On Friday 15 May, Norwegian Justice and Preparedness Minister Monica Mæland announced that the government is lifting the local quarantine regulation for Svalbard as of 1 June. The island may thus receive incoming travelers from mainland Norway without their having to be quarantined.
Chairperson of Visit Svalbard Ronny Strømnes can sigh with relief on behalf of tourist companies on the island, who may now start working on booking guests for the summer season.
“No destinations in Norway are more exotic than Svalbard. We look forward to welcoming guests up to the beautiful polar summer”, Strømnes says.
Not for international guests or cruise
From 1 June, everyone with a valid work and residency permit in Norway and located on the Norwegian mainland are welcome to visit the Arctic archipelago. However, the new regulations do not open up for international guests, nor for conventional cruise tourism.
What do you think about the fact that Svalbard may not receive cruise ships?
“Minister Mæland said they need more time to work on this before they can open up for cruise ships. So we await further notice, just like everyone else. Of course our members miss out income when it comes to local business and provision supplies, however, fjord cruises will operate like normal. They also use local services when it comes to accommodation and catering, which cruise guests on conventional ships do not do”, Strømnes says.
Get the island to themselves
He says that cruise ships bring in some 40,000 guests per year, whereas fjord cruises amount to approximately 23,000 guests annually. However, this year nothing will be like normal. And the lifting of the quarantine is undoubtedly good news.
“Svalbard is a destination with endless wildlife areas where you feel very small being a human in this magnificent nature. Perhaps tourists from Norway will feel this even stronger this summer, since they will be the first and only tourists who get to visit Svalbard”, Strømnes says.
Perhaps tourists from Norway will feel this magnificent nature even stronger this summer, since they will be the first and only tourists who get to visit Svalbard
Safe to visit
The destination will open in a somewhat different version from that from before the Corona situation. There will also be fewer people than normal in Longyearbyen’s restaurants, museums and shops.
“We would of course prefer having a full house this summer, however, that will not happen now. Tourism operators are focused on Svalbard being a safe place in which to live and to visit. We will thus comply with strict infection control measures until the entire Covid-19 situation is over, Stømnes says and adds that there are still not registered cases of infection on the island.
Headed by Visit Svalbard, tourism has been tasked with working out infection control guidelines for Svalbard in order for it to be safe, and for tourist activities not to challenge vulnerable preparedness resources more than necessary. This has been an important precondition for being permitted to soon open the doors.
Tips before the Svalbard trip
Tourism operators take measures in all parts of their deliveries. Increased cleaning, increased use of antibac tools, individual serving of breakfast and logging contacts for all activities in case tracking infection were to become necessary. These are amongst the measures taken to limit Corona infections in Longyearbyen. People with respiratory symptoms are strongly encouraged to stay at home.
Chairperson Strømnes, who hopes that many will spend their summer holidays in Svalbard this summer, requests potential guests to take some precautions:
“Nature in Svalbard is extremely beautiful, but also unpredictable. There is a lot of difference from mainland Norway. You thus have to take extra precautions up here, in particular because of the risk of polar bears.”
It is thus recommended that one joins an organized trip with a local guide who maintains security.
“Svalbard and Longyearbyen will be a somewhat different destination this summer compared to usual, but this makes it no less attractive”, Strømnes says.
This article was originally published in Norwegian and has been translated by HNN's Elisabeth Bergquist.