Rise of better furnished, luxurious camping, ethno and glamping resorts with more content, attractive to both tourists and investors
Over the last few years, several tourist camps and small nature resorts have been opened in continental Croatia. Among them, the Plitvice Holiday Resort in Grabovac and the Big Bear Plitvice Camping Resort in Donji Babin Potok near Vrhovine, attracted attention on the camping market with their originality and unique offer. This shows that there is both will and funding for such investments which have so far been rare further away from the Adriatic. Considering the rising demand, it is expected that this trend will continue in the future.
The camp in Grabovac opened a long time ago, but for years it wasn’t recognized or promoted on the camping market, which has significantly changed when it became a glamping location, i.e. glamourous, luxury camping, very different from the traditional camping in tents or camper trailers.
Today this is no longer the case. Even if we exclude the glamping treehouse accommodation which attracted the most attention in that resort, there are still many other elements that shift this resort close to global trends moving towards more furnished camps with more amenities, desirable to both vacationers as well as investors.
The Big Bear Plitvice camp is in a similar situation. Its offer and amenities are competitive with any similar camp across Europe, but what makes these two special is the vicinity to Plitvice Lakes and Lika in general, giving them a unique position in pristine and verdant nature.
Expectations are also very high for the future T-Nest (Tesla’s Nest), a luxury eco-settlement under construction near Lovinac in Lika. It will provide accommodation in textile and wooden villas by the lake and in the forest, including wellness, restaurants, electric vehicles and other contemporary technologies. This settlement can also be called glamping, as when it opens in spring 2020, it will be an experience that fully displaces people from the urban and stressful lifestyle, which is ultimately why the idea was conceived in the first place.
None of these settlements have much or any space for classic tents, and neither do similar settlements across Croatia and even Europe and the world. Furthermore, their pricing is also significantly higher that classic camping areas. Nevertheless, both experts and consumers mostly agree that it is a good offer, providing a good balance between price and quality.
In addition to the resorts mentioned above, there are several new so called ethno resorts in the Plitvice and Lika area, featuring wooden houses and other objects nested in nature for the guests’ enjoyment, even including waste water and other waste disposal systems to ensure environmental protection.
Without those systems no camp located anywhere in the world, especially if deeply embedded in nature, such as in national parks or similar protected natural areas, could or should begin operation, as those things should be a basic requirement for such investments.
Camps and resorts also require educated employees, as well as ecologically aware guests who know how and want to behave in accordance with nature. Much like with other healthy and natural things, they have a price tag attached, often higher than other accommodation and tourist facilities, precisely because of those features. In 2019, there are around 30 registered camps in continental Croatia, of various sizes, features and ownership models, which is twice as many as there were a decade ago. Smaller camps are increasingly emerging as well, as part of private grounds, on inherited land and other types of property both on the coast and inland.
From camping to glamping
This all shows that a shift happened in Croatian’s camping offer in the last couple of years, aided by changes in the legal framework, as well as the fact that Croatia was one of the first European countries to include the term „glamping“, coined from glamourous and camping, to the regulation on the classification and categorization of accommodation services in tourism.
A major trend present in nearly all camps, households or large hotel systems are mobile homes connected to water and power, often with two or three bedrooms with separate bathrooms and terraces, as well as well furnished including dishes, devices, air conditioning units, wi-fi, deck chairs and other amenities. Many also offer cleaning services, which, as experienced campers say, was unimaginable in old camping systems.
Sanja Čizmar, acclaimed consultant in hospitality and tourism and senior partner at Hotel & Destination Consulting, explains these trending changes in demand, including guests have more diverse and greater demands.
„Mobile homes are part of the trend to diversify the offer in the camping sector, where guests get a higher level of comfort, similar to hotels and apartments, but in a natural environment. Nowadays, campers are no longer guests of the lowest purchasing power. It is quite the opposite, the majority has above average education and income. For example, sometimes their camping homes are worth up to half a million euro, but what makes these guests specific is their desire to enjoy themselves in direct contact with nature.“
To that end, the current trend is that camps and resorts are meticulously decorated in terms of horticulture, much like parks, and they provide amenities and features dedicated to increasing the accommodation’s comfort. That’s why camps often include horticulturally decorated lots, houses of various types and sizes, and the best camps even have areas with villas.
When talking about glamping, Čizmar points out that this innovative product results in a WOW effect, it gives off a feeling of uniqueness which is further enhanced by diversity in hospitality facilities, entertainment and recreation, as well as indoor and outdoor wellness facilities.
„It is not uncommon for houses to have private swimming pools, and in that sense Croatia is on track with the trends, as we already have several camps with a great offer that are competitive with the best camps in the Mediterranean“, says Čizmar. She also states that the rising mobile home and glamping trend is also connected to the good ratio between investments and income that such a product is able to achieve.
She, however, warns that it is important to maintain a degree of reason in the sense that accommodation facilities in camps and/or eco-resorts should provide privacy to an extent and not ruin the natural views or pollute the environment. Čizmar also adds that this is not just a Croatian trend, but that turning camps into resorts is becoming more popular accross the Mediterranean.
„Croatia is a traditionally well-known and renowned camping destination, and I believe that this will remain so. Much as tourism in general, the best position on the market will be retained by those who constantly improve and develop quality products in accordance with sustainable solutions“, Čizmar concludes.
Photo: Big Bear Plitvice Camping Resort, Plitvice Holiday Resort, T- Nest Resort