The Glamping King – Luca Franco Talks to All Roads North

Luca Franco, founder of high-end tent specialist, Luxury Frontiers, talks to us about his first project in North America and why the glamping trend is here to stay.

How did you get into the luxury tent business?

“When I started Luxury Frontiers 8 years ago, experiential travel didn’t really exist outside of Africa. We had designed tented camps at Eagle Island Lodge and Abu Camp in Botswana and knew the African market well. We also knew that up to 70% of our guests in Africa were coming to the U.S. I thought, why not export the Africa safari tent experience to the U.S.”

Do you think the glamping trend is here to stay?

“Glamping is booming worldwide and on track to be a $1billion industry by 2023. People are craving off-the-grid, eco-sensitive travel. I hate to call what we do glamping because it’s much more than pitching a fancy tent. The tent is only one layer. Many operators in the U.S. forget the importance of attaching meaningful, authentic experiences to the tent. We actually think about the activities before we start designing the tent. We ask, what will the guests do here? What will they learn? How can we connect them to the local culture, flora and fauna?”

Camp Sarika at Amangiri

Amangiri’s new camp, Sarika, opens in April. This was your first project in the U.S. What were some of the challenges and what makes this camp unique?

“The location, a half-mile away from Amangiri, is subject to harsh elements—sandstorms, wind, heavy rain, brutal heat. Aman’s clients want to feel the wilderness but also wanted to feel safe and protected. It wasn’t possible to have a pure tent so we spent 5 years engineering an Aman suite wrapped in fully insulated canvas. The fabric we used can withstand winds of up to 95 miles per hour. When we open April 1, 2020, we’ll be the only luxury camp, to my knowledge, that will be able to stay open year-round.”

Lounge at Camp Sarika

How does Camp Sarika compliment the hotel?

“This is the first resort in the Aman portfolio that offers its guests two different products. If it’s successful, I could see this being replicated at other Aman properties. Sarika has 10-canvas topped pavilions, each with a private plunge pool, overlooking dramatic, flat-topped mesa rocks. We flipped the positioning of the tents so that guests get a different view than they would from the hotel, which looks out over endless desert. Amangiri does not have two-bedroom rooms or even connecting rooms. Half of Sarika’s tents will have two-bedrooms, which will be a big draw for families. And multi-gen families can buy out the entire camp. And I think we’ll see a lot of guests who split their stay between the two properties. Sarika will certainly attract Aman loyalists, but I think the camp will also widen the brand’s target market to more adventurous, back-to-nature luxury travelers.”

Private pool at Camp Sarika

Are there any unique experiences only available to Camp Sarika guests?

“Every tent gets its own guide, so you have a very personalized, high-touch experience. I believe people want to push their boundaries when they travel these days and feel a sense of accomplishment so adventure and activities will be a big focus. Sarika will have its own exclusive Via Ferrata route, which will be really special. The camp will have a restaurant, pool area and a mini spa with two treatment rooms.”

Room at Camp Sarika

What future projects are on the horizon?

“We debut our first Latin American property, Nayara Tented Camp, in Costa Rica in December. After that I have my eye on Mexico and some other areas around the U.S. national parks and we’re in talks with other luxury hotel brands like the Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton Reserve.”

For further inspiration: Campfires and Canvas – The best luxury camping in the United States

[Photo Credits: Luca Franco, Aman, Luxury Frontiers]

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