Glamorous camping - or glamping - could not only provide farmers with a bit of extra income, it is the 'next evolution in rural accommodation' says Bayleys' Waikato regional general manager, Mark Dawe.
With more people wanting holidays and short breaks where they can disconnect and get back to nature, avenues have opened up for rural and lifestyle property owners to share their land with paying guests through glamping.
Dawe said the glamping trend is evidence of a rural sector becoming smarter with its assets.
"For years, rural landowners have focused on milking cows, fattening stock, raising deer, growing crops, tending vines, or pruning the orchards".
"Now it's about making the most of a land asset in its various forms and we've seen the proliferation in tourist-related activities, leveraged off the county's global 'clean, green' reputation".
Glamping takes camping to an entirely new level – complete with high thread count bed linen, quality amenities and many subtle luxuries – all on land that may otherwise be out-of-bounds for Kiwis and overseas travellers.
The concept draws on the success of the earlier bed and breakfast model that saw farmers and lifestyle property owners hosting guests in their own homes or in other accommodation facilities on their land.
When Liz Henderson and Sonia Minnaar launched their glamping business Canopy Camping back in 2012, they sensed that the demand for unique, off-the-beaten-track accommodation options would resonate with both tourists to New Zealand and domestic travellers.
The pair now represent more than 50 glamping operators around the country and work in partnership with property owners to promote their offerings and handle enquiries and bookings.
There was a broad range of accommodation options on offer – some under canvas, and others in purpose-built accommodation with a twist – and it was opening up privately-held land to a new audience.
"The market for glamping is stronger than ever with plenty of international and domestic support, occupancy across our collection growing year on year, and significant repeat business" said Henderson.
"Places in popular destinations with incredible lake or ocean views tend to generate the most occupancy year-round with some of our operators enjoying 80-90 per cent occupancy.
"Cantabrians have really embraced glamping and scenic sites within one to two hours of Christchurch are proving very popular.
"However, unique, creative accommodation concepts in out-of-the-way locations are also sought-after and we can't wait to get our first real 'tree house' – we're sure that would be a winner!"
Minnaar believed that as long as the quality of the experience offered remains high and the magic and charm are there, the glamping industry will go from strength to strength.
"People are now – more than ever – slaves to modern technology and an ever-increasing pace of life" she said.
"We're not designed to live this way and the desire to unplug and detox from digital devices, reconnect with the special people in our lives and escape into nature is only going to grow.
"We see this glamping trend as a long term opportunity for landowners and guests".
Dawe agreed saying, "glamping is the next evolution in rural accommodation" and could work for farmers as well.
A glamping business could provide a robust secondary or tertiary income stream – along with the opportunity to connect with people who value the rural landscape.
"Although glamping operations are unlikely to produce standalone revenue for a rural property, with the right marketing and service standards, five-figure incomes can be grown as the business matures".
What makes a great glamping spot?
• Sheltered from prevailing winds.
• Attractive – with no ugly distractions like big power pylons.
• Peaceful – no road noise.
• Water nearby – coastal, river, stream or pond.
• Easily accessible – preferably with drive-up access.
• A sense of being removed from civilisation – even if there is a flat white available nearby.
• Farm, olive grove, vineyard, lifestyle block.
• Bathroom and kitchen facilities – often converted from existing farm buildings e.g. shearers' quarters, barn.
• Landowners who genuinely enjoy meeting and hosting people.