23 Sep 2021
Words Ben Hall Informer Issue 100
The Rise Of Ecotourism & Glamping
If you love the idea of getting out into the great outdoors but are not keen on the creepy crawlies, a sleeping bag full of sand or mud or the thought of needing a shovel to go and dig a toilet, then glamping might be a good alternative for you.
“Glamping,” which combines the words glamourous and camping, is the perfect antidote to the sometimes awkward and frustrating process of pitching a tent which can become a muddy mess if the rain hits. Let’s face it – traditional camping can be fun but so many things can go wrong. Someone’s forgotten the sleeping bags, the breakfast food, the torches, the matches, the toilet paper. The local insects have decided to go on a human feeding frenzy.
With glamping, there is no tent to pitch and no gazebo to struggle with, meals are usually prepared for you by chefs so all you have to do is sit back, relax and enjoy a glass of wine as the sun sets to birdsong knowing you’re not facing another night of sleeping on a half inflated blow-up mattress.
Glamping is a way to experience the great outdoors while enjoying a little bit of luxury and it’s becoming one of the most popular forms of ecotourism, which itself is emerging as one of the fastest growing tourism sectors.
It’s where stunning nature meets modern luxury. It's a way to experience the untamed and completely unique parts of the world without having to sacrifice creature comforts. Glamping has evolved as traveller demand has changed from a generic, one-size-fits-all vacation to a camping experience that is comfy and luxurious. Electricity, plush blankets, running water, mood lighting, superb meals and a full range of creature comforts are what make glamping an ideal vacation for many. We no longer just want to simply witness nature - we want to live in it and amongst it.
“The attraction is that this is what the market wants,” says Ecotourism Australia CEO Rod Hillman.
“If you look at all the trends that are coming through, pre-COVID and post-COVID, there's a real interest from visitors and guests that are looking for the experience that ecotourism offers.
“The key thing is this idea of ‘connection’. For people, especially those living in urban areas of cities, it gives them a chance to connect with themselves, connect with nature, and just focus on themselves and have a completely different experience to what they have every day.”
Australia’s ecotourism industry by numbers
14,000 directly employed
$1.6 billion combined annual revenue
500 registered operations with Ecotourism Australia
(Source: Ecotourism Australia)
“It's this real concept of wellness, so having experiences such as in an ecoresort, or through an ecotourism activity, you're actually making yourself feel well. You’re experiencing physical wellness, mental wellness but also the social experience that comes with it. It really enriches your life and makes you better.”
The most relevant recent survey on ecotourism was conducted by Booking.com which was released on World Environment Day, June 5, 2021, which states that 61 percent of travellers surveyed said that the COVID pandemic has made them want to travel more sustainably in the future.
The same report says that 83 percent of global travellers think sustainable travel is vital, 72 percent of travellers believe people must act now to save the planet for future generations and 81 percent of travellers say they want to stay in a sustainable accommodation in the upcoming year – up from 62 percent in 2016.
So, which types of ecotourism products are in high demand now?
“Well, at the moment just about everything, with the borders closed, domestic travel has gone crazy. Accommodation is probably faring the best in the tourism sector,” Mr Hillman says.
What Travellers Want
61% say they want to travel more sustainably
83% say sustainable travel is vital
81% want to stay in a sustainable accommodation in the upcoming year
62% wanted to stay in sustainable accommodation in 2016
(Source: Booking.com 2021 Sustainability Report)
“If you speak to most accommodation providers, certainly in the ecotourism sector, many of them are having the best years they've ever had in terms of occupancy and revenue, especially the ones that are within a three to four hour drive of the capital cities. They’re running at 100 percent.”
Nightfall Camp is one of Australia’s most popular ecoresorts with five luxury glamping tents, located in Lamington National Park south of Brisbane, and owner-operator Steve Ross reports that bookings are at 100 percent. Nightfall Camp is already fully booked from January to July 2022.
“Our guests are pretty much looking for the same thing when they come here. They want to be at one with nature, even just for a little while, and they want to forget the clutter and complications of everyday life.” says Steve Ross.
“It’s all about a genuine desire to connect with nature. Our guests come here to be immersed in a national park teeming with wildlife and natural sounds. There’s a fresh water creek that runs year round.
“People want balance and rejuvenation, they want pure fresh air and the tranquility of the forest. We have a maximum of only eight guests at one time and this ensures privacy, intimacy and peace and quiet.
“The way we do it is that we offer all this, with the added advantage of enjoying a truly luxurious experience which includes organic home cooked meals with locally sourced products.”
Ecotourism is the fastest growing tourism sector
47% increase in number of visitors bushwalking over past 5 years
56% increase in national and state park visitor numbers
32% increase in the number of people whale/dolphin watching
(Source: Tourism Research Australia)
Steve Ross says he and partner Jade Adermann, who work together at Nightfall, can literally see a change in guests when they leave the resort.
“You can see it in their faces and in their body language. They’re more relaxed and they seem happier.”
The definition of ecotourism adopted by Ecotourism Australia is: "Ecotourism is ecologically sustainable tourism with a primary focus on experiencing natural areas that fosters environmental and cultural understanding, appreciation and conservation."
Ecotourism operations promote sustainable travel that benefits local communities, culture, and heritage and minimise impacts on the environment.
The idea of luxury excursions into the wilderness is nothing new. In the early 1900s, British and American adventurers to the African plains hired tailors, chefs and dozens of porters per person for extravagant game hunting trips.
But the term “glamping” itself is only a few years old. Google searches show that people started looking for the term on the internet only from about 2007.The word “glamping” first appeared in the United Kingdom in 2005 and was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2016.
Now there exists a “glamping versus camping” rivalry which actually shares a common thread about being at one with nature imbued with a consciousness and concern about environmental and societal impacts.
But for glamping enthusiasts, author David Barry’s take on traditional camping is perhaps what really motivates them: "It always rains on tents. Rainstorms will travel thousands of miles, against prevailing winds for the opportunity to rain on a tent." END
Who is Ecotourism Australia?
Ecotourism Australia (EA) is a not for profit, membership-based organisation inspiring environmentally sustainable and culturally responsible tourism. Internationally recognised through the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, EA designs and delivers certification programs for tourism products and destinations, assuring travellers that these are backed by a strong commitment to sustainability and quality.