South Florida Sun-Sentinel Palm Beach (Sunday) - - TRAVEL & LIFE -

t one point in the mid-2010s, “glamp­ing” be­came a four-let­ter word.

A sud­den boom in up­scale tented ac­com­mo­da­tions, which ul­ti­mately felt nei­ther glam­orous nor like camp­ing, saw the trend go from boom to bust as quickly as spaghetti donuts and ra­men burg­ers.

But now, glamp­ing is back, and the glam­our fac­tor is through the can­vas roof.

Ev­ery­where from Luang Pra­bang to New South Wales, Tu­lum to Costa Rica — even in the heart of New York City — hote­liers are ditch­ing bricks-and-mor­tar walls and ceil­ings for sa­fari-style tents, many with free-stand­ing bath­tubs, fire­places, wood floors and out­door dual-head rain show­ers. The con­cept has be­come so high-end, “glamp­ing” no longer does it jus­tice.

For trav­el­ers, the ex­peri- ence of­fers nov­elty, dig­i­tal dis­con­nec­tion, and ac­cess to ex­pe­ri­ences that are at once au­then­tic and In­sta­grammable (when you get back on Wi-Fi). Think in­ter­act­ing with res­cued ele­phants in north­ern Thai­land at the Four Sea­sons Golden Tri­an­gle tented camp or hot air bal­loon­ing over the Rocky Moun­tains from the Re­sort at Paws Up, in Mon­tana.

“Kids love it — it’s great for multi­gen­er­a­tional trips,” said Jack Ezon, pres­i­dent of Ova­tion Va­ca­tions. “It’s a com­pletely dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence.” He says clients come to him with tented prop­er­ties on their bucket lists — or sim­ply look­ing for some­thing “dif­fer­ent” and out­doorsy.

Just don’t ex­pect these trips to come cheap.

“We’ve seen some of our tents go­ing for $5,000 a night,” said Luca Franco, founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive of Lux­ury Fron­tiers, a soup-to-nuts de­sign firm and con­sul­tancy that spe­cial­izes in ul­tra-high-end tented camps such as Abu Camp and Ea­gle Is­land Lodge, two iconic prop­er­ties in Botswana. Among his up­com­ing projects: a One&Only re­sort in Riviera Na­yarit, Mex­ico; a pri­vate is­land in the Mal­dives; and a tented vil­lage in Utah. At all of them, guests will pay a pre­mium to camp out un­der the stars. With but­ler ser­vice, of course.

When Franco got into the lux­ury tent busi­ness, the mar­ket was con­cen­trated in Africa’s game parks. “All I knew was that 50 to 70 per­cent of the guests at the top-tier sa­fari lodges in Africa were com­ing from the U.S,” he said. That sig­naled to him that the sa­fari-style con­cept might have legs in other nat­u­rally pris­tine des­ti­na­tions.

“I saw a lot of de­mand and lit­tle sup­ply,” Franco ex­plained. And as the mar­ket for eco-sen­si­tive and off-the-grid va­ca­tions has spiked, tented camps have ben­e­fited even more.

Franco and his con­tem­po­raries have con­verted that de­mand by think­ing of these projects not just as fancy tents but as con­duits to unique ex­pe­ri­ences.

“We flip the con­cept of de­sign­ing the box and fill­ing it with ac­tiv­i­ties,” he said. “In­stead we de­sign the ac­tiv­i­ties first and then de­sign the box around that.”

At the up­com­ing Shinta Mani Wild, on the bor­der of Cam­bo­dia’s Car­damom Na­tional Park, guests will be able to eat at a restau­rant tucked un­der a wa­ter­fall and zi­pline into the re­sort be­fore sleep­ing off their ad­ven­tures in Jackie O-in­spired tents. It opens this December. At the One&Only in Riviera Na­yarit, com­ing in 2020, guests will prac­ti­cally be able to roll out of their beds and onto a horse for sun­set rides on a white, pow­dery beach. And when it opens next fall, Na­yara Tented Camp in Costa Rica will of­fer bud­ding con­ser­va­tion­ists an up-close look at the coun­try’s dwin­dling sloth pop­u­la­tion.

Of course you can spend less than a small for­tune on your tented camp ex­pe­ri­ence. Look no fur­ther than Col­lec­tive Re­treats, a brand built on sim­pler glamp­ing prin­ci­ples with lo­ca­tions in Yel­low­stone Na­tional Park and Gover­nor’s Is­land with views of Man­hat­tan’s Fi­nan­cial District. Its tents start at $150 per night.

In Aus­tralia, Sierra Es­cape, Nash­dale Lane and Bub­ble­tent are all new con­cepts that are less fullser­vice ho­tel, more un­con­ven­tional ac­com­mo­da­tions that you can book for less than $300.

“We wanted to do some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent, and im­merse guests in the en­vi­ron­ment with­out tak­ing away the lux­ury,” said Cameron D’Arcy, co-founder of Sierra Es­cape, a three-tent camp in New South Wales. As a mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sional, he says the con­cept is a no­brainer: “Thanks to the In­sta­gram ap­peal, the prod­uct al­most mar­kets it­self.”

As much as the midrange glamp­ing re­sort is thriv­ing, it’s the ul­tra-high­end propo­si­tion that’s truly res­onat­ing with trav­el­ers.

Sonny Vre­bac, co-owner of Bub­ble­tent — a prop­erty over­look­ing Caper­tee Val­ley, the world’s sec­ond­largest canyon — says he’s learned that the hard way. He cre­ated three types of tents, one fancier than the next, only to di­ag­nose him­self with what he calls the “grand cru Cham­pagne prob­lem.” He gets dis­pro­por­tion­ate de­mand for the high­est-end of the bunch, a bub­ble with both cli­mate con­trol and its own out­door wood-fired hot tub.

In Costa Rica, Na­yara’s owner and master­mind, Leo Ghi­tis, shouldn’t have that prob­lem.

“I’ve al­ready blown my bud­get 10 times,” Ghi­tis joked, say­ing he’s work­ing to­ward cre­at­ing the most lux­u­ri­ous tented camp in the world. “But if what you were look­ing for was to max­i­mize prof­its, you wouldn’t be build­ing a tented camp. You do it be­cause you’re think­ing about legacy.”

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