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Alain Giguère

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Categories: Food for thought

Posted on 01-29-16 at 9:56 a.m.

As society is constantly changing, we have witnessed many changes in people’s practices and hobbies over the years, and camping and outdoor activities are no exception to this.

In the 70s and 80s, the activity was actually quite minimalist: a nylon or cotton non-waterproof tent, a rudimentary sleeping bag, a Coleman stove and that was it. This was enough to satisfy the need for authenticity and going back to basics for most practitioners.

Later, in the 90s and 00s, outdoor activities benefitted from innovation and technological change. Equipment that was previously limited to adventurers who climb the Himalayas was democratized and became accessible to the Sunday hiker. From a simple activity, enjoying the great outdoors evolved into a complex and specialized undertaking. Nowadays, enthusiasts seek self-improvement, performance. Just as a bike ride is now performed in cycling shorts and a jersey covered in sponsors’ logos, a hike in the forest now requires quick-dry pants, even in nice weather.

Today, the trend is towards "glamping": a portmanteau that combines glamour and camping. Glamping consists of accommodation in unusual facilities (utopia tent, yurt, cabin, Airstream trailer, covered wagon, treehouse, caravan, tipi, or a suspended tree tent). The type of accommodations must stand out by how comfortable it is, its design, and where it is located.

Why is this trend appearing today?

The analysis of sociocultural values in our Panorama program provides us with a possible answer.

Outdoor activity enthusiasts are firstly attracted by luxury and brands that offer added value, while also enjoying local brands and products that combine craftsmanship with authenticity. They try to adopt a greener lifestyle and resist consumer society, and besides the fact that they practice outdoor activities, they have little need for escape.

Glamping reconciles two dimensions that can, in principle, be opposed in many ways. It offers luxury and comfort, but in a context that is natural and conducive to getting back to one’s "roots": exactly what these consumers want.

This consumer niche holds opportunities for different brands, including those operating in the field of outdoor equipment by offering a brand promise with strong added value that combines comfort with nature. The "nature and performance" niche is very well-served by the North Faces of this world, but few are positioned in the comfort-chic niche. There is also an opportunity here for food manufacturers and distributors: Why not offer a gourmet dining experience that can easily be prepared in the woods? If it is also environmentally friendly, there is definitely a market opportunity here.

Consumers often have behaviours that may seem inconsistent or contradictory and only an analysis of their sociocultural values can make sense of them.