Like many great European destinations, Norway is a study in contrasts.
Long ahead of the curve on the issue of climate change — Oslo is poised to become the first capital with zero-emissions public transportation, for example — the country is sitting on a whole lot of natural gas. In fact, Norway is the EU’s largest supplier of natural gas since Russia cut off deliveries.
It’s also a destination with charming, walkable cities and world-class museums and yet is most known for the wild beauty of its mountains, ski terrain and fjords.
Norway’s past predates the Bronze Age and it flourished during the Viking era, but it’s people today are considered some of the most tech-savvy and progressive in Europe.
To get a sense of how this multifaceted destination has weathered these tough last few years, I asked Torunn Tronsvang, founder and CEO of Up Norway, to give us a snapshot of life on the ground as it pertains to tourism.
Established in 2016, Up Norway curates travel experiences that aim to take visitors into the life of the destination, helping them interact with locals and offering unusual accommodations — including lakeside yurts, tent igloos and even a renovated lighthouse.
“We saw a large uptick in travel this summer with bookings from travelers pent up from the past two years,” Tronsvang said, noting that while bookings have slowed in autumn, “We’ve noticed travelers are already getting a head start on summer planning, with Up Norway summer 2023 journeys being booked now.”
As to who’s coming, Tronsvang reported seeing a combination of families, couples, groups of friends and solo travelers.
“Almost all travelers are heading to Norway to seek outdoor adventures, and while Norway doesn’t always come to mind as a top culinary destination, we are seeing an increasing interest for Norway as a foodie destination,” she said.
In fact, Norway is the most-awarded country in Bocuse d’Or, a prestigious culinary competition, and the Trondheim-Trondelag area, in particular, was named as the European Region of Gastronomy for 2022 by International Institute of Gastronomy, Culture, Arts and Tourism, Tronsvang said.
“To celebrate this distinction and bring awareness to Norway as a culinary destination, we created a seven-night Norway for Foodies journey … [to] open up new perspectives on the country’s underrated culinary offerings.”
Up Norway also offers HMS Gassten cruises along the Lofoten Islands in northern Norway, based in one of the least populated areas of the world.
The vessel was originally built as a minesweeper in the Swedish Navy in 1973 and was recently renovated to provide accommodations for up to eight guests.
“The captain will steer the vessel down the islands into the outer and quieter areas of the archipelago, where guests can enjoy freshly caught seafood … on the edge of the sea [as well as] hiking, golf and horseback riding along the rugged coastline,” Tronsvang said.
She also touted the recently opened Sommerro Hotel, a 231-room luxury property in Oslo, housed in the former headquarters of Oslo Lysverker, the city’s original electrical company.
The hotel offers a rooftop bar and terrace with panoramic views of the city and a strong focus on ecoconscious experiences.
Climate change and travel
On a less optimistic front, Tronsvang doesn’t shy away from the topic of climate change and the uncomfortable issue of the travel industry’s role in carbon emissions.
“As we know, climate-affected weather has been crazy this summer, and of course, the Greenland ice shelf is concerning,” she said. “Climate change is an issue that we know we cannot ignore.”
One way Up Norway seeks to combat the problem is by boosting the notion of slow travel.
“We firmly believe that staying longer in one place is more enriching than dashing about to a dozen destinations [and that] spending more time in fewer places also helps to reduce one’s carbon footprint by minimizing the amount of transport used,” she said.
“We actively encourage smart ways to travel — good travel logistics, longer stays in each destination and longer journeys … utilizing public transportations such as scenic train rides and express ferries.”
The company also works with Chooose, a platform that provides tools for integrating climate action into customer experiences, and with advisors such as head of sustainability in Innovation Norway Ingunn Sornes and sustainable luxury travel expert Juliet Kinsman.
“We are part of The Insider Collective where we share best industry practices with our industry colleagues all over the world.”