Translated version of Svalbardposten's post about corona virus affecting the tourism industry
The business sector of Svalbard is being affected by the coronavirus. With the risk of infection and with quarantine measures, there is a danger that people will travel less. This is why Longyearbyen’s second largest tourism company, Svalbard Adventures, has notified employees of possible layoffs.
So far, the company has not noticed major changes in tourist travel, and says it is a little early to know for sure if there will be fewer visitors to Svalbard. John-Einar Lockert said, “It is a little early to know completely, but we have started notifying employees of the possibility of layoffs.
The entire company has received the same notice, but it is most likely those people working in accommodation, dining, and hiking activities will be the first to feel the effects. So far, the sales, administration, and shipping department have not been affected by any reduced activity.
Visit Svalbard has announced a meeting for the city’s key stakeholders in the tourism industry. There will be a meeting about the coronavirus situation at 3:00 pm today, Tuesday. Ronny Strømmes, Director and General Manager of Visit Svalbard says that the emergency council has meetings every time a new threat emerges.
So far, Svalbard Airport has not had to cancel flights due to the coronavirus. But they are prepared for it to happen. Routines have been established for what to do if a supposedly infected plane lands on Svalbard. At the same time, new routines have been introduced among airport employees.
Airport Manager Carl Einar Lanssen says, “We must operate the airport for as long as possible. We have introduced routines for hand hygiene among our employees. In addition, everyone in a guard position should make sure the equipment that they are in contact with is disinfected when the guard shift changes.”
What’s going on with the flow of tourists to Svalbard is so uncertain that smaller companies have begun to get a little worried. Svalbard Wildlife Expeditions has put a stop to all purchases in case they have many cancellations in the upcoming months.
Svalbard Wildlife CEO Gulla Johnsen says, “We have received some cancellations, but it is difficult to say whether these are due to coronavirus, or whether these are normal cancellations. It is uncertain if people will show up or not, and we do not know enough about what will happen in the future."
She admits that the coronavirus eruption coming as the peak season begins is bad timing. For several smaller companies the high season revenue of March and April is something they depend upon to support their economy for the rest of the year.
- Translated by Svalbard Guide Association