UAE sees surge in glamping amid Covid-19

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Dubai - Some glamping properties are booked until mid-January, as people are wary of travelling abroad

By Nandini Sircar

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Published: Mon 21 Dec 2020, 6:05 PM

Last updated: Tue 22 Dec 2020, 8:19 AM

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 novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak.

Glamping, a glamorous staycation industry in the UAE, is reporting a significant uptick in such bookings and some properties are booked until mid-January, as people are still wary of travelling abroad due to the pandemic.

UAE nationals and residents are homing in on picturesque parts of the country, which seeks to celebrate the world’s coolest winter campaign, starting this week.

Breathtaking locales such as the desert to mountainous venues top the holidaymakers’ agenda.

Many Emirati outdoorsy families have embraced glamping this year, as they soak in the charm of the rugged but quaint locales.

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.”

Glamping is a departure from mass-market tourism

Industry players cited 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 sous 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 and also Bahrain.

Many travel companies, which are reeling under the unprecedented impact of Covid-19, are offering glamping. The offers reportedly sold out within minutes of opening up for reservations. There has been a 10-fold 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 h/her own private space in resort-like amenities coupled with plenty of activities. A guest can either order food of h/her 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, which has emerged as a global trend, 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 $1 billion (bn) (Dh3.67 bn) over the next five years, a significant rise for an outdoor-travel niche.

Hassle-free camping

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% booked, while on weekdays the corresponding figure is up to 70%. 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.

Millennials represent the fastest growing demographic group among new campers.

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.”

Glamping, which is a portmanteau word of glamour and camping, is the best way to let your hair down in the wilderness without sacrificing the urban comfortable trappings of life.

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.

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