If you cycle along the river from central Eskilstuna, it is about 2.5 kilometers to popular Vilsta Sporthotell and Camping. A facility that has the most in terms of the range of physical activity and different types of accommodation. In the immediate vicinity there are both MTB and Sörmland trails. The secret behind Vilsta's success is simple, says owner Göran Pettersson. Hard work. 

The resort has hotels with 39 rooms, hostels, camping and some 30 cottages. In addition, there are sports halls, swimming area, canoe rental, frisbee golf course with 18 baskets, skateboard ramp, beach volleyball court, mountain bike exercise trail and a competition trail. And so on. It was in 2005 that Göran Pettersson bought the first cottages, took over the campsite from the municipality and built the sports hall. How does one get a plant to grow so much and with the high occupancy that Vilsta has, about 95 percent in high season?

- You have to be persistent, I think that is A and O. As entrepreneurs, you always have to solve problems and I think that many who give up lack just the right stamina. It took me 15 years before I could take out my first regular vacation, ”says Göran Pettersson.

In other words, running a plant like Vilsta is not a nine-to-five job. If you have a hotel, and camping in the summer, it means seven days a week.

- You just have to think about being an entrepreneur, it's a way of life. This past year I tried to turn down to a "regular full time" because I have been involved in Eskilstuna's development by sitting on various boards and associations, for example I am chairman of the Hotel and Restaurant Association. We'll see how it goes, it's leaning that I have to work more than full time again.

In many parts of the country, politicians have begun to realize that the tourism industry is important for economic growth and employment. This also applies to Eskilstuna, says Göran Pettersson.

- It is we in the hospitality industry that create new jobs, and not least jobs that young people without experience can get. We have a lot of new Swedes working at the plant and because the restaurants are staff-demanding, we will create more jobs if we are to continue to grow. Today we have a political majority consisting of social democrats, moderates and the center, and it has worked well, says Göran Pettersson.

He is pleased that the city has acquired more large companies in recent times. For example, American Amazon is building new premises in Eskilstuna.

- It creates an increased number of visitors, which is good for the hotels. Until June, hotel occupancy increased this year by 12 percent, albeit from a comparatively low level.

There is plenty to do at Vilsta, but there is also something to do when visiting Eskilstuna. Göran Pettersson recommends a day at the Park Zoo and the Rademachers forges that are 400 years old. As a sports enthusiast he also tips on the new bathhouse in the city, Stiga Sports Arena where Guif plays elite handball, all Swedish men's soccer with AFC Eskilstuna, all Swedish women's soccer with Eskilstuna United and speedway with the Smederna. One last tip when it comes to Vilsta and the surrounding area has to do with the winter season.

- The municipality has expanded the ski resort so that there are three kilometers of ski tracks with artificial snow. I think people will do that so they come here and rent a cabin over a weekend when they train for the Vasaloppet. The idea is that from Lucia to Easter there will be snow, and then I think many people come here because it is not so far from Stockholm. In addition, the slalom slope is being expanded.

Daniel Bergstrand
daniel@swedenbybike.com

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