Norway’s natural beauty can be experienced from the sea. Among the top ten countries to travel to in 2022, Norway has the second-longest coastline in the world. This means a lot of destinations to experience, like the majestic fjords, wildlife, beautiful cities, and the midnight sun.

Four million travellers were expected to visit Norway in 2022, and this is expected to grow in the coming years. The most popular season to visit is in the summer, from June to August, but there is growth in what has traditionally been the off-season.

During the cold winter months, there has been an increase in visits to Northern Norway to destinations like Nordkapp, Tromsø and Alta. The growing interest in the wild north, with its Aurora Borealis and rough nature, are the main attractions for tourists.

The most visited cruise destinations are Bergen, Geiranger, Flåm, Stavanger, and Ålesund, though other destinations are increasing in popularity. In 2019, Cruise Critic named the best travel destinations in Scandinavia and the Baltics, with Norway taking the top four: Flåm, Eidsfjord, Oslo, and Geiranger.

There has been a steady growth of cruise tourism in Norway, with 2000 cruises along the coast in 2019. Where the cruises go and how long they stay varies. Innovation Norway estimated that around 3.6-million-day visits were made in 2019 for a few hours, a full day, or an overnight stay.

Cruise tourism brings economic growth to cities and towns along the coastline, with an estimated 1.8 billion NOK spent in 2019 on activities on land, shopping, food and drinks, accommodation, ship maintenance and local transportation, contributing to local jobs and economic growth.

There is a growing focus on sustainability. Reducing emissions, protecting marine wildlife, and preserving coastal nature are issues important to the Norwegian public. In 2018 The International Maritime Organization (IMO) set a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships, and from 1 January 2023, there will be an index (EEXI) that measures ships' energy efficiency and carbon intensity, with goals to reduce emissions by 40% by 2030, and 50% by 2050.

Norway has been at the forefront of reducing its emissions, and the goal is to have net zero emissions by 2050, and all ships entering the coast will need zero-emission technology. CLIA cruise line members are working to contribute to this, using the most modern technologies available in new ships and upgrading the existing fleet.

Another important step towards net zero is to increase investments in infrastructure, with better access to shoreside electricity and alternative fuels. Cities like Bergen, Kristiansand, and Ålesund already provide access to shoreside electricity to one or more docked ships.

Cruise lines and organizations engage in a productive dialogue with Norwegian authorities as collaboration will be key to achieving the ambitious goals set by industry and government.

“Cruise tourism must be developed as an integral part of the tourism industry in a sustainable way”

This is the title of a report submitted by CLIA, Cruise Norway and European Cruise Services to the “Destination Committee” (Reisemålsutvalget). The report sets out how cruise tourism can develop in Norway as an integral part of a sustainable tourism industry and offers a series of recommendations to facilitate the development of sustainable cruise tourism that contributes to local value creation.

The report also looks in more detail at the cruise industry value chain in Norway.

As well as its direct economic impact, cruise tourism is an important and, even in some cases a decisive factor for major investments in the land-based tourism sector. A high proportion of cruise tourists go on excursions to local and regional sights when the ships are in port.

In many cases, the predictability of this demand is the reason why large tourism-oriented investments – such as experience centres, museums, and cable cars, occur near popular cruises ports.

This may be illustrated by the recent investment in the Fløibanen funicular (approx. NOK 250 million). The wonderful Fløibane and upgraded Ulriksbane make Bergen an attractive destination for many types of visitors in addition to the cruise tourists, including those who need to stay at hotels and dine at the restaurants. Consequently, the entire tourism industry in Bergen benefits from this investment, which can be largely attributed to the stable visitor volume from visiting cruises.

The report offers numerous similar examples, including the recent investments in cable cars in Loen, Voss and Åndalsnes, as well as the experience centre, Sagastad Viking Centre, in Nordfjordeid. The investment in the cable car up to Fløya in Tromsø is a similar example. These investments create significant extended economic effects in the form of increased value creation and employment locally and nationally, during the construction period.

The cruise industry value chain in Norway

Cruise ships/cruise lines, shipping services (ports/agents), organized tours and transport, attractions and activities, dining services and retail trade

The cruise industry’s value chain is divided into two parts, whereby the green parts represent the demand aimed at the land-based tourism industry. The main demand from visiting cruise tourists is for experiences and transport services. These are developed and provided by national and local tour operators. Between 40-70% of the cruise passengers make use of such offers. In addition, cruise tourists visit souvenir shops and other retailers as well as cafés and restaurants, etc.

Numerous studies have mapped the expenditure of visiting cruise tourists in Norway. These estimates vary between around NOK 500 and NOK 1,000 per day for cruise passengers (See Innovasjon Norge og Epinion (2019), «Cruiseturismen i Norge i 2019», TØI (2019), «Cruiseturisters forbruk i Norge» and Menon (2018), «Cruiseturismens økonomiske betydning i Bergen).

A common finding is that the level of expenditure varies significantly between various ports. Naturally, the significance of visiting cruise tourists varies enormously between cities and villages along the coast. In cities such as Oslo, Bergen and Stavanger, which all receive a significant volume of cruise tourists, that are few businesses that have cruise tourists as their dominant customer group. However, the opposite is the case in villages such as Geiranger, Hellesylt, Flåm and Eidfjord, where tourism is key and cruise tourists represent by far the largest customer group.