Lilja Gissurardоttir, Tourism farmer at Laugabol Farm
I was born and raised in the west part of the capital city Reykjavik while at twenty years old I moved to the rural where my former husband worked as an agricultural consultant. During this time I was fascinated by the untouched nature of Iceland. The next few years I lived in the countryside and was among other things, with a dairy farm and a mother of three children. I moved abroad where I lived for about 10 years and worked at odd jobs, among others in organic agriculture and in our own business which was a representative office for musicians.
In 2003, I moved back home to Iceland and started to study to become a therapist for retardated people. But struggling with disabilities have been integrated with my family for a long time but I have a disabled cousin. During the summer I worked among others at Hotel Budir and got insight in tourism. The next few years I worked as a therapist in the capital city and in day services for disabled in Borgarnes where I studied parallel Environments Planning in the Agricultural University since I got an insight in organization and planning of tourist areas. For about five years I moved to Laugabol when I get to know my current partner Arni which was a horse farmer at Laugarbóli in Arnarfjord. I fell completely for the place (Arnarfjord) and found out that despite being raised in Reykjavik (the urban area) that I want to be nowhere else but in the rural. I was wondering what I could do as there are no agglomeration nearby to seek work to and the roads here are completely closed during the winter, but in recent years I have had to work away more or less and not able to stay at my home on Laugabol.
It was though not until the Road Administration bridged the road to our farm that made it possible for normal cars to drive to Laugabol that I started to think about run an own business At that time I was without a job. I received a grant to work on my own business idea from The Directorate of Labour to develope tourism at Laugabol. This grant was crucial for me, I had time to prepare and decreased the risk of being without wages. Here we lived in a big house and in addition to here is hot water so that we are having both a pool and a tub. We also have horses, sheeps and a fox. I decided after research tourism to create an experience of offering tourist to stay in my home. It is to create the experience of being in an Icelandic countryside home (farm) in an irresistible nature. This means i.a. the rooms will have a character, I was not creating a new Ikea home. I was not buying new things and could go off without breaking the bank, but I think it is good to go off without perhaps taking a huge financial risk and take small steps.
The concept for the business is so important and there must be a consistency in what one is doing. It is therefore important to give the idea enough time to develop and have a clear vision of what kind of business you want to operate.
I started in the spring and slipped completely blind in the sea with demand for this business. But it was just any explosion, I have gotten 700 guests during the summer and the summer is not yet passed. I consider that I am in a learning process. Learn what the tourists are seeking and what their needs are. I think my internship for therapist for retarded people have been useful. We need to cultivate tolerance and interact with different individuals. We are always measuring, evaluate and setting goals, these practices help to develop the business. There is also an experience having raised up three children and running a big home.
It is an amazing nature here and the hiking trails around us is both unique and dramatic. The huge waterfall Dynjandi is only a few miles from us but it is one of the jewels of the West Fjords and here is a great experience of untouched nature. I am offering the experience of a home in a unique nature outside the traffic. Still the winter transport is impossible but within a few years there will a tunnel between the fjords, Dyrafjordur and Arnarfjordur. That will increase the possibility of stay open longer period and even all year around and that’s the ideas that I’m working in now. We also have in mind that if demand is so much that we may have to change the stables to a rooms or hotel but we still would have this homely format but I already see that I need to hire people for the summer. Going in to a business is primarily a matter of courage to go ahead and have a clear picture of what you want to do and take time to develop the business idea.