Hotel Húsafell is part of the National Geographic Unique Lodges, the team is among one of our newest customers. Located in the beautiful Vesturland (west Iceland) area it offers the visitors plenty to see. GuestJoy interviewed Krirstján Gudmundsson, the Head of Sales and Marketing at the hotel.
Hi Kristjan, tell us about yourself. How did you get into hospitality and what do you enjoy about it?
It has always been my calling, I studied tourism and was very interested in marketing. First I worked for a West Iceland marketing office and I got interested in destination marketing. I love working with people, showing where I come from and help them discover my country. Connecting my two passions while I am working at the hotel I still keep the whole area in mind, focusing on creating a destination where one could stay for a few nights.
Tell us about the area, what is there to see?
Húsafell has very beautiful nature. We are located on the edge of the highland, so the fields are just a short hike away from the hotel. On the other side, you have an amazing view up to the glacier. The glacier is also in walking distance and it has an ice tunnel that is definitely worth a visit. We offer a lot of different tours, some go to the lava cave – the largest in Iceland, some go to the canyon baths: these hot water pools, formed by water coming down from the near mountain. There are so many hiking possibilities.
Our hotel is for those who like nature by day and a bit of luxury by night. We have a swimming pool – geothermally heated. Actually Hotel Húsafell is fully sustainable, all the energy we use we produce ourselves. The family that owns the hotel built a hydropower plant. The water coming down from the glaciers generates electricity.
We are also part of the National Geographic Unique hotels. There are only two in the Nordic countries and there are only 60 in the world.
This is wonderful! At GuestJoy we are very passionate about green energy, and it is nice to see our customers doing so well!
Yes, while Iceland is relatively green, not all hotels are. Having your own powerplant is quite unique. And that is not the only special thing about us, we are also closely collaborating with a local artist, Páll Guðmundsson, who lives just across the hotel. He creates art out of everything found in nature, roots, stones, wood, you name it. You can walk around the hotel to observe his art. Páll is born and raised here and he is related to the family who owns the hotel. I think one of the coolest things about him is the stone harp he created. Hopefully, soon we can open a museum to showcase more of his things.
What are your daily tasks at the hotel, how are you connected?
I am responsible for sales and marketing. Nowadays our goal is to find more partners, tour operators, companies that we could work with and entertain our guests better. I also do online marketing. I feel very connected to the area, I am born about 40 minutes away from the Hotel.
Destination tourism in West Iceland is my calling, I can show tourists where I am from, and meet new people every day. Sometimes it’s challenging to have all of our rooms booked, to encourage tourists to come during less popular times, and of course, you always need to be up-to-date and aware of what is going on in the sector. Technology is always changing and you have to keep up with it in order to excel. We are constantly on the lookout for new opportunities.
So are you planning on growing?
We have our own goals, it isn’t necessarily to grow in size, but to transform tourist’s perception of us, and to make them stay longer. We would love them to slow down a bit. Instead of staying for just a night and rushing through the area it would be nice if they stayed for a couple of days. It is an unforgettable experience to go through nature calmly and getting to know the local way of life. My suggestion to anyone visiting my country is ‘No rush!’
Exactly! Slow travel can be much more relaxing and fulfilling. I have heard from a lot of Icelandic customers that it is an issue that guests are staying only a night because they rent a car and would like to see everything within a week.
Indeed, it’s one of the main issues with Icelandic tourism. It is a problem that we might have created ourselves, the country is marketed as a ‘package’ you have to rent a car and go around to see everything important quickly. This is really common, especially in the Summertime. In the winter people stay close to the capital and venture around the agglomeration.
Sometimes it is easier to connect with couples or small groups of travellers, but big groups also have their advantages. However, in our hotel everyone is welcome.
What are your experiences with GuestJoy? Do we help you with your daily tasks somehow?
There is no downside to GuestJoy, we have a really good experience with it! When we met Kristin, the market manager for the Nordics we were looking for a guest communication software to send emails to our visitors. We are very happy though that we get the full service and not just emailing. It fits perfectly with everything we are doing. There are a lot of activities we can sell while not being too preoccupied with it.
It’s great to sell activities and schedule them before people arrive, so we can plan weeks ahead, while we are not marketing it personally at the hotel anymore. We get reviews after people stay, almost all of it is positive and of course, once we get a negative we learn from that, and via GuestJoy we can quickly answer.
We started with GuestJoy very recently, of course, I took the time to learn about it, but your support system was very useful in that. It is very user-friendly and I am really looking forward to a much busier time to test it in high waters.