase of the tents, but also the building and construction, everything. It will all be paid for after this season and from that point, we’ll just be grossing profit. The tents are super popular with our guests and being so close to the top-visited national park makes it good business with a great return on investment.’
Do you also want an investment that will pay itself back in two years? Consider glamping and contact us now!