Elite invests heavily in Skellefteå with unique hotel concept
On 14 October, Elite Hotels' unique venture The Wood Hotel opens in Sara Kulturhus. A world-class hotel experience with 205 modern hotel rooms, three restaurants, a sky bar with rooftop terrace and a spa with panoramic views over Skellefteå. The director is David Åberg, a former Skellefteå resident who has moved back home - and who sees great potential in Skellefteå.
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- I moved from here in 1985. Back then, Skellefteå wasn't at all what it is today. For example, you never heard foreign languages then, you do all the time now. You can see that there has been an internationalisation," says David Åberg.
As hotel manager of The Wood Hotel, he has his hands full at the moment. The venture in Skellefteå is unusual for the Elite hotel group.
- For the first time in Elite's history, we are doing it as a stand-alone hotel. The main difference is that we are not profiling Elite as a brand at all, but The Wood Hotel. It's super exciting and will add extra value to the hotel.
The Wood Hotel will be the world's tallest wooden hotel and David Åberg describes the building and the setting as unique. The hotel's reception desk is an example of something out of the ordinary.
- It will be a six-metre-long desk with a wooden plinth that is illuminated from the inside. It's drying right now. It will set the tone for the whole hotel," he says.
But the success of the hotel depends on more than the building and the decor, he says.
- What will make the difference for guests is the way they are treated. That goes for the whole of Sara Kulturhus. If we can really deliver a world-class experience, I'm convinced it will be a success," he says.
Focus on sustainability
Sustainability is a watchword for both Sara Kulturhus and The Wood Hotel, which strives to be one of the world's most sustainable hotel experiences. Part of that effort is bringing locally produced food into the hotel.
- We've been going around and looking at local producers a lot. It's important that as a hotel and a major player, we can be quick and can adapt our menu according to the season. When the strawberries are ripe in Skellefteå, we run strawberries.
"Need to see what we have"
David Åberg believes that Skellefteå has great potential as a destination. It's just a matter of seeing what's there.
- We sometimes get a bit homesick, and need to see what we actually have. We don't need to pretend to be Skansen or Niagara Falls. We have the river, Vitberget and everything that's in the villages around it. It's about highlighting those uniquenesses. We have found our self-confidence and pride to a large extent, but we need to continue to work on this.
One trend for the future tourism industry is the packaging of experiences.
- People want to go to Svedjan's cheese, go skiing on Vitberget and stay in a hotel. Skellefteå has an incredible number of gems that we will now try to package. It is important to create a broad cooperation in the business community to succeed, he says.
David Åberg has said that Skellefteå can become as big a destination as Åre by 2026. But then some things have to improve quickly, he says.
- One thing that has to be developed is aviation. Or transport and communications in general. Today it is difficult to get here. The municipality and we in the business community need to pay attention to that. The only way to get to Skellefteå can't be by car. Then we are too far away if we want to be as big a destination as Åre, which I have said we will be in 2026. But maybe it can be done, if we can get the air service going. And a Norrbotnia runway at that!
Believing in collaboration
The Corona pandemic has hit the hotel industry hard, although private travel has picked up recently. One big change globally is that business travel has fallen sharply during the pandemic.
- The major hotel chains estimate that business travel will not be back to 70% of 2019 until around 2023, so if we are to maintain our revenue and profitability, we need to find 30% new customers or a different buying pattern. I therefore believe in packaged travel. Building the destination. And to work with the business community and the citizens," says David Åberg.
He himself also believes that cities like Skellefteå could have an advantage in the future, when people become more interested in discovering destinations away from the big metropolises.
- If I go to myself, it is clear that it is tempting to go to Paris. But it's even more fun to go to a small town in France that you've never heard of. I think international travelers will be more interested in going to cities like Skellefteå. Take the US as an example. You know a bit about Los Angeles or New York, but you have no idea about the things in between. It would be super fun to go to a destination with 30,000 inhabitants in the middle of the USA. What's there? How do they live there? I think we could work on that in Skellefteå too.
IN BRIEF: DAVID ÅBERG ON SKELLEFTEÅ AND TRENDS IN THE TOURISM INDUSTRY
- "I believe very strongly in packaging experiences! People want to do several things in one destination. Skellefteå has an incredible amount of gems that we will now try to package. I think it's going to be a super trend."
- "One thing that is clear to us in the hotel world is the need to create more attractive meetings. Not least hybrid meetings - that is, both analogue and digital. Those who live in Norr- and Västerbotten, for example, can go to Skellefteå. Those living in Malmö or Hamburg can participate digitally. Packaging it so that it's a good experience is something that everyone who works with events needs to keep up with."
- "I've seen Skellefteå change over the years I've lived elsewhere. Shops are being replaced by cafés, restaurants and hairdressing salons. What can be digitised is being replaced by things that can't be done online. We've noticed this not least in the food scene in town, which has developed a lot in the last 5-6 years."