Airbnb-style camping comes to the UK as US giant Hipcamp buys Cool Camping | camping holidays

British camping brand Cool Camping has been taken over by a large US company, Hipcamp, which aims to bring its Airbnb-style camping booking model to the UK.

Starting today, all 25,000 camping pitches and glamping structures on the Cool Camping website will be listed on Hipcamp.

Headquartered in San Francisco, Hipcamp claims to be the world’s largest provider of outdoor getaways, offering half a million campsites in the US, Canada and Australia. This is his first foray into Europe.

In addition to covering commercial camping and glamping, the site allows private owners to rent out their outdoor space to campers, much in the same way that Airbnb allows owners to rent vacant properties and rooms to tourists. Anyone with suitable land can charge from £10 a night for a pitch using the Hipcamp platform, setting their own nightly rates. The listings on the website are free, but Hipcamp takes 15% of each booking.

Only those in rural areas, rather than urban and suburban settings, and with an acre or more of available space can apply. They must provide restrooms for campers (though not RVs), can choose to offer outdoor activities and extras like fresh eggs or fries for breakfast, and must meet a list of other criteria related to safety laws, hygiene and planning. Many will operate under the UK’s 28-day planning exemption, which allows owners to use their land for commercial activities for up to 28 days a year. Private hosts will be eligible for Hipcamp’s third-party liability insurance, which protects them up to £1 million.

Hipcamp founder and CEO Alyssa Ravasio, who launched the business in the US in 2013, said her goal was to make it easy for more people to get out. “I realized that given how crowded our public campgrounds are, the only way to accomplish that mission was to create new places, which we started doing on private land,” she said. “We leverage the data to understand which specific destinations are likely to be booked months in advance, and then reach out to owners in that area.”

Only landowners in rural areas can sign up under Hipcamp
Only landowners in rural areas can sign up under Hipcamp. Cool Camping glampings will be included in the listings

Since its launch, Hipcamp has “unlocked” some 1,618,000 hectares of private land, ranging from a blueberry farm in Canada to glamping on an Australian ranch. It has booked over six million guest nights, with a 460% increase in bookings since 2019 and acquiring Australia’s Youcamp camping platform in 2020. Its funding campaigns have raised tens of millions of dollars, including investment from Marcy, the venture capital firm of musician Jay Z. Venture Partners.

Meanwhile, Cool Camping bookings are up 340% over the same period, thanks in part to the Covid-related boom in stay-at-home holidays. Jonathan Knight, the founder and former managing director of Cool Camping, said he hadn’t been looking to sell when Hipcamp approached him, but that he was “surprised by the similarities between the two brands. Not just the types of places we feature – small, independent campsites and glamping sites with something a little special – but also our philosophies. It feels natural to combine everything.”

Knight said allowing British private landowners, farmers, vintners and others to create new sources of income through camps would help conserve the land and keep it wild, while boosting the economy of rural communities.

He transitioned Cool Camping from a guidebook publisher to a booking platform in 2015, phasing out guidebooks a few years ago. He will remain as manager of Hipcamp in the UK.

Hipcamp is not the first to offer camping on private land in the UK., which launched in 2021, makes it easy to camp in people’s backyards and outdoor spaces, as does and, while Wild With Consent lists RV and RV spots.

As well as attracting private hosts, Hipcamp will continue to add commercial campsites to its UK portfolio and launch an app for Brits to find and book stays. There are no plans to expand to other countries at present.

“As far as we know, camping as a recreational hobby originated in the UK. As a result, the camping market here is the most developed in the world,” said Ravasio. “This country is leading the way globally in its thinking about agritourism, specifically, that camping and glamping can support not only the preservation of local culture and economies, but also the rebuilding of critical habitats.

“For a long time,” he said, “demand for unique, private and affordable outdoor stays has outstripped supply in the UK. So we see a real opportunity for Hipcamp to help solve that problem.”

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