On our recent partner visit to Iceland we were lucky enough to get to enjoy a trip around the Caves of Hella, it was a very interesting experience, one that all of the partners enjoyed thoroughly. The guides within the caves are full of knowledge and fun! The perfect combination. They answered questions, posed mysteries to us and generally made us all think a little deeper about where we come from and our own history!

The Caves of Hella is a family run heritage tourism enterprise which was launched shortly before the COVID-19 crisis hit.  The enterprise is built around twelve man made caves of an unknown origin. For centuries, the caves had been used to keep livestock, hay, food, and even as an cold storage for food.  The main goal of the enterprise was to continue the restoration of the caves and opening it to the public .The main product is guided tours through the caves.

Historical site – Guided tours – cultural/heritage tourism 

Special challenges and problems faced by the company

The product and the business had been in preparation for four years. The business model was centered around offering tours in English for foreign tourists. The content of the tours was all based on stories catered to foreign audience. Thus, all marketing material and product/service variety focused on that group​

The business had just been launched when the COVID-19 crisis hit, and the number of foreign tourists in the country plummeted dramatically.

Therefore, Caves of Hella was faced with a complete disappearance of their target group. Approaching the summer of 2020, the company readjusted its business model in order to attract domestic tourists.

When tourism came to a complete stop due to COVID the owners had to adjust the structure “overnight” as one of the owners expressed. Their focus needed to go from global tourists to domestic tourists. They had to think fast, how they could attract new customers and what changes needed to be done to the product for the domestic market.

In order to find out what the domestic market wanted they needed to act fast. But how could they amend their business model that had been four years in the making, for a new market group?

They realized soon that they had to tell a different story than originally planned.  Stories about elves and the hidden people were popular amongst foreign tourists but they were not that novel to Icelanders. To relate their tour to the domestic market they told stories about known domestic saga and historical persons.  It was the same tour but with different content.

More focus was put on the storyteller.  Effort was made to hire local, known, and exceptionally good storytellers in order to deliver top experience.

The new tour for domestic tourists was a success, and the attendance was very good the summer 2020. There were at least three tours each day during the summer and not one was canceled due to poor participation.

We started with this one tour, and I think there were about 200-300 people, so we just thought, “ohh shit”, we must increase the number of tours.

-One of the owners-

The key to their success, one of the owners expressed; was to be in good contact with the new customers, listen extremely carefully to their wishes, needs and comments and amend the tour according to those reviews.