“Snow is more important than oil”

“Developing new oil fields in the north is to walk backwards into the future,” says Kåre Tannvik, Adventure developer with Kirkenes Snowhotel. Winter tourism is one of the fastest growing businesses in northern Norway.
February 01, 2016

Falling oil prices and reduced interest in Arctic offshore petroleum do not trouble the fast growing Norwegian tourism sector.

“We sell snow and the cold,” says Kåre Tannvik, claiming snow to be a more important resource than oil for northern Norway.

Tourism in Norway is growing fast, recently estimated to create values for 70 billion kroner (€10,6 billion). Tourism is nearly as big as Norwegian Sea food business, that last year had a turnover of 73 billion kroner.

“If we are exploiting new fields in the north, that oil will be burned and we can’t meet our Paris pledge on reducing emissions of climate gasses. It will be like walking backwards into the future with the ass first,” says Tannvik.

Central Europe with a tie of snow

He points to continental Europe where snow today is scarce and cross-country skiers are running on a tie of artificial snow. For those watching Tour de Ski on TV recently, the background nature was more green than white. Climate changes is real.  

Northern Norway still has plenty of snow, and snow is becoming more and more “exclusive” in destination marketing.

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Kåre Tannvik claims the oil industry to be of little benefit for locals in the north.

More jobs in tourism than oil

“It provides few jobs, pushes costs upwards and is centralized to only a few locations. Adventure tourism is the opposite; it creates thousands of new jobs, it is decentralized, and all locals up here are born with the knowledge on how to behave in snow.”    

“That knowledge, we call it snowhow, is what we sell, it is what tourists demanding,” Kåre Tannvik says while pointing to the hill above the snowhotel where a group of Chinese visitors are climbing up, each one with a pair of snowshoe. Walking the snow, making camps, watching the northern lights, dog sledding and sleeping in a room of the snowhotel. Snow-tourism is offering experiences visitors hardly forget. 

The silence of the snow-covered mountain plateau rising towards the horizon near the snowhotel is only charmingly interrupted by the sound of the wind. At the peak, the bright sun is just over the horizon after being away for nearly two months of Polar night.

65,000 visitors to northern Norway

This season is the 10th in a row for the Snowhotel. Erected every winter, the business is growing year-by-year. Kåre Tannvik estimates a turnover of 30 million kroner this winter; ten times more than the first season. Some 50 to 60 people get their paychecks from the snowhotel in the high season.

This winter, some 65,000 tourists visit northern Norway. In average they stay three nights and spends between 2000 to 2500 kroner (€213 to €266).

“If Norway has spent only 10 percent of what it pays for exploring oil in the Barents Sea on developing tourism, I am sure we could create 1000 new jobs in the same period of time,” Kåre Tannvik argues and continue:

“That would be jobs for the locals, they already have the competence; they know how to deal with snow, either it is making campfire in the winter or how to dress. People growing up here are the most competent people we can get.”

Winter season lasts until late May

Kirkenes Snowhotel had 1,000 visitors in December. All from Asia. Markets like Taiwan, China, Japan and Indonesia are growing fast. For Kåre Tannvik and his collegaes, the 2016 winter season will also be longer than normal.

“In late April, we will move 160 of our sled dogs to a camp at the Ifjord Mountain. There, the snow season last until late May and we will provide unique winter expedition experiences in cooperation with Hurtigruten,” Kåre Tannvik tells.

Nobody else on mainland Europe can offer dog sledging and white nights at the same time. 

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