Vacanze col Cuore is a small-scale supplier of glamping accommodations in Italy with campings by Lake Garda and in Tuscany. It is a Dutch-Italian family business where father, mother, and son are working. We spoke to the owner, Loek van de Loo, at the Vakantiebeurs in Utrecht. There he shares more about his vision on glamping and the changing camping market.
Where it all began: Camping Weekend
Thirty-five years ago, Van de Loo opened Camping Weekend by Lake Garda. The first camping by Lake Garda that was not directly situated by Lake Garda and therefore got off to a slow start. At the time, spending time by the lake was more important than relaxing by the swimming pool – something we can hardly imagine nowadays. “But we made a difference with rental units, Dutch entertainment, and with us you could make a reservation for a specific pitch. So, if you wanted pitch number 1, then that was exactly what you got; and the swimming pool of course. No one had a swimming pool, because owners of campings thought: ‘My camping is situated by Lake Garda or near the sea, therefore I do not need a swimming pool.’ And that swimming pool turned out to be our saving angel.”
New ambitions and new opportunities
In this way, Van de Loo kept looking for improvements for his destinations and he always listened to his guests. “So, because guests were asking us: Why are those tents only at Camping Weekend and not at other locations such as on the Adriatic coast and Tuscany? That was the reason we also put up tents on those locations. In this way, it kept expanding and then the small-scale tour operator grew into the larger brands: Selectcamp and Vacanceselect”.
Meanwhile, Van de Loo has sold these brands and is now focusing on his own destinations in Italy. Besides Weekend Glamping Resort, this also includes Vacanze Glamping Boutique, Vallicella Glamping Resort, Park Residence Il Gabbiano, Sivinos Camping Boutique, Glamping Resort Orlando in Chianti, and Glamping Boutique Lago Idro. His plan: “To group smaller campings and to offer service to our guests on a personal level from a central office where all the activities can be hosted in order to create a 360º glamping experience, and to sell that to people.”
High quality glamping
His many years’ experience in the camping sector were certainly of great help to him in creating a glamping experience that has the wow-factor. And it shows at the new destination Vallicella. “A destination with a lot fewer people, more room and with accommodations that have the wow-factor. So, not just your standard mobile homes, but beautiful, luxurious accommodations with attractive verandas, a nice view and lots of room both inside and outside the accommodation.”
The first investments in glamping were made at Glamping Resort Weekend and there this also turned out to be a good investment. Van de Loo: “At that point, I met Patrick, the former owner of LuxeTenten and then we built a small village on Camping Weekend. So, no streets any more, but a real village consisting of luxury tents.” Van de Loo is still very satisfied with the tents he purchased from LuxeTenten: “As it happens, we did not invest in new tents this year. But, in the future I am certain we will do so again, because it is a beautiful product with a good price-quality ratio.”
A 360º glamping experience
According to Van de Loo the accommodation is not the only important thing, also the facilities at the destination play a key role in creating a 360º glamping experience. You could think of things such as a first-class restaurant, Dutch entertainment, and a breathtaking location. “More and more, people have the need for silence, peace and nature. Those elements combined with a good restaurant, good children’s entertainment, nice swimming pools, plenty possibilities for excursions – that is what we do.”
Also creating an experience is becoming more important. A swimming pool alone, is not enough any more. No, next to said swimming pool you need waterfalls and slides. “When we built the Spotty Pool with a slide at Camping Weekend, the camping was suddenly running better.” In this way, Van de Loo sees multiple themes he can respond to, such as parents who like to learn their children new things when they are on vacation. Next summer, he will respond to this by setting up a biology class where children could take a look at the tracks of wild boars for instance.
In addition, serving of, and adapting to the wishes of different target groups are important for a successful glamping destination. “For instance, we have special accommodations for couples at Vallicella, where you can sleep upstairs and can sit on a picnic bench downstairs. So, what I am trying to say, is that you should not cram your entire camping with mobile homes or just one type of tent. No, what you should do, is offer variety, different types, so that people can choose. Moreover, a couple has completely different needs. A couple that visits during the pre-season or the late season wants an accommodation that is theirs and not the odd caravan that happens to be vacant anyway. It does not work like that. They want to have something special and that is precisely what we have tried to offer at Vallicella this year and it was a real success.”
Vacanze col Cuore: a vacation straight from the heart
At Vacanze col Cuore personal attention and offering a good service to their guests are the central points. By responding to the wishes and the needs of the guest you can make the difference as a destination, but this is something you should keep working on. Surely, wishes and needs change all the time. It is up to Van de Loo to welcome as many guests as possible at his destinations next year. This is also one of the reasons why Van de Loo is present at the Vakantiebeurs with an exhibition stand; he wants to show he is also well disposed towards his guests in the Netherlands.
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