Wednesday 7 December 2016

Glamping set have all gone gaga for PODs in place of hotels

Jillian Godsil

Published 28/06/2015 | 02:30

David and Rebecca Griffin in their POD at Littor, Asdee, Co Kerry. Photo: Don MacMonagle
David and Rebecca Griffin in their POD at Littor, Asdee, Co Kerry. Photo: Don MacMonagle

There are already some thirty or so PODs located in Ireland. Generally positioned in areas of outstanding scenic beauty, these strangely yet intuitively shaped PODs are fast replacing traditional tourist accommodation.

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Mostly a single space, the PODs are primarily a sleeping room, but can range from a standard, or POD Beag, to the impressively named POD Ullmhor which can house a double bed, bedside lockers, a wet room and toilet. The latter comes in around the €22,000 mark but that includes everything but the linen. Installing the PODs can be done in a matter of hours, access allowing, and even the most demanding mother-in-law cannot be disappointed with the final result.

POD accommodation first evolved in the UK where the brand is based. There are over 700 PODs dotted all over the UK, with dominance in areas of natural beauty such as the Lake District. The POD, with its distinctive look, is recognised as a luxury brand delivering all year round accommodation in areas usually more suited to a tent. And this is the unique selling point of the PODs - five-star accommodation in the wilderness.

The majority of the PODs located in Ireland are middle of the range, POD Teaghlach, and so do not come with chandeliers, but they do offer warm and secure accommodation in some of the most unspoilt beautiful locations across the country.

A recent radio report speaking about the success of The Wild Atlantic Way, also criticised the lack of accommodation on the route - accommodation that reflected the beauty of the coastline. Exclusive Irish licensee of the POD David Griffin believes his product can backfill that gap.

"All that is needed is accompanying bathroom facilities and a cook house. The PODs are tents on steroids. They can withstand rain, cold and heat. Because they are so secure, people actually enjoy the rain," says Griffin. "They are as close as you can possibly be to nature but without the damp canvass and rivers running across the floor experience. It's a dream combination."

Securing the exclusive rights to distribute the PODs in Ireland, all 32 counties, came as a direct result of the recession. Griffin had moved to Kerry with his wife back in 1998 and were both employed as graphic designers.

Griffin worked for a company providing services to the construction industry, but when the recession arrived it was a case of last in, first out, and Griffin was left casting about for a job.

"I also knew I did not want to work for anyone else again," says Griffin. "We had a small plot overlooking the ocean near Asdee Village and we toyed with the idea of setting up an outdoorsy style tourist offering. I am a keen outdoor sportsman - kayaking, hill walking and surfing - and wanted to see if I could deliver a business like that. I went searching and found the PODs in the UK. I was so impressed I went and bought one."

Griffin bought one of the entry-level pods, 2.56m x 3.94m, and installed it on his land. It faces towards the ocean and is only feet from the beach. It is now his biggest sales tool.

"If anyone is interested in buying a POD, we suggest they stay a night here and then check out other PODs in the area."

The entry level POD costs €7,700 and is delivered fully assembled on the back of a truck. There needs to be access to the site, and a teleporter to lift the POD into place, but that is about it.

If the POD is fitted out with a bathroom or galley kitchen, then a plumber is needed to link up the waste and water pipes in and out. Also, as they come with heaters, an electrician is needed to connect up the lighting and heating services - but it can be open for business that evening if planned.

In 2012, the first year of business, Griffin had a turnover of €56,000 which rose to €119,000 in 2013. It dipped slightly in 2014 but this year he is confident it will grow again, touching €150,000 or more with at least six new sites under planning.

Griffin finds that most PODs earn their keep within 12 months. Farmers looking to diversify their income and with untouched landscapes, are some of his best customers.

Griffin also had to overcome the issue of transporting the PODs from the UK, a transport cost that proved very expensive and was an impediment to Irish buyers.

Using his natural business savvy, Griffin found local master carpenters at Cisco Woodframe Homes, a father and son business. Griffin arranged for the team to travel to the UK to study the POD design before they were awarded with an exclusive license to manufacture them in Kerry. This reduces transport costs significantly, as well as creating a quality product.

"The UK says our PODs are superior in our manufacturing standards," says Griffin.

There is also a demand for domestic PODs - the roof, which accounts for 90pc of the structure, is under warranty for 40 years and therefore can provide a real alternative to the granny flat, spare bedroom or teenage bolt hole.

Access to the site is the biggest limiting factor when determining if a POD can be placed in a garden. For domestic purchase, planning permission is not required.

On the commercial front, planning must be obtained but since the PODs fit into all sustainable, rural development guidelines, there has not been one issue to date. In fact, Griffin argues that a POD trail can add to the value of a tourism amenity or area.

"If tourists know there is a POD, or a cluster of PODs in an area, that can positively impact their decision to visit," explains Griffin. "Which is why I always tell purchasers not to worry if the next door farm is looking at PODs - the more you have in the same area the more traffic you can bring to your own POD venue."

Over the past four years, a total of 30 PODs have been sold in Ireland. Griffin believes this will now grow to 30 a year, enough to keep his local master carpenters and himself busy.

"The biggest threat now is copycat builders but visitors know the value of an authentic POD. The POD brand is as important as the product itself and that is what will attract the repeat visitors from abroad," he says.

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