While Longyearbyen is grappling with catastrophic consequences of the coronavirus crisis and all but writing off tourism for the summer and possibly beyond, an optimistic outlook continues to be expressed in Barentsburg where the tourism director asserted this week Svalbard’s status as the only “clean” Arctic destination will eventually be a huge advantage.
“This will be a huge plus at the new starting point of the summer tourist season, which we are all preparing for,” wrote Timofey Rogozhin in a post on his Facebook page Tuesday. (Note: an elaboration by Rogozhin submitted to us in English is at the end of this article.)
The Russian-operated settlements of Barentsburg and Pyramiden have not laid off any workers, compared to a 90 percent layoff of tourism employees in Longyearbyen, even though all visitor traffic from outside Svalbard has come to a halt. While workers in the Russian settlements are being kept busy with preparations and other tasks, Rogozhin wrote in a post on Wednesday “over the past week Barentsburg and Pyramiden in different formats from a few hours to two days were visited by 157 people. Plus, local residents visited restaurants as well.”
While those visitors were Longyearbyen residents who’d cleared quarantine measures even stricter than those on the mainland, Rogozhin emphasized the Russian settlements are focusing on both improving safety precautions and being ready to embrace outside visitors as quickly as possible.
“I think that not only myself, but also many of my colleagues have radically changed their views on security,” he wrote.
“We had regulations before. And more than decent, and progressive, in my opinion. But now we have definitely risen a notch.”
“The situation has been throwing up more and more new questions, and on the fly we have supplemented and changed the rules. And now it is EVERY DAY, we continue to improve some of them. Especially delving into food safety and personal safety.”
Editor’s note: When Rogozhin was contacted asking for suggestions/updates to this article, he wrote the following, which is published with only minor style edits:
In my post I talk about the fact that all of us who work in tourism need to think about the safety of guests and our staff. About safety in all aspects. And in this case, about protection against infections. The season will begin. Sooner or later than we think.
But will begin.
And it’s important to be prepared for it. And overcome the fears of guests and our fears of infection.
Think as much as possible about the rules of conduct for guests and staff.
On the decontamination of the rooms of hotels and restaurants.
About a safe model of behavior during activities.
And the better we are ready here, the more we think about it, talk about it, the more chances we will see tourists here. Now they are all scared too.
And of course, I hope first of all that guests from mainland Norway will return to us in the summer. Then from Scandinavia.
Then gradually return the yachts and small expeditionary cruise ships.
Then tourists from around the world, as before.
And each time it will be a new quest, a new challenge for us.
But at the same time I am not a supporter of the big traffic of tourists here. But big ships give big traffic.
And I believe in those tourists who just want to come to a less crowded place, closer to nature.