Oslo, Norway doesn’t have the Mona Lisa nor does it have a world-renowned art museum on par with Paris’ Louvre.
But it also doesn’t have crowds and long wait times at attractions, according to Visit Oslo, the city’s tourism board, and does have attractions, arts, culture and dining on par with any vibrant European capital. And to prove that, as part of a new marketing campaign, it is “rescuing” weary travelers from overcrowded European cities and flying them to Oslo to show them why the city is a great alternative destination.
Oslo city officials want to prevent becoming another Venice or Barcelona, for example, and recently talked to Barcelona city and tourism officials to learn from a city that’s experiencing overtourism.
“I believe that there’s a high focus on managing visitor growth by the Oslo county government,” said Christian Lunde, CEO of Visit Oslo. “We don’t want to be a crowded destination. Our government and local communities don’t want us to get in that situation. We’re a compact city with only 670,000 inhabitants but our attractions are quite spread out.”
Lunde said he’s still waiting to hear what Oslo and Barcelona officials discussed to take those learnings back to his organization. But compared with many cities, Oslo is taking a progressive approach by being proactive in preventing overtourism.
Oslo and the rest of Northern Europe, however, have become more popular in recent years. Last year, Norway had 33.1 million domestic and international overnight stays, a five percent increase over 2015. United Nations World Tourism Organization data show international arrivals for Northern Europe grew eight percent year-over-year for the first six months of 2017, the highest growth rate for any European region and one of the highest in the world.
Oslo has only 12,500 hotel beds, said Lunde, compared to London, for instance, which has more than 160,000. “If you go into a big city it’s about the high and low season but we’re trying to make it about medium season all year and do whatever we can to not get in that people pollution problem,” said Lunde. “We have a city where you can visit 12 months a year whether it’s seeing the Northern Lights in the winter or relaxing on the water with a cold beer in the summer.”
Great Escape to Oslo
Visit Oslo chose Sam and Marela Glavas from New Zealand as the first duo for a trip to Oslo. During a trip to Paris last month, the pair posted an Instagram photo with a caption that expressed their frustration with not being able to get a good view of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre because of the crowds. The tourism board reached out to the couple on Instagram and booked them a 48-hour getaway to Oslo with a return to Paris for their onward journey.
Visit Oslo is searching for travelers for its “Great Escape” campaign on social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter, said Lunde, and its first video for the campaign, which features Sam and Marela (watch below) launched this week across the tourism board’s digital channels.
While in Oslo, Sam and Marela went paddle-boarding, explored a park, checked out an art museum, and sampled food markets, restaurants and bars.
“With quite a small budget, we were thinking how can we reach out to people to market ourselves as an alternative destination and have a good digital footprint?” said Lunde. “We believe this will be good shareable content.”
Visit Oslo is trying to find people interested in art, culture and food who haven’t been to Oslo to feature in the campaign.
“We’re monitoring these platforms manually so it’s a lot of work and it took us almost two weeks to find a couple in Paris where we know there are many crowds,” he said. “We’re searching on social media for people expressing people pollution in a certain way. “We’re trying to catch people on the move who are already in a European city and have the ability to take a 48-hour trip to Oslo. We also hope a trip will make them want to come back to our city.”
The video has already received a lot of engagement from Visit Oslo’s domestic Norwegian market and has also garnered interest from as far as Japan, Lunde said.
“We’re showing that we are a digital city and reach out to people who are interested in visiting us, not just a billboard in the train station of people who we don’t actually know who we’re reaching,” he said.
Lunde said the destination has seen huge interest from Asia due to Northern Lights tourism. U.S. arrivals, which he credits in part because of the growth of Norwegian Air and SAS on U.S. routes, are up 20 percent in Oslo this summer from last year. Oslo’s largest international markets are Germany, Sweden, Spain and the UK.
Watch Visit Oslo’s “Kiwis get rescued from vacayfail” video below.