In January, the floating spa hotel Arctic Bath opened its doors in Harads. Guests from all over the world are already booking a visit, but there is also a strong local commitment. And visitors who have walked here are as appreciated as those who have flown across the globe.
There is no doubt that Actic Bath is this year’s largest tourism investment in Boden, it was a success from the start. Just a few weeks after the premiere, there have been guests from Belgium, Great Britain, USA, China, Thailand, France, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and even more. But the majority come from Sweden and there are many people from Norrbotten, Bodens and Harads who have tried to swim, live and eat here.
– I get just as happy when visitors from Harads say they are proud and want to come back and show friends from southern Sweden how fantastic it is, as when a guest from Singapore says it’s wonderful, says Peter Engström, CEO, hotel manager, co-owner and caretaker.
The idea was born at Treehotel’s inauguration ten years ago. Haradsbon and co-owner Per Anders Eriksson revealed at dinner that Treehotel needs a floating sauna on the river for its guests. The architects Bertil Harström and Johan Kauppi took up the idea and started drawing a circular bathhouse building that resembles lumber, inspired by the timber shipping that took place on the river here until the 1970s.
– The vision was to do something new that does not exist anywhere else in the world. The timber shipping has been a common thread throughout the project, says co-owner Annkathrin Lundqvist.
She joined the project in 2014 and has worked as a project manager, designer and press contact / PR. In 2016, it started and in 2017, Peter Engström was asked if he wanted to come in as an investor.
– I thought it was an incredibly exciting and interesting project. I saw the opportunities to continue to develop the hospitality industry in Boden, which I am passionate about, so I jumped on the bandwagon, says Peter, who is also CEO of Storklinten.
In the summer of 2018, construction began on the cold bath house and six hotel rooms on the water, but one of the suppliers did not live up to the quality requirements, so they had to cancel. Peter saw that there was more capacity and the project grew with another six hotel rooms on land, which Annkathrin designed.
– You can invest big or invest small, but now we chose to invest large, says Peter.
It has been important for the partners to use local contractors, suppliers and staff as much as possible. The 40 tons of logs that adorn the facade come from one of the co-owners’ land in Harads and all meat, fish, milk, potatoes and berries come from local suppliers.
– In the concept, there is a sustainability concept – tourism close to nature with as little impact as possible on the environment, but at the same time a positive impact on the social aspects and the opportunity for people to live and work in the countryside, says Peter.
Vittjärvshus had a contract for the construction and it was only for the floating pontoons that they had to extend further into the country to find a company to construct them. Many Haradsbor and Bodensare have been involved and worked with the construction and there are good collaborations with activity companies in the area, as well as with Treehotel.
– An effect is that you feel a sense of pride, both we who work here and those who have been involved in building it. I would say that you feel a greater responsibility if you have a local connection than if you are fly-in-fly-out, says Peter.
Of course, building a round house on the water that can freeze has had its challenges. Just pulling in electricity, fiber, water and sewage was a project in itself and was solved by pulling it into the gangways. Everything is specially built, even the wood paneling on the walls in the restaurant has been specially planed to fit a curved wall.
– The biggest challenge has been perseverance, it has taken an extremely long time. There have also been many technical challenges along the way. Every week we have had to work with problem solving. But it has been great to do it in a small town, there is always someone who knows someone who has what you are looking for, says Annkathrin.
She has decorated the buildings in a clean and stripped-down Scandinavian style, in collaboration with Input. Every detail is well thought out and the logo is found on everything from swimwear to locally produced porcelain.
– We put a lot of focus on wellness and mindfulness, people should be able to relax when they come here. Working with real materials such as wood, stone and leather felt very important. Less is more, says Annkathrin.
The first thing that catches the guests’ eyes when they step into the reception is the cold hole in the ice. Half usually back off and claim that the thing with cold baths, then it is nothing for them. Still, 90 percent of guests take a dip in the two-degree black water and the sauna ritual saunagus is a contributing factor. Here it is mixed hot and cold with different scents and sensory impressions.
– It is quiet and peaceful and the guests get a chance to go inside themselves. Then swimming is not just a sport but an inner experience, says Nina Olofsson Medin who works in a spa and reception.
A family from Southern Sweden are some of the brave. They bathe in the sauna, jacuzzi and jump in the cold wake every two hours for several hours.
– It is a revival for the body. Afterwards you get a tingling feeling in the skin, it’s cool. And it’s so fantastically nice here, says one of the guests.
The spectacular construction on the Lule River is one of the country’s most written about hotels and has received much attention in the national and international press.
– A long strategic work for many years with a close dialogue with journalists and magazine editors is what has made us successful, says Annkathrin Lundqvist.
On January 5th this year, the first journalists were invited and ten days later the official premiere took place. But not everything was quite finished, many technicalities needed to be solved and routines run. Peter and Annkathrin remember a chaotic time with a lot of stress and hard work and it is only now that they have begun to reflect and rejoice over the opening.
– The feedback you get from the guests is incredibly energy-boosting. They say that the atmosphere here is so calming and pleasant and that they receive such a nice welcome from the staff. That’s what means the most, it’s wonderful to hear, says Peter.
15 people work here and one of them is Danial Yakoubi at the reception. He speaks Swedish, English, Dari, Persian, Greek and can read and write in Arabic. With international guests, language skills come in handy.
– It’s great fun, nice colleagues and you have the chance to meet people from all over the world and many different cultures, says Danial.
He started working as a tailor already as a nine-year-old in his native Afghanistan and did so until he came to Sweden five years ago.
– Life is always tough, it is important to fight and have a goal, so hopefully one day you have what you strive for. I’m happy about the opportunity I got here. #