1 year ago

Open Air Business January 2017

The UK's outdoor hospitality business magazine for function venues, glamping businesses and outdoor event organisers


ACCOMMODATION Site Security Kate Morel offers her advice on glampsite security and how to get the balance right GETTY IMAGES GROWING UP ON a Shropshire smallholding I clearly remember my parents’ rather blasé approach to security – they left keys in cars at night, tools and equipment in unlocked barns, and rarely bothered to lock the house. We lived on a quiet lane with little passing traffic and always knew the passers-by anyway. The only on-site security was the chicken wire buried three feet below ground to keep Mr Fox from digging his way to a chicken supper. That was a long time ago, but even now in some parts of rural UK, communities don’t feel that they have to worry too much about unwanted visitors stealing their possessions away. I for one adopted my parents’ attitude toward security when many years later I bought my own smallholding in Powys. Maybe I should mention it was a low crime area and the nature of the location made it unappealing to would-be thieves. This easy going rural approach, in my experience at least, also applies to some glamping business owners. When I ask how accommodation is secured during site appraisals for agency Quality Unearthed, very often the answer is that it isn’t. Sadly it’s increasingly important to be more cautious and for those who like statistics, especially if you’re just at the buying stage, it’s easy enough to find online crime records for any postcode. We might well ask if we genuinely need to concern ourselves with security on a glampsite, especially if it’s remote and the only access is right past our front door. Depending on the area, site layout and access, the answer could still possibly be ‘yes’, and perhaps increasingly so. Glamping sites and accommodations are as vulnerable to theft as any other holiday let. REASONS TO FOCUS If we are not doing so already, there are a few reasons why we might want to focus on security. Glamping worldwide, let alone in the UK, is just gaining momentum. There are years of development ahead, which I believe will see more glamping sites at all levels come onto the market. It’s not unreasonable to assume that customer demands and expectations will also continue to increase, and in fact it’s already happening, resulting in more highend glamping or at least better facilities and expensive add-ons. Also, let’s not forget that there is a lot of information provided online these days. Detailed ‘how to find us’ directions, satellite maps, descriptions and photographs on websites are all part of our marketing. I do wonder if we sometimes provide more ‘in advance’ information than we need to. Most of this is essential for would-be guests. However, it also exposes our accommodation to less welcome ‘visitors’ who might want to relieve us of a few choice items one night. Admittedly a lot of glamping sites are well off the beaten track and don’t have easy vehicular access, but they might not be completely safe. I’ve visited many glamping sites with public footpaths nearby, making it easy for people to stroll in when nobody is about. You might think this rather unlikely, but during a site visit earlier this year I actually saw it happen. The person in question didn’t take anything but certainly had a good look inside the glamping accommodation before returning to the public footpath behind and disappearing

ACCOMMODATION up the lane. To be fair he was no doubt just curious and who wouldn’t be, but the potential for items to be removed, and quickly, was certainly there. The owner was aware of the issue and planned to fence off the path and add security cameras, but I can’t help feeling that guests might be uncomfortable about the close proximity of a public footpath - not to mention guests’ and walkers’ issues around cameras. Even if we believe that our glamping site is safe and totally inaccessible to theft, we still need to consider security for guests’ peace of mind. The reason security and lockable structures are on my list of appraisal questions is because more guests are asking about it - they are concerned about their safety, and that of their families and possessions. As glamping becomes more popular, “EVEN IF WE BELIEVE THAT OUR GLAMPING SITE IS SAFE AND TOTALLY INACCESSIBLE TO THEFT, WE STILL NEED TO CONSIDER SECURITY FOR GUESTS’ PEACE OF MIND” attracting people who aren’t used to remote rural locations and dark nights bereft of street lights, I can only see it becoming a more important part of some guests’ booking criteria. A CAUTIONARY TALE I recently spoke to glampsite owners who’d experienced the unthinkable, just four weeks after opening. They woke up to find that during the night a van had been driven right past their house to their yurts and thousands of pounds worth of equipment, furniture and accessories had been stolen as they slept. Those responsible even had a nose through the guest comments book! The owner had taken out insurance, but it transpired that the policy required the accommodation itself to be locked and secured. While the yurt doors did have locks on them and were used by guests, when unoccupied they were left unlocked. This was in the hope that in the event of a burglary an unlocked door would avoid a forced entry, resulting in no structural damage and a less expensive, quicker return to ‘business as usual’. Naturally the insurance company initially refused to pay the claim, stating that the policy requirements had not been met. So, if you’re leaving your glamping structures unlocked when unoccupied, it might be wise to check the small print in your insurance policy. The ‘locked doors’ caveat wasn’t made clear at the time this owner took out the policy so eventually the insurance company paid the claim, but it took a long time. Fortunately for the owners they were able to replace the stolen items from their own back-up store, funds and home, in time to be ready for the next customers. SECURITY OPTIONS There are many ways we can safeguard our glamping sites, provide deterrents and reassure our guests. The level of security needed and desired at each site is going to vary. It could be something as simple as locked