CORONAVIRUS UPDATES FOR SVALBARD FOR FRIDAY: Big ‘winners’ of 2M kr. in short-term business crisis aid, frustration growing at long-term impacts due to ‘inconsistent’ restrictions


This story will be updated throughout the day. Photo of meals being delivered to “extreme Arctic expeditioners” quarantined in a German hotel before their departure to the ice north of Svalbard courtesy of MOSAiC.

There aren’t exactly any winners when dozens of local businesses are pleading for bailout money to survive due to a near or total loss of income during the coronavirus pandemic, but among the 32 who received a total of about two million kroner in emergency funds to cover losses in March some definitely fared better than others.

The biggest recipient was Wildphoto Travel AS with 664,000 kroner, followed by Basecamp Explorer Spitsbergen AS with 226,443, Better Moments AS with 179.397 and Steakers Svalbard AS with 102,840, according to The Norwegian Tax Administration. But Ole Jørgen Liodden, the Wildphoto Travel’s board chairman, told Svalbardposten the large amount is far short of the massive loss suffered, with roughly 19,000 in revenue this March compared to 1.3 million a year ago.

“We are in survival mode and are trying to cut costs at every stage, like everyone else,” he told the newspaper.

Other businesses receiving funds include a large percentage of the tourism, restaurant and transportation companies in Longyearbyen, including 27,765 for Arctic Autorent, 56,321 for Karlsberger Pub, and 31,649 for the hair saloon Saxifraga AS.

But the losses in March, mostly occurring after a nationwide quarantine and restrictions went into effect March 13, have grown worse for many in April and beyond as Norway remains closes to non-resident foreigners and Svalbard under a quarantine for arriving persons that makes tourism nearly impossible in practical terms. The frustrations and concerns of many local businesses people as well as government officials at the local and nation level were expressed in a meeting Thursday hosted the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise.

“The business sector in Svalbard is in reality being kept down, because the authorities are not consistent in the restrictions they maintain,” said Ole Erik Almlid, head of the trade organization, noting Svalbard’s restrictions are the strictest in Norway. “The state of business in Svalbard is worrying. This is a very critical situation. This crisis is going to last longer than many people think. That this is quickly addressed is important for business, it is important for tourism, it is important for locals. What is happening in Svalbard is important to Norway.”

His comments, reported by High North News and other media, also reflect opinions by local businesses leaders that it may take several years for Svalbard to fully recover from the crisis.

In other news/announcements today:

The semi-final of a “limited participant” pool tournament is at 7 p.m. Friday at Svalbar.

Incoming members of the MOSAiC expedition far north of Svalbard are beginning their “extreme” experience with three meals a day delivered to their hotel rooms in Germany while keeping in touch with each other online while in quarantine.

• A community hike in Adventdalen beginning at SSU is scheduled beginning at 7 p.m. Monday.

• While the weather has been stormy – and rather snowy – at times this week, the forecast for May 17 is for dry, mild and breezy conditions (and if even that is too much to face – or you can’t because of quarantine – here’s a primer on an at-home/virtual celebration).