This is the second part Sabi Phagura’s interview with Sigurlaug Sverrisdóttir, Owner Of Iceland’s ION Luxury Adventure Hotel
Less than an hour’s drive from the hustle and bustle of Reykjavík, and set against a backdrop of majestic mountainous lava fields is this wonderful hotel. The owner of the hotel is Sigurlaug Sverrisdóttir, you can read part one of our interview here.
LM: What are your biggest passions in life?
SS: Fashion, design and healthy food play a huge part in my interests and life, but outdoor sports and nature is probably number one. I’m a very passionate and active person. I really need to have my plate full of interesting projects and tasks to tackle every day.
When I need to relax, I go fly fishing in one of our rivers. When I need to boost my energy, I go for a cycling tour, attend a yoga class or go skiing. My husband shares the same passions, and we tend to link our vacations with hiking, skiing or cycling tours. We did ski touring from Chamonix to Zermatt, the Haute Route, which took six days without a phone connection or the Internet – that was very rejuvenating.
LM: Which hotels do you stay in when you travel?
SS: Trying out interesting boutique and design hotels is a must, and I tend to look up the ones that have created interesting concepts and score high in ratings. I look at this as a learning process to experience other products, gaining ideas and influences.
LM: Are you creating a new hotel brand and will this form part of a portfolio?
SS: We are constantly looking for new opportunities; at the moment we have our eyes on a couple but nothing that I would want to mention. Our life is quite busy at the moment but apart from the hotel, we are partners in a charter airline in Lithuania, rent three salmon rivers in Iceland and are major shareholders in an adventure company in Iceland.
LM: Your career prior to this was in the airline industry. What skills and experience did you learn then that helped you to create such an outstanding boutique hotel?
SS: Well the airline business is very regulated and my work was to ensure proper training standards, preparation of foreign outstations and management of multinational team, so this taught me a lot. I worked for Air Atlanta Icelandic, but they are in so called ACMI business where the aircraft are rented and leased to third parties. I was responsible for training and management of 5,500 cabin crew from 49 nationalities, when we were the largest in 2007. This helped me to understand people’s values and cultural difference and also how to build a strong team around me.
I have a Bachelor degree in Business, a diploma in Human Resources, and I think you definitely need good financial management understanding when running a hotel. It´s the little things that count. The daily running of the company has to be very structured and see through.
LM: What have you learned from your travels?
SS: Travelling is a privilege and I will do whatever I can to ensure that my daughter gets to travel and study languages. During my work with the airline, I studied Hofstede dimensions and used it quite a bit for our training. Even though these are getting old, they still work. I travelled from a very young age, as my father captained a cargo ship and he would often take the family along with him. I remember spending Christmases out at sea in fact.
I also travelled a great deal with Air Atlanta. Whenever we started a new partnership, I would go out to the country first to set up operations and hire crews. I spent months at a time in places like India, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Guyana, Indonesia and Iran.
The experience to visit countries that you normally would not visit during your vacation expands your horizons and makes you appreciate what you have.
LM: What was the spend for the build?
SS: We spent much more than we originally planned to, but afterwards that was the right thing to do; in order to create something out of the ordinary, you need to spend out of the ordinary.
LM: As a businesswoman, how important is unwinding and down time?
SS: Extremely important, but I have fallen a little off track with that recently. I am a very focused person, both in sports and business. I can continue for longer than the average time on the same thing. At school, if I needed to finish a piece of work, I could sit concentrating for hours and hours. This probably has to do with the culture and climate; Icelanders are used to working day and night when out at sea or on the land, but then letting their hair down when back at home. I do love to enjoy life too! I love good food and wine, and know how to treat myself.
LM: To you, what is a luxury that money can’t buy?
SS: Peace of mind and experiencing or learning something new; a situation where I can enrich my life. This might be a place or moment that is created.
LM: What do you struggle with?
SS: Being in the present has always been my weak spot – I even tried a 10 day vipassana meditation retreat in Sri Lanka, but alas, I am always planning and thinking ahead. I find that my mind is most peaceful when I am surrounded by nature. Activities like fly-fishing are perfect for this.
LM: What do you most enjoy about this project?
SS: Building and creating something that you can continue to develop. It is enriching to meet your guests and clients from all over the world. I love to work with people and to build teams. I get to meet so many interesting characters doing this project, and I love that!
For further information, or to make a reservation, visit www.ioniceland.is