I met Michela by chance. A few days later we met for a coffee and a chat in Venice on a summer’s day.
Many people are asking me what glamping means. I guess Michela was the right person to answer this question.
Michela studies Intercultural Development of Tourism Systems in Venice, Italy and has analyzed the development of glamping in Italy.
What is glamping?
Glamping is a “green”, luxury form of accommodation. I guess this is the best way I would describe this sustainable, eco-friendly, outdoor hospitality option.
It brings together the need of searching for a primordial naturalness, made by an open air, wilderness experience, with freedom and a empty head from stress and routine, that meets the chance to experience what surrounds us with a bit of luxe.
“Glamping” is not an outdoor “5 stars hotel”: this (relatively new) form of hospitality creates a connection between hotel amenities such as access to private toilets or the possibility to have meals, with the natural surroundings. The result is the integration of services in a particular natural context.
Do not confuse the word luxury with glamor or preciousness, which we certainly find in some glamping accommodations, but it is preferable to associate it with an easy way to experience a location.
For example, the possibility of having a restaurant in the middle of a forest rather than a packed lunch. Or, again, sleeping on a comfy bed rather than a sleeping bag makes the glamping experience accessible to more people.
There are examples of high level glamping accommodations: some of them equipped with whirlpools, air conditioning, massage rooms and some others that offer also private chef and services.
When we talk about glamping we have to keep in mind, the main purpose, the integration between the surrounding area, which allows the preservation of the peculiarities of a place, enhancing them and creating appeal to them.
In my opinion, if this would not happen, the risk would be to deprive a place of its essence to meet the needs of the host. In that case, where would be the difference between a hotel and a glamp?
A bit of history.
The concept of glamping, I would say, is relatively new because, although the trend glamping is quite recent (the first web searches date back to 2007 and in 2010 the first offers of North European and Anglo-Saxon hospitality), we have illustrious testimonies of similar practices in history. At the time of the Ottoman Empire, the tents were the ideal shelter during the sultan’s movements and during the battles. The curtains were enriched with “cushions or rugs lying on the ground”.
A subsequent use of tents, such as recreational facilities, can be dated to the early 1900s, when wealthy Westerners took part in shipping campaigns to pristine and “wild” places and safari tents were enriched with beds, luxurious furniture, Persian rugs and entrusted cooks were inevitable.
The evolution to us more recent sees the affirmation of the glamourous-camping starting from the festivals. In these contexts the organizers capture the desire for comfort of the participants. Think of the numerous arts and music festivals such as the Glastonbury festival or simply the Coachella: different geographical contexts, yes but in common they have the refinement and comfort of the spaces, no longer similar to makeshift accommodations but to real charming rooms in miniature .. well away from camping in a tent! In the English scenario, it is possible to mention, for example, the Pennard Orchard, built near the Glastonbury Festival, a festival of contemporary performing arts. Taking a look at the website, we find services and locations far from the common concept of camping.
Regarding the worldwide spread of the word glamping, in a period of time from 2004 to 2017, Ireland and the United Kingdom dominate the ranking.
The success of Glamping in the lands beyond the Channel may have been favored by the notoriety of the characters who took part in the experience. Suffice it to say that in 2014 The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge chose the “Longitude 131 resort” of Uluru in Australia to experience luxury camping. A choice that fully reflects the tendency of their twentieth century predecessors: destinations on the outskirts of the world to experience non-traditional experiences.
Glamping is a form of changing hospitality, able to adapt in any context. Its history has distant roots, although only in recent years we have come to know it. The future of glamping? Why not, hanging in the air to admire the stars above us and the earth beneath our feet.