Exclusive Tents: working with nature to create one-off luxury experiences
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To conclude a three-part editorial series, Hotel Designs understands Exclusive Tents’ unique relationship with nature when its comes to designing luxury tented accomodation …
Exclusive Tents International could easily be considered the perfect evolution for Paul Zway’s philosophy, following his long experience as a Kruger Park ranger.
Indeed, the African heritage of these luxury products is reflected in their names with most of the tents named after the legendary elephants of Africa, mainly past and some still present. Zway’s vision is to apply Exclusive Tents’ experience, skills and enthusiasm to the accomplishment of his clients’ dreams.
The appeal of a stronger, more fundamental link with nature is often a factor shared with their clients. It is a joy for Zway and his team when clients invest wholeheartedly in the adventure and go the extra mile to work with all that nature can offer. The most rewarding projects seek to integrate their natural assets as much as possible with their living spaces, even going so far as to reintroduce indigenous wildlife and replant species that have been driven out or endangered by human activity.
Alternative forms of accommodation are gaining popularity around the World, and Glamping is foremost amongst them. For those not familiar with African luxury safaris, the versatility and potential of these large, beautiful, ruggedly elegant, traditional real canvas tents requires reevaluating most, if not all, of the core elements of a project that might otherwise be taken for granted. It is a refreshing and eye-opening process that can and should encompass all aspects of a project.
Deciding to use tents rather than main-stream construction solutions can prove to be beneficial and advantageous for a number of key reasons – both aesthetic and financial. If you are reading this article there is a good chance that you are already intrigued by the possibilities that luxury tents might offer. Of course, the romance of a closer link with nature, the exhilaration of creating something exotic, seductive and sexy is foremost in the mind. Yet other key factors are equally important.
Development time and costs can both be significantly reduced. The tents can be in production whilst the project site is being prepared, with tent installation time being very quick – normally a few days for accommodation lodges, and a couple of weeks for the largest of the main tents. All Exclusive Tents’ products are made to client’s order such that each tent is configured with the desired materials, colours, door and window placements, etc., that best serve the project. Whilst this means that they are bespoke products, all fabrication is exclusively in-house with typical dispatch for delivery in only eight-10 weeks.
On-site preparation can also become most efficient. Exclusive Tents recommend installing the tents on raised decks – most often timber, but sometimes masonry depending upon the environment. The advantage of raised timber decks is that they can be quickly installed with little or no ground works, gliding above the natural topography, providing raised views, an elegant presence, and minimal impact upon the site.
“Exclusive Tents will never be the cheapest source of tents, but their mission is to offer the best “value-for-money”.” – Paul Zway, Founder, Exclusive Tents.
Price is important, and good quality genuine luxury tents are not cheap per se, but remain significantly less expensive than hard-construction of a comparable quality. It should go without saying that the sourcing of the tents is fundamental to success: they should be of the highest quality, providing not only beauty but also technical performance, longevity and practicality. Exclusive Tents will never be the cheapest source of tents, but their mission is to offer the best “value-for-money”: High quality, robust, durable, beautiful traditional real canvas luxury tents at a fair price. It is often worth remembering the saying: “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” or, as once reminded, “The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot, it cannot be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run and if you do that, you will then have enough to pay for something better”.
For any commercial venture the cornerstone is ROI (Return on Investment): Successful resorts offer a quality experience & service at an attractive ROI. Luxury tent resorts embody this principal with the advantage of a quicker and potentially better ROI. Of course, any resort project depends on much more than just choosing what type of guest accommodation to offer or how to embody the resort facilities. However, reduced development costs, reduced construction time, low maintenance costs, and (almost always) higher room rates than for their main stream or hard-construction equivalent are strong arguments in favour of opting for a luxury tent resort.
…And, that’s before remembering the exquisite charm of creating a project where magnificent vistas and a unique experience are enjoyed from the nature-infused deck of a beautifully made and furnished luxury tent! Even in trickier climates, the whole experience of staying in a luxury tent, relaxing on a beautiful terrace and enjoying the surroundings is invigorating.
Glamping has evolved a lot in the short time since the name was coined. Exclusive Tents are at the forefront of this wave, constantly innovating, improving, and showing the way forward in all variety of environments, climates, and conditions.
For example, all the tent designs are now available with a new frame wall system for harsh climates or where increased thermal and/or acoustic insulation are desired. The system gives a new clean aesthetic to the tents and incorporates a minimum of 50mm thermal / acoustic insulation without external or internal wood poles, steel legs, or outriggers, although these can be integrated into the design if desired. Furthermore, the tents can be enhanced with increased insulation and fully integral (hidden) hard-walls.
As the glamping movement evolves, Exclusive Tents are also providing an ever-larger range of delightful tent designs, with the Mabarule and Dida tents having recently been unveiled. The Mabarule is a subtle blend between the traditional safari tent with the more modern designs. At its heart is an opening in the roof, a pivotal focal point between the internal volumes and the spacious covered veranda. Light cascades through the opening in the roof, reinforcing the connection with the outside, and lends itself to creating a water or plant ‘art-scape’ coming up through the deck.
Exclusive tents is as much an adventure as a business, being pursued passionately by Zway, his wife and business partner Angelika, and Johan Maree. Their tight knit team includes their children and colleagues spread across the globe. For the team, the biggest reward to emerge from the adventure is the bonds they have forged with amazing clients and talented professionals who have become close friends.
Every project, no matter how big or small, is driven by the passion and desire of its owner. Luxury tents and glamping appeal to those of us willing to look beyond the established order of things and welcome a challenge. Some of the most exciting projects come to Exclusive Tents as an essentially blank canvas (pun intended!) where the painting of the dream and vision commence.
Many new clients will, quite logically, start with little knowledge about tents (especially large, genuine canvas tents – as opposed to stretch fabric tents and canopies), and may be unaware of the versatility that they embody. For example, some of the key considerations for a luxury tent project:
- The guiding vision for the project.
- Location: Desert, tropical, savanna, forest, open countryside, hilly, mountainous, coastline, semi-urban or even urban, and so on.
- Topography and geology.
- Climatic conditions, proximity to the ocean, and how to best harness the local meteorology.
- What are the requirements for the project accommodation and facilities, and how can tents satisfy them?
- Design features, desired internal and external spaces.
- Materials, finishes, performance.
- What is possible? What isn’t?
- What is recommended, and what should best be avoided?
- Tent model selection, configuration, or bespoke custom design.
- How to integrate resort design and tent design?
- Adapting interior design to suit luxury tents.
- Common area tents and staff accommodations – pros and cons.
- Density of development.
- Soft or hard openings
- Off-grid solutions, rain water collection, etc.
Exclusive Tents is a close knit two-family run business that believes passionately in what they do: They will enthusiastically inform and guide clients and their consultants. Importantly, they also offer expertise and alternative solutions working hand-in-hand with equally passionate and diligent partners: The clients and friends mentioned earlier, such as Valentin of four Rivers Floating Lodge and Emanuela of Sandat and Canonici di San Marco, and consummate professionals including the uniquely talented architect Patrice Belle who creates wonderful designs and succinct solutions, for example Telal Resort in the UAE, and has a complete understanding of luxury tents within the wider context of project design.
As a team, they will not systematically propose tents for all and every situation. Instead, their philosophy is to advise their client and provide to the project exciting, beautiful solutions in the context of short, medium and long-term project objectives.
While we are all looking forward to a bright, natural and healthy future, Zway welcomes you to share Exclusive Tents’ vision, mission and passion!