Hvitserk's Sustainable Tourism Initiative
How Hvitserk works to give back: a deep dive into Norway’s Scenic Hikes Initiative
Hvitserk of Norway does not just want to be a tour operator, we want to take an important role in developing the travel industry in Norway in a sustainable way. We do several things to achieve this, but our work with the National Scenic Hikes has been integral in this over the last few years.
In 2010, walking the 13km trail up to Trolltunga, was something done mostly in solitude with very few other people. Flash forward to 2018, where Trolltunga has increased from 800 hikers annually in 2010, to over 100,000. This increase can be viewed as an opportunity for economic growth, job production, and tourism for Norway.
As a small country of 5 million citizens and extensive nature, Frilutsliv (directly translated to outdoor life), is an essential cultural aspect of Norway’s people. This concept is essentially the Norwegians right and enjoyment in connecting to nature. Children start experiencing the outdoors before they can walk, and as they age, outdoor activities and time in nature is a part of their daily life. With this experience and devotion to natural places, Norwegians tend to have mountain experience, knowledge, and ample room to find solitude in the Norwegian wilderness. In order to keep this ritual alive for Norwegians, as well as share the experience with travelers, National Scenic Hikes initiative was born.
How is Hvitserk of Norway helping?
As the leader in adventure travel in Norway, we are responsible for setting a good example to other guide companies, and take care of the places we depend upon. Trygve, former CEO of Hvitserk of Norway, founded, together with Norwegian Environmental Agency and other local travel industry companies, the idea of National Scenic Hikes (NSH). Instead of a problem, we see the increase in visitors as an opportunity to help Norwegian nature, local economies and increasing tourism find balance. Hvitserk of Norway has been working in collaboration with NSH and local government through our foundation, the Cairn Foundation, to create sustainable infrastructure for Norwegian tourism.
In other countries around the world, National Parks and open spaces receive funding from the government, as well as charging visitors a small fee to use the facilities, for example: roads, bathrooms, parking lots, trash and recycling, among other resources. In Norway, these amenities have been provided by the Norwegian government on a small, manageable scale. Now, for larger populations, NSH has applied to the government for funding, receiving approximately 10 million NOK annually to invest in infrastructure and safety around Norway’s most popular hikes. Not only have they been supported by the government, but also have had this funding matched by private organizations.
How does it work?
This financial support is being used to create a sustainable system for the upcoming decades in Norway. Currently, NSH has invested in around 20 different mountain areas that strive to meet a set of 40 criteria working towards goals of sustainable growth and devotion to keeping our spaces clean, healthy and safe. This creates a future Visitor Management Plan that will help ensure the community’s foreseeable future. NHS will support in mountain areas by providing a variety of opportunities, including:
-public transport schedules allowing people easy travel to and from highly visited areas instead of driving personal vehicles and needing more parking lots, which damage the local ecosystems and the global health of our planet
-bathroom infrastructure in major parking areas
-emergency huts and shelters
-supplies and funding to rescue teams in the local area
-Mountain Guards on highly used trails. Either 24/7 guard placed on high impact areas, or a daily hiker that does a trail sweep in the evenings or in bad weather to make sure people are safe
-trail maintenance and signs
-warnings to help tourists make good decisions in the mountains
-cooperation and workshops with other municipalities to learn from each other
These developments can help us keep our nature pristine, safe, and decrease the financial and environmental impact hosting thousands of visitors each year can place on small communities. NSH provides coaching on how to create business opportunities from tourism, helping locals create jobs in the area, so they can continue to live in the remote places they love. Hvitserk of Norway cares deeply for our environment, and the experience travelers and locals have in the mountains when exploring Norway. By developing and helping manage these areas, the local communities have the opportunity to thrive with incoming tourism, creating more opportunity for local businesses, and more opportunites for travelers. Since NSH has invested in Trolltunga, Preikestolen, Kjerag, Reinebringen, and Bessegen, (and others) rescue operations have decreased significantly, saving community resources and possibly lives. Public transport has been created to move large amounts of people, giving incentives to use public transport instead of driving yourself. Bathrooms and trash cans minimize the impact litter and waste can have on our ecosystems and wildlife. Our preventative “Mountain Guards” can walk the same trails as tourists, watching to see if they are prepared, and giving warnings, help and advice when tourists are exhausted, lost or ill prepared for the Norwegian weather. Just by having these small systems in place, we save lives, help locals and our nature cope with the large scale changes in their towns and livelihoods, and create a future for our nature by keeping it pristine and healthy.
Education on outdoor environments is key to keeping our nature alive and beautiful for us to enjoy. We are responsible to take care of our wild places, to ensure future generations can experience the same beauty and joy nature provides us. Join us exploring Norway, and learn more about how we work to be the leader in the adventure travel industry in Norway, to keep our nature safe and allow people to enjoy the awe-inspiring beauty of Norway.