When it comes to marketing, the only way to know what really works is… testing. So, I’m listing the three yurts on three well-known websites and will pay close attention to the results. Mustardseed is with booking.com, Peaseblossom is with Airbnb, and Puck is with Canopy & Stars. Of course, I also try and attract direct bookings – so I’m in the competition, too. (It doesn’t matter who you book through, really – you win every time.)

Happy Holiday Games. And may the odds be ever in everyone’s favour.

As promised, here’s the first almost-live blog on getting the yurt camp ready for opening on Thursday.

This year, Philippe came along and helped me put up Mustardseed – one of the two 18-foot yurts in the camp. It all went smoothly. Which was a good thing, as there was some kind of fierce storm due at 5 pm.

If you’re going to try this at home, you will need:

Yurt 1

A platform set into the corner of a few acres of mixed woodland. In this case, there’s quite a bit of false acacia (perfect for yurt platform uprights, fence posts, firewood – and lasts in water for 100 years), hornbeam (a personal favourite), hawthorn (which provides the welcome first bit of green in spring), oak (mainly spindly – I need to do some thinning out – but half a dozen beauties), sweet chestnut (which produces a very labour-intensive breakfast toast topping, and isn’t great for firewood; but it got us through a few winters), wild service trees and a whole bunch of other green stuff.

You will also need to carry the frame of your 18-foot, coppiced-chestnut, Kyrgyz-style yurt, by hand, from way over there.

yurt 2

Clean off the edging strips that go round the platform. These ones are 1 cm plywood – it doesn’t need to be marine ply, although that would probably last longer.

yurt 3

That unfeasibly heavy oak door spent the winter leaning against the sink in the outdoor kitchen a few metres away. It must have been carried for miles in the last 10 years. That’s the shower in the background.

yurt 4

Screw in the platform edges, with an unnecessarily intense look of effort. It’s not actually that hard with a machine. (A few years ago, I put some up with a socket set – don’t ask.)

yurt 5

Stand the walls up and try to remember how they fit together. Wonder why you didn’t take a moment to mark them in some helpful way at the end of last year. Or the year before that – even more sensible.

yurt 6

Pause, while Philippe takes a caught-on-CCTreeV shot.

yurt 7

Unwind the tension band.

yurt 8

Raise the roof.

yurt 9

Here’s further proof that marking poles when it matters is worth considering. Although, it does mean the yurts are different every year.

yurt 10

Here’s what Mustardseed looks like for 2016.

yurt 11

If there’s a storm coming, you need to carry the cover over, heave it on and rope up the wall.

yurt 12

Like this.

(The storm didn’t come.)

You will probably know that it’s been 400 years since Shakespeare finally put down his pen. (After writing his Will, perhaps.) To mark this event – and because the yurts in écovallée are named after the fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream – I’ve put this final ad together.

 

shakespeare yurt ad

True Shakespeare fans will be pleased to know that the font used is Arial.

Well, more of another idea for a headline.

another ecovallee concept

(I think I prefer this, but it depends on the context. The earlier ad has more of a generic headline, but was designed for the wall of a break room – ie, A holiday that’s out of the world of this functional room. But today I met a friend of a friend who came to see écovallée for the first time. He stood at the top corner between the yurt and the kitchen and said: “This is my dream.” And I remembered that, yes, it was my dream – and now, it’s there. Shakespeare lovers will also know why we called the three yurts Mustardseed, Peaseblossom and Puck.)

 

During the last nine years, I’ve (occasionally) paid to advertise écovallée in relevant newspapers and magazines. But I’ve never been able to attribute a single booking to that activity. When écovallée was listed in The Guardian as one of the top 10 luxury campsites in Europe, it sold out in three days (full disclosure: there was only one yurt available that year). Our 15 minutes of fame on prime-time ITV led to… precisely one booking. Twitter doesn’t lead to much – even when tweets are re-tweeted to thousands. The Facebook page has yet prove itself. And, let’s be honest, who uses Google+? In fact, this blog is responsible for more bookings than everything else put together.

So my question to you – should you choose to answer it – is: What prompts you to book your holiday – advertising, editorial, social media, or something else? When the world changes at ever-increasing broadband speed, it’s hard to keep up.

In the meantime, here’s an ad I put together yesterday, for a friend to put up at work. Even if we’re not sure what’s effective, we have to keep trying…

ecovalle ad 2016

10% off bookings for the rest of the year!

Yes, I know écovallée is cheaper than other yurt camps. And in a better location. With more gorgeous, planet-friendly facilities. In fact, it’s probably the most carefully planned and beautiful yurt camp in this part of the Milky Way. But offering a 10% discount to single parents and solo travellers still seems completely reasonable.

So that’s what’s going to happen for the rest of 2016.

The terms of this offer should be obvious. But if you do happen to meet someone between the time of booking and arriving, and suddenly want to bring them along, they’ll be more than welcome if they also arrive with the 10% discount. These things happen.

Every year, écovallée rises again with the return of the wild orchids and migrating birds. And every year, tweaks and improvements are made to the campsite so that guests enjoy a uniquely wonderful experience.

This year, I will live blog the return of the yurt camp so you can watch it all blossom from wherever you are.

 

There will be plenty to show – new covers for the Play Yurt and Outdoor Kitchen – new people, including a chef who is growing various veggies in and around the polytunnel (and available to give guests hints and tips on how to make their food more fabulous) – and other news.

At this time of year, it feels like everything’s new.

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