Revealed: Glamping grows amid Covid-19 shadow in UAE

Photo by Shihab/Khaleej Times
Photo by Shihab/Khaleej Times

Dubai - UAE nationals and residents are homing in on picturesque parts of the country.

By Nandini Sircar

Published: Sat 16 Jan 2021, 5:38 PM

Upmarket campsites, especially in the Northern Emirates, have sprung up in the UAE of late following an uptick in the glamping industry that has reported a surge in bookings this year amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Some properties are booked until mid-January, as people are still wary of travelling abroad.

UAE nationals and residents are homing in on picturesque parts of the country. Breathtaking, rugged but quaint locales such as the desert to mountainous venues top the holidaymakers’ agenda.

Urs Eiselin, the founder of Starlight Camping, said: “We have been experiencing a significant surge in bookings, as compared to last year. The demand has grown by up to 30 per cent this year. It is important to think about the target audience and design the offers tailored to their needs. Emiratis are big on glamping, as they want to experience nature in a private and exclusive luxurious setting.”

Industry players pointed out that glamping is a welcome departure from mass-market tourism.

Urs said: “Many people are unwilling to travel overseas this year. ‘Nature meets luxury’ sites are in great demand because guests spend the night in a sanitised fully furnished tent with breathtaking views of a sheltering sky. The tent has all modern amenities such as Wi-Fi, air-conditioning and chefs rustle up bespoke meals in line with dietary needs of guests. The glamping flair in the UAE can only be compared with exotic Switzerland.”

At present, most Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) tourists prefer to take a road trip rather than flying.

No wonder, glamping has struck an instant chord with GCC nationals and residents. The trend has spread to neighbouring Saudi Arabia and Oman as well as Bahrain.

Many travel companies, which are reeling under the unprecedented impact of Covid-19, are offering glamping. The offers reportedly sell out within minutes of opening up for reservations. There has been a tenfold rise in capacity since the concept was launched in the UAE.

Vinayak Mahtani, the founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of bnbme, a holiday home management company, said: “We offer guests all the luxuries of a holiday home or hotel in the desert or on the beach. Glamping holds an edge because a guest uses his/her own private space in resort-like amenities coupled with plenty of activities. One can either order food of one’s choice or is free to indulge in self-cooking.”

Companies offer high quality linen to down and feather beds, as guests sleep under stars.

Vinayak said: “Guests have access to portable washrooms. Glamping has gained traction because of the contagion, as guests can comply with social distancing norms.”

Glamping has emerged as a global trend and has grown exponentially in the UAE, after it gathered momentum in the West.

A recent Arizton report cited that the glamping industry is estimated to clock revenues of around $1billion (Dh3.67b) over the next five years, a significant rise for an outdoor-travel niche.

Aiman Zahra, the Cluster Marketing executive of Longbeach campground, put the discernible trend in perspective.

“Though bookings from the Russian market have dipped because of the viral outbreak, the sentiments of the UAE’s domestic sector have been heartening. Our bookings are appreciably better than last year. On weekends, we’re 100 per cent booked, while on weekdays the corresponding figure is up to 70 per cent. Safari and dome panoramic tents are a huge hit. One can enjoy the fun of a glamorous camping trip without the hassle of it,” Aiman said.

Seema Ved, who recently went glamping, looked back with admiration.

“I have never been an outdoor person. However, when my husband introduced me to this new concept of glamping, I jumped at the concept. Glamping lets people forget about their daily grind. It introduces hotel amenities in an exclusive setting and offers maximum comfort. Glamping is a good deal for a staycation amid the contagion.”

Ala Asallal, an UAE resident, said: “I am an outdoor person by nature. Glamping is a fun thing. It has a cool quotient. It’s a modern take on traditional camping activities. This is the safest form of entertainment during the viral outbreak. It’s inspiring to stay connected with elemental beauty.”

Indian expatriate Zoya Shaikh echoed Ala.

“If you go camping on your own you have to pack so many things. Then, it starts feeling like a chore. Preparing a checklist of all the things one has to carry…packing up the car with tents, blankets, a barbeque set, firewood, oil, food and then returning with half a tonne of sand. But glamping simplifies everything, it cuts out the stress. Staycation experiences are customised, while retaining the essence of camping,” said Zoya, a glamping enthusiast.

What is glamping?

Glamping is a portmanteau word of glamour and camping. It is a glamorous staycation industry in the UAE and is the best way to let your hair down in the wilderness without sacrificing the urban comfortable trappings of life.

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