Travel-happy Norwegians are spending nearly three times as much money on foreign holidays this year than they did just a decade ago. As international airline traffic literally soars from Norwegian airports, 25 percent of those traveling say they’ll spend more this year than last, when they collectively splurged around NOK 90 billion (USD 15 billion) on overseas trips of four days or more.
As Norway’s traditional summer holiday period known as fellesferie kicks into high gear this week, statistics have been pouring in from travel agencies, aviation authorities and, not least, state statistics bureau SSB. The numbers illustrate Norwegian affluence, and a wanderlust that just keeps on growing.
“Many Norwegians have become so ‘available’ for their employers during the course of their workday that they need some ‘offline holidays’ with their family, and they travel far,” Per Arne Villadsen of travel agency Berg-Hansen Reisebyrå told newspaper Aftenposten already in February. He claimed at the time that Norwegians are now allowing themselves an average of three holiday trips every year, according to a customer survey Berg-Hansen conducted. Fully 40 percent of those responding said they planned four international holidays a year, and 25 percent planned to spend more than NOK 50,000 (more than 8,000) on them.
Five months later, at the height of the summer travel season, officials at Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen (OSL) can confirm that Norwegians are taking off more than ever. OSL reported 12 million passengers through the airport just in the first six months of this year, while airlines report full flights. Newspaper Dagsavisen reported that a total of 24.4 million passengers traveled through all the airports operated by state-owned Avinor in Norway during the first half, with airline SAS reporting a 12.7 percent increase in June and Norwegian a 21 percent increase.
Holiday spending has risen 85 percent since 2009, reports SSB, with spending last year alone up 18 percent over 2012. “Avinor’s airports saw a 60 percent increase in traffic between 2009 and 2013, and in addition comes the traffic at the (locally owned) Torp and Rygge airports (in Sandefjord and Moss respectively),” researcher Jon Martin Denstadli of the state transport economic institute told newspaper Aftenposten.
The growth is attributed to Norway’s still-strong economy, a standard five weeks of paid holiday time and low airfares. The huge growth in airline travel worries environmentalists who warn of ever-rising carbon emissions from all the flights and urge travelers to take a train instead. OSL spokesman Joachim Westher confirmed, however, that Oslo’s airport had more traffic than Stockholm’s Arlanda in June and nearly as much traffic as Copenhagen’s Kastrup. Oslo was bigger than Copenhagen in February.
Oslo now has 161 direct flights from OSL every day and 113 have international destinations, Westher told Dagsavisen. More are expected, as Norwegian Air continues to expand its intercontinental route system and Emirates starts daily flights in September to Dubai. Several other airlines are also launching new routes from Norway.
More Norwegians are also taking more domestic holidays, though, with mountain trekking association DNT reporting another big increase in overnight stays at its cabins and lodges around the country and a 50 percent increase in holiday spending within the country. Employers’ organization NHO, which represents many hotel owners and tourism operators in Norway, wasn’t surprised.
“Norwegians are also getting better at traveling around their own country,” Kristin Krohn Devold of NHO’s tourism division told newspaper Aftenposten. They’re not just heading for the family hytte (cabin) anymore: “They want to experience something new and Norway can be much more exciting than a beach in the south of Europe,” Devold said.