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The Glamping Business: Hauer Ranch
Interview by: Alexandria Autrey
Have you ever wondered how a "Glamping Business" got it's start? Glamping.com, asked Hauer Ranch of Moab, just that. Below is an interview we conducted with the owners of the Ranch on their experience in the glamping business.
How long have you been in the Glamping business?
The Hauer Ranch has been a private ranch for nearly 30 years and only in the last 6 years has offered nightly rentals in its three unique ranch houses, plus trail rides to all varieties of riders. While we aren't precisely a glamping business, we are a rustic ranch that doesn't exactly adhere to the white-glove standards of a fancy Marriott. Our buildings are made of aged wood with wooden floors, and the interiors have an eclectic array of beds and furniture that is anything but modern. They are comfortable, homey and evoke the ranch atmosphere. Photos can be viewed on our web site, www.moabhorses.com. Much of the furnishings have been gleaned from our own collections, from handmade quilts to leather couches.
How long did it take to start the business up?
Our business has grown over the past 6 years not necessarily because we were pushing it to, but because it turned out that there is a demand and desire from the public to stay at a place like ours. People have enjoyed vacationing in our quiet and remote ranch away from the bustle of other guest ranches or motels or downtown Moab. They love our night skies where the stars are like laser points in the skies. They like being able to grill a steak on the porch, take a quiet walk or have a campfire. They like staying in a place that is like none other. As for our trail rides, they enjoy our small, custom-tailored groups that offer safety for beginners including younger children. Experienced riders also come here to ride because they can schedule an adventure that fits their skill levels.
Were there any hurdles you had to tackle?
There are constant hurdles in the customer-appreciation business, and probably the biggest one is making it clear to potential guests the product we are offering. If they want luxury that doesn't have a grain of sand mixed in with it, they'd better go stay somewhere else. If they are picky and want perfection, they'd better go stay at a new hotel. If they want a Crate & Barrel-furnished kitchen, we are not for them. If they want a unique taste of the West, then come stay with us! Moab has a wide variety of new hotels, older updated motels, bed and breakfasts and guest ranches.
What activities do people do during the day when staying?
When people come to Moab they visit our national parks. They drive, hike, climb, raft, take pictures, scale rock walls, jump from airplanes and ride horses. We have everything except an ocean here in southeastern Utah.
Biggest lesson you've learned so far being in this business?
As for our lodging, we are constantly challenged to keep our cottages in good repair. The public is hard on them, especially those who bring dogs which we allow. Rugs and furniture and plumbing get worn out quickly, and it is a busy job to keep things at a level that the public desires. One big lesson is to make it clear to the public the product we are offering. Then they know what they are in for, as do we. We have tried to draw clear lines of rules and expectations, from how many guests our houses can handle, to where people can park in order to protect our precious desert and the Nature Conservancy conservation easement that protects much of our 140-acre ranch. We live here because we like the privacy and the peace, and when we have clear guidelines for the public, we can all enjoy that tranquility and privacy.
Why did you decide to offer the glamping vs. traditional accommodation options? Do you have plans to expand?
We didn't set out to offer glamping as opposed to more traditional lodging. We turned the product we had--a small family private ranch--into a destination that a few guests at a time can come and enjoy as do we. We had in existence a family guest cottage and a caretaker house, when we decided to offer them as nightly rentals. Our uber unique Rock House, which was featured on the cover of Architectural Digest in 1993, began as the primary ranch house, designed and built by the Hauer family. When we outgrew it, we built another private family ranch a quarter mile from the Rock House, and decided to let the public enjoy the one-of-a-kind Rock House. It is our most popular booking. Though we are certain that we could generate more business by building more cabins, we want to protect the desert and the rural atmosphere of our quiet ranch. Our neighbors down the road have developed guest ranches with wall-to-wall cabins the density of which maxes out Grand County building code regulations. We believe that bigger is not better.
What is the biggest challenge operating the glamping? How did/do you solve this problem?
Our biggest challenge is offering a product to the public that our guests enjoy and which does not impact the rural experience we have as residents. This is a constant tug. The ranch is our serenity. There are days when the impacts from the public, and the costs of running lodging and trail rides, give us pause as to whether it's all worth it. As with any job, weighing personal values with job demands is an ever-present question, especially when you are working with guests and employees and trying to make them all happy. But when we see the smiling faces of riders who've just returned from the trail on a fine mule or horse, riding where John Wayne rode in lots of famous movies, we realize that is a huge part of our satisfaction. Same for our lodging. It is unique. It is peaceful. It is one-of-a-kind and it is comfy. We consider it a privilege to host the public, and we hope that our guests know that it is a privilege to stay at the Hauer Ranch.