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.
Bad as that was, the situation in Longyearbyen was considerably more bleak since all but one hotel was closed, meaning virtually all overnight stays occurred in the Russian settlements of Barentsburg and Pyramiden. Many Longyearbyen residents with spare time, largely due to layoffs and the near-total lack of tourism activities, opted to make short trips to their Russian neighbors during what’s typically peak spring season.
A total of 203 people (99 of them non-Norwegians) spent 352 nights in lodging in Svalbard during April, according to the statistic agency. The average stay of less than two nights per guest was significantly lower than any other region of Norway.
Not that the rest of Norway didn’t suffer immensely, with an 87 percent drop nationwide in April. Inland had the second-highest decline at 92 percent while Rogaland fared “best” with a 71 percent drop.
The 330,000 nationwide overnight stays in April were the lowest for the month since Statistics Norway started surveys in 1985.
Svalbard’s hotel stays dropped 64 percent in March, due primarily to the government enacting a national quarantine on March 13. Overnight stays dropped 55 percent nationwide during the month.
March and April are typically the busiest months for overnight tourism in Svalbard, with most of the tens of thousands of summer tourists stopping in Longyearbyen for day trips as part of cruises. But with all cruises still on hold as Norway reopens on June 1 – and no large international ships expected to visit this summer as a ban on foreign tourists entering the country scheduled to remain in effect until Aug. 20 – local companies are hoping a higher-than-normal amount of domestic travel will salvage some revenue during the next few months.
However, hotels are generally hiring back only a fraction of their laid-off staff and Longyearbyen Camping has already announced it will not open this year.