From Sumatra to Skinnskatteberg
16 years ago, Marcus Eldh happened to hear that visitors wanting to see moose in the Skinnskatteberg area were referred to Skansen in Stockholm. Today he is one of the front figures when it comes to sustainable nature tourism.
Marcus Eldh is the man behind WildSweden, the business idea is small groups and big nature experiences. Besides moose safari in the deep forests of Bergslagen, WildSweden also offers beaver safaris, bear watching and wolf tracking with an overnight stay in a wolf territory.
Our winter activity on skis, ”Wolf tracking in Winter”, was named one of the 50 World’s Best Travel Experiences by National Geographic, says Marcus. Now we only go during the summer months since the snow cover has become too unreliable during the winter. The wolf situation has also been difficult to rely on.
The wolf tours are popular. The field personnel from Grimsö Wildlife Research Station are hired to share their wolf knowledge.
The fact that we're backed up by people from Grimsö and the county administrative board gives us substance, says Marcus. So we've had to really think about what we are doing so we one hundred percent can stand behind it. We report to the county administrative board field personnel when we find droppings and when we see or hear wolfs. That what we help out with the inventory.
Marcus Eldh. Photo: Simon Green
What initiatives do you work with related to nature and culture?
Access to wild and beautiful nature is a prerequisite for us, but with today's intense forestry, tourism is often affected in a negative way. We ask that the forestry takes greater regard to both nature and social worths. This is an issue we like to highlight. We pass this on to our guests, but also to the locals and politicians. To raise attention to the cause, we have chosen to hand out the WildSweden Award, a 10 000 kr grant to non-profits fighting to preserve the biological diversity in the Swedish forests. Wild and beautiful nature is a necessity for tourism.
What made you want to become an eco-tourism entrepreneur?
It's an important team to be a part of, it's a part of my identity as an entrepreneur. I realized pretty quickly that eco-tourism is about preserving and developing what the guest has come here to experience. It felt obvious and it made me think. What would that mean for me? What should I charge? How can I charge more and at the same time get happier guests? Nature’s Best helped me to raise the quality of my experiences and knowing how to charge reasonably. I wouldn't be where I am today without the help of Nature’s Best.
What benefits do you get from being a quality labeled Nature's Best company?
The biggest help was really the time leading up to me being certified, the work and actions it took to meet the requirements. After that, I have had big indirect perks from being quality labeled. We have won awards and I get to travel around a lot and talk about my business.
Do you notice an increased demand for sustainable experiences?
We notice an increased demand for small-scale och high-quality activities and tours. There isn't a lot of demand for sustainability in specific. But we have gotten better at marketing and informing our guests in what way they are contributing to things just by visiting us. What we sell are high-quality, responsible, small-scale and locally established activities. We communicate sustainability in different ways. We don't talk about waste sorting but instead an interesting and emotionally strong experience for the guest.
Nature's Best contains six codes of conduct. How do you communicate these as added values to your guests?
When our guests are out in nature with our guides, they talk about the code of conducts when it naturally and gradually comes up. We don’t need to tell them about every code of conduct at one time. For us, it’s more important that the guides know how to act. That’s why we have a mandatory guide training where the code of conducts play a big part. We go over everything from how to approach the right of public access and landowners, to how to act if we meet a hunter and if we have to stop at a house in the forest late at night.