The Glamping Business: Conestoga Ranch

Interview by: Alexandria Autrey

We sat down with one of the owners of the new glamping resort being built in Bear Lake, Utah. They gave us the in’s and out’s of what it is like to start up a new glamping site and the hype around it.

How long have you been in the Glamping business?
This is our first glamping resort. I was involved with a project in Jackson Hole, called Fireside Resort and I helped consult as well as develop that resort. That led us into maintaining a resort for the future and here we are, we open on July 1st here in Bear Lake.

How long did it take to start the business up?
I think it was last summer that we came up with the concept and that was our first vision for Bear Lake. Some of our business partners own land near the lake and for us that was when all the stars aligned to move forward. We have been under construction since early march and prior to that it was just research and development.

Why did you all choose Bear Lake?
We choose Bear Lake for a number of reasons. Have you ever been to a lake and thought that it was just a stunningly beautiful lake? Well, we went to Bear Lake and thought it had a lot of potential because its fairly underdeveloped and it was just a beautiful piece of property. So we thought it was a great opportunity to represent the glamping trend here at Bear Lake. We thought about our audience during the entire process which was a family friendly, family reunion type of audience would be a great fit for this type of property. So we tied in our glamping wagons and our glamping tents to the property with that audience in mind. And this July we are anticipating that we’ll have enough room for about 190 guests.

Where did you get all your Glamping supplies?
We attempted to find someone to contract the glamping site and we couldn’t find anybody that was building to the level of quality that we were interested in so, we started a business called Canvas and Company. With that said, we are now building both ourselves. Our canvas is called Montana Canvas and we do all the timber frames for the tents and build the wagons ourselves.

Were there any hurdles you had to tackle?
Staffing is always a hurdle when it comes to semi-remote locations. However, we have a great staff but, as of now we are still looking for staff for our restaurant and housekeeping; Otherwise we have a great crew. Five of us are on staff right now, and four of us will be staying onsite this summer to assist with operating the resort.

Where do you see people most likely wanting to stay?
We have had an even interest for both the tents and wagons. For example, a big group of say 30 to 40 people coming up for a family reunion tend to lean toward our wagon option. As they are really designed for groups because they’re mobile and we are able to customize a private group setting by circling the wagons around a common area campfire. And that really private area ties in a group experience. Then a family of 6 or so can take advantage of our family glamping tents and have that to themselves. So with that said groups tend to like wagons and our families are interested in our tents.

How many people can one tent hold?
They can both hold up to eight people.

How long has it taken to install the glamping site?
It will take every last minute of March 1st through July 1st.

Biggest lesson you’ve learned so far being in this business?
I would say we learned that lesson years ago on other projects and that is, we need to do a lot of market research and be proactive with our development plans. So that and a heavy focus on good quality marketing and good public relations. We put a lot of dollars into spreading the word and its all paying off. As of now we are filling up pretty quickly. Our weekends are just about completely booked and our weekdays are about 50% booked. Which is crazy considering we still don’t even have photos up.

What is the profit margin on glamping vs. a hotel?
I think that first of all, the return investment for constructing a beautiful glamping tent or wagon compared to the construction of a hotel is in favor of the glamping trend and the ability to manipulate your inventory for your interests. In a place like Bear Lake, where it is seasonal it works especially well because we can just shut down the resort after the season. All we have to do is wrap our tents up, cover our frames and our wagons until the next summer. Versus the other, which is having to weatherize a hotel which obviously costs a whole lot more to construct. From a financial perspective the model is very attractive.

What is the biggest challenge in operating a glamping destination?
Only because I have some experience in the world of glamping at fireside resort, I would argue that it’s making sure that your clients understand that although you offer a very comfortable camping experience it is still a campground. You don’t want people to arrive under the impression that they’re staying in a traditional four or five star resort because it’s comfortable but, at the same time you’re still dealing with the elements as well with nature. And that is both good and bad. We need to make sure to pursue our guest relations campaign to ensure that people are in full understanding of exactly what they get here at our resort.

What, if any is your Target demographic?
Our target demographic is Utah families I would say. And we are certainly interested in travelers on there way from Salt Lake City up to Jackson Hole or vice versa but, I think our majority audience is certainly Utah based families.

How do you create an environmentally safe area for the guests?
We’re right in Garden City so as far as wildlife goes its not exactly a popular corridor for wildlife which is a good thing for us. As far as protecting the environment, it’s just less hurtful to the environment to post tents and wagons than it is to host an actual developed resort. We are a really green resort and it’s obvious that the glamping trend is lined with those goals.

Do you have plans to expand?
We do, we will very likely be expanding as soon as next year. We are not certain as to where we will be doing it but, we might have an opportunity in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

What, if any is your Target demographic?
We cater to the high net worth individual.

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