Glamorous camping, or “glamping”, started to gain popularity a decade ago. But the idea of luxurious tent-living is not new at all. In the 16th century, the Earl of Atholl prepared a glamping experience in the Highlands of Scotland for the visiting King James V and his mother. Lavish tents were filled provisions brought from the earl’s palace.
Probably the most extravagant example of glamping was the Field of the Cloth of Gold, a diplomatic summit in northern France in 1520 attended by Henry VIII of England and Francis I of France. Some 2,800 tents and marquees were erected for the great occasion. Meanwhile, the Ottomans were famed for the palatial tents they moved from one battlefield to the next. Teams of artisans travelled with the army to put up and maintain the imperial tents.
As Fodor’s Travel puts it: “Glamping brings the comfort of a hotel into the great outdoors.” Websites like Glamping Hub look for three elements in identifying good glamp-sites. They should have a “unique structure”; immediate access to the outdoors as opposed to a hotel lobby; and all the comfort of a hotel. So a glamping experience can vary from sleeping in a yurt or teepee outfitted with a wood-burning stove in the mountains of Utah to booking a luxury safari tent in a Tanzanian game reserve.
Who should go glamping? “The range of glamping experiences is so varied that it can appeal to virtually anyone,” says Fodor’s Travel. In recent years, glamping has been tried by people who want to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy nature, but without having to compromise on comfort or convenience. It’s not an ordinary camping experience, because a glamper doesn’t rough it. He or she sleeps in a proper bed inside a clean and comfortable tent.
Such an experience is offered by Trizara Resorts. This 3-hectare glamp-site in Lembang, West Java has been opened by 33-year-old entrepreneur Kunal Topandasani. Staying there “allows you to immerse yourself into the great outdoors without having to ‘rough it out’,” he says. “This sought-after phenomenon, glamorous camping, is a fun experience for individuals, couples and families to enjoy. Say bye-bye to crumpled tents and sleeping bags as you embrace the comforts of home to enjoy a truly unique outdoor experience.”
Kunal describes his resort as a “stress-free version of camping, coupled with comfort and convenience. It’s a hotel room smack in the middle of the great outdoors, complete with a real mattress, fluffy pillows, linens, towels for the shower and in-tent amenities like bath soaps and a hot-beverage basket. You won’t have to set up and you won’t even think about tearing down. You just check in and check out.
“For me, glamping means escaping from the city. When we go on a glamping trip, we get back to nature and breathe in a huge amount of fresh oxygen. The air in Lembang is really good. I promise that you will never feel tired from walking and running, because the air is so fresh.
“Well, the big question is why would people want to do it instead of going to a luxury hotel? I think they want to try a new experience. It’s a different kind of way to travel and it’s adventurous, too. You don’t have to go to Bali or to Singapore for a mini getaway. Just go to Lembang, a two-and-a-half hour drive from Jakarta.
“I think glamping is changing the way many people think about travel. People are more aware of their surroundings now. Many of our guests love it because it’s a new concept for them, an alternative to staying in a luxury resort or villa. Glamping is not for everybody, of course. But if you’ve got a dream to explore and you want to travel the world in a different way, then glamping is for you.”
When Kunal launched Trizara Resorts in June last year, he had no previous experience in the hospitality industry. “I come from an IT background,” he says. “I received my degree from Suffolk University in Boston. I wasn’t interested in the hospitality industry before. I think I ventured into this field because I wanted to try something different. It was a challenge. It was my first time trying to start a business in hospitality.
“I fell in love with the idea in 2014. Trizara started from a little idea that we want to escape the city life. The city is too crazy sometimes… the traffic, the pollution. I wanted to go back to nature, since I deeply missed the coolness and the fresh air. I also wanted to bring my family and friends back to nature, too. That’s why I built this place. Its name is derived from the Sanskrit words for garden in heaven. Of course we want to live up to our name.
“I started the business with my wife, Jyotica. Before we built Trizara, we found a tomato plantation in the forest in Lembang and lived there for a while. We found local people who were willing to help us building the resort. Many of them are now our operations staff. So, when you go to Trizara and you ask the housekeeping staff, for instance, who built the resort, they’ll say that they did. We have 80 people working in the resort and we know them all by name. They are like family to us.”
Kunal and his wife designed the resort themselves, basing their vision on examples researched online and by what they saw during travelling. “We finished building it within one year,” he says. “The best thing of all is that our resort is very green, because we took advantage of surrounding elements of nature. We don’t produce much waste and our water usage is strictly controlled. No waste. The resort is semi-permanent. We have 47 tents, which could be dissembled quickly and returned back to its natural form. So everything could be moved without hurting the land or environment.
“After we first launched, my wife and I checked in the guests for the first three months. We wore staff uniforms. We interacted with their guests and heard their complaints. They didn’t know we owned the place, so they were more likely to say what they really thought. We learned a lot from this feedback, which was important to get because we were new to the hospitality business.”
Has Kunal tried glamping overseas? “Yes, I have,” he smiles. “To be honest, they literally leave you on your own to make the most of it. They show you the tent, and that’s it. But at Trizara Resorts we provide room service. I know it’s not ‘real’ camping, but we’re Asians and we are a little bit spoiled. We have certain expectations.”
What does Kunal aim to do in the future? “I want to build something that is new and exciting,” he says. “I have always wanted to be different. Definitely, for the next 10 years I’ll be in the hospitality industry. My goal to open one resort every year. That’s why I’m doing a lot of travelling all around Indonesia, in search of good locations and people to work with.”