Here’s the thinking behind our attempt to make as little money as possible from the écovallée yurt camp. If you’re a yurt camp (or glampsite) owner, you might find it interesting. If you’re looking for a glamping (or yurt camping) holiday, especially in France, you might find it illuminating.

And if you’re wealthy, this is why I probably never will be.

When écovallée opened in 2010, there was only one price for every week of the year. We had the notion that people shouldn’t be punished because they could only take their holidays during the Summer months. And besides (a word I can’t remember using before), our yurt camp was designed for people with young families (like us) who weren’t restricted to school holidays. So one price made sense. Yes?

Because facilities were minimal (we didn’t even have a yurt up when we started taking bookings), our opening price was low. So low, we didn’t actually make any money that year. (We even had to borrow money to pay the tax. Even I can’t argue this was good business.)

The following year, we had better facilities, increased our tariff a very small amount and kept to the single-price strategy. (You know, to be fair to everyone.) But any money we did make was ploughed back into the campsite. So we still didn’t “earn” anything.

By 2012, with the solar shower and tree bog finished, we realised what we had was a proper glampsite. We increased our price to well under half what some of our competitors were asking and held onto our single-price strategy. But we were alarmed (and dismayed, truth be told) to see that we only had guests during July and August.

Now, don’t get me wrong. July and August are good months. Of the six months we are open, they are certainly two of them. But other months here are wonderful. April mornings can be a bit nippy, but the wild orchids come out, exotic birds arrive, trees burst into the most vivid green, the tourist attractions open and are blissfully crowd-free… I’ll wax lyrical about that another time.

The point is, any “money” we “made” went back into the infrastructure and we ended up with “nothing”. “Again”. Which was getting pretty old.

Over the Winter, we were chatting to some of our more successful friends about our self-imposed plight. The single-price, fair-to-everyone-except-us idea was on the table. We still strongly felt that no one should have to pay more during the Summer holidays – that companies hiking their prices for July and August were robbing tourists blind. One of our friends then put it this way: What about if people just paid less when it’s not the Summer holidays?

I’m not ashamed of liking this idea. A lot. So much so, that we applied it immediately.

For 2013, we increased our prices to what is actually reasonable. Then slashed them for May, June and September. And cut them further still for April and October. And (at the risk of sounding like a Mr Men book) do you know what? It worked! For the first time, we had guests in every month except October. And for the first time, we “earnt” some “money” for ourselves. Yes, we’re still going to spend it on infrastructure, but it’s for us instead of the camp site. The camp site (except the car park and access road) is complete.

So we think we’ve got it right. Which means, we don’t think we need to change anything for 2014. Yes, I know this means we’re effectively charging 5%(ish) less than we were this year, but I can’t get all hot and bothered about the wrongness of a growth-based economy if I’m doing exactly the same thing, can I?

We’re happy with the prices at écovallée – and we hope our guests will be too. Next year, you’ll be able to stay in a yurt here for less than we were charging in 2010. What’s not to like about that?

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