The Rise of the ‘Glamping’ Industry

campingRemember when camping meant pitching a tent in the middle of the woods and roasting hot dogs over a fire started by rubbing two sticks together? With nothing but a backpack and a pair of hiking boots, campers enjoyed the challenge of “roughing it.” Camping wasn’t comfortable and it certainly wasn’t glamourous.

Well, this type of outdoorsy lifestyle just isn’t for everyone. Studies have shown that today’s Americans want to be close to nature, just not too close. Cue the invention of an all-new family vacation trend – “glamping.”

The idea of glamping has been around for a few years now. The term is a portmanteau of “glamour” and “camping.” It combines the fun and escapism of the outdoors with the comfort of a five-star hotel. Glamping smooths out the rough edges of staying in a tent, providing participants with various amenities not typically available to traditional campers.

Today’s glampers use electrical power, real beds with quality linens, and private bathrooms. To some, simply camping in an RV is considered glamping because of the vehicle’s many amenities. In fact, there are roughly 30 million RV enthusiasts in the United States. However, some entrepreneurs have taken glamping to a whole other level, creating an entire industry.

Eco-resorts or “glampgrounds” have started to pop up all over the country. Michigan’s first glampground, Bella Solviva, is located 45 miles northeast of Traverse City. Owners Brad and Sandy Carlson built Bella Solviva as a destination for outdoor adventure enthusiasts who want to experience the positive aspects of camping without the negatives, such as creepy-crawly bugs and lack of shower access.
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Over half of people say that they feel more rested and relaxed after returning from vacation. Most of these people probably weren’t camping in the traditional sense if they were camping at all.

Architect Martin Hogue has recently spent a lot of time and effort exploring the evolution of camping and what it means to “go camping” in 2016. Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Michigan is currently showing his exhibit “925,000 Campsites: The Commodification of an American Experience” through the end of the year.

“Although we have a great desire to be in the outdoors, we also have a desire not to leave behind too much of the comforts that we have in our modern homes,” said Hogue.

Hogue explained that while many of us are drawn to nature, few modern Americans are skilled in outdoor survival. As a result, camping has evolved to accommodate the overly sheltered masses, ultimately becoming a more comfortable experience.

“It’s OK to look for that rustic experience, but maybe at the same time you’re not completely willing to leave those modern comforts behind,” he said. “There’s the presumption that the experience is fairly rustic, and at the same time you have access to water, electricity and all kinds of services.”

The industry must be doing something right because camping is still one of the most popular outdoor recreational activities in the United States. In 2013, for example, the revenue of campgrounds and RV parks across the country was estimated at around $5 billion.

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