Vacanze col Cuore is a small-scale supplier of glamping accommodation in Italy with campings by Lake Garda and in Tuscany. It is a Dutch-Italian family business where father, mother, and son are working. We spoke to the owner, Loek van de Loo, at the Vakantiebeurs in Utrecht. There he shares more about his vision on glamping and the changing camping market.
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Thirty-five years ago, Van de Loo opened Camping Weekend by Lake Garda. The first camping by Lake Garda that was not directly situated by Lake Garda and therefore got off to a slow start. At the time, spending time by the lake was more important than relaxing by the swimming pool – something we can hardly imagine nowadays. “But we made a difference with rental units, Dutch entertainment, and with us you could make a reservation for a specific pitch. So, if you wanted pitch number 1, then that was exactly what you got; and the swimming pool of course. No one had a swimming pool, because owners of campings thought: ‘My camping is situated by Lake Garda or near the sea, therefore I do not need a swimming pool.’ And that swimming pool turned out to be our saving angel.”
In this way, Van de Loo kept looking for improvements for his destinations and he always listened to his guests. “So, when guests started asking us: Why are those tents only at Camping Weekend and not at other locations such as on the Adriatic coast and Tuscany? That was the reason we purchased glamping tents and also put up glamping tents in those regions. In this way, it kept expanding and then the small-scale tour operator grew into the larger brands: Selectcamp and Vacanceselect”.
Meanwhile, Van de Loo has sold these brands and is now focusing on his own destinations in Italy. Besides Weekend Glamping Resort, this also includes Vacanze Glamping Boutique, Vallicella Glamping Resort, Park Residence Il Gabbiano, Sivinos Camping Boutique, Glamping Resort Orlando in Chianti, and Glamping Boutique Lago Idro. His plan: “To group smaller campings and to offer service to our guests on a personal level from a central office where all the activities can be hosted in order to create a 360º glamping experience and to sell that to people.”
His many years’ experience in the camping sector was certainly of great help to him in creating a glamping experience that has the wow-factor. And it shows at the new destination Vallicella. “A destination with a lot fewer people, more room and with accommodations that have the wow-factor. So, not just your standard mobile homes, but beautiful, luxurious glamping resort accommodation with attractive verandas, a nice view and lots of room both inside and outside glamping lodges.”
The first investments in glamping were made at Glamping Resort Weekend and there this also turned out to be a good investment. Van de Loo: “At that point, I met Patrick, the former owner of YALA and we built a small village on Camping Weekend. So, no streets any more, but a real village consisting of luxury tents.” Van de Loo is still very satisfied with the tents he purchased from YALA: “As it happens, we did not invest in new tents this year. But, I am certain we will do so again in the future because it’s a beautiful product with a good price-quality ratio.”
According to Van de Loo the accommodation is not the only important thing, also the facilities at the destination play a key role in creating a 360º glamping experience. You could think of things such as a first-class restaurant, Dutch entertainment, and a breathtaking location. “More and more, people have the need for silence, peace and nature. Those elements combined with a good restaurant, good children’s entertainment, nice swimming pools and plenty of possibilities for excursions – that’s what we do.”
Also creating an experience is becoming more important. A swimming pool alone is not enough anymore. No, next to said swimming pool you need waterfalls and slides. “When we built the Spotty Pool with a slide at Camping Weekend, the camping was suddenly running better.” In this way, Van de Loo sees multiple themes he can respond to, such as parents who like their children to learn new things when they are on vacation. Next summer, he will respond to this by setting up a biology class where children could take a look at the tracks of wild boars for instance.
In addition, serving and adapting to the wishes of different target groups is important for a successful glamping resort. “For instance, we have special accommodations for couples at Vallicella, where you can sleep upstairs and sit on a picnic bench downstairs. So, what I am trying to say, is that you should not cram your entire camping with mobile homes or just one type of tent. No, what you should do, is offer variety, different types, so that people can choose. Moreover, a couple has completely different needs. A couple that visits during the pre-season or the late-season wants an accommodation that is theirs and not the odd caravan that happens to be vacant anyway. It does not work like that. They want to have something special and that is precisely what we have tried to offer at Vallicella this year and it was a real success.”
At Vacanze col Cuore, personal attention and offering good service to their guests are the central points. By responding to the wishes and the needs of the guest you can make the difference as a destination, but this is something you should keep working on. Surely, wishes and needs change all the time. It is up to Van de Loo to welcome as many guests as possible at his destinations next year. This is also one of the reasons why Van de Loo is present at the Vakantiebeurs with an exhibition stand; he wants to show he is also well disposed towards his guests in the Netherlands.
Want to know what glamping can mean for your campsite or resort? Contact us to discover the possibilities of offering luxury glamping tents.