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Home → February, 2021

Monthly Archives: February 2021 − News & Stories


Local tour operators: 65 % loss, support to come soon

Local tour operators in Longyearbyen have to deal with losses of 65 % in average due to corona. For some, the last year has been a total loss, some companies and individuals would be happy to have a remaining turnover of 35 %. Others have some bookings by tourists coming from mainland Norway, but also these don’t come in numbers comparable to previous years. There is no international tourism due to the current travel restrictions. It remains to be seen when things really get better.

Longyearbyen tourism Corona

Winter tourism in Spitsbergen:
will largey be a loss this year – again.

At least, local tour operators can now expect 40 million kroner (3.9 million Euro) as public support support from Oslo. It is too early to say if all companies will survive the current crisis even considering this new financial aid. The upcoming winter season, normally peaking in March and April, will mostly not happen this year.

The “arctic Wednesday” continued: online presentation about the Mosaic expedition, 3 March

The series of 6 arctic online presentations in the series “The Arctic Wednesday” that Birgit Lutz and I have started is over – but this is not the end of the Arctic Wednesday. It has been just too good to stop it now.

The presentations will be held in German.

Icebreaker Polarstern, Mosaic expedition. Presentation in the series Arctic Wednesday, 3 March

The research icebreaker Polarstern during the Mosaic expedition:
Presentation in the series “Arctic Wednesday” on 3 March.

Birgit and I are, however, not the only ones who have got some stories to tell. On 3 March, Udo Zöphel will talk about his experiences as a polar bear guard for scientists during several arctic winter months as a member of the Mosaic expedition, drifting with the icebreaker Polarstern with the ice across the Arctic Ocean. Click here for more information about the presentation (the link will open a German page, but the presentation will also be held in German).

After a little break, Birgit and I will come up with several more dates in March. We will present the new dates on 03 March. See you then! 🙂

Ski marathon cancelled

The ski marathon, one of Longyearbyen’s major annual events in the calendar of sports and culture and in 2021 scheduled for 17 April, has now been cancelled because of corona for the second time in a row. The ski marathon is organised by Svalbard Turn, a local sports club in Longyearbyen. For the club, the cancellation involves a lot of effort and a major financial loss. Longyearbyen loses a major event that used to bring several hundred international participants in recent years, making the marathon an important event also for the local tourism industry including hotels, restaurants and tour operators.

Longyearbyen skim arathon: cancelled because of Corona

The ski marathon in Longyearbyen has now been cancelled because of corona – for the second time.

Svalbard Turn now puts their hopes on the conventional marathon on 05 June. The participants of the ski marathon can re-book for 23 April 2022. This includes a large number of people who wanted to to the marathon already in 2020.

Strict rules for cruise ships until at least end of April

The strict rules for ship-based tourism in Norway including Spitsbergen will remain in force until at least end of April, according to an official press release by the Norwegian government.

Most ship owners and tour operators had to cancel their arctic season in 2020 completely. Only a few cruises were actually carried out, for example by the Cape Race, the Origo and the Le Boreal, with strict hygiene measures. This was, in these cases, done successfully without any cases of Corona (SarsCov-2, Covid19) on board. The corona outbreak on the Hurtigruten ship Roald Amundsen, however, shows that it is difficult to achieve absolute safety.

Restrictions include a complete ban on larger ships and a reduction of the passenger capacity to 50 %, something that makes operation economically impossible for many companies. These and other restrictions (see Lovdata.no (Norwegian) for all details) remain in force during the spring, as could be expected.

Origo, Spitsbergen

The Origo: one of a few ships that actually did some cruises in Spitsbergen in 2020.

The Norwegian government has announced to monitor the situation and to make a decision until 01 May about extending the restrictions or modifying them as appropriate.

General restrictions on international travelling as well as the new requirements for corona testing before travelling from mainland Norway to Spitsbergen remain in force.

Corona tests for Spitsbergen travellers, tourism in heavy seas

Corona test requirements: difficult in real life

Since last Friday, all travellers to Spitsbergen need to show a negative corona test that mus not be older than 24 hours. This requirement comes from the Norwegian health minister and it was communicated on Thursday afternoon, just a couple of hours before it came into force. Local authorities, including the Sysselmannen and the community administration in Longyearbyen, were not involved. It is, however, difficult to get a test prior to departure in Oslo or Tromsø. There is a test station for rapid tests at the airport in Tromsø, but will soon be closed according to Svalbardposten. This leaves travellers from Tromsø with the option for PCR tests, but it takes usually 2-3 days to get the result. Not helpful if the required maximum is 24 hours.

Coronatest, Spitsbergen

Corona-test on the way to Spitsbergen.

There is not much more official information than the hint that all travellers are themselves responsible to get a valid test in time.

Tour operators in Longyearbyen put staff on leave

There is currently hardly any international traffic to Spitsbergen. Travellers come almost exclusively from mainland Norway, both locals and tourists, in numbers that are a faint shadow of what Longyearbyen was used to until 2019. Major local tour operators have now told Svalbardposten to put employees on leave: Hurtigruten Svalbard will send about 40 out of 100 employees home, for part of their time or fully, while 20 of 70 staff of Svalbard Adventures will loose 50 % of their work soon. It is uncertain when they can return to their workplaces again fully (or at all). Normally, February would be the start of the important local winter season.

Public money does not reach the companies as needed

John Einar Lockert, head of Svalbard Adventures in Longyearbyen, feels himself made a fool by governmental financial aids and regulations. Companies who decided to keep their operation up and running lose rights to funding. Instead, there are fundings for restructuring measures, something many companies do currently not have any economical power for. Spontaneous regulatory initiatives such as the requirement for corona tests for travellers which was introduced after only a few hours of warning time are not experienced as helpful.

Tourism: in heavy seas due to corona

Tourism is, due to corona, currently in heavy seas.

Self-employed people often out in the rain

Not only artists, but also one-man-companies within tourism are often just left without public support, in Longyearbyen, Germany and other countries. Self-employed guides, for example, who usually offer their services to companies on a contract-basis, try to engage themselves in creative solutions wherever possible, and as soon as this is not available anymore, they use up their reserves and then depend on partners, families and friends.

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News-Listing live generated at 2021/March/01 at 03:12:05 Uhr (GMT+1)
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