ideas, suggestions and observations about Geilo

Posted: May 23, 2011 in ideas

Geilo – It is time for reinvention.

Perceived Problems inherent to Geilo.

This is the result of listening to tourists and some locals comments combined with observations of my own. 

·         Lack of career possibilities.

·         Lack of affordable housing.

·         Local shops catering to the wealthy – prices too high for the wage levels and the tourists we attract.  Opening hours not tourist friendly.  More real estate agents than actual shops.

·         Dead centre in town – really dead, nothing at all after 7pm.  Now it is breeding bloody great big holes all over the place!

·         Tired, run down, dirty in town centre – bare concrete is not attractive, paint falling off, rubbish, general feeling of dilapidation, no sense of pride.  Contradicts the environmental message of the ‘nationalparksby’ concept

·         Need for indoor arena for tourists and locals – lots of days with bad weather, not all tourists ski. (pool, wave pool, cafe, internet cafe, kids play zone).

·         No wireless free internet in Geilo town centre – why?  The internet is a major selling point to induce people to move here, they can live here and work remotely, also for tourists in the age of social media (facebook, twitter), they could log on and share pictures and experiences instantly – free marketing and promotion possibilities.

·         Lack of marketing – commonly heard from tourists that they do not hear about Geilo at all.

·         Tourism levels down and still falling – this will soon begin to drastically impact on employment levels and peripheral services in the town.  What is Geilo?  Define product then target market segment(s).

·         The hole, Texaco tomt, empty premises in town centre – does not send the right message to tourists.  Snowhole a step in right direction, we need to aggressively pursue investors and get tough with the fylkesman and vegsvesen if they are the obstacles.

·         Interference by fylkesmannen – we need the Kommune to get tough and make decisions that will result in growth and progress.   Common sense must rule.

·         Lack of investment by federal and state government – fragmented Hallingdal that competes with one another for a limited market means the state can afford to ignore us.

·         Lack of focus, too many small expensive projects – whilst some are great ideas, they are often costly and do not result in attracting tourists or provide jobs.  Many seem to go to people with the right connections. (fjellmatsenter – great idea but will not attract sustainable tourist numbers – but something that we can build upon).

·         Inability to cooperate – the town competes with itself, fighting for the tourists we get meaning tourists are frustrated by an inability to work together by their hosts.

·         Pricing for accommodation, activities- exhorbitant for a family of four.

·         Complacent Kommune – lots of talk,

·         Internal competition instead of cooperation

·         Culture of ‘positive thinking’ detrimental to progress.

·         Small vocal group opposed to tourism blocking projects.


Aims.

·         Increase tourism levels and spending in town and surrounding area

·         Effective marketing campaign (select market segment and focus)

·         Increase population (create jobs, environment conducive to investment and establishment)

·         Create environment conducive to sustainable growth – look beyond tourism as the main economic contributor to the area.

·         Locate investors and work with them to make progress.

·         Recognize that optimism and positive thinking are not compatible with tourism as the preclude reality.  Critical thinking and constant effort to improve, customer oriented (this requires staff and services that exceed expectations)  and offers as well as ability to change, evolve and adapt needed.  Hanging mindlessly onto ‘tradition’ is really an excuse for laziness and hampers new thinking.

·         Utilize resource of foreigners in town to give much needed ‘outsiders perspective’ to what tourists and foreigners expect, value and demand.

·         Build on strengths and improve on weaknesses.

Possible Steps to reinventing Geilo and reclaiming its share of the tourist market.

Jobs – The area needs to be proactive in job creation.  Long term career positions, attracting business’s to relocate to the area.  Kleivi is massively underdeveloped and the addition of a spur line from the railway would open a whole new world of possibilities.  It seems a little pointless and more of a vanity project to be trying to encourage foreigners to move here when there are not the secure jobs that immigrants will require if making such a move.  Also, surveys have shown that 4 out of 10 people who live in Oslo could thing to relocate to the districts, IF there were jobs that pay well, career opportunities and the infrastructure was improved connecting the districts with the more heavily populated areas.

·         Local University campus – new campus of an existing University/college (engineering – hydroelectric systems, environmental sciences – (hardangervidda national park), Tourism and Hospitality industry, Marketing and management – (hotels and tourist industry in Geilo provides practical experience and students can provide much needed extra labour in periods of high demand), veterinary sciences – (farming industry), medical sciences – (nursing, aged care- identified as an area where Norway needs more trained people in the future) : this will stimulate demand for rental and hopefully real estate purchases, boosting town population and provide much needed tax revenue to council,  also increased local spending.  Chances of people settling in area raised.  This raises tax revenues to Kommune, and potential for state spending.

·         Scholarship for outstanding academic talent.  We sponsor sports talent and sports groups, but ignore academics.  Offer a scholarship to university for those displaying genuine talent and passion – set conditions.  Perhaps we can ‘grow’ our next great tourist manager?  This may also attract people to settle here who enjoy nature and outdoor activities but also value education.

·         Indoor sports and activities arena – swimming pool, indoor wave pool (NTG snowboarding can utilise for training purposes), children’s play arena, internet cafe, indoor skating rink.  This will provide an alternative to the activities on offer now for tourists and locals alike.  When bad weather shuts down ski-lifts or makes outside activities illogical or undesirable, this would be a viable alternative, also for afternoon and early evenings for tourists and locals.

·         Clean up Geilo town center – designate a priority area around the town centre and in proximity to touristed sites such as RV7 through town that will require maintenance of properties, cleanup of rubbish and presentation that is acceptable to tourists, projecting the right image.  Currently in town centre; buildings in need of repair, painting, cleanup, graffiti on walls, general lack of ‘pride’ in how we present town to tourists and visitors.

·         Signage in ski areas in more languages than just Norwegian – If we want to attract foreign tourists and their wallets, we need to acknowledge that if something is important enough to merit a sign, then the tourist should be able to read it as well.

·         Stop catering to the wealthy as priority nr 1– While they may have more money; that does not always translate to higher levels of local spending that will benefit the town as a whole.  Often wealthy tourists and hytte owners expect more for less, and often expect things free.  Prioritise regular people and especially families, Geilo is better suited to the family with small children segment as well as regular people- it is not an ‘exclusive resort, nor will it ever be.  The geography, size of the slopes and other factors lend Geilo to target the ‘average person’ segment, of which there are more potential tourists within.  Combining with environmentally sustainable methodology and implementation, we can create sustainable and genuine growth.

·         Create 1 single ski-lift and ski hire/school company for all of Geilo, reduce costs, enable the pooling of resources, create cooperation, binding the both sides of the valley together.  Ski lifts currently compete with one another, difficult for tourists in hire and skischool situations.

·         Build a new, 5 star, modern Hotel (site of old Geilo Hotel), what we offer is old and not up to modern expectations.  Bring slopes down to hotel front door with bridge over rail line.

·         Raise wages in the tourism sector (they have stagnated) and provide training and a career path prioritising local workers as they have a vested interest in the area.  Paying as little as possible will not attract engaged, skilled and the ‘best’ people, utilising eastern European labour at dubious rates of hourly pay within the tourism sector is not good for anyone, especially the hotels practising it.  Better to employ locals if possible or return to attracting Scandinavian and English workers.  Ensure ongoing training (university in town) to maintain interest and progressively better levels of service.  People with a vested interest and local knowledge who are motivated (learning, training, empowerment, pay levels)

·         Hytte tax – introduce a hytte tax to be levied on all hytte over a specified square metarage (also have Kommune inspectors go and make checks on all hytte – many have built larger than permitted – have a fine per square metre over authorised size) within the Kommune with proceeds earmarked for cross-country slope maintenance and marketing efforts, footpath from kikkut.

·         Geilo Sentrums plan – either finish it (paying heed to the myriad of ‘plans’ and studies done previously to provide a presentable, sustainable and attractive town centre or publically acknowledge the lack of competence that has been engaged previously

·         Reopen Dagali airport – we need the air link to minimise travel time where possible (other skisenters are building airports).  Seek investors, an airline or the like to get the airport open again. (Norwegian, Chinese, English?)

·         Tunnel over railway line, bringing slopes down into town centre, expensive but a long term investment.  Railway, while a lifeline, is also akin to the Berlin wall, dividing town from slopes and creating traffic chaos.  This would be an investment, long term, not a cost.

·         Parking wardens in town centre in high season to enable traffic flow.  Absolute lawlessness there now.  Revenue raising, speed camera outside school on RV7.  The new ‘sentrums plan’ will hopefully provide a solution to many of the problems that are currently creating chaos.

·         Introduce ‘responsible service of alchohol’ requirement for all who serve in Hol Kommune (pilot project).  This will help reduce public drunkenness and create a safer atmosphere for tourists to engage in.  Norwegian drinking etiquette, and Hallingdal’s are not exactly desirable or attractive to families.

·         Lower prices or at least create family packages (2 adults, 2 children under 16) that are affordable and attractive for families.  We are too expensive, unaffordable for many families, cheaper to go to spain for winterferie.

·         Rebuild Geilo website to be an online net-shop, allowing for a 1 stop site for people to book everything they require.  Needs to be in a few different languages, incorporate all activities and accommodation possibilities here and provide information, prices, availability as well as offer special deals not available anywhere else.  Have a special rate/discount and prize draw (refund of skipass, accommodation costs at random).  Have a special package price for skipass, skischool, 2 activities, accommodation and 1 dinner out at a restaurant.

While this exists now, it is too cumbersome and not as ‘user friendly’ as it could be.  Just needs some tuning and to perhaps combine with a smartphone app. 

·         Marketing: pick a segment and focus, stop trying to be something we are not.  Print media advertising is ineffective and essentially dead.  Advertise during children’s TV, during women‘s TV programmes and offer Geilo getaways as prizes online and in TV competitions.  We need to raise public awareness of Geilo, it has fallen off the radar for the general public, so is not an option for the majority.

·         Dispel the myths of Norway being expensive, use our strengths, (easy to get to, not too big, not too steep, safe for families, perfect for beginners and the mid level skiers, cross country tracks, cycling, nature, price – compare with Hemsedal (lift lines, drunkenness, party atmosphere, crime, yuppies) to our advantage.  Advertise on radio during the hours when people drive to and from work – higher hit rate with public.  Sponsor weather and ski reports on Sky TV (UK) and others in Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Holland.

·         Progress-not regression and stagnation: Realise that if farmers are subsidised, then their views on town development are not worth as much.  Times have changed, they need to realise this.  Whilst important to the heritage and history of the area, they are not the economic motor for the area.    But they could be an enormous resource if we could secure more cooperation and innovative thinking.  The fjellmatsenter is a step in the right direction.

·         Inter communal cooperation initiatives: If the Kommune’s to the east are not amiable to work with, such as Hemsedal, Ål and Gol (Hallingdal in General) then approach the western Kommunes for tighter cooperation.

·         Build the Hardangervidda tunnel combine with rail to spread costs and solve 2 problems at same time.  Have Hardangervidda RV7 as a tourist road open in summer with a toll and the old rail line as a tourist stretch with a steam locomotive between Geilo and Myrdal (Flåm Railway)  this would be something that would be able to marketed worldwide and would be attractive to many people of all nationalities as well as the domestic market.  With RV7 on Hardangervidda as a ‘summer road’, it could be closed for events such as cycling races, motor events (car clubs time trials, as well as other special events).

·         Get tough on the ‘black work’ market in Geilo.  With the hytte community as well as the locals, the desirability of black work is high with very little chance of getting caught.  This needs to change if local business’s are going to survive.  A few very public cases where people engaging ‘black labour’ are prosecuted will help.  Arbeidsgiveravgift is an important resource to the local community.

·         We need the police presence in the area and if the federal government will not provide it, then we need to raise awareness, protest and find a solution.  It is unacceptable in a wealthy country that the simple matter of a police force is victim to misguided and mismanaged economic policies.

·         Look beyond the same old sports: football, skiing, ski-shooting and skating as the only sports that deserve support.  Look to alternatives that need help.  We have some local talent that deserve help and support and can be excellent ambassadors for the town. (Kiting, Hiking, Cycling, Paragliding, canoeing, rafting).

·         It is time for the small Kings to abdicate, their reign is over.  The ‘old ways’ of doing things are not relevant, competitive or effective anymore.  The world has changed, so has the tourism market, expectations are higher, there are mare alternatives to Geilo for tourists now.   Carving a small town up into fiefdoms only hurts everyone.  Those with track records of failure, mismanagement and uncooperativeness need to move on, hand over the reins to the next generation or those that can show results.

·         Innovate, be open to new ideas: As a town that needs tourism to generate employment and financial turnover for the services on offer, we need new ideas, flexibility, a willingness to acknowledge and learn from mistakes, to have a critical eye towards ourselves to mitigate complacency and laziness.  The ‘good enough’ approach teamed with the ‘do the minimum possible attitude is no longer viable.

Recognise the immigrant that live in Geilo as a resource and use them – Currently the xenophobia that is rife in the town is discouraging and creating a climate of resentment.  As a tourist destination that is more heavily reliant on foreign tourism to be economically sustainable, it is somewhat amazing that there is not some sort of ‘working group’ involving the foreigners who call Geilo home to gain access to alternative perspectives, information on what values and expectations foreign tourists may have and to identify things that the locals may be oblivious to by over-familiarity.  Immigrants are not a threat to the local community, but a valuable resource that is currently underutilised.


Standard excuses heard in Geilo

·         You just have to live with it – no we don’t, if we work together, we can change things

·         We have always done it that way– if it doesn’t work, stop doing it.

·         It is too expensive– there is a difference between cost and investment, one generates future income

·         If you don’t like it, then go home – really, this is so ignorant and the response of the scared and foolish.  If people bother to make observation and criticise, listen; we are in a tourist town ie; the SERVICE industry.  We need to listen and consider all opinions, observations, criticisms and viewpoints to be aware and informed, regardless of their source.

·         I don’t give a shit– (actually usually said “I give a shit” totally screwing it up,  well, it is time too.

·         We can’t lower prices, we need to make our margins of profit – if you have high margins and don’t sell any, how much have you made?

·         Hytte people generate income for the town – yes, but not constantly and as they are predominately here during periods of high traffic anyway, they can add to the dilemma of staffing levels impacting negatively on service levels.  While a major asset, they are often ignored and their views discarded out of hand.  We need to involve them more in the town and create a sense of ownership and belonging to the community.

·         Everyone knows about Geilo, it has been here for 100 years and is Norway’s top ski destination– in tourism, nobody cares about what you used to be, but what you are, people don’t know about Geilo anymore, they are bombarded with alternatives, it isn’t the top ski destination anymore, others are more successful and busier, offer more alternatives and higher levels of service and quality.

·         This is what we do and how we do it, take it or leave it– foreigners impression of Norway is not Hallingdal, it is of Vikings and fjords, wood-carved houses and a tidy ordered society,  If not acknowledging foreign tourists expectations and values is the way it is to be done, then we are limiting a market to those who live here as they  already like it this way.  The Norwegian market is now so fragmented with a myriad of options regarding how they can holiday, that it is no longer a fundamental cornerstone of sustainable tourism.

·         Foreigners who live here don’t have the competence to be worth listening to– it is the foreigners who call Geilo home that are the greatest untapped resource Geilo has.  They live here, by choice and often see potential where locals do not.  They offer a perspective and insight that those born and bred here do not.  By combining both local and foreigners approaches and ideas, Geilo can evolve and create a more complete offering.

·         We have been overseas and seen how they do it there, we are better– No we aren’t, many of the areas visited such as Aspen, Queenstown , Chamonix offer vastly different concepts.   They have different terrain, transport links, prices and status.  Many of the offerings they have are not viable here or are not permitted (heli-skiing, bungee jumping, wild afterski etc).  What they often do is play to their strengths and then specifically target the market that will attract.  While rubbing shoulders with the ultra rich may be desirable for some who have been instrumental in making some tragic decisions regarding the town, that market is small and has extremely high demands, demands that we cannot meet or hope to fulfil.

·         Don’t criticise, you are being negative –making observations and drawing people’s attention to the blatently obvious is not negative, it is constructive in that it enables discussion, debate and the construction of solutions, before it is too late.  The obsession with negative/positive is self defeating as it precludes opportunity for realism.


Great screwups of the past.

·         A Geilo local who whilst employed by the Kommune and with personal interests regarding a planned development going to the press saying that we don’t want families and ordinary people, that  ‘Geilo only wants to cater for the rich and be an ‘exclusive’ resort’.  Sorry, but people from the countryside just aren’t that sophisticated and are easily taken advantage of by the rich and powerful elements of society.

·         The Texaco tomt – regardless of several plans and revisions, the fylkesmannen  and vegsvesen stops everything – time to get on with it.  If they can build as tight as they do in Drammen, then we can fix out town centre thanks.

·         The Handelslaget hole –  what a farce, incompetence at every turn, symbolic of the greed and lack of long term planning that is inherent in many consequential decisions in the town.

·         Shutting ski lifts as it isn’t busy enough – do we expect those who do come to buy this argument?  Will this not discourage others from coming here if they are unsure if all the lifts are open?  We are offering less for the same price, a real bad idea in tourism.

·         Geilo sentrums plan – Geilo centre is not New York, the number of plans, studies and hyperbolic that has surrounded Geilo town centre again signifies what is wrong.  Stop ‘planning’, get on with it and move forward.  The town centre is a run down disgrace, unattractive to tourists, chaotic and shambolic.  Emphasis needs to be placed on presentation.  Common knowledge that the ‘planning process’ has been ongoing for 30 years with no tangible results.

·         Local shop owners blocking large chains from establishing in Geilo – If local shop owners feel they cannot tolerate competition, then it speaks volumes about the products and service levels they offer, not to mention the pricing policy.

·         Build hytte, lots of hytte, and turn hotels into holiday apartments – well that worked out well, less jobs, ghost town in quiet periods, lights out in windows and a magnification of the up and down nature of demand in Geilo.  What percentage of hytte were built with materials and labour from outside the local area?  If there are so many huts, how can it be exclusive?  The building of hytte and holiday apartments is not the problem in itself, but it is important to recognise that it isn’t the solution either.  More balance is called for with a focus to creating a better mix and the infrastructure that both hytte and housing will benefit from

·         Business’s not working together-Each individual business (hotels, activities) running their own marketing independent of a common plan and method.  Collectively, Geilo is stronger than if it is divided and competing with itself.  The greatest threat to Geilo is its inability to work together and cooperate.

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Comments
  1. Kristen says:

    Hello,

    My name is Kristen and I am writing to you from an American television show about people buying homes abroad. I came across your blog and I thought I would get in touch to tell you a bit about our program and see if you might be interested in being on our show.

    House Hunters International tells the story of people who have picked up their lives and moved to foreign and exotic locations to pursue a new life. Being on our show is a lot of fun for our participants and a great way for them to document their exciting search for a home and new life abroad.

    We’re currently looking to cast people who have bought or are currently looking for a home abroad. If you fit this qualification or know anyone who does, I would love to tell you more about the project. You can contact me at househunterscasting@leopardfilms.com.

    I look forward to hearing from you!

  2. Hi Kirsen,
    I am not sure that I qualify as we have lived here for 13 years,my wife is a local which is why we ended up in this particular town.
    But you candefinately take contact and if I can be of any assistance I am more than pleased to help.
    I often find that many of these programs focus on the ‘up’ side, the excitement and general wonderfulness of the concept of moving abroad but tend to gloss over some of the more challenging aspects such as overcoming bias or discrimination, learning to operate in a new culture and making friends.

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