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The Glamping Business: C U Lazy Ranch
Interview by: Alexandria Autrey
We sat down with C U Lazy Dude Ranch to hear about their unique story on how they joined the glamping movement. Thanks to one families request to camp, this ranch went from cabins to luxury camping, giving urban families a chance to experience the outdoors in style.
How long has C U Lazy Ranch been in the glamping business?
We have been in the glamping business since 2008, and it’s a very fun story. The family from New York, a father and son said they have never been camping and asked if we could set up a camp site. We gave them a tent, a sleeping bag and a s’mores kit. Then we drove them out into the ranch and left them overnight, this was before glamping went mainstream. Ever since, we’ve offered that same experience to other guests in addition to setting up an actual glamping site on our property.
How long did that take to get your glamping site up and running?
We had everything we needed such as basic tent supplies but, we had to construct a proper glamping tent for guest in addition to purchasing a big tent and building a platform. We also added beds, battery power for lights and the ability to charge an iPhone in the tents. There is also a wood-burning stove to really make our guests comfortable. We really strived to expand the idea of it just being a tent into something more glamorous.
Where did your ranch get your supplies, such as the tents and their decor?
The tents we bought through a provider, Davis Tent and Awning. That was the hardest piece of equipment we had to obtain. Then we built the platforms from reclaimed lumber, which was then secured to our tents. We really enjoy using materials from the ranch and the heat sources in the tents are these cool old wood-burning stoves from the early 1900s. However, everything within the tents are mainstream and can be purchased anywhere.
How did you all create an environment that was safe for the animals as well as the guests?
We have a huge property that sits on 8,500 acres and we respect the animals. We didn’t want to put something out there that was going to interfere with their habitat. However, if they smell food, bears for example, are going to be attracted to it. So, from a safety standpoint we make sure to educate all of our guests to protect them and the animals. We tell the guests not to leave food out because if a bear gets into the food they can become dependent on something that is not a natural food source. It’s just dangerous for everyone, so we make sure not to feed wild animals.
Where is the most popular glamping site?
Originally we had three glamping sites, which became too many and people were primarily drawn to what we call the woodsy look site. The woodsy look site, overlooks the reservoir and its one of the most picturesque spots on the entire ranch. We actually consolidated all of our glamping sites into that one location since that’s where everyone wanted to be. People didn’t want to be too remote yet, they wanted to be close to the main ranch in case they wanted to come back for any reason. So the woodsy look site is the perfect location for our guests to go glamping.
What activities do glampers like to do when staying at the Ranch?
People love horseback riding, we have almost two-hundred horses and we are a real working guest ranch. Almost 99% of guests horseback ride when they’re here and that’s what draws them to our ranch. We also have other activities for guests to enjoy such as fly fishing and trap shooting but, horseback riding is the number one draw for guests.
You said a lesson you learned is that everything is always changing and it is important to keep improving. Have you learned anything else being in this niche business?
What I am seeing in other glamping properties is that they are really taking it to a whole new level. It’s not just sleeping in a tent, it’s taking it to a luxurious level where there is running water, electricity and five star services that are being offered. So for us, in order to be successful you need to keep reinventing yourself and staying up with the latest trends because, there is always someone out there taking it to a more extreme level than you.
The ranch offers both glamping and traditional accommodations, why did you decide to offer both?
We’ve always been a guest ranch with guest cabins, so we have always had that component of the operation. Glamping was something that we offered for one of the nights that you stay with us, so it’s like an extra a benefit. Guests can go off and do the glamping one or two nights of the week while staying with us, versus staying in a tent the whole time they are here.
Is the business profitable, meaning is it worth offering both the glamping and the cabins?
It’s definitely profitable. Our guests are paying to stay in a cabin and then they are paying extra to stay in the tent, so it’s very profitable. There is very minimal capitol investment to build a glamping tent, so the payback is relatively quick.
You mentioned you all have plans to expand, what are your plans for that?
We are still working on it, so we don’t have a defined timeline. However, we are looking at doing an overnight riding and glamping experience. This experience would be where guests leave the ranch and ride a horse around the property for half of a day. Then the guests would stay the night out there with a five star dinner cooked brought to the remote location by one of our chefs. Essentially, the guests would stay in the glamping tent and then wake up to a nice breakfast. Afterwards, the guests would then ride their horse back to the ranch for a twenty-four hour glamping experience.
You said it’s hard to find people to come out and housekeep, how do you solve that problem?
We have a full housekeeping department and we have forty-three guest cabins so it’s a little easier for us since we have a team. However, most housekeepers are used to a hotel rather than driving out to the woods. So, before they come, they have to think ahead since we do not have the same amenities.
What is your target demographic?
We target families with kids anywhere from ages three to eighteen, who are seeking a family vacation away from an urban environment. Most of the guests are pretty successful, they’re business owners or executive level type people. We target groups of people that want to experience the west and have a little bit of adventure. Therefore, we mostly cater to five star clientele but, our property isn’t the typical resort. We consider the ranch a five star operation in a dude ranch setting.