Can the happiest nation in the world inspire your team to greater things? We went to find out
You have to hand it to the Danes for playing a blinder with that whole hygge thing. What started as a quaint Danish concept – the idea of creating cosiness – has now become international shorthand for the art of living well.
It has permeated the world of design, crept into cuisine and now hygge seems to have incentive travel in its crosshairs. At least it does at Kurhotel Skodsborg, one of Copenhagen’s leading luxury hotels, where we trialled an incentive trip.
Located in a trendy seaside suburb of the Danish capital, the 19th-century, 83-bedroom hotel looks out across the shimmering Baltic Sea to neighbouring Sweden. Since winning bragging rights to ‘Best Luxury Wellness Spa in Europe’ at the 2016 World Luxury Hotel Awards, the property has been an obvious location for a morale-boosting trip to Denmark.
One of the spa’s more notable highlights is the sauna gus (locals, comically, seem to pronounce it ‘goose’), which combines a sauna with aromatherapy and an ice-cold bath. The treatment is led by a ‘gus master’, who pours scented oils over the coals, swings a towel around and escorts you to a plunge pool that’s maintained at a temperature of 5C.
Our team went for a session, and though my genitals went numb, the experience purged my London-weary body of stress and was a fun bonding experience for the group.
The outdoor gym session had a similar effect. Led by Thomas Rode, the hotel’s ‘functional lifestyle coach’ (yes, that’s right), the workout took place in the chilly Baltic Sea. It featured kettle bells and stand-up paddle boards, which our group had to perform squats and press ups on without falling into the sea. Fair to say, we failed.
Rode used to be a Michelin-starred chef, but in his late thirties he decided it wasn’t for him; the hours were too long and the lifestyle was unhealthy. ‘I wasn’t eating properly or exercising,’ he said, cooking our group a post-work-out meal. ‘I had cigarettes and coffee for breakfast.’
So Rode quit his job, embraced the paleo diet and started working out; now, ripped and heavily-tattooed, he works with individuals and groups to set them on a path to a healthier lifestyle. My time with Rode would prove to be more valuable than anything else I did in Denmark, inspiring me as it did to treat my body with more respect.
Though my genitals went numb, the experience purged my London-weary body of stress
So far so virtuous, but what about incentives that combine teambuilding and tourism? Well, for that you have to talk to the Green Hat People, whose ‘employee engagement experts’ have developed some nifty software that enables groups to explore the Danish capital as part of an interactive treasure hunt and quiz.
Armed with an iPad, our gang was sent to various seaside locations, where we had to answer questions and take photographs of certain landmarks to prove we’d done the treasure hunt and not just sat in the pub (which is sort of what I wanted to do).
Those looking to mix business with pleasure have 20 function rooms to choose from at the Kurhotel Skodsborg, which also has two excellent eateries: The Restaurant by Kroun and The Brasserie. The former is headed by eponymous chef, Erik Kroun, and is the more formal of the two, while the latter has the best views. Both champion simple, well-executed, Nordic fare and have fantastic cellars to back them up.
Of course, you haven’t been to Denmark until you’ve got your leg over, so on the final day we went for a bike ride around the Unesco-listed Jaegersborg Dyrehave forest. This former hunting estate is crisscrossed by cycle paths, which (thankfully) are suitable for all abilities.
As we pedalled through the woods, our group continued to talk inspiringly about making significant lifestyles changes back in London. Perhaps there’s something in this hygge after all.
Flight time to Copenhagen 1 hour 50 minutes
Transfer time 30 minutes
In the mood for warmer climates? Find out what we thought of an incentive trip to Provence