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Monday, March 4, 2024

    Norway Travelers In For Trouble

    Norway Travelers In For Trouble – Questions over cruises, overtourism on the hiking trails, an airline clinging on to life, and a new capital of culture. There’s been plenty going on in the world of travel in Norway in 2019.

    The future of cruising in the north and in the fjords

    In March, the world watched on as the Viking Sky cruise ship suffered engine problems in stormy weather off the coast of Norway. Hundreds of people were evacuated by helicopter before the ship’s power was restored and it sailed to safety.

    In the weeks following the accident, serious questions were asked about the future of cruising, in particular in the Arctic region. With a boom in new offerings launched this year, Arctic tourism moved from niche expeditions into the mainstream. Critics point to the Viking Sky incident when highlighting potential problems.

    The rapid response of Norwegian rescue authorities was praised. However, search and rescue operations would not to be as effective in Arctic waters hundreds of miles away from land.

    In other cruise news, the Norwegian parliament voted to make the world famous fjords emissions-free by 2026. Battery and hybrid technologies are already used to power some of the passenger ferries on the most popular fjords. How large cruise ship operators will meet the demands of the regulations remains to be seen.

    Overtourism on the hiking trails

    Hiking opportunities are one of the biggest tourism draws to Norway, but the record numbers are beginning to cause problems. Pulpit Rock—or Preikestolen in Norwegian—drew a record 309,956 visitors in the summer season, but not everyone is happy with the increasing crowds.

    By the second week of July, there had already been more rescue operations on the trail than in the whole of 2018.

    Some work is being done to improve trails for hikers, however. Widely considered to be one of Norway’s most attractive viewpoints, the Reinebringen hike proved so popular that it had to be closed periodically for three years due to the wear on the trail.

    Earlier this summer, a new Sherpa-built stone staircase was opened to improve conditions for the increasing number of hikers.

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    Norwegian cling on

    It’s hard to see how 2019 could have been any more challenging for Norwegian. Many in the industry predicted their demise, yet they have clung on and begun a major adjustment in strategy that appears to be paying off.

    The budget carrier saw its 18 Boeing 737 Max aircraft grounded following the accidents in Indonesia and Ethiopia, and has suffered problems with the Rolls-Royce engines in its fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners throughout the year. In August, fragments from one engine fell onto an Italian town shortly after the plane took off from Rome.

    Long-serving CEO and co-founder Bjørn Kjos stepped down and Norwegian took their time appointing a successor. In the meantime, the management team made major cuts to their long-haul and short-haul schedules in a bid to shift from growth to profitability. Former gas station retail executive Jacob Schram has now been appointed to continue the recovery in 2020.

    With all this disruption at Norwegian, you would be forgiven for thinking main rivals Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) had a good year. While the airline does remain profitable, annual profits slumped 61% compared to 2018. The airline suffered from a pilot strike in its home markets Denmark, Norway and Sweden that saw approximately 4,000 flights canceled.

    Preparing for a new capital of culture

    Norway hasn’t had a European Capital of Culture since Stavanger held the title in 2008. However, all that will change soon as Bodø was announced as Norway’s third recipient of the title.

    A European Capital of Culture is a year-long city designation from the European Union (EU) during which it hosts a series of pan-European focused cultural events. Although Norway is not a member of the EU, its cities are eligible for the award from Norway’s membership in the European Economic Area (EEA).

    Many cultural events are planned for 2024, including a focus on the Sami language through a pop-culture project. But part of the city’s appeal to the judges was the cultural investments that have already taken place. Bodø’s attractive new waterfront library and cultural center will play a central role throughout the year.


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