PHOTO: Harald Hansen relaxing above the Sognefjord.
On May 17, 1814, the Norwegian Constitution was signed at Eidsvoll. As Norway celebrates its bicentennial, it also has reason to celebrate its current popularity as a destination. Norway's reputation has grown with visitors, reaching travelers that it wasn’t reaching even a few years ago. Baltic Sea cruising overall has hit a high plateau and looks likely to hold it for some time, but other forms of travel are growing.
The expansion has gone beyond traditional markets such as cruise and pan-Scandinavian packages, to enter the family market as well as the soft adventure market. Thanks largely to the way Antarctica has been embraced as a high-end bucket list experience, the idea of polar travel has opened new destinations from Finnish Lapland and Greenland to Iceland and the north of Norway and the Spitsbergen Islands.
VisitNorway.com’s website traffic has tripled since November, when the film “Frozen” was released. The number of people searching for flights to Norway is up 153 percent, according to Flight Tracker. We recently caught up with Harald Hansen, Visit Norway’s Information and Public Relations Manager.
TravelPulse: How important has the Disney film “Frozen” been in the success that Norway is enjoying right now?
Harald Hansen: Inside the mythical kingdom of Arendelle (the setting for Frozen) everything is Norway, the clothes, the architecture and the land. Obviously the film has been great for us; Norway is up 38 percent out of the U.S. in the first quarter of 2014. We have worked very hard together with both Disney and our partners to Norway to get the message through and I think we succeeded.
TP: How has the market’s interest in Norway changed?
HH: It’s not only Disney. There are several other factors but what stands out is the film; the deals being offered by Norwegian Air and the desire of so many people now to see the Northern Lights for themselves, plus the land of Elsa and Anna that inspired the movie. Winter tourism, and I don’t mean just skiing seems to be arriving in a big way. People are curious about the Arctic and the northern climates. However it happened there’s no question Norway is doing wonderfully. We were up 57 percent in March.
TP: So what is a typical visit to Norway now?
HH: Our demographic has changed. We went from 55-plus to 40-plus in the last couple of years. We are hitting a much younger market. Not counting cruise travelers, the average length of stay is now 10 days. It’s no longer dominated by visitors hitting Oslo as part of a Scandinavian capitals tour. People come, spend a couple of nights in Oslo, head to Bergen, explore the fjords and then head north. We think a lot of this is the curiosity of the Northern Lights.