Briefs from Svalbardposten for the week of Feb. 9, 2021


Illustration of renovated Svalbardbutikken by Reactor AS

New portion of Svalbardbutikken scheduled to open in March, 40 percent of tourists cancel visits during first week after negative COVID-19 test is required to enter Svalbard and 20 applicants seek eight million kroner (although far less will be available) in the latest Svalbard Environmental Protection Fund grants.

Svalbardbutikken to move into new space in March, full reconstruction expected by June
Svalbardbutikken is scheduled to relocate into new space at the southern end of a renovated and expanded building in March, with the full project scheduled for completion in June. Portions of the space currently used by the store will be renovated during the interim period, which may cause some disruptions for shoppers. Normally a supermarket on the mainland would close for a full-scale overhaul, but “since that will not be possible in Longyearbyen people must expect a little more chaos and the process to take a little longer,” said Ronny Strømnes, the store’s general manager. Among the adjustments is customers ordering special items will have to notify the store in advance of pickups so they can be retrieved from the off-site warehouse where such items will be stored.

New Svalbard COVID-19 test rule results in 40 percent cancellation of trips during first week
Nearly 40 percent of visitors cancelled their trips to Svalbard during the first week after Norway’s government required a negative COVID-19 test within 24 hours of departure to travel to the archipelago, according to Visit Svalbard. The requirement was imposed on Jan. 29. During the following week there was an average of 99 overnight guests at Svalbard’s lodging establishments, down from the 159 that had booked rooms, a decrease of 38 percent. The forecast for the current week is 140 daily guests and 177 for next week.

20 applicants seek 8M kr. in Svalbard Environmental Protection Fund grants
A smaller than normal number of applicants is seeking a much smaller than normal amount of available money from the Svalbard Environmental Protection Fund. A total of 20 applications seeking a total of eight million kroner in funds was submitted by the Feb. 1 deadline. But because the fund is supplied by a 150 kroner per-person visitor fee the massive loss of tourism due to the COVID-19 pandemic means only a tiny fraction of what’s usually a 20 million kroner pool will be available. Only 2.5 million kroner was distributed in 2019 and the latest round is expected to be even smaller. It’s also possible the grants will be issued only once in the fall, instead of two periods in spring and fall, as happened last year. Among this year’s applicants are Visit Svalbard, Store Norske, Aktiv i Friluft and two foreign universities.