ICEHOTEL: 8th Wonder of the World?

Constructing and Managing the World's Largest Hotel Built of Snow and Ice

Every year, 80 couples wed at a church made of snow and ice in the small village of Jukkasjärvi in the north of Sweden.  They then proceed to spend the wedding night in a hotel room with temperature around -5ºC (23ºF).  After a night in Arctic sleeping bags, they are greeted with hot lingonberry juice and a diploma certifying the temperature and their stay [1].

Welcome to the ICEHOTEL, an art project and the world’s first and largest hotel built of snow and ice.

Wedding 2

Business Model

ICEHOTEL is in the business of creating expenses [2].  ICEHOTEL draws between 50,000 and 60,000 visitors every year to experience the Arctic Circle, watch Northern Light, and sleep in a sub-zero room made of entirely snow and ice [2].  Every year the hotel is reconstructed with a different design, yet ICEHOTEL is able to offer profitable operations for more than 25 years at affordable prices starting at SEK 2,500 or under $300 [3].

Operating Model

Creating a sustainable business model in the Arctic Circle using transient materials is no easy task.  The entrepreneurs and designers behind ICEHOTEL has started small and innovated their way into an environmentally sustainable attraction that puts Jukkasjärvi in the forefront of eco-tourism in Sweden and in the World.

Strategic Proximity to Torne River

The hotel has around 65 rooms and has an area of 5,500 square meters [3].  Building this requires about 30,000 cubic meter of snice and 1,000 metric tons of ice [2].  Snice is a combination of ice from the Torne River and air, and has higher density than natural snow, which provides better insulation and melts slower.  Ice is harvested directly from the thawing Torne River in the spring, where 1,000 tons of ice represents only 2.5 seconds water flow in the river [2].  The river freezes in the second half of October and artists arrive in November to work on the hotel for a few weeks before opening in mid-December.  River starts to thaw towards the end of March, providing only a short-window of three months of stay at the hotel.

The proximity of the Torne River establishes an efficient supply chain that minimizes transportation, energy use, and effect on the environment.  It also ensures a speedy construction of the hotel that maximizes length of stay for visitors and drives bottom-line to the Company.

Culture of Innovation

ICEHOTEL’s history of innovation began at its roots when Yngve Bergqvist decided to fill the long winter void in Jukkasjärvi in 1989 [4].  Inspired by Japanese ice sculpting, Bergqvist invited sculptors to attend a workshop, which in its second year led to an igloo constructed on the Torne River.  Over time, art gallery, church, and bar were built in larger structures, until one night a party of guests asked to sleep in the ARTic Hall with reindeer skins and sleeping bags.  The idea to ICEHOTEL was born.

To ensure a truly differentiated experience, ICEHOTEL hosts open call to graphic designers, architects, industrial engineers, and artists to solicit original ideas for suites and art work.  Out of 200 applications, between 15-20 are accepted to come to Jukkasjärvi in November to build their design [2].  About half are new to ICEHOTEL and ice sculpting, so the firm supports artists with instructors and tools and pair them with experienced sculptors to work on their unique room.  More experienced sculptors move to more advanced areas such as hotel lobby, church, bar and luxury suites.

This rigorous innovation management system with “Threadless” like idea sourcing and apprenticeship model help ICEHOTEL maintain its edge as the first and most artistic ice hotel that will attract the premium-paying luxury customer segment.

Ice Manufacturing and Product Innovations

Many of the “furniture” and daily items are made from ice at the factory nearby.  As an example, the factory produces a million glasses made from the same ice as the hotel each year [3].  These glasses are used at the ICEBAR and are single-use, which will melt away after each use.

The added ice manufacturing ability creates opportunity for miniature version of the experience visiting the ICEHOTEL.  As an added revenue stream, the Company sells ice glasses, ice bar modules, and man-size ice blocks for various professional and personal events.  In addition, London and Stockholm now has their own complete ICEBAR, hoping to create a simulated Arctic experience in an urban setting that could draw more potential visitors to Jukkasjärvi.

Melting

“[As the Torne River] renews itself under the unforgiving blaze of the spring sun, the life cycle is complete.  All that remains are our impressions and our memories [5].”

Melting 1  Unicorn

Sources

  1. TripAdvisor Reviews on ICEHOTEL. http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g939981-d259843-Reviews-Icehotel-Jukkasjarvi_Norrbotten_County.html
  2. ICEHOTEL Press and Media Kit. http://www.icehotel.com/wp-content/uploads/ICEHOTEL_Presskit-ENG.pdf
  3. ICEHOTEL website. http://www.icehotel.com/
  4. “How to Build an Ice Hotel,” Mental Floss. February 28, 2013. http://mentalfloss.com/article/49145/how-build-ice-hotel
  5. “The Story of Torne River,” YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4rQWw6qmC0
  6. “FIFA World Cup™ meets the ICEHOTEL,” YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILf6Y5DotzM
  7. “ICEBAR BY ICEHOTEL – Production,” YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6o-XB2uQeE

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7 thoughts on “ICEHOTEL: 8th Wonder of the World?

  1. I love the concept of the hotel. I’m not sure how I feel about the melting of the hotel every year. I’m not sure why they haven’t thought of building a similar hotel where the ice doesn’t melt and where they don’t have the added costs of re-building the hotel every year. Or maybe that’s just part of the charm and I don’t see it!

    1. I’d imagine if they could help it they would, but just as anything in nature it has its moment to shine and then it goes back to nature. It might be their philosophical representation of the minuscule life and the power of nature. Not sure if you are a House of Cards fan but it reminded me of the lamas and their art in the White House.

  2. I love this type of a hotel concept! Back in Fairbanks, AK we actually have something similar called the aurora ice hotel. They originally tried to build a an ice hotel for people to stay at, but found that US building code requirements were so stringent that it simply wasn’t something that would be viable in the long term. For a while, however, they had a few guests that would stay there at really high rates, and the company would probably still be doing it if it weren’t for the code issues. What they wound up doing was converting it to a hotel/museum that is housed inside of a larger, permanent structure so that they can keep it up year-round, similar to what Avani was mentioning. I think one of the charming aspects about your company’s concept, and perhaps why they choose to make a new hotel each year, is that it keeps the concept fresh. Each year they can try a new design, new decor, new ice/snow sculptures on the inside, etc. The folks in Fairbanks, much like these guys, also discovered that serving drinks out of ice martini glasses was a great revenue stream. All in all its a great concept and one that has tremendous potential to remain fresh and exciting. I would also imagine that a lot of the internal artwork can be sourced by local artists who simply want to showcase their craft rather than command a high price point. Really unique idea!

    1. Very interesting to see the parallel in Alaska Sam! Thanks for sharing. I know there are other ice hotels around the world after this one in Sweden so maybe the concept will be back in Alaska some time down the road.

  3. @Richard, nice work. I have a hunch that I’d so much enjoy staying in this hotel. I’m impressed by how well-thought out this model is. It makes a lot of sense to place the hotel near the building material source (the river). Also brilliant move to get labor + artisans to compete to work on the project each year. Bet that results in mesmerizing designs … at a lower cost.

    The melting reminds me of The Temple at Burning Man (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/24/burning-man-temples_n_5045128.html). Each year, people place notes, pictures, poems of things they’ve lost or want to honor at the temple. On the last day of the festival, the temple is burned and turns into ash in a solemn ritual.

    1. Thanks for sharing the story about Burning Man Andrea. I’ve heard about the festival and this is an interesting additional selling point to go. From the pictures it’s easy to see the designs getting more sophisticated over the years.

  4. This is great Richard! I knew nothing about the Ice Hotel, and your post highlighted many of the different features of the hotel along with how these operational features match what we’ve learned in class. The part that stands out the most to me is the “culture of innovation”. As I read your post, I kept thinking about the innovation funnel and the “Threadless” case, so I’m glad you mentioned it in your post. It would be easy (re: cost and time effective) to use the same design each year. [but] The constant innovation not only gives people a reason to come back, but it also exposes new artists (and their networks around the world) to the venue each year. I’m curious though. Given the resources available in the area, does this operational model give them a distinct competitive advantage or do you think a competitor could challenge them?

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