Tag Archives: tourism

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.

‘SURREAL,’ ‘DISAPPOINTING,’ ‘OMINOUS’ – AND ‘WE’LL BE BACK’: Quarantined visitors abruptly rounded up, flown out of Longyearbyen late Sunday night

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Brian Cancemi wasn’t experiencing the Svalbard vacation of his dreams, having spent nearly all of it quarantined in an Airbnb rental during the past several days due to the coronavirus quarantine. But the New York resident was content to spend one last night before departing on a flight booked for Monday afternoon, only to get yet another in a series of jolts hitting him and virtually everyone else everywhere in an infinite variety of ways.

“At 8:30 p.m. I checked my e-mail and it said I had to pack immediately and leave at 10 p.m.,” he said standing in the lobby of the Radisson Blu Polar Hotel a few minutes before the bus departed at the announced time.

GUEST COLUMN: ‘Shutting down the world for two weeks is a good step…(but) please companies in town…maybe there are other possibilities than just to fire people’

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(Editor’s note: The following is an essay posted by Sylvia Gross, a Longyearbyen tourism employee, on her Facebook page Saturday afternoon. It is being republished here with minor style edits with her permission.)

I would like to take you on a small thought experiment regarding tourism in Svalbard.

As there is not much we can do anyway, many of us lost their job already or are about to lose it, and many companies and things in town are closed anyway, we maybe have the time for this now.

BREAKING – TRAVELLERS FROM NON-NORDIC COUNTRIES BANNED, PLAN TO SEND THOSE HERE HOME: Justice ministry OKs tougher Svalbard policy; affects first passengers Friday

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All people arriving in Norway from non-Nordic countries are prohibited to travel to Svalbard while strict coronavirus restrictions are in effect, Svalbardposten reported Friday. The restriction, following a meeting by The Governor of Svalbard with Norway’s Ministry of Justice and Public Security, was prompted by concerns Svalbard doesn’t have the capability of hosting such tourists for a mandatory 14-day period. Plans are also now being made to send such visitors who’ve arrived since Feb. 27 (when the quarantine retroactively applies to) back home.

A text message sent by Longyearbyen’s emergency preparedness advisor Friday afternoon states the ban applies to everyone – tourists and permanent residents – although there was immense confusion early on about specifics of the policy. Comments posted on social media shortly after the ban was announced stated locals trying to return from trips to Oslo were being denied if they didn’t hold Norwegian passports.

LONGYEARBYEN SEEKS HALT OF INCOMING TOURISTS: Mayor says Svalbard not equipped for quarantine of visitors from non-Nordic countries; asks Norwegian government for ban

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Longyearbyen is requesting the Norwegian government ban tourists from non-Nordic countries from arriving in Svalbard during a mandatory 14-day quarantine enacted Thursday due to the coronavirus, stating the isolated archipelago is not adequately able to accommodate them.