Reiselivsmessen (Oslo Travel Fair) 2023 was arranged last weekend at the Clarion Hub Hotel in the center of Oslo. It opened with a seminar for exhibitors and media, where several prominent speakers shared their knowledge about the hospitality industry in Norway. An important message was that Norwegians are planning their summer vacation NOW.
First speaker was Norway’s uncrowned hotel king Petter Stordalen, who made no secret of the fact that return on capital must always be the most important goal for players in the industry. His company Strawberry Group bought the travel agency Ving together with two other players in October 2019, when Thomas Cook Travel with 2,300 employees had gone bankrupt. Five months later, Norway – and the world – closed down due to the Corona virus.
Related: Sweden – A Genuine Summer Wonderland
Important to Adapt
“The ability to adapt is hugely important,” said Stordalen. “But it is not possible to predict crises such as a pandemic outbreak or a war with large price increases as a result. Airplanes stuck on the ground do not make money. Neither do empty hotel rooms or restaurants.” Ving had to repay NOK 400 million to passengers who either could not return home or who could not use their booked journeys.
The industry has to get paid for its services in order to survive, emphasized Stordalen. Creative thinking is important, and you have to dare. He himself highlighted the chain’s major hotel venture Sommerro in Oslo, which according to him has cost a quarter of a million NOK more than it should have. However, the hotel has sectors that have exceeded even the most optimistic forecasts. “Pricing services too low is the surest way to poor profitability,” was his message.
The travel industry represents 10% of our country’s GBP and is also culturally significant.
Trends for the Travel Industry 2023
Kristine Krohn Devold, CEO in NHO travel, presented trends for the travel industry’s coming year. NHO is the Confederation of Norwegian enterprise and Norway’s largest organization for employers and the leading business lobbyist.
She predicted a coming wave of bankruptcies in large parts of the industry when bills are due in the first quarter of 2023. The positive, meanwhile, is that Norway has once again been named the best country to live in, after Switzerland, according to United Nations’ Human Development Report 2021/22.
- Less spending
- More of what we already have (social life)
- Adventures (shorter travels)
- Close relations
- Local cafés
- Creative chefs (simpler and cheaper)
- Relation between work time and personal time
Krohn Devold pointed out that the health sector is the only service sector that is as large as the tourism industry.
“Everything is ahead of us for us to become the growth industry that we want to become,” she concluded.
The Pandemic’s Impact on the Travel Industry
Guro Henriksen from Statistics Norway presented figures for Norwegians’ travel activity before, during and after the corona (all figures in million travels)
2016 2020 2021 2022
18 14 15 23
4 out of 5 Norwegian spent their vacation in their home country in 2021, while 6 out of 10 in Europe.
Norwegians’ most popular destinations are Sweden, Spain, Denmark, Greece and Germany.
Explore the Northern Lights
Trond Øverland from Arctic Explorers said that Norther Lights tourism is becoming internationally more and more important. “Tromsø is perhaps the world’s best place for a Northern Lights holiday,” he said. Arctic Explorers offers 1-, 2- and 3-days Northern Lights tours.
Handling 10,000 stranded tourists
Marie-Anne Zachrisson from Ving Norway explained how the company managed to handle almost 10,000 travelers stranded on different locations due to the pandemic and paid 410 million NOK in compensations pledged to the statutory requirements in the Norwegian Travel Guarantee Fund.
Norwegians are planning their summer vacation now
“The number of people on vacation in our own country has returned to 2019 level,” said Audun Pettersen in Virke.
Virke is the Federation of Norwegian Enterprise and organizes and represents over 24,000 businesses with more than 280,000 employees.
It has, however been 243 bankruptcies so far during the pandemics, he added. But bear in mind that Norwegians are planning their summer vacation NOW, although they are delaying their bookings.
81% of Norwegians organize their own holiday, only 7% use a travel agent. Most people use Internet or advise from friends or family as sources for their choices. Private income is crucial for where, what and now.
«It’s all about keeping the powder in your pants dry»
This was the title of Oslo-enthusiast, businessman and art collector Christian Ringnes’ presentation. Ringnes, whose family founded Norway’s now largest brewery in 1876, is an important player in the hospitality industry and has been appointed ‘Oslo Ambassador’.
He used this opportunity to promote his travel related ventures, like the Ekeberg Restaurant, the Ekeberg Sculpture Park, Christiania Theatre, Folketeateret and not least his Mini Bottle Gallery, which holds the world’s largest collection of miniature bottles. Of the museum’s 53,000 bottles, 2,500 are displayed in 50 different locations over 3 floors.
He also owns two prestigious hotels in Oslo, the Grand Hotel on the main street in Oslo and the Holmenkollen Park Hotel.
Two of his latest investments are outside the capital: the 70,000 square meter Tromsø Concert Hall and the Goat Hotel in Svolvær, both in Northern Norway. The rooms in the Goat are larger than ordinary hotel rooms, from 28 to 34 square meters. He admits, it is not financially solid, but «it’s all about keeping the powder in your pants dry».
Ringnes did not fail to mention some of his projects that never came to fruition, among them a gondola from the center of Oslo to Ekeberg.
Now, however, he wants to buy Tryvannstårnet, a 118 meter (387 feet) tall former broadcasting tower, located 529 meters (1,736 feet) above sea level overlooking lake Tryvann and with a spectacular view to the capital. His dream is to turn it into “a three-storey restaurant with a surprise at the top”.
How to succeed in the tourism business
Moderator Cecilie Andvig linked together the presentations in a professional and humorous way and helped building awareness of the big theme of the day – how to succeed in the tourism business.
Her wrap up and call to action was indeed an important contribution in cementing the learning from these presentations.
Norwegians are Planning Their Summer Vacation Now, written by Tor Kjolberg
All images © Tor Kjolberg/Daily Scandinavian.