After a year and 43 different attempts, Cecilia Berglund finally got a place approved for her Ecocamp – then the pandemic struck. With the help of courage, a willingness to cooperate and an inability to give up, the backlash was the start of something new and exciting.
Cecilia Berglund has worked in tourism and hospitality all her life. As a child she accompanied the family company Berglunds Servings and sold food in various forms around southern Sweden. Everyone contributed and it became a useful school and gateway to the service profession, which has come to shape a large part of her life.
"Since the years with the family business, it has been obvious to me to work in the hospitality industry in one way or another. I love the industry because it is so weird, sprawling and broad. There is so much to discover, learn and combine.
Before Cecilia finally ended up in Umeå, she worked abroad for eight years. It was everything from cocktail waitress in Greece, bar manager in the Swiss Alps and receptionist in the multi-star luxury hotel. In Umeå she worked her way through the usual and after some time there was strategic sales at Scandic's head office, which then led to a nice service at the then newly started destination company Visit Umeå with responsibility for meetings and conferences.
"I have always worked my way and thus accumulated experience and developed new knowledge. The time with the family business, the years abroad and the more strategic services at Scandic and Visit Umeå have given me an incredible education.
It was five important years with Visit Umeå, but in the end the lack of the pure service profession was too great. That's when the dream of something of your own began to take shape.
"I wanted to get back to what has always fascinated me and captivated me, to help and guide people to experience something extra. At Visit Umeå we communicated that nature was just around the corner, but I felt that there were few who really managed to show it.
That's where the experience company Ecocamp arose. Northern Sweden's unique nature experiences with a focus on food, nature and culture – Umeå's first Glamping company (Glamping is the combination of the best from camping with a luxurious hotel stay. Glamour meets camping).
Not the type to give up
With the support of the business incubator eXpression Umeå, Cecilia gave herself time and opportunity to develop her offer and brand. The goal was to find a place for a sustainable and luxurious camp on the outskirts of Umeå – a new and exciting way for people to meet.
"I went through 43 different places but they were all occupied, controlled by restrictions or too close to something that could not be disturbed – for example, a rare woodpecker. The people in charge at the municipality were very helpful, not least Karin Björk, but it was difficult to find a place that worked. For me, it was about not losing focus.
It took a year of searching, lots of meetings, phone calls and emails before Cecilia finally found a perfect place.
That's when the pandemic erupted.
"It was extremely sad. It was just packing up simply, but I couldn't just let go of everything. I had to back up a few steps and find my way back to my "why", my mission and my purpose. That's when I landed in that it was an outdoor agency I started.
The network opened up opportunities
"We can't have meetings as usual because of the pandemic, we can't take the risk, can you arrange something?".
The network and industry experience Cecilia built up over the years did not stop yielding despite inverted circumstances. On the contrary, new windows were opened ajar when the door was slammed under her nose – and Cecilia is not the one who hesitates when the opportunity arises.
"I felt that there was a demand, it just looked different. I combined what I heard from the network with trends, surveys and scrolls of statistics online. There was an opportunity, a golden hole in the market that I wanted to fill.
Glamping equipment had to be put aside, or at least used for other purposes, as there were flexible outdoor meetings for companies on the agenda. Tailor-made solutions were desired, where everything was ready, for both large and small groups.
The network provided both customers and partners. New experiences could be combined with industry colleagues' offers and suddenly new doors were glimpsed on the horizon.
"I love networking and building something together with others. It's not a cliché that one plus one turns three. I am inspired by other people's areas of expertise and combining networks and resources almost always opens up completely new opportunities. Then I do not know if it is a norrlandsgrej but I feel in any case that there is a great trust in each other up here and that you are genuinely interested in others to succeed.
Dare to combine new
We should not hide the fact that the hospitality industry is an industry in crisis. There are many who see their life's work balancing on a delicate thread. Cecilia still wants to spread hope.
"There is an opportunity to combine new experiences together with existing ones and repackage parts of the supply to meet the demand that is currently emerging in the wake of the pandemic. To succeed, I think it takes a lot of creative courage, curious solutions and an open and generous attitude. We must dare to bet, because what is the alternative?
Name: Cecilia Berglund
Age: Almost 40 years, finally!
Family: 2 children, dog and partner
Lives: In the forest
Eat scans: everything from spaghetti to oysters
Currently listening to: Very John Mayer
Currently watching: David Attenbourough
Last book I read: Mother marries
When I'm not working: Out!
My best tip: bring the lunch box out. If you have more time, invite a lovely bunch and make crumble over fire and make coffee in a nice place. My favourite spots are: Arboretum, Villanäs bird tower and pristine beaches along the coast. (we have almost 400 km of pristine coastline)
The hospitality industry in figures
- Tourism consumption in Sweden amounted to SEK 306 billion in 2019. This is an increase of 0.7 percent compared to the previous year or SEK 5 billion.
- The value added of tourism amounted to SEK 127 billion or 2.5 per cent of GDP in 2019.
- In 2019, the tourism industry employed about 126,000 people.
- Total tourism consumption in Sweden in 2019 consisted of 35 per cent trade, 22 per cent housing and accommodation, 19 per cent transport and 9 per cent restaurants (other 15 per cent).
Source: Swedish Growth Agency