The Ice Hotel seems to have run out of ideas. A tour round its rooms this winter left us feeling truly underwhelmed. The hotel used to develop every year in some way – certainly as a successful business, but also in the ways it found to provide visitors with an Ice Experience. This year it looks like someone went for the easy option. An ice elephant there, an ice flower there, job done.
I’m not sure how long it can carry on like this. There are still people queuing up to stay there but sooner or later it will start to leak out that the emporer has no clothes. Reading the ‘Trip Advisor’ reviews you’d think that everyone who visits thinks it’s fantastic. Well maybe they do, if they’ve not seen it before, but the guests we’ve had who’ve been there this year haven’t been impressed and have questioned whether it’s worth the entrance fee.
The environment around the hotel is still a worthwhile experience. You can take a walk along the frozen river and learn something about the context and the material the hotel comes from – better value as an ‘ice experience’ than the hotel itself. The church in the village provides a fascinating insight into the history of the region, having been built in a Sami meeting and trading place in the 17th century. And after experiencing all this, you can treat yourself to a trip to the ice bar, where a cocktail from an ice glass still delivers what it promises.
In my idle hours, mainly during the night when I can’t sleep, I’ve been working on a new marketing strategy for the Ice Hotel. I know that everything in business needs to have a USP (a ‘unique selling point’), and it’s the USP you should return to when your business starts to falter. I don’t think there’s any doubt that the Ice Hotel’s two principal USPs are that it’s extremely cold, and that it melts every year. There’s nothing else about it that isn’t like any other hotel you might visit – it has rooms, a reception area, glossy brochures and advertising that doesn’t quite match the reality, booking options online, a bar, and its own restaurant. But no other hotel sells being cold, and staying in a building which disappears every year.
So I am a little surprised to read that the Ice Hotel is planning to get rid of one of its two USPs. There is talk of making it a year-round experience, preserving the ice rooms through the summer and making it available for business any day of the year.
That leaves us with just the one, essential and all important USP – the Ice Hotel makes you feel cold. Our guests have noticed this, and they often remark on the fact after they’ve been there. Although they know before they go it’s a hotel made of ice, the cold aspect still seems to take people a bit by surprise.
So – I was thinking – how can the Ice Hotel make more of it’s one and only USP? People go there and feel cold, yes, but after that – what then? Well, usually they all go into the restaurant to warm up and eat lots of food to try and forget about being so cold and that they’ll have to go back into this cold place and pretend to sleep later on.
So – I was thinking – what about if they stopped offering all that warm-yourself-up-and-indulge-yourself options, and focussed on the benefit of Just Staying Cold?
Hang on in here, this is where it gets interesting.
We know that many people visiting will return from their holiday and have to go on a diet to lose the weight they’ve put on, and this must almost spoil the pleasure of the holiday. But if these same people managed to stay cold while they were away then they wouldn’t have this problem. The hotel could pay proper attention to its USP and turn the temperature down in all the rooms. Minus 5 may feel cold, but it’s not doing the job. Make all the rooms minus 30 and then their guests would really shiver – and it’s a scientific fact that shivering burns calories.
Now you’re thinking, no-one would pay to shiver. But the Ice Hotel has proven that people will pay to do anything if you market it right. So it could rebrand itself as a ‘Health Farm’, or even a ‘Fat Camp’. People might not enjoy shivering, it’s true, but the hotel could provide activities to distract them from the pain (all of which they could charge for of course). Walking around in the snow uses much more energy than walking on pavements, so they’d need to stop clearing the snow away from around the hotel, letting it pile up in an obstructive way outside all the entrances. I’m sure they could also market ‘The Snow Challenge’ which would involve pointlessly moving snow piles backwards and forwards along the frozen river. It would make great television too. Plenty of people around the world would enjoy sitting on their comfortable sofa watching other people be cold and miserable.
Then there are all those lucrative spin-offs – cryolipolysis for instance, or ‘cold therapy’ as it’s called, in which extreme cold is applied to the skin to crystallise and shrink fat. Beauty treatments could include rejuvenating the skin with a snow pack, or hair removal through frostbite. They could also explore the possibilities for income generation from the health service who could send patients here for rehabilitation after their treatment to reduce pain and swelling in the body.
Any of these ideas would surely be better than another year of ice elephants and ice flowers.
Footnote: Thanks to Rachel Reeder for the inspiration.