Startup betting Maine is ready for its Airbnb-style comfy campsites

June 08–A New York tech startup is betting a multimillion-dollar expansion on urbanites looking for a weekend of semi-rustic camping in Maine.

Tentrr moved into Maine last summer with a handful of tent sites and now has built almost 30 across the state with 15 more in development.

It plans 200 sites in Maine by the end of 2018.

Tentrr sets up semipermanent campsites on secluded private land that are booked through an online app, similar to Airbnb and other homesharing apps. The company shares revenue with private property owners.

The company set up its first tent sites in upstate New York three years ago. It steadily expanded throughout the Northeast and now has its sights set on the West Coast, fueled by $8 million in venture capital.

Maine, with a bounty of scenic, secluded, privately owned land, is an ideal place for expansion, company spokeswoman Baxter Townsend said.

“Maine seemed a natural outpost,” she said. “We saw the success of the sites last year, and with the sheer number of gorgeous places, there is a huge draw here.”

Mac Ciulla and Barbara Astmann set up a tent at Valley View Farm in Auburn on June 1. The two work for Tentrr, which sets up campsites on private land and rents them through a network like Airbnb. The company is expanding across the Northeast and is setting up two to three new sites a day in Maine, according to Baxter Townsend, a spokeswoman for the New York City company.

Tentrr is hoping Maine’s proximity to Boston and other New England cities will draw caravans of city-dwellers hungry for authentic, but comfortable, outdoor experiences.

“It’s an easy entry,” said John Schott, 75, who runs a Tentrr site on part of his 400-acre property next to the Androscoggin River in Greene.

Each Tentrr site is ready-made for camping, with a large canvas platform tent, smaller pop-up tent, picnic table, outdoor toilet, solar shower, storage and fire ring.

“I think that is one of Tentrr’s goals, to introduce people to camping without them having to purchase all the gear, sleep on rough ground or whatever,” Schott said. “They can experience the outdoors without all the hardships.”

Schott started his site in August last year and got about a dozen groups coming to his property. Most were people in their 20s and 30s from metro areas such as New York City.

The extra income he earns helps him conserve the property instead of selling it to developers, he said.

“We have enjoyed the experience of sharing our land with new people and meeting new friends,” he said.

Barbara Astmann uses a mallet to set a bed slat into position while assembling a bunk bed in a tent at Valley View Farm in Auburn.

REVENUE FROM RURAL LAND

This spring, Tentrr leased a 3,000-square-foot warehouse in Saco for a logistics hub and hired 10 Maine employees to set up tent sites and scout locations, Townsend said.

Property owners, called “campkeepers,” pay a $1,250 fee to join Tentrr, or a deferred $1,500 fee through bookings. Campkeepers keep 80 percent of bookings, which average $110 a night.

Owners can make more by providing extras, such as kayaking or canoeing packages, mountain bike rentals or even ocean cruises.

Kathy Shaw, a farmer in Auburn, plans to offer farm-to-table meals for campers at her Tentrr site that went online this week. Shaw learned about the company from a mailer delivered to her door, part of Tentrr’s snail-mail advertising.

The proposal was an appealing way to make revenue from a private plot on her 140-acre farm that isn’t currently used. It also gives her a chance to expose new people to small-scale agriculture.

Mac Ciulla assembles the bed inside a tent he is setting up at Valley View Farm in Auburn.

“More and more people are looking to get out,” Shaw said.

Millennials, in particular, are attracted to spending time outdoors. A 2018 report from Kampgrounds of America found that 40 percent of the 36 million campers last year were millennials, a bigger proportion than Generation Xers, baby boomers or older people.

FANCIER CAMPING OPTIONS

Barbara Astmann ties a rope to a tent she is setting up at Valley View Farm in Auburn.

Millennials also are looking for fancier camping options that are good fodder for photography and social media, giving rise to upscale “glamping” — glamorous camping — that Tentrr is partially offering.

Shaw’s Valley View Farm is only a few miles from Auburn and a short drive from Portland, so she hopes the site can be a base camp for visitors coming up for concerts and festivals, too.

“I’m really interested in allowing folks the opportunity to experience the peace and quiet that is still available in this state,” she said.

This article provided by NewsEdge.