A Glamping Unicorn

I remember founding my glamping company in 2014, before most people knew what glamping was. Today glamping is more popular than ever, and most people still haven’t heard of glamping. With a loyal tribe that is growing as more learn about glamping, there is more opportunity for new providers and investors than ever.

It is an exciting time in glamping as scarcity has created geographic monopolies with high prices - Collective Retreats’ $800/night tents - and an unmet, growing demand luring new entrants to the space.

Until one week ago, the glamping investment race was led by Under Canvas, with $17m raised in late 2017 and an undisclosed amount raised in late 2018, followed by Getaway ($17.6m), Tentrr ($12.7m) and Collective Retreats ($12.5m). Then Autocamp announced $115m in funding, through a partnership with real estate private equity firm Whitman Peterson including a provision for a potential $115 million more in the future.

While AutoCamp's raise is substantial, the US glamping industry has yet to see the €700m and $1.69bn valuations in Europe. But with demand far outpacing supply, US glamping is bound to create a glamping unicorn (company valued at $1bn or more).

AutoCamp's first new location since the deal was announced looks to be a 13 acre campground in Cape Cod, as reported by the Cape Cod Times. Listed at $4.5m, the site will feature “98 Airstream rental trailers and 10 canvas tents”. “Blue Flag Development LLC, based in Boston, has a purchase and sale agreement,” suggesting the Autocamp's $115m raise is in partnership with multiple real estate investors.

This approach differs from other glamping companies. Collective Retreats founder Peter Mack opted for an asset light model with five-year leases at each location. “We have no intention to own real estate or even buildings”, says Mack. Under Canvas founder Sarah Dusek “started with lease-to-own agreements. We now own all of our locations.

These multiple approaches leave a lot to be sorted out by other glamping operators with an eye on growth, alternative lodging investors and real estate investors keen on entering the glamping market.

David Levine