Sramana Mitra: What did you see on the horizon that if you could do that, it would move to the next level?
Ruben Martinez: Some of the strategy was built around normalizing the word glamping itself. Anytime somebody says glamping, they’re going to list out their thoughts. Their thoughts are probably different from everybody else’s. This idea of unique outdoor experiences was still new.
We knew that there was huge potential, but we wanted to gain traction within the outdoor unique accommodation space before any other smaller player jumps in.
On the horizon was us trying to entrench ourselves. We did that through a few different ways. One was through a very aggressive SEO strategy. If you search “cabin rental new york” or “glamping california”, it’s not Airbnb that comes first. It’s actually Glamping Hub.
It’s because of this long approach that we took to make sure that we’re entrenched in how people search for their next vacation. That’s what we saw on the horizon. If we can just buckle down and put ourselves in that situation, good things will happen.
Sramana Mitra: Your customer acquisition is largely SEO?
Ruben Martinez: Our organic traffic accounts for the majority of our visits. We spend very little to nothing on paid advertising or marketing just because our SEO is very strong. That customer acquisition comes from organic searches.
Sramana Mitra: That’s actually great. So there is enough search volume on the world glamping.
Ruben Martinez: Absolutely. Just within California or within the United States, it’s growing at a pretty significant rate. The search volume allows us to grow at a significant rate for visits. We don’t have to pay to attract it; it comes directly to us organically.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s talk a bit about the geographical progress of all this. Your original idea was to do Africa, but you settled into a different geographical strategy. Can you elaborate on that? I’m sure that drove a lot of the decision making of customer acquisition and so forth.
Ruben Martinez: We didn’t really invest a lot into this idea of African safari listings. That was part of the assumption because those are the first few listings and accommodations that signed up with us. We saw their price point. If there’s just a decent amount here in Africa, we can do okay.
It became very obvious that it wasn’t scalable. The idea of going to a place where we wouldn’t have to explain what glamping is was very appealing to us. That’s when we pivoted towards a minor effort into UK. After a short period of time, they just weren’t responsive at that time.
We do well in the UK now, but at that point in time, the other booking platforms had strict contracts with the businesses – exclusivity, higher percentage points. It was difficult. It sounds very straightforward, but we took a step back.
Who really is our audience now? Who do we want our audience to be a few years from now? After looking through the data, there was a lot of momentum in California, New York, and some other states.
This was our best bet to scale. Why fight it out in other markets where it’s saturated? We got a good shot to grow here. Let’s go ahead and do that. Sometimes being able to take a step back and simplify allows you to make some good decisions.
Sramana Mitra: Simplification is one of the best ways to grow a business. When you made that decision, what else did you learn? What were people in the US looking for by way for glamping? Were they looking for tents? Were they looking for treehouses? What’s the definition of glamping for the US customer?
Ruben Martinez: When we first started in the States, we thought it was just safari and tents, because that’s what it was in other countries. We soon realized that one of the great parts about the glamping economy is it’s very innovative and entrepreneurial.
It wasn’t just the standard definition of glamping which a lot of people have, which is high-end luxurious safari tents. After looking at our data, we realized that our users are looking for three very specific things. One is direct access to mother nature. They want to be able to leave the city and have direct access to mother nature.
The second is a certain level of comfort. They want to have that access but not sleep on the floor. The third is a unique structure. People gravitate towards something different and unique.
The combination of those three things is how we define glamping. Within those, you have everything from beach casitas to cabins. The foundation of it is rooted in those three items that our users are looking for.