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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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