Glampique-Boutique Glamping Founder David Levine did a lot of traveling during his years as a working musician. “I was a saxophonist for 15 years in New York and also played cruise ships. I’ve been to over 60 countries and biked around about 20 of them,” he says. Yet, wherever in the world he was—Europe, China, Alaska—what he loved most was the scenery. He says his very favorite part of the day was finding the perfect place to camp out for the night. “About an hour before sunset, I’d start looking, and when I found a great place, I’d pitch my tent and watch the sunset.”
Recreating that experience, he told LODGING, is what he is doing now for others—in a decidedly more upscale way. “Now I’m finding the best, most spectacular land in America, and the tents we pitch there are gorgeous safari-style tents, with comfortable beds, beautiful furnishings, and bathrooms—I’m basically putting an outdoor boutique hotel on that land,” he describes.
Levine says there are many different types of lodgings that fall under the glamping banner, including yurts, airstreams, and RVs, as well as versions that are more permanent but usually less posh than his luxuriously appointed tents, such as cabins, huts, caves, igloos, and treehouses. What they share is all in the name—they offer a more glamorous and luxurious camping experience than traditional camping, but also provide the ability to commune with nature.
There is a general manager overseeing operations and staff, like in a traditional hotel, but there is no front desk and, because everything is prepaid, there are no credit cards or other financial transactions. During the check-in process, guests are greeted at their car by a staff member who leads them to their tent, shows them around, and provides information. “There’s a great personal connection between guests and the staff member, who becomes their point person—reachable via text, phone, or by popping into the lounge/check-in area—if they have questions, want recommendations, or need anything.”
“Except in warm locations, it’s a seasonal business. But it’s also a profitable one.”
David Levine, Founder, Glampique-Boutique Glamping
Levine admits that the glamping experience he offers—which few would describe as ‘roughing it’—isn’t for everyone. “It’s not like a hotel, where everything is connected and the guest is fully protected from the elements. It’s an outdoor experience, and separation is an important part of that.”
This focus on experience, he says, definitely dovetails with the next generation-driven trend toward experiential travel—even for a quick getaway or business retreat. “If a lot of your staff is under 40, they don’t want to go to just any hotel, no matter how upscale; they want something more interesting and memorable. Having everyone all together in these really amazing settings during corporate retreats/off-sites really lends itself to people getting to know each other better.”
He says it is common for non-corporate guests—many of whom are couples—to stay two nights—one being social, one being alone together. “Alone in their tents, guests can feel like they are the only people there, watching the sun rise over the ocean from bed. Yet, the other side is gathering with others for the breakfast experience or seeing everyone grilling and enjoying being around other people who choose this experience. They come from all backgrounds, but they have in common that they didn’t want to go to a typical hotel; people make friends so easily in this environment.”
Describing his business model, Levine stresses the advantages of having a business that is seasonal, and, to some extent, portable. “Except in warm locations, it’s a seasonal business. But it’s also a profitable one.” Another advantage, he mentions, is the ability to pack up and get out of harm’s way when a hurricane or other potentially catastrophic weather event is afoot.
Levine calls the breakdown of business and leisure guests “the perfect yin and yang” in that companies usually schedule their off-sites during the week, while leisure travelers aim for weekends. “Weekends are easy to fill with people from the area wanting to disconnect, get away, and enjoy nature in a luxurious setting.” He says he expects guests for a beach location on the Texas coast location to come from Houston, Austin, and San Antonio, and for a soon-to-open Niagara Falls location to come from Buffalo, Toronto, and abroad.
Levine currently holds 20-year leases on the two properties mentioned, and plans to add more. “Having been in the business for five years now, I’ve done it all, and really know and understand it. Now, I have these two really long-term leases in settings that are more spectacular than anything that existed in America—location-wise and also décor wise. It’s really exciting for me.”