Hvitserk's Sustainable Tourism Initiative

How Hvitserk works to give back: a deep dive into Norway’s Scenic Hikes Initiative

In 2010, walking the meandering, 13km trail up to Trolltunga, was a quiet, serene hike for locals in the area. There were rarely other hikers, the nature was quiet and pristine, and Norwegian hikers could find their isolation in the Norwegian Mountains, as its always been. There was no trash, a sporadically marked trail with small piles of rocks to guide you, and few other hikers.

Flash forward to 2018, where Trolltunga has increased from 800 hikers annually in 2010, to over 100,000. Although this increase can be viewed as an opportunity for economic growth, job production, and tourism for Norway, there are some new issues to be managed that Norway has never seen before.

As a small country of 5 million citizens and extensive nature, Frilutsliv, as its called in Norwegian, 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. With an influx of millions of tourists, increasing each year, the nature Norwegians have enjoyed and taken care of for generations is suddenly being overrun. The impact from high levels of use, from an infrastructure standpoint, environmental standpoint and local impact standpoint, is becoming a serious threat to the Norwegian Frilutsliv, as well as to the nature itself.

Hvitserk of Norway, foreseeing this conflict in 2015, decided to take action. 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, an employee with Hvitserk, founded the idea of Norwegian Scenic Hikes (NSH). Instead of a problem, we see it as an opportunity to help Norwegian nature, local economies and increasing tourism find balance. Hvitserk is now working in collaboration with NSH and local government to create sustainable infrastrucutre 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. Suddenly, the infrastructure is not enough to support the number of visitors each year, its carrying capacity has been maxed out. Due to this problem, and threat to Norway’s pristine nature, Norwegian Scenic Hikes has taken the initiative. Applying to the government for funding, NSH has received 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 the Norwegian Environmental Agency, giving NSH 20 million NOK annually for the last three years.

This financial support is being used to create a sustainable system for the upcoming decades in Norway. Currently, NSH has invested in 20 different mountain areas that meet an established set of 40 criteria. This criteria must be met by the local municipality and businesses in the area, in order to receive funding and help from NSH. In order to manage this high amount of tourism, the area must be willing to work hard towards goals of sustainable growth and devotion to keeping our spaces clean, healthy and safe, summarized in 40 points. This creates a future Visitor Management Plan that will help ensure their foreseeable future. NHS will invest in mountain areas by providing a variety of opportunities, including:

 

-public transport schedules allowing people easy travel to and from high impact 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. 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 changes in hiking culture in Norway can help us keep our nature pristine, safe, and decrease the financial and environmental impact hosting millions of visitors each year can place on small communities. NSH also provides coaching on how to create business opportunities from tourism, to help locals create jobs in the area, so they can continue to live in the remote places they love. Norwegian Scenic Hikes is an essential organization initiative to keep Norway beautiful. Since NSH has invested in Trolltunga, Preikestolen, Kjerag, Reinebringen, and Bessegen, rescue operations have decreased by 87%, saving community resources and lives. Our mountain guards can walk the same trails as tourists, watching to see if they are prepared, and giving warnings 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 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 critical to keeping our nature alive and beautiful for us to enjoy. Join a Hvitserk trip today and learn more about how we fight 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.