Tag Archives: tourism

THE RULES OF ATTRACTION (ARE CHANGING): Norway’s gov’t rewriting Svalbard’s tourism regulations to more clearly define access, guide qualifications, customers’ rights and more

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Photo of police contacting guides in the field courtesy of The Governor of Svalbard

“Getting away from it all” won’t be quite as much that in Svalbard soon as Norway’s government is planning a rewrite of tourism regulations for the archipelago that will likely include tighter control on access, new mandates for qualifying as a guide and changes in the legal rights of travellers that reflect higher standards on the mainland, according to a draft report released last week.

A SICK TALE OF SVALBARD TOURISM: 75% cancellation of tours, 58% reduction in guest nights in 2020 due to COVID-19 detailed in this passage from gov’t report about tourism rules

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Photo by L.P. Lorentz / Visit Svalbard

It’s a dramatic, concise and clear page that stands out strikingly in an 82-page report mostly filled with bureaucratic jumble about rewriting Svalbard’s tourism laws, summarizing officially the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on local tourism in 2020.

The big numbers: a 75 percent cancellation in tours and a 58 percent decrease in guest nights at accommodations. As for the cruise ships that have typically brought tens of thousands of visitors annually? A total of 10 ships carrying an average of 43 passengers managed to visit last year.

The figures, while based in part on the same data as a recent Statistics Norway report about Svalbard’s economy in 2020, are more dismal because they focus exclusively on tourism.

15% LESS REVENUE, 10% FEWER WORK HOURS IN 2020: Economic setbacks of COVID-19 in Svalbard wildly uneven; food/lodging drop 36%, leisure activities 38%

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The 15 percent loss of gross income and 10 percent loss of hours worked were bad for what would be a “normal” year, but hardly indicative of the “90 percent layoffs” and “99 percent loss of business” headlines Longyearbyen saw during the worst of the COVID-19 pamdemic in 2020.

But just as those scary headlines didn’t tell the full story, neither do the year-end cumulative figures for Svalbard as the loss of revenue and man hours varied widly by industry and settlement, according to a report released Tuesday by Statistics Norway.according to a report released Tuesday by Statistics Norway.

POLAR PERMACULTURE FILES FOR BANKRUPTCY: Owners say COVID-19, lack of assistance for foreigner-owned companies force end to eight-year-old ‘local food’ and tourism project

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Photo of Polar Permaculture’s greenhouse in Nybyen courtesy of Polar Permaculture

Polar Permaculture – which started in 2013 with one man’s dream of a greenhouse producing local food in Longyearbyen, and blossomed into a full-blown produce and tourism company – announced Friday it is filing for bankruptcy due the COVID-19 pandemic and lack of available assistance for companies owned by foreigners.

RELAPSE: Norway postpones final ‘reopening’ stage yet again due to Delta COVID-19 variant as French cruise company cancels its scheduled Svalbard voyages for the rest of the year

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The final stage of the “reopening” of Norway – and further relaxation of restrictions on travelling to Svalbard – is again being postponed due to concerns about the Delta strain of COVID-19, with the Aug. 1 target date now pushed until at least mid-August, officials said Wednesday.

RISING TIDE SOAKS ALL BOATS: 30 percent hike in Longyearbyen’s port fees necessary to cover costs, city says; some local and smaller mariners in particular feel swamped

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A 30 percent hike in Longyearbyen’s port fees is causing exactly the wave of controversy one might expect: City officials say it’s necessary to pay for costs (especially after reducing many municipal fees last year to help locals suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic), while boat owners say the sudden hike a horrible burden due to the ongoing virus-caused economic crisis and a series of port fee hikes the past several years.

GREEN MEANS GO: Norway matches EU rules, allows vaccinated travellers and those in ‘green’ countries to enter without quarantine as of Monday – but ‘full opening’ stage delayed

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Travellers from 23 European countries can enter Norway without quarantine requirements as of Monday, although a negative COVID-19 test within 24 hours is still required to enter Svalbard. However, the government also announced it is delaying a “full opening” at least until the end of July due to concerns Delta coronavirus variant.

Tourists from outside the EU/EEA are still banned from entering, regardless of vaccination status. Also, some of the “green” countries, including Sweden and Denmark, have regions where higher-level restrictions remain in effect.

A BLESSED SUNDAY FOR TRAVELERS AS COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS EASED: No virus test for vaccinated people going to Svalbard; coastal cruises and charter flights allowed

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Sunday will be a blessed day for those traveling to Svalbard as several COVID-19 restrictions, including a mandatory negative test for the virus within 24 hours of departure, will be eased that day, Norway’s government announced Friday. People who can show proof they are fully vaccinated will be exempt from the test.

In addition, coastal cruises will be allowed “on certain conditions” – including up to 2,000 people on large ships if all are vaccinated – and charter flights from the mainland will be able to land in Svalbard.

40M KR. TO HELP 27 COMPANIES, 300 EMPLOYEES: Nearly all eligible applicants share newest round of emergency grants for local tourism businesses hurt by COVID-19 pandemic

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Photo by Visit Svalbard

A total of 27 companies are receiving a total of about 40 million kroner that will ensure employment of about 300 people from the most recent emergency aid package intended to help tourism companies in Svalbard affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Longyearbyen’s Community Council, which evaluated applications and approved the allocations.

90 PERCENT OF NORMAL: Guest lodging in Svalbard can be nearly full, up from 60-70 percent, as COVID-19 recovery continues; some rooms still kept vacant in case of quarantine

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Hotels and other guest lodging in Svalbard can now be booked to 90 percent capacity, up from the current limit of 60 to 70 percent, as widespread vaccinations are helping the community recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, Norway’s government announced Friday.