Nearly three years after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, travel has still not returned to what many might call “normal.” And while most areas of the sector incurred tremendous losses during COVID, others enjoyed surprising success. Indeed, pandemic or not, people are rarely content with spending all their time locked in their homes. We now know that Glamping is one of the many ways these individuals sought relief.
If you’re attached to the glamping industry in any way, you already know that the market is experiencing unprecedented growth. However, you might not know the specific figures and trends behind this surge in popularity. Fortunately, Kampgrounds of America (KOA) recently published its 2022 North American Glamping Report. This is, in fact, the first annual survey of the industry as a whole.
And the news is very good.
Back in 2020, Glamping was still a relatively new travel experience. However, it has since evolved from a niche market into a popular vacation option for millions of Americans. KOA’s report shows us a market with significant potential and plenty of room to grow. It also provides valuable insight into other industry estimates.
Examples include a Vauates Report detailing how the Glamping industry is expected to reach $7.11 billion by 2023. Or how about a recent Grand View Research study claiming that the sector has a 10.9% compound annual growth rate? Such information is helpful, sure, but not specific.
As you’ll see, KOA dug a bit deeper. Below, we’ll examine the specific areas of the industry that have experienced the most growth. We’ll also discuss who is Glamping and – most importantly – who is profiting.
COVID Mainstreamed the Industry
Glamping has been around for longer than most experts care to estimate. True, it only entered the vernacular in recent years (it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2016. Still, there’s simply no telling when the first fussy camper demanded more comfortable outdoor accommodations. What we do know is that he or she was not alone.
It’s safe to say that 2015 was the first time Glamping became an industry united by a core concept. And back then, the practice was considered somewhat fringe, perhaps even worthy of mockery. To “traditional campers,” the idea of trading humid tents and soggy shoes for resort-style accommodations went against what made camping fun.
But when COVID established camping one of the only safe vacation options, people all over the country collectively rolled their eyes at the thought of crowding into a damp yurt with their spouses and kids. Simultaneously, those who had never camped before began seeking out more comfortable and accessible ways to enjoy the great outdoors.
And that’s precisely the point. Glamping may have had a reputation as a pseudo-experience for those who can’t hack the real thing, but those perceptions are long gone. Now people see it as a way to bypass all the logistics associated with traditional camping while allowing for the same basic experience. And at a time when people were looking for both comfort and escape, this industry had the perfect solution.
A 155% Increase in Glamping Traffic
While the few industries that saw a COVID-related surge eventually returned to their pre-pandemic levels, Glamping has gone in the opposite direction. For instance, in 2021, 17 million U.S. households took at least one glamping trip. This represents a 155% increase from 2019, the year before COVID hit the U.S. In fact, these numbers are made more impressive when you consider that most other vacation options came back in 2021.
What does this tell us? Well, it means that COVID was just the “proof of concept” for Glamping. Now that people have a taste for the experience, they’re coming back for more. And while the industry is ready and waiting, the question of demand vs. supply remains. For example, KOA’s report revealed that there are currently more than 6,000 Glamping locations spread across short-term rental platforms. Meanwhile, from 2012 to 2022, destination-specific Glamping resorts increased from 59 to 230 sites.
These figures represent a 310% increase in short-term glamping rentals and a 290% increase in the development of new glamping sites. However, according to KOA’s research, this might not be enough to meet the growing need for new locations and experiences.
New Insight into Glamper Demographics
Those who own Glamping businesses (or want to own one in the future) will be pleased to find out that the KOA report also provides valuable data about the industry’s growing target audience. Specifically, it discovered that residents of southern states are more likely to glamp, with 47% of respondents either having done so in the past or planning to do so in the near future. Of those current or prospective glampers, 7 out of 10 prefer to book stays averaging 3.5 nights. They are also willing to pay more to glamp at locations they perceive as “unique” or “remote,” such as Alaska, Colorado, Utah, Montana, and Wyoming.
The report also provides insight into these glampers’ expectations. For instance, roughly 52% of respondents said that they prefer to Glamp when they have access to consistent Wi-Fi. This may have something to do with the fact that 61% of them used social media to choose their destinations. This is also something that fits into potential marketing schemes. No Wi-Fi? No glampers advertising your spot for free on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok.
Diving deeper into the demographics, KOA provides an overview of the “typical glamper.” Specifically, they tend to be millennials with children and a household income of over $100k. The majority of them are willing to drive more than 100 miles to get to their destination, and they prefer to stick around between three and five days. Members of Gen Z are also fans of Glamping, but only if there’s suitable Wi-Fi at the site. Baby Boomers, on the other hand, are only down for a Glamping experience if the price is right.
Since COVID ended, Glamping has evolved into more of a group activity. Indeed, the report reveals that around 42% of Glampers are looking for accommodations that sleep three to four people. Meanwhile, roughly 22% are looking for places suitable for five or six. But let’s not assume that romance is completely dead. After all, couples still make up 31% of glampers.
Indoor Accommodations Still Dominate Demand
Cabins have been part of traditional camping and vacationing for decades. So, it’s hardly surprising that 72% of glampers still prefer a cabin stay. However, it’s important to note how many property types technically fall under the “cabin” destination. In reality, this simply shows a preference for structures that are on the ground and fully enclosed.
Both tree houses and tiny homes have surged in popularity, reaching demand levels of 55% and 58%, respectively. Canvas tents are also popular, with yurts and teepees seeing slight demand growth as well. Overall, it seems that Glampers are pretty open to different accommodations, even if they are closer to traditional camping in a lot of ways.
When compared to the available glamping properties across the U.S, it’s not particularly difficult to see investment potential. Currently, around 38% of the market consists of cabins or tiny homes, while 36% consists of safari or canvas tents. Yurts, on the other hand, make up just 4% of the market, while covered wagons, teepees, and treehouses make up just 2%. So, while demand for these types of stays is indeed growing, there aren’t enough facilities to deliver those experiences to potential guests.
How Glamping Domes Fit into This Surging Market
Of all the available Glamping accommodations in the U.S. market, the most under-represented of all are domes. Accounting for just 1% of available properties, KOA didn’t even include domes when measuring consumer preference. However, this data actually shows uncapitalized opportunity rather than a lack of market interest.
Google Trends shows that searches for the term “glamping domes” has been steadily rising since 2018, peaking during March 2021 and January 2022. Industry insiders have likewise charted the growing demand for domes, which coincidently appeal to the exact same demographics highlighted in KOA’s Glamping report.
Glamping pods and domes are seen as “high tech” and “futuristic,” with many praising the unique and memorable experiences they provide. Indeed, they are everything a cabin is, but with an innovative twist that Millennials and Gen Zers can’t resist. They’re also insanely Instagram able and buzz-worthy, which affords budding influencers digital bragging rights and countless unique photo opportunities.
For years now, Glamping domes of varying sizes and types have proven immensely successful at destinations all over the world. Now, we’re seeing that popularity bleed into the U.S in a very big way. What’s more, it’s entering the market in a way that is indelibly linked to the growing Glamping phenomenon. And thanks to KOA’s report, we now know just how much growth to expect – and where the most significant opportunities lie.