This is a first as we feature a fellow travel agents story of his recent and very interesting journey to Norway.

Please read and enjoy. Note this is part 1 you are not going to want to miss part 2 so be sure to check back in.

Enjoy, John


There are trolls in Norway.

Travels with Trev

As some of you know from FB, I have just returned from a workshop in Norway, which again was brilliant, continued on to Berlin, then meeting my other daughter, Brielle and her partner in Albania. We then travelled on to Montenegro and then back to Holland to see their new house in Utrecht. Maybe the site for another home invasion for a Fam trip party.

Norway

They say in Norway “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing”. They are always outside. No wonder they win so many winter Olympic medals.

During the workshop in Bergen I met with numerous suppliers and agents who specialise in Scandinavia so I thought I would share with you a few notes.

The popularity of Scandinavia has increased substantially over the last two years which I know you are well aware of. This has created some issues which I have listed below.

+ Tour operators who were attending are saying hotels based in the fjords “Don’t give a sh1t”. (Funny as for years the boot has been on the other foot).

+ Tour operators are already taking allotment without costs for 2019 and say the will guesstimate pricing.

+ Warning: The incredibly popular “Norway in a nutshell”, which is just about on every Norwegian itinerary is becoming so crowded, particularly from June to August. Add to that thousands of cruise passengers. The saving grace is that cruise passengers start at sea level and use the “Flam” railway in the opposite direction or at the end of the day.

+ Voss has developed to be the Adventure city of Norway with many activities around the area. It is developing a new railway station (on the present site) and a chair lift that is located right next to the station. I conquered skydiving in a wind tunnel at Vossvind, which was fantastic. https://www.vossvind.no/en/ . I did notice that they increased the wind speed an additional 20kph to 180kph to allow me to defy gravity. Something to do with a lower centre of gravity perhaps??

+ Fleischer’s Hotel, Voss is not so popular at present. + Lofoten Islands are becoming so busy July to August that there can be a lot of self-drive traffic to deal with. Accommodation can also very tight at this time of year.

+ Alta as an alternative is being spoken of highly.

+ Bookings from China are booming, which effects prices

Norway’s Oil Fund

Genius or just common-sense? The purpose of the petroleum fund from the oil-rich North Sea is to invest parts of the large surplus generated by the Norwegian petroleum sector, obtained mainly from taxes of companies but also payment for license to explore as well. So for a country of some five million people, they have a future fund well over A$1 trillion. Yes A$1 trillion. The infrastructure built in Norway from this fund is truly amazing. Surely having a future fund obtained from the resources of a country is just common-sense. Why this has not be done in Australia beggars belief. After all, the minerals in the land girt by sea surely belong to Australians?

Salmon farms

On this trip I had the opportunity of inspecting an open net salmon farm of which there are over 1,000 in Norway. Very sophisticated operation indeed with each enclosure able to hold 200,000 salmon of 5kg each. What was eye-opening is that farmed salmon, meat is naturally gray or would be if salmon farmers didn’t spike their artificial diet with pink-ifying pellets to obtain the distinctive orangey-pink hue of the flesh of wild salmon.

Our inspection was not conducted by an employee of the salmon farm so answers to questions were not the company line. When asked what happens to the excrement of a million salmon the answer was quite blunt. Below the salmon farms dotted across the Norwegian fjords, there’s a layer of waste sometimes 10 meters high, teeming with bacteria, drugs, and pesticides. In short, the entire sea floor has been destroyed, and since the farms are located in open water, the pollution from these farms is in no way contained.

Plus the effect is that escaped fish who have anti-biotics interbreed and change the DNA of the wild fish population.

Electric cars

An environmentally better story. Hydropower is an environmental friendly and renewable energy source. 99% of all power production in Norway comes from hydropower.

Norway will ban the sale of all fossil fuel-based cars by 2025, Norway has been incentivizing the use of vehicles that produce zero emissions since the 1990s; these incentives include tax exemptions such as no value added taxes (VAT) on these cars. The no VAT policy makes conventional automobiles more expensive as compared to EVs and thus more people buy the EVs. The country also has low annual road tax and no import or purchase taxes on these zero emission vehicles. In addition to these tax cuts, EVs also get free parking in city centres, don’t pay road tolls and also get access to bus lanes. All of these incentives combined make owning an EV a lot more beneficial than owning a normal automobile. Some incentives are being wound back as using bus lanes etc are too popular.

There are more Tesla’s on the roads in Norway than any other country. Over one third of cars in Norway are electric. What is hypercritical is that they keep on drilling oil and selling it to fossil fuel hungry countries

Iceland

After a disastrous GFC, Iceland has rebuilt itself particularly in the tourist sector. A devalued currency and the advent of low cost carriers has seen a dramatic turnaround, however that has not come without growing pains.

+ Tour operators I met who also deal with Iceland are having enormous capacity issues and of course rising prices.

+ Self-drive in Iceland has become so popular that at some of the waterfalls in the June to August period you may have to park 1.5km away.

+ Operators are having bookings not being honoured. I have not experienced the problem but I deal with Iceland Travel, who are one of the oldest, biggest and most creditable suppliers.

Scandic Hotels

+ Scandic Hotel have ratified a good deal for Magellan, which I don’t believe anyone else has worldwide. Those who joined me on the Fam trip last year may remember the meeting we had with Richard Stone at WTM. In the current climate Scandic did not have to do anything as they are doing so well. A personal contact makes a huge difference and our common voice at WTM was well received. So thank you all. I will have details shortly.

Airlines

+ SK are starting a new service from OSL to the Faroes. Big deal, what’s all the ‘huffin & puffin’ about? Well we have done three bookings to the Faroes this year. Of particular interest is ‘hiking and puffin’.

+ SQ are flying from May this year 5 days a week SIN – STO.

+ AY have a super competitive business class fare, coupled with great service on their new A350 services out of Asia.

+ Norwegian have 20kgs baggage limit which is a PIA (pain in arse) when it 23kgs on most airlines we use.

Norway summary

Norway is simply stunning, whether it is summer or winter, everything works (famous last words), and the cuisine is now outstanding. They are friendly, proud conservative people but Norway does come at a price. Not all visitors to Scandinavia are happy campers so care is needed in high season. Reach out if you want any assistance planning your trip.

Part two includes:
Berlin, Albania & Montenegro

Check the blog tomorrow!

Cheers!
Trevor

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