Glamping expansion: Collective Retreats gets $10M investment

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Tented accommodations at the Collective Hudson Valley in upstate New York.
Tented accommodations at the Collective Hudson Valley in upstate New York.

Collective Retreats, a company attempting to disrupt the traditional hotel model with an "asset light-experience heavy" brand of portable luxury resorts, is aiming for a major expansion with a new round of investment that includes backing from one of the leaders in the evolution of modern luxury.

The company announced Wednesday that Simon Turner, former president of global development for Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, known for its innovation with brands like W, is joining the company as an investor and advisor.

Collective Retreats also said it has closed a new round of $10 million in funding, four times the $2.5 million investment it used to launch its first five resorts.

"This is a major expansion of the brand and really a fantastic growth moment," said Collective Retreats founder and CEO Peter Mack, who also used to be at Starwood.

Turner said the brand, which was unveiled earlier this year after a soft launch of resorts in Vail, Yellowstone and New York's Hudson Valley, "is shaping the future of the experiential travel industry, as today's travelers are craving new, authentic experiences that are closely connected to and enriched by their destination."

The "resorts" are luxury camps that offer all the amenities and services of a luxury hotel, from 1,500-thread-count sheets to in-room massages, personal concierges and gourmet chefs.

They are portable, so they can be placed on the side of a mountain, in the middle of a vineyard or even inside special venues like museums, to offer that true sense of place that today's luxury travelers crave. They can also be shuttered or moved during off-seasons, making them much lighter assets than buildings.

Activities are tied to that sense of place, such as horseback riding in Vail, fly fishing in Montana and apple picking in the Hudson Valley.

The company is preparing to open its fourth and fifth resorts in the Texas Hill Country and California's Sonoma County.

While its current camps are tented, Mack earlier this year said they were exploring tree houses and Airstream trailers as well as pop-up resorts in places like museums.

And with the new funding and Turner's help, Mack said, Collective Retreats will begin working on a major expansion that will likely include modular-style retreats -- "no buildings" -- in urban areas. The company is also looking into international opportunities, which could include a surf camp, Mack said.

What makes Collective Retreats unique from many glamping experiences and mom-and-pop resorts, Turner said, is the high level of professionalism and traditional luxury hotel experience the team brings to resorts that are operating in remote areas.

 "I think the thing that impressed me the most was the ability of the company to  make it look easy," he said of his visit to Collective Retreat's resort on an organic farm in the Hudson Valley. "So whether in middle of a national park or on a farm, you need the operating skill set to be able to pull it off. Because when things go wrong, the ability of the management team to react and service recover is really critical."

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