Entrepreneur-friendly Inari has supported tourism companies in the area for a long time. As a result, Saariselkä is one of Lapland’s most attractive destinations. Star Arctic Hotel has grown to be a success in just four years.
The story of Star Arctic Hotel started in Saariselkä, in Northern Lapland, in 2016, but the owners Matti Meskanen and Bai Zhuang ”Bruce” Xu had already known each other for a long time. Around the same time, Lapland’s tourism sector sought growth from the Asian markets, and the Municipality of Inari was also working hard to grow its tourism.
– This is where we got our boost from, says Meskanen as he explains how the idea to establish a hotel was generated.
The hotel was opened on Finland’s 100th Independence Day in 2017 on the peak of Kaunispää fell. The first year passed by with learning new things.
Both families have given their strengths to the company. Meskanen had already been working in the tourism sector for a long time and was very familiar with his home municipality. In addition, Meskanen’s son Matias Meskanen, who has an engineering office, participated in the design of the hotel building.
The Finnish-Chinese Xu family’s knowledge, networks and Chinese language proficiency have been trump cards. From the very beginning, Xu’s son Kang ”Kaan” Xu has been responsible for the company’s marketing and sales.
As the company grew and the work tasks increased, Juha Muotka was recruited as the hotel director.
Nowadays, Star Arctic Ltd’s turnover is 3.5 million euros. During the season, the tourism company employs approximately 60 people and outside the season, less than thirty.
The Lapland brand supports the company’s growth
Since the beginning, the company has expanded its operations. Environmentally friendly values have been considered from the beginning of the investment. As a result, Star Arctic Hotel was awarded the Luxury Eco/Green Hotel award in the World Luxury Hotel Awards competition in 2020.
At Restaurant Kaunis, you can enjoy culinary experiences with stunning views from the fell. The restaurant services emphasize the use of locally produced raw ingredients. For example, fish and reindeer are purchased from local entrepreneurs.
In addition to accommodation, Star Arctic offers various program services, such as reindeer and husky rides, snowmobile tours and snowshoe excursions. Hunting for Northern Lights, Aurora hunting, is one of the most popular activities. For this purpose, the peak of Kaunispää is an excellent location: the views from the top of the fell reach out in every direction.
– It is considered important to be able to do things in nature genuinely, Muotka says as he describes the customers’ wishes about activities.
Tourists know Lapland as a destination where nature and natural phenomena are at the center of attention. Therefore, it is easier to, for example, develop suitable accommodation, services, and products around a clear brand. Hotel director Muotka says that the Lapland brand has supported exercising business operations.
– Lapland is a globally hot destination, such as the Maldives or any other exotic location. So, it is difficult to imagine that this business would exist without the Lapland brand, he says.
In cooperation with the entrepreneur-friendly Inari
The Municipality of Inari is Finland’s largest municipality in terms of its surface area. Therefore, the municipality’s tourism sector is an important business sector alongside cold testing. In Saariselkä, the largest destination in Inari, there were 259,000 registered overnight stays in 2021. Before the pandemic, in 2019, there were 385,000 registered overnight stays and 28.7 million euros in accommodation sales.
Meskanen praises how Inari is an entrepreneur-friendly municipality and a good environment for entrepreneurship.
– The municipality cooperates extremely well with entrepreneurs. We are proud of the municipality’s operations, and how it supports tourism, he says.
Muotka mentions that Lapland was marketed well during the pandemic in cooperation with several operators to the Finnish public, which was an important support for the tourism economy.
When the travel restrictions prevented international tourists from arriving in Lapland, Star Arctic focused on improving its services suitable for domestic visitors. Among other things, the restaurant’s offering was adapted to suit Finnish tastebuds, and a new concept was created for the program services, in which many different activities at the nature experience park Wiltsu were included in one entrance fee.
The company’s winter season 21/22 started pleasantly after mid-November. The season started with business tourists arriving from the United States. There were up to 1.5 times more tourists from Great Britain, who were sold all-inclusive holidays, compared to previous seasons. Muotka praises the winter season for being the company’s record-breaking season.