The northern part of Norway is known for its dramatic landscape and pristine nature. The islands of Lofoten and the Svalbard archipelago are on the United Nations World Heritage tentative list. Saltstraumen boasts the world’s strongest maelstrom and record catch for a saithe (a whopping 22.7 kilos). From Arctic safaris to endless golf days under the midnight sun, it’s the perfect backdrop for business travellers seeking new experiences for conferences and kick-offs.
The north of Norway is mostly known as a typical summer destination. But market research has shown a significant market potential for experience offerings, such as the Northern Lights and whale watching, which can strengthen the north’s yearly tourism business, according to Bård Jervan at Innovative Experiences, a newly established tourism cluster that develops the northern parts of Nordland (Lofoten, Vesterålen, Ofoten and Salten) and Svalbard as innovative tourism destinations.
The county of Nordland stretches 14,000 kilometres along the western coast below the northernmost county of Troms. The Arctic Circle runs through Nordland, making it ideal for observing the dramatic Aurora Borealis light displays during the winter. The Lofoten islands stretch 250 kilometres from the fjord of Ofoten to the outer Roest islands and are characterised by their precipitous bird cliffs (among the largest in the Nordic countries), sand dunes and boulder beaches.
“The most internationally oriented part up to now is Lofoten,” said Jervan. “It accounts for 50% of foreign tourist traffic and overnight visits. The most important markets are Germany, Sweden, Italy, France, the Netherlands and the UK.”
Team Building with Norwegian Special Forces
XXLofoten is one of the 27 companies participating in the Arena Innovative Experience cluster that has successfully reached out to the business tourism market. The company was founded by three former buddies in Norway’s Special Forces, which decided in 2005 to focus on the untapped business market.
Instead of just loaning kayaks to passerby tourists, they transformed their concept into “mind moving” experiences, such as winter survival training, military weapons shooting ranges, and ocean kayak adventures to the islands such as the Robinson Concept.
“Our goal is to create meaningful experiences,” said Steinar Jøraandstad, XXLofoten idea and concept creator. “The opposite is to sit passively in a bus and watch nature from seat 2B. We try to bring our guests one step closer to nature.”
The company has made tailor-made packages for large Norwegian companies, such as oil group Statoil and telecom Telenor, which combine their seminars with team building activities. One example is Hit and Run, which involves target shooting together with rappelling down 44 feet to a bridge in a simulation rescue.
“It’s not like a Tivoli (amusement park) thing, but a small military style exercise,” said Jøraandstad.
XXLofoten has also catered to a wide variety of international guests. Most recently, they hosted defence attachés from 22 different nationalities for the Norwegian Defence Department for concept tours Robinson and Last Viking. The latter refers to a famous Norwegian book, The Last of the Vikings by Johan Bojer, which details the gruelling lifestyle of fishermen in the Trollfjord.
“We teach them how to work on the vessel, drag the lines and after prepare a five-course dinner with local chefs,” said Jøraandstad.
||© Steinar Jøraandstad/XXLofoten
A Norwegian business group participates in a “Hit & Run” teambuilding competition at XXLofoten activity camp at Henningsvær. Teams start with indoor shooting with military standard weapon, paddling in a canoe fleet, rappelling from a bridge down to a canoe and mock water rescue exercises.
Each of the different companies within the Innovative Experience cluster has its unique niche. Orca Tysfjord can combine a conference with orca whale safaris. Restaurant Du Verden serves gourmet food in Svolvær, the capital of Lofoten. Tuvsjven is a 10,000 year-old Middle Age settlement at Tuv near Saltraumen, the world’s strongest maelstrom and a paradise for angler fishermen. For the more leisurely business meeting, Lofoten Golf Links offers the world’s only midnight sun golf range.
Svinøya Rorbuer houses visitors in original fishermen’s cabins from the 1850s that were used by fishermen during the Lofoten winter cod season. It arranged a huge kick-off event for Telenor’s international management a few years back. It can accommodate up to 100 in its conference facilities and 230 guests in its original cabins along Svolvær harbour and modern luxury suites.
“We have several agreements with international electronic, consulting and healthcare companies,” said Kim Kjosnes, a receptionist at Svinøya Rorbuer. “They come from Germany, England, or several countries at the same time.”
The northern most participant in the Innovative Experience cluster is Svalbard Wildlife Expedition. Svalbard is a group of islands in the Arctic Ocean north of Norway under Norwegian sovereignty. The archipelago is 60% covered by glacier and scarcely populated. The largest settlement is Longyearbyen with 2,000 inhabitants.
Svalbard Wildlife Exhibition caters to tourists looking for nature-based experiences in the Arctic wilderness. In the summer, its most popular offering is a three-day wildlife camp that kayaks to the grand glacier and hikes Esmark. Alternatively, tourists can cross the fjord by kayak and climb 1,100 metres up Hjortfjellet Mountain, go on a ski or snowmobile expedition, or take a day cruise with M/S Polar Girl to visit the Russian settlements of Barentsburg and Pyramiden and see enormous glacier fronts and Svalbard’s rich wildlife.
Business tourists have access to modern conference facilities at both Spitsbergen Hotel and Radisson SAS Polar Hotel Spitsbergen. Each can seat up to around 140 people. More information can be obtained from Svalbard Tourism, the official tourism board for Svalbard, and Spitsbergen Travel, the largest and oldest travel and tour operator in Svalbard. For more information on the county of Nordland, look up Nordland Reiseliv at www.visitnordland.no.
|Once used to house visiting fishermen during the Lofoten winter cod season, these 19th Century fishermen cabins (known as rorbuer) now house Norwegian and international business clientele looking for special venues.
Arena Innovative Experience participants
• Svartisen AS
• Whale Safari AS
• Orca Tysfjord
• Orca Lofoten AS
• Aalan Gård Farm
• XXLofoten AS (Ltd)
• The Old Lofoten Ferry
• Nusfjord AS (Ltd)
• Svinøya Rorbuer
• The “Hildringstimen”
• Andøy Open Air Centre
• Narvikfjellet AS (Ltd)
• Lofoten Golf Links
• The Winter Festival Foundation, Narvik
• Kobbelv Vertshus Tavern
• Nordland Reiseliv
(Nordland Tourist Board)
• Lofotr - The Viking Museum
• The Norwegian Aviation Museum
• Henningsvær Brygge Hotel
• Restaurant Du Verden
• Svalbard Wildlife Expeditions AS
• Vestvatn Wilderness Centre
o Arctic Rental & Adventure
• Nordland Adventures
• The Lofoten Aquarium
• Spitsbergen Travel