Few people have had more influence on Norwegian tourism than Per-Arne Tuftin, the head of Innovation Norway’s travel division, “Mr. Tourism” himself.
Mr. Tuftin, 53, has been involved in Norwegian tourism for 21 years. This involvement started way back in 1992 when the official bureau of tourism in Norway was named Nortra, later the Norwegian Tourist Board and in January 2003, Innovation Norway, division of Tourism.
The four organizations that formed this new unit are The Norwegian Tourist Board, The Norwegian Trade Council, The Norwegian Industrial and Regional Development Fund (SND) and the Government Consultative Office for Inventors (SVO).
Innovation Norway’s nationwide aim is to promote industrial development profitable to both Norway’s business economy and national economy, and to help release the potential of different districts and regions by contributing towards innovation, internationalization and promotion.
The state owned company employs more than 700 people. Innovation Norway has offices in all the Norwegian counties and in more than 30 countries worldwide. The main office is located in Oslo.
Mr. Tuftin is a busy man and still a bachelor and in his spare time loves outdoor activities like hiking and biking. He explains to Daily Scandinavian that his division’s main task is to cooperate with domestic tourism businesses, listening to their challenges and offering advice, including advice on product development. The common denominator is to put Norway on the world map and present what Norway has to offer. “We have a long way to go,” he admits. “We inform international media and international tour operators about activities, destinations and possibilities in Norway. Lately we have seen increased interest from international tourists searching for the northern lights. Many British and German tourists board the Hurtigruten in midwinter, enjoying delicious Norwegian food, visiting interesting ports and if they’re lucky seeing the exceptionally fascinating northern lights.”
– Why should people choose Norway as their travel destination?
“I am tempted to say our breathtaking nature. I know, however, that there are many countries around the world, which have both fjords, mountains, beaches, lakes, woods and wonderful wildlife and scenery. On the other hand, my honest opinion is that Norway has outstanding and contrasting landscapes, which differ from region to region, like no other country. In addition we serve local food made from fresh domestic ingredients and have a rich cultural life. Norway’s cuisine has received international attention in recent years. Food is important, and the Norwegian fishing and agriculture councils have made impressing efforts both to improve and promote the art of Norwegian cuisine.
Another important element is our country’s law called allferdsretten, which states that our natural resources are open to everyone. Compare that to, let’s say, Germany and Great Britain. I know that neighbors of Prince Charles’ woods have the privilege of having their own keys to enter the woods, whereas the public in general does not. In that respect our country is ideal for hiking and biking.”
– Do you see any results from your efforts?
“It is difficult to measure but 162 countries have watched the video Edvard Munch’s Scream. (See also our article on the Ekeberg Park in Oslo).
Ten years ago one million people visited our Internet portal annually. Today we have between 22 and 23 million visitors. And when television crews come to Norway and cover places and attractions, it increases people’s awareness and interest, like when BBC made a documentary on northern light with Joanna Langley.
Neither Denmark nor Sweden have similar organizations such as ours.
– What would you recommend visitors to see when coming to Norway?
This is a really difficult question. We have so much to offer. But dare I say that our capital, Oslo comes to mind. Oslo is a small capital but with a special charm. So much has happened in Oslo lately both when it comes to city development, architecture, culinary aspects and entertainment. Two new icon buildings, the Opera and the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art at Tjuvholmen, in addition to the new harbor development, the Barcode, have had positive reviews in international media. In addition Oslo is a city with lots of open space, and you may visit woods, lakes and shores, even downhill skiing slopes, just minutes by tramcar from the city center.
I must not forget the west coast of Norway with Bergen, the birth town of Edvard Grieg, and the fjords. The sight of the steep mountains diving right into the water where a cruise liner occasionally passing by is breathtaking.
Also farther north the Vega Islands are on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The Seven Sisters north of Alstahaug and Torghatten south of Brønnøysund are well known natural attractions along this stretch of road. The Seven Sisters is a range of seven mountains, all more than 1,000 meters above sea level. The 160-metre-long hole through the Torghatten Mountain was created by the ice age.
In the north of Norway the road winds along coast and sea, mountains and glaciers crossing the Arctic Circle towards the midnight sun during summertime and the-round-the clock darkness of winter. This route provides an alternative to the E6 to the west of the Svartisen Glacier, with a view of ocean and islands.
Thanks to the Gulf Stream, Helgeland’s nature is rich and fertile. The sea-lanes along this coast were once the Norway’s main thoroughfare for north-south travel. The Svartisen Glacier is easily seen from the road, a 350 square kilometer demonstration of frozen power. An arm of the glacier, the Engabreen Glacier, reaches down from 1,200 meters above sea level and almost to the fjord itself.
Then I would also point to the inland of Norway. It’s an adventure land for people enjoying hiking, biking, fishing and folklore – not a deserted area as in many other countries’ vacated areas. Due to our country’s district politics, people actually live and work there, as people have for generations. Some areas appear to be living museums.”
Per-Arne Tuftin interviewed by Tor Kjolberg