The Norway of the twenty-first century is an eclectic, diverse country, a natural pioneer in the maritime and oil industries, culturally unique, and increasingly a haven for cutting-edge technology, design and architecture. Norway’s achievements in these fields, together with high standards of living, transparent business ethics and the relentless pursuit of equality in the work place, have led to its enviable reputation.
The UNDP Human Development Index has consistently named Norway as amongst the best places to live and work – indeed Norway was named the top one for six of the last eight years. But if business and organization visitors can rest assured that fairness and equality are the nation’s carefully maintained ideals at work, they can also relax in the knowledge that, once meetings are over for the day and the time has come for a little exploring, they have come to a truly spectacular place.
In the words of the former Norwegian Minister of Trade and Industry, Dag Terje Andersen, “I promise you that visiting Norway will provide you with a unique experience with ever-lasting impressions. And who knows. Maybe you can even catch your own salmon.” Salmon catching aside, Andersen neatly summarizes the common theme that hundreds of people visiting Norway for work or business have found: that this is a country of exhilarating opportunity to try something completely different. No matter how short the business trip, conference or meeting, it is impossible not to be left with something long-lasting from the huge range of activities on offer to visitors.
A Time-Honoured Devotion to the Sea
One of Norway’s most famous sons, the nineteenth century playwright Henrik Ibsen, put into words the overwhelming presence of the sea in the national consciousness. “Night and day, winter and summer, it weighs upon me - this irresistible longing for the sea,” says Ellida in The Lady From the Sea. It is not hard to understand why many Norwegians feel so strongly about the nature around them, and in particular the long, deep fjords where the sea has flooded glacial valleys. Norway is one of only a handful of countries with fjords, of which it has plenty. Norway has somewhere between three and four thousand of them, often surrounded by spectacular mountains, sheer cliff drops, and rugged scenery, inviting the possibility of hiking, cycling, cruising on the fjords or rivers, fishing, kayaking or rafting.
Even if visitors have only a few hours at the end of a day, it is often no more than a short trip to the tranquillity and solitude that Norway’s mountains and fjords offer. In the summer months, visitors need not worry about rushing away from their hotels or meetings – the sun remains in the sky for hours all over Norway, and in the North, the famous midnight sun is, as the name implies, visible twenty four hours a day. In the winter, skiing, skating, snowboarding – or simply enjoying a hot drink round a camp fire – are all to be experienced.
|Norway’s mountains are a winter wonderland, and the opportunity to take part in activities in the great outdoors is a perfect way to bring a team together or relax at the end of a long day.
Within Easy Reach
Right across Norway, facilities exist for conferences and meetings aimed specifically at bringing participants closer to nature. Whilst it is true that the countryside is only minutes away – even from the heart of Norway’s biggest cities, like Oslo or Bergen - a number of hotels and conference centres are situated right on the fjord. In western Norway, where a large number of fjords are located, Fjord Norge AS (Fjord Norway) provides information about cost effective locations and can provide advice for itineries and more. The website www.fjordnorway.com is an excellent starting point for those wishing to find more information about activities on offer.
Amongst these is BesteBakken, which has views of Sognefjord, Norway’s longest and deepest fjord, and tailors specific activities for business visitors. This particular area is frequently used for conferences, as it boast an unusual variety of activities including the opportunity to visit a traditional Norwegian wooden stave church, Urnes Stave Church in Luster, which is Norway’s oldest. Anyone fortunate enough to be planning a meeting in August has the unique chance to witness one of Europe’s most scenic sporting events, the Sognefjord Swim Festival, with participants from the whole of Europe, as well as the USA. Information about guided fishing trips, glacier walking and canyoning can be accessed on the Leirdal Bre og Juv website, www.breogjuv.no/english, including guided tours of the Jostedal Glacier National Park.
The “Fjord Norway” region has countless fully equipped conference hotels in the peace and tranquillity of the mountains, including the historic Walaker Hotel, which boasts a large capacity and offers excursions around the Lusterfjord and Nerøyfjord. Business-oriented hotels situated just outside major cities include the Solstrand Hotel, outside Bergen, which has offered the Solstrand Courses on Management, Strategy and Organizational Development, offered by the Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration. Other notable locations include the Lysefjord, with the nearby Spahotel Velvære in Hjelmeland and the Hotel Union Øye or Storfjord hotel, both near Ålesund.
|Pulpit Rock, in Ryfylke, is one of Norway’s most spectacular sights with a view of the Lysefjord reward for making it to the top.
© Terje Rakke/Nordic Life/Region Stavanger
Gateway to the Fjords
The chances are, if you have seen any more than a couple of pictures of Norwegian fjords, “Preikestolen” or “Pulpit Rock” is amongst them. Rising a massive 604 metres above Lysefjorden, this popular destination is within easy reach of conference facilities in Ryfylke, Rogaland, in western Norway. One of Scandinavia’s most popular hikes, the tour can be combined with “Kjerag”, a mountain also rising up from the same fjord. The mountain has been made famous by the Kjeragbolt, a 5m³ boulder that hangs precariously in a crevasse some 1,000 metres above the fjord. Those brave enough to walk onto it are presented with surely the most unique photo opportunity that the Norwegian mountains have to offer. The Rogaland region is one of the most populous of the 19 “fylkes” – administrative regions in Norway. Rogaland is Norway’s “petroleum region”, which includes the Norwegian oil capital, Stavanger.
Just slightly larger is Hordaland fylke, with Bergen as its capital. The project MICE Hordaland, which stands for “Meeting, Incentive, Conference, Events” brings together hotels, attractions, activities and transport companies in the region, many of which lie within touching distance of the mountains. MICE Hordaland has gathered together a number of exciting incentive and teambuilding activities including, for example, fly-fishing and salmon angling at Ænes Laksepark (Ænes Salmon Park) and blue ice hiking in Juklavass glacier from Folgefonni Breførarlag AS, which also organizes team activities that could be of interest to business tourists, such as mountain climbing and sailing.
Daily 10 activities, which include glacier guiding between Fonnabu and Holmaskjer, can be completed within budget and with time constraints in mind.
MICE Hordaland can be contacted through their website, www.micehordaland.no.
Conferences with a Difference
Companies or organizations wishing to arrange something truly different need look no further than tour company Maritime Tours AS. The Bergen-based company organizes tailor made corporate events, fjord tours, conferences and fishing trips including the opportunity to hold conferences on the water. Vessels, including the renowned MS Bruvik, are available for conferences with a difference; the high-speed M/V Kommandøren is meanwhile fully equipped with technology and facilities suitable for large conferences, whilst the M/V Tidecruise boasts widescreen facilities and an exceptionally high standard of comfort.
Another option for course and conference organizers looking for something a little unusual is “Miljøsenteret Seletun”, which environmental organization The Green Warriors of Norway describes as “Europe’s most environmentally friendly course and conference hotel”. With modern facilities for up to fifty participants, the centre is specifically aimed at providing environmentally conscious businesses and organizations the opportunity to hold conferences with minimal negative impact on the environment. Guests can expect to be collected in a gas-driven minibus, with baggage transported by horses. Naturally, the centre uses only renewable energy sources, ecological food, fair trade coffee and fully recycles everything on site. The centre is built using materials that can be easily re-used, water is collected from a well, and food waste is laid on a compost heap in the grounds. Team building activities in the beautiful surroundings are plentiful in scope, and guests have the opportunity to end a day’s work with a spot of archery or kayaking. The centre has fishing equipment and copious possibilities for organizers to arrange competitions amongst participants.
Further information about the centre can be found on The Green Warriors of Norway website: www.miljovernforbundet.no (currently only in Norwegian).
Further East – a Range of New Experiences
Visitors to Norway are often astounded by the differences from one side of the country to the other. The mighty fjords and mountains of the west, the vast unspoilt beauty of the north, and the cosy, wooded coastal towns and secluded
beaches of the south provide varied backdrops for meetings and conferences that are as different from each other as they are equal in beauty. Further east, the exciting modern capital, Oslo, dominates the landscape, both geographically and culturally. But businesses and organizations looking for facilities outside the metropolis can rest assured that there is plenty to see and experience for their employees or associates.
The Oslo fjord is an obvious example. Stretching right into the heart of the city, it is also home to many small islands – peace and refuge for Oslo’s citizens and for visitors keen to relax at the end of the day. Norway’s most famous painter, Edvard Munch, also used the fjord as a getaway, and his most famous painting, The Scream, was painted close to his cottage and studio at Åsgårdstrand.
|Europe’s most environmentally-friendly conference centre? The Green Warriors of Norway certainly think so. The Environmental Centre of Seletun is ecologically run, and provides guests with an imaginative range of teambuilding activities and competitions.
© Øyvind Heen - www.fjords.com
With Time to Spare
Those who have the opportunity to stay in Norway over a longer period of time are spoilt for choice when it comes to more time-demanding activities in the mountains. Fjord Tours’ “Norway in a Nutshell®” is a popular and affordable choice for groups. Highlights include Northern Europe’s highest-altitude railway trip, and a visit by boat to the Nærøyfjord, which is not only one of the world’s narrowest fjords, but is also included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Trip organizers could do worse than to factor an extra day into their itineraries; the whole round trip is complete in the course of a day. Tours can also be combined with visits to Sognefjord, Lysefjord, Hardanger or Geiranger, dependent on time limitations.
The website, www.visitnorway.com should be the first stop for more information about tours that could be suitable for business tourists. Other notable options include the scenic cycle ride “Rallarvegen”, which takes cyclists from “the roof of the world” to a fjord beneath and, further north, Hurtigruten (the Norwegian Coastal Voyage), which takes visitors onboard at Trondheim and sails them down the coast as far as Bergen.
To return to the words of the Minister, Dag Terje Andersen, “Norway offers stunning nature and breathtaking sceneries; interesting history and culture; and outdoor activities and challenges for the more adventurous. Those seeking quiet, calm and space will also find their haven in Norway.” There really is something for everyone out in the Norwegian mountains, and those lucky enough to have the chance to visit on business can fully expect an unforgettable experience.
|Raumabanen Railway is one of Norway’s most exciting train rides – starting at Dombås and ending at Åndalsnes, by the Romsdalsfjord.
© Leif Johnny Olestad - www.raumabanen.net