Norway’s tourist boom has left the historic Bryggen wharf area in Bergen so overrun with visitors during the summer months that its owners are pondering new crowd control measures. Among them is imposition of an entry fee, especially for cruiseship passengers.
Local newspaper BA reported Friday that the foundation operating the wharf from the Hanseatic age has found it “necessary” to evaluate such a fee when the hordes of tourists become too large. The foundation has already installed meters monitoring the numbers of people on the wharf, and they’ve doubled just since 2014.
“If this growth continues, we’ll simply have to do something,” Bernt-Håvard Øyen, director of the foundation Stiftelsen Bryggen, told BA.
Øyen stressed that the growth has been positive in many ways, both for Bryggen and Bergen as a tourist destination. On the other hand, the huge numbers of visitors between May and October present a “considerable challenge” in terms of wear and tear of the historic wooden wharf area, crowded conditions and garbage accumulation.
Øyen told state broadcaster NRK that the foundation has considered several means of limiting the numbers of tourists who now crowd Bryggen’s buildings and narrow passageways. When several cruiseships are in port, disgorging thousands of passengers into Bergen’s compact downtown area, the crowds can become unmanageable.
“We can, for example, charge a fee for cruise passengers, or regulate the area physically (with entry gates, for example),” Øyen said. He noted that many other historic sites that are on the UN’s World Heritage list already charge or limit crowds, such as Machu Picchu in the Andes and La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.
“We can’t close off the area on short notice, but it’s important to start discussing this,” Øyen told NRK. He’s prepared for opposition, but notes that too many tourists can ruin popular tourist destinations: “We’re airing the problem, and hope we can have a fruitful discussion around sustainable growth in tourist traffic. It can’t keep growing out of control. We have to have proper infrastructure in place to receive visitors and make it nice to visit Bryggen and Bergen.”
The negative side of Norway’s tourist boom has already started cropping up in other areas such as Lofoten, which is at the bursting point, and even on board the coastal voyage known as Hurtigruten, which now runs with very full ships also in the winter. That led to recent complaints from some local residents who traditionally have used Hurtigruten sheerly for transport along the coast, because they were turned away at the pier. There was no room for them on board the ship because of all the foreign tourists traveling even during the dark month of December, many in hopes of seeing the Northern Lights.