As the camping season continues to heat up, fueled in part by the rising popularity of glamping, B2B companies that support the outdoor hospitality sector are expanding their offerings. One such company is Bushtec Safari, a division of Canvas and Tent, and a well-known producer of canvas luxury tents, camping tents and accessories.
Gary Flaks, CEO of Bushtec Safari, is no stranger to glamping. In fact, it’s something he’s done all of his life.
“What I tell everyone is that when I was growing up as a young kid I was going to what we call game reserves, which is the equivalent of safaris, and I didn’t know it, but I was glamping,” he told WOODALLSCM.com. “We’ve been glamping in South Africa for all of our lives; so it’s not a new phenomenon in those parts of the world, but it has become a new phenomenon here.”
Bushtec Safari offers a variety of tent structures including a model where park owners can share costs with the company.
And it’s a phenomenon that is fueling interest in the company’s luxury tents.
In 2015, Flaks was introduced to Canvas and Tents which was looking to enter the U.S. market.
“We were introduced, and it was just a great relationship and fit right at the get-go,” he noted. “Initially, we were aiming to do our overnight camping brand, which is called Bushtec Adventure. But Bushtec Safari, which is our luxury tent brand, had so much interest growing on that side of the business, so Bushtec Safari really took off pretty quickly and became our main focus, and that has continued to grow.”
When COVID hit, Flaks said it went from a slow upward directory to a more rapid one.
“Right now we are in 22 or so states in the U.S., where we either have tents already installed or they’re in production,” he mentioned. “We’re in Canada and Mexico and we have a lot in the Caribbean and in Costa Rica. We’re in Columbia, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and about ten countries in South America, so the U.S. entity handles the whole Western world, from Canada to South America.”
Unlike its competitors, which rely on third parties for at least some of their materials, Bushtec has an advantage in the marketplace because it controls all costs by creating everything themselves at its South African factory.
“The secret of our product is in our canvas and the quality of our parts,” said Flaks. “Our canvas is a proprietary canvas that’s available in the region of South Africa where our factory is. We have our own steel plant and we customize most of our tents. We now have a bunch of standard designs that allow you to add hard doors, windows…etc. You can also custom-make the tents smaller or taller.
“All of our tents have four layers of roofing, so you have a shade and flysheet over the top which is your UV protection and takes the heat off the tent,” he added. “You have a PVC flysheet which is your waterproofing, a canvas fly sheet which is waterproof, fire retardant, military-grade — or what they call “ripstop canvas” — and then the fourth layer is largely aesthetic. It’s a ceiling liner that is more for aesthetics, but also gives you insulation and gives you a feel of luxury and comfort. What we like to say about our tents is that when you’re inside them, you kind of feel bulletproof. You feel the luxury and the comfort of being in a hotel room. However, you still get the whole feeling of the outdoors.”
Business owners interested in seeing Bushtec tents in person can visit Pine Mountain RV Resort, located in Pine Mountain, Ga. However, plans are in the works to build an entire showroom for its products.
“At the moment we’ve got a resort that doubles up as a showroom an hour outside of Atlanta, but we’re building a big showroom there as well, where we’re going to have our warehouse, stockroom, and so on,” Flaks said.
In a nod to the growing interest in glamping, Bushtec now offers businesses the option to buy tents “off the shelf.”
Traditionally, Bushtec tents have all been custom-made. However, over time, they discovered the most popular layouts that people enjoy and they’ve begun producing these layouts which are kept as stock models. This means that business owners can receive their luxury tents more quickly than if they were fully custom-made.
“They’re $25,000 to $30,000 tents,” noted Flaks. “Customers are going to be at around $700 a month for the payments, so with the rates that we’re seeing, park owners will need to rent them out for maybe three nights a month to be able to meet their payments. It’s not a huge stretch to get those types of occupancy rates to be able to meet your obligations.”
Bushtec Safari creates its own materials which helps it control costs.
If park owners want to expand their offerings, but want to test if it will work for their location, they can also try Bushtec’s newest offering, “Wyld.” They’re testing it right now, but early results are promising, according to Flaks. It’s a revenue share program for park owners and it’s tied to an app that Bushtec has created.
“We don’t charge the parks and all they’ve got to do is provide some sites for us to place the tents on,” he said. “They might give us six sites and then the campers basically go onto the app and book the sites from there. The park gets a report and gets paid its percentage of the sale.”
But what if you want to expand (or start) a glamping business and you don’t know where to start? Bushtec Creations could be the answer you’re looking for.
“Bushtec Creations is the turnkey side of the business,” said Flaks. “When we started out, we were kind of just selling our tents and saying, ‘Hey, we’ll offer you the support you need to install them,’ but more and more we had to get “hands-on” with the installation side, both in and out of South Africa, servicing mainly the whole African continent, the Middle East and in Europe. Bushtec Creations will even do land prep, from water articulation right through to taking a raw piece of land and then developing the resort. We don’t do as much of that in the U.S. though.”
Now the company can even supply decking and interior packages.
If raising capital is an issue, business owners will have one more choice to consider, as the company will soon be offering financing through a new division, Bushtec Finance.
“We are close to going live with our financing,” noted Flaks. “Everyone’s going to be able to finance their purchases through us which opens up more doors.”
Besides resources, park owners are keenly familiar with zoning, permit and land use issues that arise every time they want to expand (or build out) more sites. That’s why Bushtec is joining forces with industry leaders such as Ruben Martinez, executive director of the American Glamping Association, to effect change in regulations.
“We’re kind of at the forefront, together with some of our competitors, of trying to get a lobbying group together to essentially write the code, because permitting is becoming a huge hindrance for all of us,” Flaks explained.