We’re not experienced hoteliers. We’re in Kiruna because we like it, and we needed to find a way to make a life here. When we set up the b & b in the spring we had no idea how it would go. There are no bed and breakfasts in Kiruna – just hotels and hostels – and the concept of a b & b isn’t so well known.
After a couple of months and a slow trickle of guests we discovered there were other sides to this experience than the ones we were expecting. Yes it was good to have paying guests, and we learnt how to improve our systems so we were a bit more efficient getting rooms ready, washing and ironing, and managing the booking and administration. We made some mistakes. Fortunately we had some very understanding guests when things went wrong (a double booking, for instance, was a low point…).
But more than we’d expected, we’ve really enjoyed meeting the people who have come to stay. They don’t, of course, all share our particular interests, but it’s been interesting learning about what they do and don’t find exciting here. Some people come before a tour – walking, sled dogs – and then come back afterwards, and we hear where they went, what it was like, see the photos. Other people come here and don’t have any plans – they just go out and play in the snow and look at the sky.
It’s been difficult to keep our own lives going during all this – our focus has been so much on the b & b. We never thought just two rooms – a maximum of five guests – would be so tiring. We’re still having to learn how to keep our lives in balance with it all. There’s a tendency to focus on guests having a good time, and then wonder why we never go out ourselves. You can’t split yourself into too many directions, and running a b & b in your own home means you can’t, and shouldn’t want to ‘get away’ from the work.
At the moment we’re having to face the fact that we can’t meet absolutely everyone’s needs. When we started we were happy to help people with anything. We still want to be like this, but inevitably some people began thinking all our ‘extras’ were their right, and making demands on us which we couldn’t live up to. We also had our first malicious review. Another low point… discovering you can be anonymously slandered on Trip Advisor.
Our favourite moment since we opened must be when very late one night a group of Russians let themselves in to our hallway (the door was unlocked) and we heard them speaking in Russian while we were half asleep. They spoke no English and we no Russian, but somehow we worked out that they needed rooms for the night, and there was much hilarity as they sat on the sofa and watched us making beds and trying to find out what they wanted for breakfast. Then at breakfast, one of the party – later revealing herself as a concert pianist – serenaded us on the keyboard with an ABBA medley.