The opportunity exists for the creation of comfort camping facilities on the privately-owned land surrounding Dinosaur Provincial Park. The development of comfort camping facilities would significantly increase luxury camping capacity in the region to meet increasing demand.
Dinosaur Provincial Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located about 2.5 hours east of Calgary and 30 minutes northeast of Brooks. The park is home to the highest concentration of Cretaceous fossils in the world.
To date, dozens of dinosaur species have been unearthed and more than 300 specimens grace museums around the world.
Dinosaur Provincial Park already provides seven comfort camping units within the park premises. Three premium units are riverfront with a spacious floorplan. Four standard units have park views and a standard floorplan. All units can accommodate up to four people.
Current comfort camping facilities include: handmade furnishings; one queen-sized bed, one pull-out futon, pillow, and bedding; cooking implements, utensils, a fridge, and kitchen table; a private deck with deck furniture; a BBQ, fire pit, and picnic table; and electricity. Comfort campers also have access to shared potable water, firewood, flush toilets, coin-operated showers, and laundry facilities.
Due to the large number of visitors to Dinosaur Provincial Park and the quality of the amenities, the comfort camping facilities within the park are in high demand and often completely booked months in advance. There is little capacity to build additional comfort camping units in the park. It is anticipated that developing additional comfort camping facilities on the privately-owned land surrounding the park will help the region meet the unmet demand for luxury camping facilities.
Comfort camping describes a style of camping with amenities and, in some cases, hotel-style services not associated with traditional camping. Comfort camping has become increasingly popular amongst tourists seeking the luxuries of hotel accommodation alongside the escapism and adventure recreation of camping. The appeal is sustainable, quasi-outdoor lodging that offers travelers comfortable experiences in nature.
Comfort camping will take place seasonally between May and October on the privately-owned land surrounding Dinosaur Provincial Park, weather permitting. This seasonal availability mirrors the comfort camping season within the park.
The likely comfort camping business model will be B&B style; where the landowner is also the proprietor, who builds a small number of comfort camping units on their land to provide additional income.
An alternative business model would involve a business owner leasing or buying a parcel of private land for the operation of the comfort camping facilities.
The business owner has three options to develop comfort camping accommodations: canvas wall tents, yurts, and pods. Canvas wall tents are the same type of comfort camping accommodation used in Dinosaur Provincial Park. Apart from the canvas exterior, these tents are usually placed on wood flooring, are well-ventilated, and are often placed under a more permanent wooden gazebo to protect the tent from the elements.
Camping yurts are a modernized version of the circular shaped abode used as portable homes by nomadic people. These modernized versions are warmer than a tent and have insulated walls and roofs. In the summer, the yurts are kept cool with windows, dome, and door openings that provide cross ventilation. Yurts come in three different sizes; sleeping four, six, or eight people.
Pods are semi-permanent, hard-walled, and pre-fabricated comfort camping structures. The exterior of these structures is most commonly made of wood, with insulation installed inside the walls, a minimum of a soft floor covering or carpet, and often a double-glazed window and lockable French doors to reduce condensation and provide sound insulation.
The business owner may also wish to use a combination of these three types of comfort camping accommodations to provide options for potential tourists. This may be implemented in phases; where two canvas wall tents are available during the first phase to enhance the supply of these accommodations in the area, and yurts and pods are erected in the second phase to provide alternatives to the accommodations offered in the park.
In terms of amenities, the business should provide similar offerings as found in the park to remain competitive. This would include: bedding amenities, cooking and kitchen amenities, an outdoor seating area, BBQ, fire pit, firewood, electricity, and potable water.
Access to flush toilets, showers, and laundry facilities may also be provided in the business owner’s home. This may not be an option if the business model involves the business owner leasing or purchasing land for comfort camping operations. Alternatively, an outhouse, portable toilet, or portable shower may be provided. However, this may limit the appeal of the comfort camping business to luxury tourists.
Luxury hotel amenities may also be provided for a fee, such as room service meals, bar service, horse riding, and guided tours.
Badlands are dramatic landforms that develop an intricate network of deeply incised, narrow, winding gullies and fantastically shaped hoodoo rocks. Areas of badlands occur at scattered locations throughout the prairies of Western Canada, where they stand in stark contrast to the gently rolling landscape of the plains. Badlands are particularly prevalent along the river valleys of southern Alberta, especially along the Red Deer River, where they flank the river for 300 km and culminate in their most impressive display at Dinosaur Provincial Park.
While the badlands within Dinosaur Provincial Park are managed by Alberta Parks, a number of privately owned plots of land surrounding the park also include badlands on the property. These plots are particularly concentrated to the area southwest of Steveville, on the western bank of the Red Deer River.
Driving from Steveville to Dinosaur Provincial Park is approximately 30 minutes. The close proximity to the park allows tourists staying in comfort camping accommodations on privately-owned land access to Dinosaur Provincial Park with a relatively short commute.
Most private land owners in this area also reside on their property. This provides two options for those land owners wishing to pursue comfort camping business opportunities: develop the campsite close to their home or develop the campsite on a far corner of their property.
Those landowners that wish to develop the campsite close to their homes can easily connect the comfort camping accommodations to the electricity grid. Roads would likely not have to be built, assuming vehicles already have easy access to the owner’s home. Proximity to the owner’s home will also allow for the easy provision of visitor services and amenities.
Those landowners that wish to develop the campsite far from their homes will likely need to provide a power generator for the comfort camping accommodations. If a dirt road is not already connecting the home to the campsite, then a gravel road may be developed. Alternatively, visitors with smaller vehicles may have to park at the owner’s home, where the owner will provide a shuttle to the campsite. Connecting the campsite to the electrical grid may be cost-prohibitive in this scenario.
Business owners pursuing a business model that involves leasing or buying private land for comfort camping operations will likely face similar site requirements at landowners developing the campsite far from their homes.
As the badlands are a protected area, business owners will have to ensure that tourists comply with all applicable regulations on site. These include regulations related to fishing on the Red Deer River, hunting, protected species, open fires, and fossil preservation.
A number of agricultural plots of land also exist around the hamlet of Patricia, which is approximately a 15 minute drive to Dinosaur Provincial Park. The owners of these plots may also be interested in pursuing the development of comfort camping on their property.
The land surrounding Dinosaur Provincial Park has been designated for residential use for private landowners. Contact your local government to determine zoning and permitting requirements. Further investigations and consultations with Alberta Parks and private landowners may be required.
The following checklist should be used when determining site eligibility:
- Check zoning
- Ensure proper permits are in place
- Confirm business can operate on the designated land
- Check environmental regulations and species protection
- Determine legal and insurance requirements
Dinosaur Provincial Park is a high traffic tourist destination, attracting over 100,000 visitors a year. There is therefore a large market for additional comfort camping accommodations on privately-owned land around the park. This market is diverse and comprised of: international tourists from Asia, Europe, and the United States; Canadian tourists from other provinces; and local tourists from Alberta.
These visitors may be attracted to the natural landscape of the Alberta Badlands, but may also be education or attraction tourists interested in paleontology, research, or dinosaur fossils. Visitors to Dinosaur Provincial Park also have a range of household incomes.
The prime target market for business owners developing comfort camping on their privately-owned land will be overflow comfort campers from Dinosaur Provincial Park. The seven comfort camping units within the park are often full, forcing park staff to turn away campers. Developing additional comfort camping facilities on privately-owned land nearby will provide an attractive alternative to traditional campsites or the closest hotels in Brooks.
Visitors seeking comfort camping accommodations are more likely to be international tourists, tourists from other Canadian provinces, high income tourists, and a luxury demographic. International tourists and tourists arriving from distant Canadian provinces are less likely to be traveling with their own camping equipment.
High income and luxury tourists are more likely to be seeking the adventure tourism of camping combined with modern luxuries and amenities. Private business owners operating comfort camping facilities therefore have an opportunity to compete directly with Dinosaur Provincial Park to attract this tourist demographic. Providing higher quality or more amenities than are provided at the comfort camping facilities in the park can make privately-owned comfort camping accommodations the location of choice for these tourists. This group may also prefer the relative quiet of privately-owned campsites to the crowded park facilities.
Two options are provided for the development of comfort camping on the privately-owned land surrounding Dinosaur Provincial Park. The first option assumes two canvas wall tents are used for the entire five-year assessment period. The second option assumes that two canvas wall tents are used for the first two years of operation, where a yurt and a pod are added to this inventory in year three for the remainder of the assessment period.
Canvas wall tents are estimated to cost $1,500 each. A yurt is estimated to cost $4,000 and a pod is $10,000. An additional $5,000 is allocated for each accommodation’s furniture, bedding amenities, kitchen amenities, BBQ, and picnic table. A generator is estimated to cost $2,500 per comfort camping unit, as well as $2,500 for gasoline and firewood each year.
After a competitive analysis of other comfort camping units within Alberta Parks, the price point for canvas wall tents should be $130/night. The yurt should be priced at $150/night and the pod at $170/night. It is projected the occupancy rate will be 80% for the six months the comfort camping facilities will be available between May and October.
If the business owner pursues a business model that involves leasing or purchasing land for the comfort camping operations, then a staff member may be required. It is estimated that $64,800 will be needed annually for these staffing requirements, where one employee will be needed 24 hours/day for six months at a salary of $15/hour.
If a gravel road is required, then costs can range from $2,000 to $60,000, depending on the distance, curves, and terrain. Additional revenue may also be derived from value-added luxury services, such as room service and laundry.
The cost of buying or leasing the land, a staff member, a road, and the potential revenue from these added services are not included in the financial projections due to the specific context of this business opportunity.