How Leksand Sommarland Saved Summer
While Sweden’s major amusement parks were forced to stay closed last summer, the air was alive with the sounds of excited guests at Leksand Sommarland.
“We had to offer a reduced ‘summerland’ for our guests, but, despite the situation, we were humble and grateful that we had the opportunity to open,” says Mats Nobelius, park manager of Leksand Sommarland.
Leksand Sommarland was allowed to open with limited activities and attractions and COVID-19-safe measures in place. The park’s visitor numbers were down in summer 2020—65,000 compared with 130,000 the year before—“but that’s okay, and it’s better than zero,” says Nobelius. “Although we lost money, we survived. Everyone in our company still has their jobs, and that’s wonderful.”
Nobelius hopes attendance levels will recover in 2021 as the vaccine rollout proceeds, restrictions are lifted, and visitors return. “I hope we won’t need to close over 50% of our activities this summer and that we can have the whole park open,” he says.
Summer Seasons Defined
“Summerlands” like Leksand Sommarland are a Scandinavian tradition. Nobelius’ father, Jan-Erik Nobelius, and his two brothers were inspired to open Leksand Sommarland in 1984 after visiting the first “summerland,” Fårup Sommerland in Denmark, in 1978. These summertime parks offer families plenty of amusements and activities, from boating to go-karts, water slides to carousels.
In 2020, “Kättingflygaren,” a custom-themed wave swinger with hand-painted decorations from Wooddesign Amusement Rides BV, spun into Leksand Sommarland. The park invested half a million euros in the new ride, although COVID-19 restrictions meant that only 50 people at a time could ride it for a few hours every day. “A lot of people couldn’t experience it last year, so it will be new for them this year,” says Nobelius.
The rest of the 270,000-square-meter park includes a water park with three pools and water slides, traditional amusement park rides, an inflatable “Wipeout”-style watersport course on Lake Siljan, laser tag, a 300-meter zip line, as well as a host of action and adventure activities. Guests can try a Jump Park, BMX pump track, ropes courses, gold panning, bungee trampoline, an adventure trail, and a climbing wall. Having a wide variety of outdoor activities proved essential in 2020. “You can’t open a park with only five activities; we were able to offer 20 out of our 50 different activities,” says Nobelius.
Leksand Sommarland has practice at making the most of a short season, even if 2020 was shorter than most. Normally, Leksand Sommarland operates during June, July, and August. “I think we have the shortest season in Europe. It’s only eight weeks,” says Nobelius. The season shrank to six weeks in 2020. Capacity caps meant that Leksand Sommarland could only welcome around 2,500 guests a day, instead of the usual 6,000. To maintain physical distancing, the park managed attendances through an online booking system.
Spreading the Word
The company decided to increase advertising to drum up business. “We wanted to get as many people in the park as we safely could while the sun was shining,” says Nobelius. His team ramped up service in the park, opening up several restaurants and extra food and beverage kiosks to maximize guest spend. Flexibility was key; the kiosks could close if it rained.
Leksand Sommarland cut entry prices by 35% to 250 Swedish kronor. Nobelius was worried the park’s reputation would be adversely affected if it charged full price for fewer activities: “We have to have happy customers every year. We can’t make them angry; it’s not good for business.”
The park plans to reinstate full-price tickets this summer. The park also compensated 1,000 out of its 1,300 season passholders who demanded refunds. “People didn’t want to go to our park because of the pandemic. We understand. We hope they buy passes this year instead,” he says.
Leksand Sommarland’s team continued to focus on visitor satisfaction in 2020. What helped was that the park had steadily increased capacity and added queue-less activities over the years. Even in high season, there is always something for guests to do without waiting around. “You don’t have to queue. That’s the best thing about our park, the value for money. People rate us highly in our Google, Facebook, and TripAdvisor reviews,” says Nobelius.
Spending the Night
The park is situated in a popular tourist area in the heart of Sweden, and camping is a second pillar for the business. It offers 450 pitches for motorhomes, caravans, and tents alongside Lake Siljan, as well as 220 cabins and villas. Two years ago, the company successfully trialed two glamping-style tents. In 2020, they added 20 more at a cost of 150,000 euros. The tents sold out all summer. “It’s the perfect investment when you get your money back in one year,” says Nobelius. Naturally, guests who stay longer are also likely to spend more at the amusement park.
Renewing attractions is crucial to the success of “summerlands,” which depend mainly on repeat visitors. For now, Nobelius is holding back investment until business becomes more predictable. “We need to be cautious and patient. Our priority is to have a good summer and invest in refurbishment,” he says. In the long term, he plans to replace one of Leksand Sommarland’s older pools. “It’s a big investment—1.5 million euros—but it’s very important.”
The accommodation growth will continue. “We will also invest more in roller coasters because we already have everything else,” says Nobelius.
A catering and food company strengthens the business further. In summer, the chefs work in the park and the campsites. In winter, they supply food for Leksand’s ice hockey arena. The catering company, together with the Leksand Sommarland park and the Leksand Strand accommodation business, is part of Leksand Resort AB group. Rony Forsberg is the new CEO.
“We have three legs to stand on: the amusement park, the camping, and the food. So, we have a year-round business,” says Nobelius. “When things are normal, when there’s no coronavirus, and when the sun is shining, we can earn a lot of money and invest in the park. We have a good company. We are small, but we are very happy.”