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 .
Welcome to the ICEHOTEL, an art project and the world’s first and largest hotel built of snow and ice.
ICEHOTEL is in the business of creating expenses . 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 . 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 .
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 . Building this requires about 30,000 cubic meter of snice and 1,000 metric tons of ice . 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 . 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 . 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 . 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 . 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.
“[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 .”
- TripAdvisor Reviews on ICEHOTEL. http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g939981-d259843-Reviews-Icehotel-Jukkasjarvi_Norrbotten_County.html
- ICEHOTEL Press and Media Kit. http://www.icehotel.com/wp-content/uploads/ICEHOTEL_Presskit-ENG.pdf
- ICEHOTEL website. http://www.icehotel.com/
- “How to Build an Ice Hotel,” Mental Floss. February 28, 2013. http://mentalfloss.com/article/49145/how-build-ice-hotel
- “The Story of Torne River,” YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4rQWw6qmC0
- “FIFA World Cup™ meets the ICEHOTEL,” YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILf6Y5DotzM
- “ICEBAR BY ICEHOTEL – Production,” YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6o-XB2uQeE