Happie Camp offers a slightly more luxurious eco-camping experience for modern people. After a successful first season, the aim is to start Sweden’s first Hotält chain. For support, the company has turned to Sting Bioeconomy.
Are you a city person who does not often explore nature? Is the threshold a bit high for cooking soup on a portable stove, or do you not feel comfortable camping close to other people at a campsite? Then Hotält may be something for you. These bio-based canvas tents (‘tält’ means ‘tent’ in Swedish) are stable and a bit luxurious, placed at selected precious hideouts in the forests of Värmland, and easy to book online.
“We want to provide the opportunity to get away from everyday life and the bustling urban environment. To have a break and be on your own in the wilderness,” says Staffan Svantesson, founder of Happie Camp.
“Today it’s easier to hike in Patagonia than in Värmland”
The idea was born as early as ten years ago. Staffan helped his father build a campsite business, in order to finance his business development studies at Bergh’s School of Communication. Himself a big hiking enthusiast, Staffan looked forward to the summer job and saw it as a unique opportunity to spend time with people he usually did not meet. But he was surprised.
“I found it so strange, because the people at the campsite didn’t talk to each other, despite the tents and caravans being so close. I was expecting a social summer, but the others just kept to themselves. This was something I gave much thought. Why was it like that?”
These thoughts stayed for several years. Did people really want the wilderness for themselves? Was the old camping concept from the 70s obsolete? What kind of campsite would he like to have himself? He realized that the concept of camping had to be updated. As experienced travellers, Staffan and his partner hardly ever go into the cities but prioritize the beautiful natural scenery and the opportunity to be on their own in the wilderness. This has given him much inspiration and knowledge about how other countries work with their nature tourism.
Two years ago, he hiked in Patagonia in a nature reserve extending across the extreme south of Argentina and Chile. There he saw how well the infrastructure was adapted to accommodate nature tourists: despite the hard-to-access wilderness it was possible to book a stable tent in special eco-camping villages. He realized that a similar concept would work in Sweden.
“It’s easier to hike in Patagonia than in Värmland. There’s a built-up infrastructure to receive nature tourists. In Värmland, many areas require great knowledge if you want to access them. Lots of tourists from all over the world visit Sweden specifically for our beautiful nature, but there is no infrastructure to make it easily accessible.”
A Facebook post is the only marketing
The trip gave Staffan the inspiration and understanding he needed to make things happen. A true Värmlander, he moved back home and started to build his first tent on the farm of a friend. There he got settled, decorated and provided himself with everything he needed for a truly pleasant nature experience. After a month he had finished building the first Happie Camp prototype: a stable canvas tent, named Hotält, which will be completely bio-based in the future. Then he lent his tent to his sister’s family.
Via a Facebook post, Happie Camp spread like wildfire. All of a sudden, more and more people wanted to live in the luxury tent in the middle of nowhere. New guests continued to spread the trend through their own channels, and Happie Camp quickly became a success. Staffan had to deploy two more Hotälts, and between July and September there were 183 booking inquiries without any paid marketing.
“This is obviously something that people lack today. We’ve forgotten how good it feels just to meet Mother Nature. Our main target group is city people living in apartments. For them, the threshold to get out into the forest is especially high.”
The fact that the name Happie brings ‘hippie’ to mind is no coincident.
“In the past, everyone who lived close to nature was slightly hippie, but today we probably all need a little more of the old hippie culture. Happie Camp is a way to experience that spirit, to some point.
Attracting a new target group
“A large part of outdoor life today is characterized by a macho culture,” says Staffan. Focus is on wood chopping, charcoal grilling and moose poo. It is much a matter of surviving, which he feels is out of date. Outdoor life is also associated with achieving, by being active, having the right gear and being in the right place. Therefore it is particularly interesting that it was mainly women who booked Hotälts in the previous season. This may be because, statistically speaking, women do most of the bookings on behalf of the households, but this new kind of camping does attract a new target group. The allure is rather the calm, the silence and the privacy.
“The original meaning of outdoor life is to have a pleasant time in nature for recovery and relaxation. We want to enable a calmer and more enjoyable outdoor life,” says Staffan.
For Happie Camp, the accommodation is secondary to the location and the encounter with nature.
“The accommodation is an enabler for meeting the fantastic scenery – the gems of the Värmland woodlands!”
Growth through a franchise concept
Today, Staffan has been running Happie Camp for almost a year and the response has beaten expectations. For next season, the company aims to establish Happie Camp in more places, and to develop the concept into a franchise model in order to scale up the business to other parts of Sweden. That is one of the reasons why Happie Camp will join Sting Bioeconomy.
“We want to be a natural part of the new bioeconomy by providing products and services for outdoor life with the forest as a base. ‘Eco’ means that it’s environmentally friendly, which is the guideline for everything we want to do. We make sure to create the best conditions for a sustainable hospitality industry and natural tourism, while also maximizing sustainability as a company, with the aim of leaving a positive climate footprint.”
Staffan sees the collaboration with Sting Bioeconomy as a great opportunity, which, above all, helps him get in touch with those who develop products, services and materials with the forest as a focal point.
“Just like Paper Province, we work with forest-based innovation, and we want to become a product of the forest, in the forest, for the forest. For example, we solicited the Swedish Forest Agency to inspire landowners to go for multi-use by including natural tourism in the mix of a successful forestry. In the future, we believe that timber harvesting will be seen as only one of many revenue opportunities. We believe the forestry of the future will also encompass a great deal of nature tourism, since we have already been able to demonstrate high income for landowners in that line of business. But we also believe that timber processing in the form of wooden products, furniture and new materials can be interesting for the future. Landowners can make land available for rent through Happie Camp and make money while the forest is growing. It’s a way of both having the cake and eating it.”
Happie Camp meets a need – that is obvious.
“The response has been absolutely overwhelming from guests, municipalities and co-operation partners. We’ve struck a heart nerve. We get a lot of valuable support and cheers, so it’s obvious that we’re doing something important. I think Happie Camp appeals to most people; I suppose everyone wishes to get closer to nature.”
We are happy to welcome Happie Camp to Sting Bioeconomy!