Importantly see things from foreign tourists' perspective

If you cycle in the landscape around Lake Sommen in Östergötland, you can park your bike at your "own" lake in the wilderness and take a dip. The tip comes from Marianne van den Broeck, who runs Hotel Sommarhagen in Malexander. When it comes to foreign tourists, she thinks that we Swedes need to be better at information and faster at answering questions.

Hotel Sommarhagen is located on Lake Sommen in Östergötland. What kind of cycling experiences do you get if you come to you?
Here you ride in a fantastic nature, with many lakes, meadows and forests. These are small, almost uninhabited, forest roads. A good tip is to stop at some small wilderness lake and take a dip, you have the whole lake to yourself. Then the terrain is varied and hilly. I usually say that there are both nature experience, culture and comfort. Hotell Sommarhagen can offer you a cycling experience with a little gold edge.

How are your bike tours organized?
We have many different tours to choose from, with different lengths and difficulty levels. As a guest you will have the opportunity to go through them with us. You can, for example, choose between a walk on small forest roads or past some cultural-historical attraction, here is among other things an old farm dating back to the Viking Age. The tours are arranged as "flower petals" with start and finish at Hotell Sommarhagen. This means that you do not have to have packing with you or "stay in a suitcase" with luggage transport between the different places. You can choose the length of your day trip from day to day, or just stay at the hotel and relax.

And the accommodation?
You live comfortably in your hotel room, which all have their own bathroom, and eat well in our restaurant with homemade food from local suppliers. In the evening, after a day trip by bicycle, you can relax in one of our hot tubs outdoors as the sun sets over the lake and the paddocks. (Pictured: Bengt-Göran and Marianne)

Do you, as an entrepreneur, have a recipe for success that you can share?
It is important to be responsive to the customer's wishes and to create a product that the customer wants and demands. The demand for comfort and convenience is constantly increasing, the market is changing. It is important to keep up to date by changing and developing their products and their range. In addition, of course, it is important to appear "in the right places". When it comes to cycling tourism, I have worked with Sweden by Bike for many years.

What are the advantages of cycling tourism in general?
It is a good way for the "common man" to experience nature and have the opportunity to move. We may do that a little too little, in our daily lives nowadays. An active holiday is good in that you combine good with pleasure. In addition, many people ride bicycles together, a shared experience is a double experience! A great way to hang out!

You like the sensual side of cycling it seems?
Absolutely, cycling is something you can enjoy. You can easily customize the tour to your own level, it's no contest. You make your way through the landscape at your own pace and can see and experience the surroundings better than if, for example, you had driven a car. You get a "whole" experience with impressions from sight, feeling, hearing, scent.

You have international experience in hotels and tourism. Is there anything you think we could do better in Sweden?
We need to become more professional in the sense that we need to develop products for customers with higher requirements. Foreign tourists for example, they often want more comfort, no bunk beds. They are not as used to being out in nature in the same way as we - lucky ones - Swedes. Therefore, we in the industry need to produce better maps, directions and information about things that we ourselves think are obvious, but which can be problematic for foreign tourists. We need to "put on their glasses" and look at our products with their eyes. We simply need to learn more about our target audience, so that we can more easily meet their needs and expectations.

Are there more things that can be good to think about when you have foreign guests?
As I said, you should be clear with all information about the product and the accommodation. We Swedish also need to have a longer view on product and prices. For example, I am already starting to work on the products that will apply in 2020. Something that many foreign travelers often complain about is the long response time, when they contact a Swedish tour operator, hotel or activity organizer. Travelers expect a response time of a maximum of 24 hours, usually much shorter. This applies regardless of whether it is weekend, evening or holiday. It is perceived as rude and unprofessional with long response times and or unclear answers.

Something about marketing?
When it comes to marketing, all material such as websites, Facebook or other channels must be available, at least in English. Also tour descriptions or other material. Be sure to find out which channels work best in each country you want to address. 

Is there anything to think about specifically for bicycle tourism?
The foreign guests are also unfamiliar with the long distances we have in Sweden. It is a long way between cafes, restaurants, accommodation, bike rental, bike repairs, grocery stores and more. This is usually not the case if you cycle, or travel in another way, within Europe, so it is something they do not even think about. What is sparsely populated for us, what is sparsely populated for them? Is it more than five kilometers to the nearest café? Everything is relative!

Anything else to think about how foreign tourists behave?
If you work with tour operators, commissions and so-called allotments often apply. As well as long anticipation as I said earlier. The foreign tourist usually does not stay in the same place for so long, they want to see a lot during their visit here in Sweden. The product must still be packaged, simple. They usually do not or cannot do research here in Sweden, and are not familiar with the rules and conditions that apply here.