The tourist board for Western Norway, the site of the country’s most magnificent fjords, has slashed its promotion budget for next summer after surging visitor numbers in the wake of the success of Disney’s Frozen led to fully-booked hotels, traffic problems and queues at popular destinations.
“This year is sort of off the charts… quite incredible,” said Kristian Jorgensen, managing director of Fjord Norway. “There are days when there are too many people at some of the smaller destinations like Geiranger and Flam. We have very few of them, but we are not trying to make more of them.”
The number of people hiking up to the a spectacular Trolltunga (Troll tongue) promontory has increased from 1,000 to a 100,000 over just five years, while that visiting Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock), another vertigo-inducing attraction, has increased from 60,000 in 2009 to 300,000 today.
He said that part of the growth could be put down to Frozen, a Disney cartoon whose fictional setting, Arendelle, is closely modelled on Norway.
“I’m quite sure the film Frozen had an effect. It’s the most successful animation film ever made, basically about the fjords. It has got the attention of more families, and we’ve definitely seen growth, especially from the US market, as a result.”
“The numbers have just exploded,” he added. “A consequence of this is we need to think about how we can bring in more: it’s not a good experience for people if we bring in more on the same days.”
The village of Geiranger has just 215 permanent inhabitants, but is visited by about 700,000 tourists a year.
Geiranger and Flåm, villages in the region’s two Unesco-listed fjords, Geirangerfjord and Aurlandsfjord, face problems on days when large numbers of cruise ships arrive at times when the villages are already full with other tourists.
Geiranger has just 215 permanent inhabitants, but is visited by about 700,000 tourists a year, according to Ove Skylstad, general manager for Tourism Geiranger.
“They’re more-or-less 100 percent booked,” he said of the village’s four hotels. “I think the Hotel Union had only two rooms available for the whole of July.”
Fjord Norway now plans instead to promote the attractions of the spring, autumn and winter months, as well as trying to raise the profile of destinations which have so far been overlooked.
“Before we put all our effort into growing the summer, now we’re putting all our effort into growing the whole year,” Mr Jorgensen said.
The agency is also encouraging hotels and the harbours where cruise ships berth to increase their prices steeply in July and August, to push more visitors into the less busy months.
May, Mr Jorgensen pointed out, was his favourite month to visit the fjords, a time when flowers are in bloom and waterfalls are swollen with melting snow.
He said social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook have also magnified the attraction of sites with spectacular photo-opportunities, such Trolltunga and Preikestolen.
“These are almost marketing themselves,” he said. “People are taking selfies like crazy.”