'Glamping' Spreads as Consumers Want More

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August 5, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

As the sky ominously darkens and thunderstorms roll in, khaki-shorts-clad concierge Marcus Richardson approaches guests lounging on the Nomad Ridge terrace watching wildlife roam below and offers to secure the window flaps of the 10 circular canvas tents or fetch a soothing glass of wine.

Adults-only Nomad Ridge, a luxury wilderness experience in southeastern Ohio, is modeled on African safari camps. For about $360 a night, a duo can stay in one of the Mongolian-style yurts with electricity, private bathrooms, plus decks and ceiling fans. The pricier "Grand Yurt" has a king-size bed and air conditioning. Rates include dinner, breakfast and a safari on the Wilds' nearly 10,000-acre game preserve, the Lancaster Eagle Gazette reported.

"It's like a little piece of Africa," says guest Jeff Derr of Holtwood, Pa., peering through binoculars at rhino, trumpeter swans and rare Sichuan takins (bearlike creatures with heads like those of giant guinea pigs). Their yurt, with hotel-style bed, is truly comfortable, Cindy Derr says.

Welcome to 'glamping'

Such glamorous camping experiences are dubbed "glamping" — a trend among vacationers who want to be in the wild but don't care to sleep on the ground, tromp in the dark to communal bathrooms and cook over campfires. It's even driving bookings at Kampgrounds of America (KOA), where stays in recently built lodges are up 15% this year, even though KOA's campsite business is down, CEO Jim Rogers says.

Lodges, tepees and gussied-up Airstream trailers are a way for KOA "to give people an outdoor experience (such as nightly campfires) with some of the comforts they enjoy," Rogers says. "We are reaching people who may not have had an outdoor experience." Lodges at more than 300 North American locations have a kitchen, bath, flat-screen TVs, Wi-Fi, gas grill and typically rent for $100-$150 a night.

Simpler outdoor digs are available at Lakedale Resort at Three Lakes on Washington state's San Juan Island. "Canvas cabins" with pillow-top mattresses and cordless lanterns (but no electricity or private baths) start at about $160 a night with breakfast. A U.S. glamping pioneer, Costanoa, on the scenic northern California coast, has canvas cabins with electricity and heated mattresses from $89 a night.

The increasing popularity of glamping has even spawned, which details glam camping options around the world.

Over-the-top glamping, similar to that at Africa's top safari lodgings, is found at the new Pinnacle Camp at 37,000-acre The Resort at Paws Up near Missoula, Mont. Expect to pay at least $1,000 for two to stay in one of the four chic camps, where top-of-the-line tents have jetted tubs and heated slate floors, and guests are pampered by butlers and chefs.

Rates include all meals, including regional treats such as bison and smoked trout.

The resort — which also offers stays in luxury homes — has 24 tents, which sell out so fast that more are planned. Many of Paws Up's affluent guests have "a desire to go camping. But they don't want to rough it in any way, shape or form," says John Romfo, director of sales and marketing.

The aim at Ohio's Nomad Ridge — sold out many nights and having a record summer — is to provide a "reasonably priced" upscale wilderness experience, says Tom Stalf, chief operating officer of the Wilds and its partner, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

"We have plans to build more" yurts, he says.

The Wilds, about 11/2 hours by car from Columbus, also attracts day trippers who snap photos from buses and open-air safari vehicles or soar on just-installed ziplines. There are campsites, cabins and a lodge that can be booked for family reunions and such.

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