School’s out, Parliament has closed and Norway’s traditional month-long summer holiday period began this week with some welcome sunshine and warmer temperatures. Norwegians’ travel plans still don’t seem to be disrupted by flyskam, the new Swedish term for being ashamed to fly because of climate concerns.
“Are we ashamed enough to drop flight plans?” asked newspaper Aftenposten on its front page during the weekend. No, according to statistics from state airports agency Avinor. More than 4.6 million passengers traveled through Norwegian airports in the month of May alone. That was down 2.3 percent from May of last year, reported Aftenposten, but Avinor linked the decline to the pilots’ strike at Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), which grounded most flights of the dominant carrier for the first three days of the month and disrupted travel for several days after that.
Airline traffic also increased during the first four months of the year. Domestic traffic within Norway declined slightly, but the number of Norwegians’ flying both in and out of the country has remained mostly stable in recent years. Traffic increases through Norwegian airports are now largely tied to the ever-increasing numbers of foreign tourists arriving in Norway.
Spain still most popular foreign destination
In general, flight anxiety or shame thus hasn’t made much of a mark yet, also since many Norwegians book their summer holiday trips as much as a year in advance. Climate concerns have grown significantly during the past year. Next year’s traffic thus may decline, not least when at least one political party (not surprisingly the rapidly growing Greens) is already limiting air travel for party meetings or other party business to just two trips per member per year.
For those flying abroad, Spain ranked highest as the popular destination, followed by Denmark, Sweden and Greece on a list compiled by the national tourism employers’ organization Virke. Its Reisepuls 2019 study indicates, however, that more Norwegians are staying closer to home, with the numbers heading for Spain and Greece down and those for Denmark and Sweden up.
Train travel is also far more popular, with complaints rising that it’s not good enough and must improve, both in terms of routes and comfort on board. Interrail ticket sales rose nearly 6 percent last year and were up 15 percent in April.
Car holidays remain popular in Norway, with state statistics bureau SSB (Statistics Norway) reporting 13 million long- and short trips using cars, motorcycles or motorhomes. Those hitting the road this year could be reassured by statistics just released by the European Traffic Safety Council and Statens vegvesen (Norway’s state highway department) that Norway roads are the safest and pose the lowest risk in all of Europe.
Traffic deaths in Norway were lowest, at 20 per million residents, ahead of Switzerland (27), Great Britain (28) and Ireland (30). Norway topped the list, also ahead of both other Scandinavian countries Denmark (31) and Sweden (32). At the opposite end of the scale was Romania, worst at 96 traffic fatalities per million residents, followed by Serbia (87) and Bulgaria (78). The EU average was 49, with Germany reporting 39 and France 50.
And then there are the traditional holidays on board private boats and at hytter (holiday cabins and homes). Popular areas around the Oslo Fjord were once again full of boats Sunday evening, which was Sankthansaften this year, the Norwegian equivalent of Midsummer Eve in Sweden even though it’s after the summer equinox on the 21st. Many Norwegians have boats instead of, or in addition to, holiday homes, and spend weeks on end aboard them during the summer. The season semi-officially kicks off at Sankthans.
Norwegians’ beloved hytter, meanwhile, have also become a target of climate concerns. Environmentalists are urging a halt to all construction of new cabins and holiday homes, especially those in organized developments of hytte communities in the mountains or along the coast. They claim that far too much of Norwegian nature is being ruined by recreational real estate developments and their light pollution, and urge more sharing of existing cabins, the majority of which stand empty for vast portions of the year.