Tag Archives: tourism

‘Gradually and more controlled than on the mainland’: Svalbard reopens to Schengen/EEA residents on July 15, limits continue on some aspects such as charter flights and cruise ship size

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A week after announcing mainland Norway will reopen for residents from Schengen Area and EEA countries on July 15, the government extended the order to include Svalbard – but with some limitations due to the archipelago’s ongoing relative lack of medical facilities and remote access for emergency transport.

ZERO COMPARISON: Svalbard/Jan Mayen is WHO’s only ‘zone’ w/ no COVID-19 cases – except Turkmenistan and North Korea (which experts say are lying) and some very tiny islands

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Svalbard, while suffering Norway’s worst unemployment and economic loss from the COVID-19, remains the World Health Organization’s only “zone” on Earth with no officially diagnosed cases more than three months after the virus was declared a pandemic.

Aside, that is, from 1) North Korea and Turkmenistan – where words like “out of control” and “starving” are being used by reputable sources to describe the real situation being kept hidden by the countries’ totalitarian leadership; 2) some very tiny Pacific islands; and 3) Antarctica, which literally isn’t on the WHO’s map.

A BIT OF TRIPPING DURING FIRST ‘REOPENING’ DAYS: A trickle rather than a flood of tourists, yet seats on fights scarce; only ship traffic is return of MOSAiC expedition, yet it can’t dock

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Which means the only visiting ships similarly stand out for those looking out into the harbor, beginning with the Polarstern science vessel as is spends a few days “in town” before heading to the ice far north of Svalbard to resume the year-long international MOSAiC research expedition. Also arriving this week were the German ships Maria S. Merian and Sonne carrying replacement personnel and supplies. But because of strict rules about passenger ships and foreigners still in place for weeks or months to come, the boats aren’t actually docked here and the transfers are happening at sea.

Guest column: The Soviet Handshake of Norway – Future dreams of an aspiring Arctic adventurer from the East meets past memories from the Kremlin

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(Author’s note: As the raging COVID-19 pandemic forces nations to shut their borders, tourism and employment in this Norwegian archipelago have taken a hard hit. With Norway opening its domestic borders as of June 1, there will be some respite but not enough. Tourism needs to be revived and spirits need to be raised for all those facing the heat in this sub-zero climate. This is where my effort goes: a diary as a native of India visiting the Russian settlement of Barentsburg in March of 2019.) 

SVALBARD HOTEL STAYS DROP 98 PERCENT IN APRIL: Decline is Norway’s largest – and Longyearbyen fared even worse

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Photo of Pyramiden Hotell by Visit Svalbard.

Hotel stays in Svalbard dropped 98 percent in April compared to a year ago, the sharpest drop in Norway as the archipelago was under the strictest coronavirus restrictions including a total ban on non-urgent entry by non-residents, according to Statistics Norway.

NO NON-NORDIC TOURISTS UNTIL 2021? Justice ministry asks Parliament to approve special law allowing border to remain closed to most non-citizens/residents until Jan. 1

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While Norway is reopening for domestic tourism on June 1 and may allow people from neighboring countries to visit later during the summer, the justice ministry is asking Parliament to approve a special law that would allow the border to remain closed to people who are not Norwegian citizens or permanent residents until Jan. 1, 2021.

FOREIGNERS CAN’T COME, BUT MAY GET PAID TO LEAVE: International travel ban to remain until Aug. 20; gov’t proposes funding costs for ‘exempt’ residents to return to homeland

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Svalbard may be reopening for tourism on June 1, but foreigners hoping they might be able to visit later this summer may want to make other plans since Norway’s border is now scheduled to remain closed until at least Aug. 20, although assessments during the next two months may alter the restrictions for nearby countries.

However, for the hundreds of foreign residents of Longyearbyen who are laid off from tourism and other jobs, and now facing an even more bleak situation since special short-term emergency funding for them is about to end, the government is evaluating a plan to pay the costs for those wishing to return to their home country.

NOW THIS IS A COOL WAY SVALBARD’S GONE VIRUAL: New Facebook hub for ‘dream trips’ by those who been for those who want to come gets nearly 2,500 members in first 24 hours

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There’s been no shortage of ways to visit Svalbard virtually in recent years but, since that’s now the only way for outsiders to experience the archipelago for what may be many months due to coronavirus restrictions, a new online “dream trip” portal for those with such experiences sharing them with folks hoping to do so someday is growing at a rate COVID-19 can’t possibly match.

A “Legg Ferien til Svalbard” Facebook page launched by Visit Svalbard at midday Friday had nearly 2,500 members sign up during the first 24 hours. Hundreds of photos by those with dozens with tales to tell are being shared from all areas in the archipalago in multiple languages by local residents, tour guides, visitors with blogs and other sites, and others.

CORONAVIRUS UPDATES FOR SVALBARD FOR WEDNESDAY: Harbor predicts no big cruise ships and 75% loss of activity for 2020, city asks locals to participate in health survey and more

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This story will be updated throughout the day. Photo of sign next to that “other” bear sign by Baoqing Du.

Svalbard remains free of officially diagnosed coronavirus cases as of late Wednesday morning, but the city is asking residents to complete a Norwegian Institute of Public Health survey  if they suspect they have or had symptoms associasted with the virus, especially during the past seven days.

Longyearbyen Harbormaster Kjetil Bråten said he is expecting no large cruise ships this season since the companies are cancelling itineraries well in advance and a 75 percent drop in total revenue/activity for 2020 if a normal level of traffic returns by fall.

UP TO 90 PERCENT OF LONGYEARBYEN’S TOURISM EMPLOYEES FACING LAYOFFS? ‘This will have a ripple effect for several years to come,’ Visit Svalbard director tells NRK

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Up to 90 percent of Longyearbyen’s tourism employees are facing layoffs and the economic shock of the coronavirus pandemic will likely last for years, Visit Svalbard Director Ronny Strømnes told NRK on Wednesday.

“We see the situation as very dramatic and that this will have a ripple effect for several years to come,” he told the Norwegian news agency.

The assessment occurred the same day Svalbardposten reported Svalbard Adventures, Longyearbyen’s second-largest tour operator, has laid off 85 percent of its employees and one-third of those are ineligible for Norway’s unemployment benefits. Many smaller companies and freelance operators have come to a near or complete halt, if not officially shutting down completely.