Glamping is defined as the pairing of luxury travel and the intimacy of camping. Glampers will make travel arrangements and expect to have some idealized camping experience with all the creature comforts of home. In the link cited above a mother bemoans the notion of body heat warming a tent at night, while praising the intimacy of sitting around a campfire with her child. The ecotourism effort begins to sound more like a sideshow and less appreciation of the outdoors, while spreading waste and rubbish in the outdoors, bringing in the urbanization to the wilderness.
Glamping.com is one such place where one can arrange their very own glamping excursion. The site promises game drives in Africa, Mongolian yurts in Mongolia, or beachside lodgings in Australia. The traveller will of course be safely ensconced in luxury throughout their trip.
Glamping is a reflection of the overarching trend of gentrifying rural areas and fetishizing the rural life. Glampers buy from REI, Columbia Sportswear, and other companies that proclaim themselves to be outdoor ready and fashionable. God forbid one walk a mountain trail without keeping in the best of duds. In one article it's pitched as ideal for Baby Boomers who are going soft and no longer want to put up with the pains that come with camping.
In New York City some hotels have introduced outdoor suites. These suites bring out tents, marshmellows, and promises the wonders of camping, while snuggled in the safety of a five star hotel in the middle of New York City. This reflects the fetish that rurality has become, a fantasy that can be played out in the middle of the city.
From a land use and ecotourist perspective glamping has the potential to help rural communities by supplying an influx of money. The issue is that this doesn't help train the rural community and there is very little indication that glamping is run by locals and not big city companies. In a study on Costa Rica and their ecotourism program we can see that ecotourism and the activity that comes with it generates more income for those engaged in the tourist industry.
In the instance of Costa Rica researchers looked through the data that had been generated and found that ecotourism may generate jobs, access to better education, and possibly reduce economic disparities. Virtually everything in the Osa Peninsula is dependent on ecotourism. The direct and indirect economic activity generated by ecotourism is critical, for instance, for local shop owners, farmers, fishermen, and road workers. As one interviewee put it, “without tourism, no one would have money to spend in my store”. (P. 14)
So what then is the purpose of glamping? A Google search unveils hundreds of glamping opportunities across the world. Name a state or a country and there is an opportunity to glamp. Many websites promise tourists will discover the outdoors. There is profit to be made from the tourists which can benefit the ones who put together the glamping packages. But as mentioned above there is primarily an increase in service jobs, not a reduction in poverty or lack of education. The tourists come, see the sights, and leave. But the benefits, as seen with Costa Rica is that all participants, local and tourist, favor protecting ecological resources, preventing hunting and deforestation to protect biodiversity.
In the end glamorous camping may highlight the good parts of rural areas, with its majestic views and unique experiences for middle class and wealthy tourists. It may reinforce tourists' believing in preserving national and state parks. But there is no indication that tourists become aware of the harsh realities that rural residents deal with on a day to day basis, such as crushing poverty, lack of clean water, sewage, or good roads. In that sense glamping may very well continue the tradition of rural gentrification, where impoverished residents are minimized.
Related blog articles on gentrifictation and ecotourism can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.