The call of the outdoors was loud last summer. Travel startups Outdoorsy and Collective Retreats are hoping that millennials keep answering the call post-pandemic.
The sector got a boost on Tuesday when glamping startup Collective Retreats said it raised $23 million in a Series C funding round, led by Fireside Investments.
The Denver-based startup has now raised $43 million since its founding in 2015.
In a notable endorsement, Outdoorsy took part in the investment round. The Austin-based peer-to-peer booking service for RVs, or recreational vehicles, and campervans is also going to begin tout to its users “hybrid campground offerings” run by Collective Retreats.
“Outdoorsy has 40 million visitors to our site in 14 countries, and 93 percent are first-time renters of RVs,” said Outdoorsy co-founder and CEO Jeff Cavins.
“Some find themselves staying at what I call graveled parking lots, and many become disappointed,” Cavins said. “We don’t want them to be cast into the great abyss. We don’t want them traveling across the country in a $400,000 RV and then end up getting packed in like a rat.”
One sample experience run by Collective Retreats will start June 15 in New York City. Customers will get secure parking for their RV rental and get a private harbor tour while their vehicle gets housekeeping and turn-down service. The travelers will then stay overnight in bell-tented, safari-like lodging on New York City’s Governor’s Island.
Outdoorsy is a significant backer. It raised $50 million in 2019, and it recently wrapped up an undisclosed funding round. In March, venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz named it as one of the largest and fastest-growing marketplace startups and private companies.
Over time, Collective Retreats and Outdoorsy plan to launch a brand of Outdoorsy hospitality locations exclusively for RV travelers.
“Collective Retreats will offer RV experiences that would be like if Apple designers designed camping experiences,” Cavins said.
Collective Retreats plans to introduce a portable deck, or “docking station,” that will sit next to a customer’s vehicle. The deck will provide a private, climate-controlled bathroom with a spa shower, covered terrace area, and soaking tub. The startup will offer room service food, too.
“It’s the equivalent of a Four Seasons experience, but in nature,” Cavins said. “When a customer book an RV or camper van or travel trailer or Airstream on Outdoorsy, we’ll offer them on the same booking page an opportunity to add a Collective Retreat stay.”
Many domestic travelers embraced the great outdoors during the pandemic. But first-time and inexperienced users of recreational vehicles often found the experience intimidating. So the boom in the outdoors has led to a boomlet in “glamping,” or glamorous camping.
Why take a financial stake in Collective Retreats instead of only sign a partnership?
“In my experience, partnerships are a lot of times built on energy that has these arcs with a beginning, a middle, and sometimes a fizzled-out end,” Cavins said. “But when currency exchanges hands, the partnership takes an elevated relationship. Also, as an investor, we can have that kind of role with the company to help define some of the ways that the company will lay out new properties.”
It’s only the first of a few partnerships that Outdoorsy plans to announce this year.
“We just raised a very large amount on our own at our company, and several of the investors in the company also involve commercial partnerships,” Cavins said. “One is on the insurance side. Another is with one of the largest owners of wineries in the world, and they want to put Collective Outdoorsy Experiences at their estates.”
If you’ve ever taken a glamping trip and had a mediocre experience, you might be skeptical. But Collective Retreats claims to put a lot of thought into questions like where to put the mint on the pillow.
“We have over 100 years of luxury hotel and hospitality experience across our corporate team, which means we plan our operations through the lens of luxury hospitality,” said Collective Retreats founder and CEO Peter Mack.
“For example, all of our locations have full service, fine dining,” Mack said. “Even if you just want a complimentary breakfast with your room, we offer a super-elevated breakfast. It’s not some donut that comes out of nowhere and lands on your front porch.”
Mack said Collective Retreats has a pipeline of 22 retreats, thanks to the funding. The partnership with Outdoorsy may help it reach more well-off millennials.
Outdoorsy said at the recent Skift Short-Term Rental and Outdoor Summit that it had seen a 145 percent growth in bookings compared with last year for its 2021 rental season. Half of Outdoorsy’s customers have been under the age of 45 in the past year.
Other startups that have raised money in the glamping space include Glamping Hub, Tentrr, and AutoCamp.
Photo credit: People can stay in bell tents featuring shared bathrooms on Governor's Island in New York City in the hilly, zoned-off area run by private company Collective Retreats. The startup has raised $23 million in a Series C round of funding with Outdoorsy, an RV booking startup, taking part. Collective Retreats