Luxury hotels now include… camping?
More and more travellers are turning to nature tourism, e.g. trips to unique sites, package tours and outdoor activities. However, these same consumers also want to enjoy comfort, safety and relaxation. Although these needs may seem incompatible, some hotels have successfully combined them by offering camping as part of their latest deluxe products!
A desire for nature and a simpler time
According to French sociologist Jean-Didier Urbain, the desire for nature is one of the primary “needs” generated by city life; the yearning for a natural environment is a reaction to an everyday life of streets and pavement. Furthermore, this phenomenon is likely to increase: it is estimated that by the year 2015, over half the world’s population will be living in cities, especially in the West. For tourism professionals, this nascent trend offers incredible potential.
For his part, sociologist Michel Maffesoli highlights the emergence of a “post-modern paradox”: the prevailing search for luxury, combined with a desire to return to the past. In other words, a desire to get back to the basics. Therefore, those who develop products cleverly combining luxury and nature seem destined for success.
Defined by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) as a “form of tourism in which the main motivation of the tourist is the observation and appreciation of nature”, nature tourism responds to the desire for nature by organizing access to exceptional natural environments. To complete the nature tourism experience, the tourism industry has had to develop accommodation solutions that provide a level of comfort to meet customer needs without “de-naturing” the natural environment of the host location. The creation of ecolodges is part of this trend.
Luxury meets nature
Having picked up on this trend – and not wanting to miss out on this market segment – the luxury hotel trade has drawn its inspiration from the tent, a type of lodging traditionally associated with the great outdoors. To attract urban travellers, luxury establishments are designing innovative accommodations that recreate the spirit of adventure so often associated with camping.
First Four Seasons camping site
To help travellers slake their thirst for direct contact with nature, the latest resort from the prestigious Four Seasons hotel chain offers 15 tent accommodations in the Golden Triangle of Northern Thailand. Each spacious tent features a unique décor, zippered doors and windows, a large bed, recycled teak floor, oversized copper bathtub, outdoor shower, high-speed internet access, a safe, and more. A “first” for the hotel group, this pilot project will be used as a benchmark for developing new camps in the future.
Interest on every continent
In 2005, the luxury Resort at Paws Up in Montana added “Tent City” to its product line, offering the American plan (all meals) for US$595 per night. Each tent includes a comfortable bed (fine linen and feather duvet) and artwork on the walls, while the nearby spa provides outdoor massages on the banks of the Blackfoot River, with essential oils from the surrounding region. The concept has been so successful that 6 tents and a new spa will be added in 2006.
In Australia, the Voyages Hotels and Resorts group, which manages 23 luxury resorts, opened Longitude 131°, a 5-star wilderness camp, on July 1, 2004. Located in the heart of a national park, this site -affiliated with the Small Luxury Hotels of the
World group, offers 15 elegant tents mounted on pilings, equipped with air conditioning and satellite television.
Not surprisingly, similar camps can also be found in Dubai (where the Al Maha Desert Resort is located in a 225 square km desert wildlife preserve) and in the Tunisian Sahara, a national park in Namibia as well as some natural sites in Bolivia.
The myth of the adventurer
Amused by the behaviour of city-dwellers wanting to re-experience the past while incorporating the comforts of the city, Jean-Didier Urbain notes that large tourism-based businesses are justified in using the terms “camp” and “camping”, because they are referring to the consumer fantasy of being an adventurer. That being said, hoteliers nonetheless seem to have successfully created a promising new market niche by cleverly combining the desire for nature with a taste for luxury.
– Hamam, Nadia. “Palais de toile sous les étoiles,” Madame Figaro [www.madamefigaro.fr], February 14, 2006.
– Maffesoli, Michel. ?Un désir de retour à l’archaïque,? Madame Figaro [www.madamefigaro.fr], February 14, 2006.
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