Swedish news agency Finwire has interviewed Tom Sibirzeff, CEO of Sweden’s leading camping ground operator Nordic Camping, following their recent press release about the extended cooperation with Swedish migration agency Migrationsverket.
The reason for the extension is the growing numbers of refugees coming to Sweden from the Middle East and Northern Africa. And according to CEO Sibirzeff, Nordic Camping’s commitment is not only about business but also about humanitarian and social responsibility: “I guess we are reasoning like everybody else: if we have the opportunity to help we want to do it. That’s a matter of course. We try extra hard that this effort will succeed and that everybody will have a pleasant stay at our facilities. The staffing at our facilities is pretty much the same compared to the summer period, which means that we can keep our staff and that is important to us.”
The agreement with Migrationsverket implies a commitment that goes beyond the usual and needs tight contacts with different groups within society. Says CEO Sibirzeff: “Besides Migrationsverket, we are in close contact with the Red Cross and municipalities. We learn a lot from them.”
From a business perspective, the increased occupancy during the winter months is a clear positive for the company. “We are established around big and medium-sized cities and one of the reasons is that we want to be able to have a decent occupancy even during the normal off-season. Some of the customers during that period are the Swedish traffic agency, Rail agency or some construction companies. During other times we have the migration agency on half of our camping grounds, like now. They are welcome like everybody else.”
Asked about how the migration agency is to deal with as a customer, CEO Sibirzeff says: “How should I put this? The directives are clear cut but everything happens on very short notice. On the other hand, that’s pretty natural given the wave of refugees. You could not have planned for this five months ago and I respect that.”
But the company does not intend to start a separate business area. “Our core business will be tourism, even in the future. We do not buy camping grounds only for the migration agency. That’s only complementary to our usual operations. So there are no such plans.”
As Nordic Investor has previously reported, Swedish camping industry organisation SCR Svensk Camping recently issued numbers saying that occupancy on Swedish camping grounds during summer 2015 was above the record levels seen in 2014. But Mr Sibirzeff does not want to comment further on this in his interview with Finwire. “We have communicated the increase we enjoyed in Q2. We have not communicated our numbers for the summer and therefore i cannot comment on SCR’s numbers more than that’s good to hear that the industry is doing well despite the sluggish summer. This shows that we are not as vulnerable to the weather as many might think. Where you get hurt somewhat, and that’s not only true for camping but also for coffee shops and restaurants in general, is the business with ice cream and cold drinks which sell worse when the weather is bad.”