spotlight on the treehotel | kent lindvall.
Name: Kent Lindvall
Star sign: Pisces
Hometown/village: Harads, Sweden. I was actually born here in the village – literally at home, not in a hospital (only 500m from the Treehotel).
Describe yourself in 3 words or less...entrepreneurial, adventurous, calm.
What were you doing before the Treehotel? I worked as a ‘careers counselor’ in the school system for 25 years – helping young people determine their career path. Then 16 years ago, I started a fly-fishing travel business “FishingNorth”, which still exists now (more on a part-time/half-time basis). I take fly-fishing tours around the world. I also work as a fireman in the rescue service, on duty every third week. If there is a car accident or someone falls ill, we get called out. Obviously being so far from any big cities, we act as the support/rescue service before the ambulance arrives. In a small village, you always need to have many legs to stand on. I have been involved with Treehotel for the past 6 years, and started working on it full-time 4 years ago. I am mainly responsible now for all press and marketing for the hotel.
Where did the idea for the Treehotel come from? The inspiration for the hotel came from a filmmaker friend of ours, Jonas Selberg Augustsén*, who wanted to shoot a documentary film in Harads called “Tree Lover”. We built a treehouse for the purpose of his film. If he had not have made the film, we would not have had this idea.
Shortly after the film was made, I was hosting one of my fishing trips to Russia. Three of the guests on my trip were leading architects in Sweden. I proposed to them my idea to build a tree hotel. I needed their help to come up with a good design and concept around the idea. They were immediately on board, and these three architects became the architects responsible for the Cabin, the Blue Cone and the Birds Nest.
The Treehotel opened in July 2010 with 4 treehouses: the Cube, the Cabin, the Birds Nest, and the Blue Cone. The UFO was built in 2011. The Dragonfly was built last year, in 2013.
[*Jonas is now working on a second film, which will be set here at the Treehotel.]
We have to ask, how did the Blue Cone get its name, given it is painted red?! The architect of the Blue Cone originally designed a ‘blue room’. One week before we went to build it however, I decided his blue room should be painted red. The architect was happy with this, but said it had to keep its original name! So it stayed the ‘Blue Cone’. Interestingly in Stockholm, the Blue Hall (Blå hallen) inside the City Hall, is also painted red.
Tell us more about your involvement in the village: we have worked with a non-profit organization here in Harads for many years, to try to develop the local area. It was this organization that originally bought the guesthouse and renovated it, and after a couple of years sold it to Britta to run the business. We have done a lot of things like that to grow the community, and it has been during this time that we have learnt a lot about the connection with government, banking etc. We have had to find investments from the EU for our various projects. The organization has built and run a cinema. Run festivals. We also run a caravan camping village, 15mins from here: “Village Power”.
What is/was your connection with Russia? Britta worked as the head of the elderly service here in the village. In 1993/1994 Britta started a project in Russia, to educate nurses over there about elderly care. She took over local nurses and doctors, and then she brought back nurses and doctors from Russia, to see how it all worked here in Sweden. She helped build a hospice in Russia, and it was this that therefore helped with our connection/relationship with the fishing guys over there, in the Northwest region of Murmansk. This was the first hospice in Russia, and it is still there.
I then asked some of the local people if they had good fishing in the area, and I started my tour company the following year.
What is your connection with nature? I have always loved being around nature. I feel good in nature. Growing up here in Harads, meant I was surrounded by nature from a young age, and always interested in it. I grew up fishing here. This love and connection with nature still remains, via the fishing tours we do to some of the most remote and beautifully natural places in the world. Most of these trips have so far been focused around Russia, but we are looking to try British Colombia next. We have also done many trips to Patagonia (for sea trout fishing), Belize, Cuba (for salt water fishing – one of the best places in the world for fly-fishing in the sea), etc. Fishing travel takes me a lot of new and wonderful places.
What sustainability practices are in place here at the Treehotel? As you can see, our treehouses hang in living trees. This means we do not take anything out, or cut anything down from the current natural environment. We don’t destroy the ground, we just use the current place. We can hang up or take down the treehouses in one day (with a crane), leaving no trail. You could never tell anything had been there. It doesn’t change or ruin the surrounding nature. We just use the natural forest we have. We also use local companies and local materials (pinewood, birch wood). We ensure the treehouses are well insulated (which means you don’t need much energy to warm them up). We use LED lighting. All the electricity is hydropower, which is produced locally from the river here. The toilets are combustion toilets, which means the waste is burned and no waste enters the natural environment. For water, guests are given 3L of water each day. This is enough water for two people each day (for normal use of washing hands). At home, you can use 3L in 30 seconds when you turn on the tap. We introduced this method, and designed this product, to demonstrate to people how little water you really need. The idea came from Russia. A “ruka moika” (meaning hand washing) was mostly used in the nature and forests. Russians would put these in their rucksacks and hang it from a tree. Ruka meaning hands, and moika meaning washing. A simple, but effective technique.
“While we want to have our hotel in the middle of nature, we want to do it on nature’s terms”.
Tell us about the saunas…we drilled our own well up near the bathhouse, in order to produce our own water. Our showers are ethical showers, which don’t use much water. We have also ordered a new shower system (that will hopefully be installed at the end of summer (we will start with one and test it out)). This new Swedish design (only released in 2013) uses only 5L per shower. A normal shower uses minimum 50L. A new method was invented to save water, whereby the water comes in, goes around, and when coming back up is cleaned again to 100% and recycled - thus saving 90% water and energy. You can even drink the water after it has been cleaned! A great new product for the future. We will be the first hotel in the world to have them.
Which is your favorite treehouse? Asking me that, is like asking me which of my three daughters is my favorite! I cannot choose, I love them all. As for our guests, the Cabin is the most-booked and favorite.
And are there plans to build any more treehouses? We have plans in the future to make 1-2 more. We do want to keep this a small/exclusive place though. If we build too many, it will destroy the exclusivity, and we would like to continue to offer a boutique service to a small number of people at any one time. We have received many requests from other countries to build further Treehotels around the world. We are currently in talks with people in Scotland, Thailand, Bali, Brazil…people who already run existing hotels, small hotels, and who would like to add something extra. A franchise concept. We would want the same theme as ours to apply – where there is already an existing guesthouse, that offers the special character of the local place with good food, good service and so on. Our guesthouse here is traditional Swedish home-style – so we would look to find something similar, but also unique. Food is so important. Local food. Home-style.
How do you spend your days here? Every day is different! But I am mainly responsible for the maintenance of the treehouses (safety, control, and to make sure everything is working), as well as marketing and PR, and looking after our website and all emails.
Your favorite summer activity? For me: flying fishing. For our guests: local sight seeing tours, and kayaking.
Your favorite winter activity? For me: skiing. For our guests: dog sledding.
What is on your stereo? I only really get a chance to listen to the stereo when I am driving, and I will then always put it on a Swedish radio program about history and culture. My favorite band however is Queen!
Who is inspiring you right now? The many interesting guests we meet from around the world. Also, the meetings we have with travel agencies. Each year we attend different travel shows around the world where we meet high-end travel people (each November we go to Marrakech for example) and it is good to understand what people are looking for – what kind of local activities, experiences, etc. – to inspire us to create new experiences for our guests.
Words you live by... You must believe in what you do. If you don’t believe it will work, it won’t.
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