How Hipcamp is working to get more Canadians outdoors

Can you share a quick introduction, including who you are, what you’re working on and how you got here?

I’ve had an exciting personal and career journey so far. Born and raised in India, I’ve lived in six countries as an adult, following my passion for tech marketplaces, operations and international growth. I started my career in consulting, moved back home to tap into my entrepreneurial roots and then once I completed my MBA in the US, I followed my wife to Canada. I was fortunate to be one of the first team members to help launch Lyft in Canada and had an incredible few years building out that business. 

Earlier this year, I joined Hipcamp to launch our marketplace in Canada this past June. Hipcamp is the world’s largest provider of outdoor stays, and our mission is to get more people outside. We work with local landowners to rent out their privately-owned land so Canadians can enjoy tent camping, RV camping, and glamping at properties as diverse as wineries to blueberry farms.

We know Hipcamp has been in the US for a while now; what was it like to launch this established brand here in Canada?

Hipcamp was founded in California, but what resonated most with me was our Founder, Alyssa Ravasio’s truly global growth mindset. She always envisioned Hipcamp as a global marketplace and so set up the company in a way that facilitated early international expansion. 

After significant growth in the US, Hipcamp launched in Australia through an acquisition in 2020 and then expanded organically into Canada in 2021. And what an incredible time to launch an outdoor business in 2021! With Canadians cooped up indoors and restricted travel options for the better part of the pandemic, the response to Hipcamp Canada has been fantastic since launch. 

A key part of our launch was to build a strong community of Canadian hosts who could offer beautiful outdoor stays on their land to Hipcampers. Partnering with Hipcamp helps our hosts unlock an additional revenue stream while sharing the beauty of their land with the good-natured Hipcamper community. Our team did an extraordinary job getting Hipcamp live ahead of the summer season across all ten provinces. 

When launching an existing brand in a new market, there is always a bit of tension to work through. It is key to determine how much of the marketing effort should stem from the central brand and where and how a more local voice needs to show up. A fundamental part of our strategy was figuring out how to capitalize on the international success of Hipcamp while creating a message that would resonate with Canadian audiences. As an example, our Canada’s Best Summer Job campaign really seemed to resonate with the community.

What new opportunities does Hipcamp bring to Canada’s more traditional travel industry, and how does it differ from other shared-economy apps? 

A truly unique element of the Hipcamp model is the way in which we help unlock private, rural land and make it accessible to Canadians. So often, experiencing the outdoors has been restricted to certain parts of the country; by working with over 1,000 hosts (and growing!), Hipcamp offers Canadians access to parts of this country that no guided tour or trip has given them access to before. 

Hipcamp is designed to help individual people be one with nature and the outdoors. We don’t encourage big groups and, in fact ,most sites have a capacity limit. Our focus is to not only provide accomodation but a unique outdoor experience. The more you know, the more you care. We find that as we get people outside experiencing nature, they start to care more about conserving it. 

And for the hosts, who have sometimes had their land for generations, they now have additional revenue streams so they can properly conserve their land and keep it wild. Upkeeping land is not easy or inexpensive, and Hipcamp provides a revenue stream that helps maintain the beautiful outdoor spaces that Canada offers. Unlike other shared-economy apps, we bring money and attention back into rural economies. 

Can you tell us what it has been like to launch a travel-related business during the pandemic?

While traditional travel may take a while to recover, at Hipcamp, the pandemic has been a significant tailwind. Travel trends were already changing through the last decade to more experiential and outdoor-focused travel and the pandemic accelerated that change.  Following the lockdown period, it was a bit of a watershed moment for outdoor businesses in Canada. We had all been cooped up at home, many of us in cities, so we were all craving nature. Plus, being outdoors was a safe way to be around loved ones, so Hipcamp was positioned as the perfect solution for Canadians looking to get away in a safe, responsible and easy way. 

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs looking to start an outdoors-focused business in Canada?  

  • Make it easy. We find many adventure-curious Canadians want to get outside, but find it difficult to navigate through the myriad of options, research and advance planning required. At Hipcamp, we look to get people outdoors at the simple click of a button.

  • Different people like to engage with nature in different ways. While seasoned explorers may be looking for remote, rugged experiences; first-time adventurers enjoy glamping with provided amenities; and families look for unique experiences like playing with farm animals, forest yoga, snoe-showing, etc. Nature has something for everyone. 

  • Travel has changed for good. Experiential and outdoor-focused travel is here to stay. Let's make this a moment for the Canadian outdoor industry.