Sustainability, Adventure Tourism and International Glamping - Eden Flaherty
One of the biggest trends, in my opinion, which stretches far outside of glamping for us out of tourism is the refocusing of sustainability and the things that we do. You know, if you’re in a coastal region, think about what that offers. If you’re in a forest region, think about what that offers. You know, really think about what makes the local location unique and try and work with that. In my experience, specifically, within glamping, the industry having worked in it for a little while, you know, you come to realise very quickly that everybody that works in it is pretty nice.
Hello, and welcome to The Glampitect PODcast. Today I’m joined by Eden Flaherty, who is a partner at ‘Glamping Advisors’. Glamping Advisors are essentially the Portuguese version of Glampitect. So, Eden is able to deliver some great insights from a slightly different perspective than our usual guests. We spoke about the differences between the UK and the Portuguese markets. And some wider glamping industry trends such as wellness tourism, adventure tourism and sustainability. If you want a glamping site, or you’re thinking of setting one up, and you want to stay ahead of the curve, this one is for you. I hope you enjoy and find value in this episode. As usual, we’d like to get a bit of a backstory of our guests. So, could you just tell us how you got into the glamping industry and what you do today?
Eden Flaherty: 1:33
Yeah, absolutely. How I first got into the glamping industry was by actually setting up a small scale site in the UK, in Shropshire. It was a family site. And it’s how I first kind of experienced the business side of glamping. From that, I paired it with my work and communications because I was working as a freelance writer and editor before setting that up, and began working in communications specifically for glamping, which led me to work with publications like ‘International Glamping Business’, which is one of the big magazines in the UK that I’m sure, a lot of listeners would have heard of, amongst kind of a number of other projects. I then moved to Lisbon to do some work in Portugal. And after kind of working in different segments, different industries, different jobs for a little while, I ended up partnering up with Lars Schfer, who is the managing partner of Glamping Advisors, which is the business that I’m now part of. Which is a consultancy firm, specifically for glamping, which focuses on the set up, the business and also my role, which is Comms within that.
Nick Purslow: 2:41
So, Glamping Advisors are based in Portugal. What sort of things do they do? Eden Flaherty: Yeah, absolutely. We’re primarily based in Lisbon in Portugal, but we have associates around the world. And we work whilst focused on Spain, Portugal, you know, the Iberian Peninsula, we’re also currently looking at projects, which are much further afield. We offer turnkey solutions, which is from people who are just starting to think about setting up a glamping project all the way through launching it in the marketing campaigns at the end, to get it to market and to get it to succeed, as well as helping people who are any step along that journey. So, maybe they have some land, and they’re looking to diverge into tourism, maybe they’re already in agriculture, and they’re looking for a way to use the land in a different way. Also, potentially they’re already working in hospitality. A lot of the time now, in glamping, we’re seeing hotel owners or hostel owners looking to kind of expand the number of units they have in a non traditional way, and are looking to glamping to do that. So, we offer all of these different services, depending on what the client needs that we’re working with. Nick Purslow: So, in the area that you’re working in, did glamping sort of explode in the last 5-10 years? Like, well, more than five years, I guess, in the UK?
Eden Flaherty: 3:54
I’d say even less time than that in Portugal. The UK would be considered the more mature market than the Iberian Peninsula as a whole. As you say, the last 10 years I’ve seen it really exploded in the UK. In Portugal, it’s still not fully developed. We’re only realistically kind of now seeing the same kind of energy going into glamping, as we saw in the UK a few years back. Spain is a little bit further ahead in terms of the number of sites and the number of people looking to glamp in the country. But I would say it’s only the last kind of two or three years, we’ve seen growth in the area. You know, there’s some, a handful of major sites, and then a lot of smaller sites that are starting to crop up as well here. Nick Purslow: And so, are there any significant differences between glamping in the UK and glamping in Portugal? Because I know, for instance, UK style glamping pod hasn’t necessarily taken off massively elsewhere. Is it more canvas structures in Portugal?
Eden Flaherty: 4:52
I would say it’s a mix of structures. The biggest differences I see between the UK and Portugal is how well established the market is, as I already mentioned. But also, how diverse the market is. In the UK, glamping very much grew up naturally. And glamping is a really broad term for any structure which sits in kind of nature tourism or outside the normal tourism. So, you have things like pods, as you mentioned, you have tents, you know, bell tents, safari tents, but you also have things like plane fuselages, treehouses.
Nick Purslow: 5:26
Double-decker buses. Eden Flaherty: Buses. Exactly the first glamping site, as I mentioned, at the beginning, that I set up, what we did is convert a bus. That was how we started into glamping. In Portugal, it’s very much starting out as a more mature market in the sense of, kind of unit choice. And it’s less organic in that growth. Meaning that people are selecting pods and tents. And yeah, you’re right. Tents are very popular here because of the weather, as opposed to seeing a kind of broader selection of places to stay, I guess. Nick Purslow: So, do you see any differences between the way that the Portuguese market is gonna grow in comparison to the UK market? And I know you said it’s slightly less organic. Do you see the future sort of going down the similar path? Eden Flaherty: I think less organic in the variety. And like, organic might even be the wrong word there. I think perhaps just less eclectic. You’re less likely to have those, you know, unusual kind of one off planes, trains, automobiles, kind of in Portugal than you are in the UK. And it’s very much here, people are seeing that coming into the market, when suppliers have already been established. You know, you already have suppliers around the world offering glamping units, which wasn’t necessarily the case when people in the UK were first trying to build glamping sites. So, I think that that’s why you’re probably seeing less diversity in the types of units. How it’s gonna change going forwards is really dependent on a lot of factors. Here, the legislation is very different from in the UK. There’s different restrictions, which kind of hold people back a little bit in terms of, you know, what can be classified as accommodation. And how that legislation changes in the next couple of years will really determine how the market here changes in the next few years. But I think both here and in the UK, from what we’ve seen in the last two or three years, but especially in the last kind of 12 months, the trends in tourism as a whole and the trends in glamping, I say that it’s a pretty strong possibility that we’re going to see growth in both countries, to be honest. You mentioned the legislation there. Obviously in the UK, it varies massively in terms of planning from council to council, is it more standardised in Portugal?
Eden Flaherty: 7:42
There’s still variety, depending on the municipality you’re working in. And it’s very much up to the kind of local legal bodies as to what can be done. But there is, you know, top-down legislation from the government. Nick Purslow: Okay, so moving on to your work specifically at Glamping Advisors, what’s your day to day role there? Glamping Advisors is a start-up very much. You know, we’ve been operating for a little over a year, I would say. As you know, this entity we’ve all got experience before that in tourism and consultancy. There’s, just to give everybody an overview of who’s involved, the three main partners and myself who focus on communication. Then there’s Lars Schfer, who has a background in tourism for well over a decade, specifically in the Iberian Peninsula as well. And then there’s Lus, who has about 25 years experience in tourism consultancy, specifically in Portugal, but also around the world. So, it’s a really strong team coming together. And we kind of tackle most things wearing all hats, I would say. So, my day to day would be everything from, you know, chatting with people who might be interested in running a project to, you know, doing those proposals, to you know, setting up the site visits, to doing site visits, although obviously right now with the lockdowns, you know, they’ve been put on hold a little bit. To doing kind of ideation stuff and comms for projects that are already underway.
Nick Purslow: 9:18
So in your role, you have to have knowledge of all sorts of industry trends and where the industry is going and which sort of trends are jumping out to you at the minute and which ones you have a particular interest in.
Eden Flaherty: 9:30
Yeah, absolutely. A big part of our role is looking at the broader market. And by the broader market, I mean, well outside of glamping tourism as a whole. And I think there’s a few big trends which are very present in tourism and glamping, but also, in just kind of more general societal trends that are also playing a big role in how we’re seeing tourism and glamping grow. The main ones that I see would be Nature tourism, is big and growing. More and more people are looking to get outside looking for those spectacular locations and also just remote locations. And remote doesn’t have to be, you know, going across to the other side of the world. It can be local remoteness, just getting outside of cities and towns. That’s something that we’ve seen growing for a while. And also something that we’ve seen growing demand for in the wake of the pandemic, as well. As more people are locked in and therefore, afterwards are kind of looking to get out. In addition to that, you know, Wellness Tourism is kind of following a similar route. And for similar reasons, people are, you know, looking for that breakaway to relax, is a big one. One that I’m particularly interested in, and I think that we’re going to be seeing a lot more of, and we’re already seeing growing massively is Adventure Tourism as well. There’s adventure sports, myself being interested in, you know, a number of outdoor sports, outdoor activities, we’ve seen it boom in recent years, and kind of combined trips with experiential accommodation, such as glamping combined with the adventure tourism and activities that people are looking for on trips anyway, is something that I think, that we’re gonna see a lot more of. One of the biggest trends, in my opinion, which stretches far outside of glamping, far outside of tourism is the refocusing of sustainability and the things that we do. This has been seen in the likes of Ecotourism, and Nature tourism, and how people are trying to lessen their footprint when they’re going on trips. And I think that this is going to be especially important in glamping, because it is so naturally fitting with that change in how people are looking to travel low impact, you know, low footprint. Being involved in nature, or staying in nature, instead of having, you know, a massive resort plunked down in the middle of a forest or a beach. People want to be a little bit closer and a little bit less impactful when they’re travelling. And I think that’s probably the biggest trend that we’re gonna see changing tourism, and thus growing and driving glamping in the last couple of years, but also in kind of the next 5 to 10 years as well. Nick Purslow: Yeah, I was gonna say, what sort of timescale would you put on that? For it to become sort of a peripheral issue, if you could call it that, to massive consideration in the eyes of consumers? Eden Flaherty: I think we’re already seeing that. I think we’re already seeing that. I think that, if you look at consumption in general, people are starting to make those demands, not just in tourism, but in general. In the things that they buy, in the way things are produced, in the way things are delivered, you know, the packaging they come in. And we’re seeing that in tourism as well. You know, it can be a little bit of an echo chamber, sometimes when you work in that sector. You think, well, everybody’s obviously demanding more green products. Maybe that’s not the case. But from what we see in the media, and from what people are putting down as the kind of key considerations. Now, we’re already seeing that change. It has moved from the periphery to the mainstream. And I think that’s one of the reasons why we’re seeing this booming glamping not just, you know, in the UK but everywhere that people are traditionally going. Nick Purslow: That’s interesting, because I would personally argue that at the minute, I think, I know glamping isn’t a budget holiday, but I think people put finance over sustainability. Because obviously it costs more to set up a sustainable resort, generally. And so obviously, that’s probably going to be reflected in the price. And it can actually be a selling point because some people, you know, really, really want to go to a sustainable location. In terms of the mass market, I’m not sure yet whether it’s ready. It’s an interesting debate. Eden Flaherty: Yeah, I mean, for sure. Like the idea of sustainable products being more expensive is currently almost certainly true for a lot of the things being manufactured. However, the fact that people are unwilling to pay it? I think, is not the case. Because a lot of research, and this is UK based research on consumption in general, shows that the majority of respondents are actually willing to pay more for more sustainable products. That’s obviously general. That’s not specific to glamping, that’s not specific to tourism, but it does show a change in perspectives that people are willing to put their money where their mouth is, when it comes to lower impact products. And I think that’s going to be the case in tourism as well. And in glamping as well. And in terms of glamping specifically, when it comes to whether people are going to be willing to, you know, pay more for sustainability. And the fact that perhaps sustainable glamping sites are more expensive to set up than regular glamping sites, I’d argue that any glamping site is more sustainable than a traditional holiday at this point.
Nick Purslow: 14:54
So obviously, a big theme of glamping is that, it’s sort of reconnecting with nature. And people want to go and spend time in the natural world. How do you find the balance between being close to nature but also maintaining a sense of luxury?
Eden Flaherty: 15:13
I think that one of the most interesting shifts there has been what people consider luxury. Because now I think that closeness to nature is a luxury for a lot of people. In terms of traditional luxury in hospitality, that’s something which has been available in what we’d now consider glamping units for a long time. Safari tents traditionally, have had a very high level of luxury. And similarly, because the market is growing, we’re seeing a whole new range of units produced with that segment in mind, to the point now that we have some, you know, almost entirely glass fronted units, which are running the same price as a traditional hotel room in terms of actual construction costs. But they offer what is essentially a five star room in the middle of nature. So, I think that we’re increasingly being able to offer any level of luxury or any level of travel within the glamping framework, and also offering a shift to what people consider luxury. Nick Purslow: Yeah, that sounds very much like what Jason Devenish was saying in the second episode that we did. He interviewed someone who runs a country hotel. And he was suggesting that the definition of luxury is changing. It’s not necessarily five-star hotel traditional facilities. It’s about the experience. And nature itself is a form of luxury. If, you know, as long as you’re not taking a normal tent, going camping, which is fine, but it’s not necessarily what people would describe as luxury. You can certainly create luxury in nature if you find the balance.
Eden Flaherty: 16:59
Absolutely. Nick Purslow: You mentioned earlier, Adventure tourism. I’d like to talk a bit more about that. Because that’s not something I’m too familiar with. Eden Flaherty: Yeah, okay. So, adventure tourism is travelling for adventure sports. Adventure sports would include things like surfing, climbing, paragliding, everything that you’d probably see on a Red Bull commercial, and it would freak you out at first maybe, would be a good way to put it. And people are travelling for that more. It’s becoming more popular in general, like adventure sports are becoming more popular. And it just ties in with the kind of other mega trends we’re seeing. Like that nature tourism, it ties in well with adventure tourism. Because the adventure sports are the kind of sports that you do in nature, as opposed to on a pitch or on a field. And glamping is starting to be a way that people can stay in, as we kind of already discussed, some level of luxury or not just a tent, while still being in nature, while still being able to access those areas which allow them to do those adventure sports. We’re also seeing, which is more prominent in Portugal than the UK certainly, sites which combine the two, glamping sites and activity sites. When I first started writing about the Portuguese market, it was actually one of the things I noticed that glamping was an add on for activity sites here as opposed to the UK where it’s the primary reason that people would go somewhere. And the big one here is surfing. So, we have a lot of, well, not a lot because there’s just not that many in the country. But we have several notable glamping sites with surfing as an offering here. And that’s the kind of core focus of what they do. So, there’d be Safari tents, which people stay in, and then surf tours and surf lessons and just, you know, surfing in general, as well as skating kind of all bundled into one. And that’s what I would consider kind of adventure tourism or adventure sports you know, focused around activities like that. You know, diving and stuff as well.
Nick Purslow: 19:02
Could you see adventure tourism becoming more of the thing in the UK?
Eden Flaherty: 19:07
I think adventure tourism is already a thing in the UK. I just don’t think it’s as heavily tied up with glamping as it is here in the Portuguese market. The UK remains a destination for trad climbers from around the world, especially north Wales is is well known. And a lot of the world class climbers still live there. You know, you’ve got Scotland as well, it’s just a mecca for hiking and climbing and ice climbing in the winter and things like that. Cornwall has always been known for its surfing. So, in terms of people travelling around for adventure tourism, obviously we like to picture these massive mountains in South America and stuff when we think of adventure and climbing and mountaineering and stuff. But realistically going to Cornwall to surf kind of falls into that bracket. And you know when you go up to Scotland and you decide that you’re going to go hiking or mountaineering or anything like that, you can stay in lodges, you can stay in traditional hotels, and I think increasingly, people are going to be staying in glamping. Because it’s kind of that, between, you know, staying in your own tent, which is what a lot of people who do these activities will, you know, do now, and staying in a more expensive hotel. But people are looking to be in nature when they’re doing these activities. So, glamping kind of offers an opportunity to do that.
Nick Purslow: 20:23
You mentioned there are people travelling around the UK to do adventure tourism. It’s the staycation market in the UK is absolutely booming at the minute. Well, once we’re out of lockdown, it will resume booming again because obviously, travel restrictions. But I think there’s been a general shift towards staycations in the last year or two anyway, that it will be semi-permanent or permanent. Is it similar in Portugal? Is the glamping market staycation focused? Or do people come from other countries? Eden Flaherty: Yeah. I mean staycations, as you mentioned, are becoming more popular. How long they stay popular is dependent on a lot of factors. Obviously COVID has driven people to stay within their countries if they do want to go away. But also we have, you know, as I mentioned earlier, refocusing on sustainability, a lot of people are starting to think about the carbon footprint of flying. And also, it’s a financial issue. I know we touched on the finances of glamping a little bit earlier. But staycations tend to be cheaper. You know, we saw a boom in staycations, after the 2008 financial crisis. And we’re kind of seeing the same thing now. And that’s true of both in the UK and in Portugal. Also Portugal obviously, its economy is, you know, very dependent, not dependent, but a big chunk of it is tourism. And that’s international tourism, the UK being one of the primary markets. And the pandemic has stopped that. So, we have seen a rise in staycations. I would be hesitant to say that that is going to continue after people are allowed to travel again there. Why do you think that? Eden Flaherty: In Portugal specifically, there’s a long history of international tourism, it still represents a sunny, but close vacation for a lot of people across the whole of Europe. You know, you have people coming from Spain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, it just all kind of sweep into Portugal, whether that be from, you know, flights. There’s a lot of people that drive over and stuff. There’s 300 days of sun in Portugal. Yeah. So, it’s just it remains a destination that people want to go to, especially from kind of Northern European countries. And also, I think that there is, how to say this? I think the Portuguese tourism body is going to continue to encourage international tourism as soon as it’s able to, because it represents such a large portion of the Portuguese economy. And so obviously, in the course of your work, formerly helping run a glamping business to now working with Glamping Advisors, you obviously have picked up a lot of lessons and tips and things to help prospective and existing glamping site owners. The purpose of this podcast is to help those people and give them advice. So, are there any particular lessons that you would say that you’ve learned that are really valuable? That prospective and existing glamping site owners should look at applying to their sites? Eden Flaherty: I would say the biggest lesson learned for me would be location, and not traditionally, you know, where to put a glamping site to have the maximum impact, but what’s available around where you already exist, and what makes it unique. I learnt this from my own glamping project in the UK, as you mentioned. That eventually kind of strangely developed through partnership with somebody in the area. Heavily focused on metal detecting, which then actually kind of blew up as a business and arguably became bigger than the glamping itself. You know, as I talked about earlier that activities plus accommodation is a really big, winning formula. And that was just because the area that we set up in was really historically rich, but also a lot of it was in, you know, private hands of farmers and stuff. And the person that we worked with was able to make those connections. And similarly, you know, if you’re in a coastal region, think about what that offers. If you’re in a forest region, think about what that offers. You know, really think about what makes the local location unique, I guess, and try and work with that. Nick Purslow: Yeah, it’s really good. On the locality thing, I think something that’s quite often forgotten, is that you will have competitors wherever it’s, maybe not right next door, but within the same region you’ll have, especially as the market develops, people offering similar thing. So, what we do with our feasibility studies is, we do actually look at the local competitors. As well as just distinguishing yourself from the market in general, you should also have a focus on what people nearby are offering. Because if you’re offering the same thing as them, then you know, I guess they’ll probably just pick the cheapest or the one with the best marketing if they’re not aware. So, yeah.
Eden Flaherty: 25:22
Yeah, for sure. For sure. I mean, in my experience, like, I think that you and I may have mentioned this briefly, but specifically, within glamping, the industry, having worked in it for a little while. You know, you come to realise very quickly that everybody that works in it is pretty nice. You know, whether that be suppliers, operators, anybody in any of the media side of it, everybody is pretty nice. And I have chosen glamping, because it’s interesting, because it has lower impact, because it offers something unique, because it offers something interesting. So when it comes to setting up those sites, I don’t think a lot of people are offering the same thing in the same location because it just doesn’t seem worthwhile.
Nick Purslow: 26:03
Okay, as we near the end then, if people are interested in finding out more about what you’ve got to say, and maybe some advice that you could give, how would they get in touch with you?
Eden Flaherty: 26:13
Yeah. We have a website glampingadvisors.com It’s probably the easiest way to get in touch. If you want to get in touch with me personally, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And we also have a presence on LinkedIn. Apart from that, we will not be on any social media. So, don’t try and find us there.
Nick Purslow: 26:30
Yeah. And if in the UK, don’t go to them, come to us.
Eden Flaherty: 26:36
Yeah, very much. If you’re focused on the Iberian Peninsula, definitely get in touch.
Nick Purslow: 26:42
And that’s the end of another episode of The Glampitect PODcast. Before I leave you, I just want to say a big thank you to all those who left a rating and review on Apple podcasts last week. It’s greatly appreciated as it’ll make our podcasts more visible and hopefully helping more people. We’ve got some more great guests lined up over the next few weeks. So, I look forward to seeing you then.
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