Overnight stays in Longyearbyen

The main settlement at Longyearbyen, Svalbard, viewed from up the valley and down toward the sea.
Photo: Stein Ø. Nilsen / Norwegian Polar Institute

The number of overnight stays in public accommodation in Longyearbyen in the course of a year gives an indication of the influx of tourists and other visitors to Longyearbyen and its vicinity. There will also be a link between the number of overnight stays and the scale of sightseeing excursions, organized trips and non-organized outdoor recreation using Longyearbyen as the base.

What is being monitored?

Number of overnight stays

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During the period 1995 to 2018, the number of overnight stays in public accommodation in Longyearbyen has risen clearly during the whole period, except for a slight decrease from 2008 to 2012.

The trend changed and in 2018, there were a new record with 158.248 overnight stays. The biggest increase is in the holiday and outdoor recreation market, which has increased with 120% since 2012.  Overnight stays during courses and conferences have increased sevenfold since 1995, but decreased in 2018. After 2009, the number of stays in connection with business travels decreased till 2017. Number of stays from 2018 shows a strong increase due to construction activity in Longyearbyen.

Status and trend

The statistics for the total number of overnight stays in Longyearbyen in 1995–2016 shows stepwise strong rises from 1995 to 1996, from 1999 to 2001, and a particular strong increase from 2012 to 2018.

In the period 2003-2008, there was an smoothly rise, and a preliminary peak in 2008 presents 92,000 overnight stays. After a decrease the following 4 years, a substantial increase started in 2013. This trend has continued, and in 2018 there were record high 158,248 overnight stays in total.

The largest increase is in the holiday and leisure market, where the number of overnight stays has more than doubled in the past 15 years. In 2018, the number peaked at 107,938. The number of people attending courses and conferences has increased sevenfold since 1995, and this category has shown a smooth rise throughout the period. However, in 2018 the number decreased significantly. Visits connected with work have shown a significantly more gently rising trend, with a peak in 2005. The number of guest days then dropped, but the trend has turned again and in 2018 there was a clear increase.

Causal factors

Many factors will influence the number of guest days in Longyearbyen. The single most important factor is considered the number of flights between the mainland and Longyearbyen. The expansion of accommodation in Longyearbyen also had a great deal to say, but marketing, excursion offers and the economic situation for firms and private customers have also affected the trend.

In 2013, the airliner Norwegian, resumed non-stop flights from Oslo, which have a great deal to say for the number of overnight stays. The financial crisis in Europe in 2008–2009 probably had a significant effect on the holiday and leisure category. This crisis has ended and visitors again spend resources on travels and experiences.

For courses and conferences, there was a marked decline in the number of overnight stays in 2018. The costs of flights and accomodation in Longyearbyen may have contributed to this.

As regards journeys connected with work and business, the financial situation for firms has had some effect, but also the scale of construction and commercial activities in Longyearbyen. Major new developments in the last 15–20 years had some effect since quite a few of the construction workers also stayed at hotels. Work due to landslides and relocation and establishment of new houses have had an impact in recent years.

The number of hotel beds has risen considerably in recent years, due to the opening of several new hotels.

Consequences

The number of overnight stays in Longyearbyen is obviously decisive for the firms offering overnight accommodation, but it also has spin-off benefits for the rest of the business community:

  • shops of all types
  • operators who sell excursions of varying duration
  • museums
  • galleries
  • and so on

Depending on what the overnight guests do, they may have an effect on the natural environment. Everyone who visits Svalbard arrives by plane or ship. More traffic will mean higher discharges of greenhouse gases.

About the monitoring

The number of overnight stays in Longyearbyen gives an indication of the expected effect on the environment and cultural heritage sites in Longyearbyen and its close vicinity, and it is therefore essential to monitor it.

Together with monitoring series on the actual effects of activities, it is possible to establish the causes of human effects on the environment in Longyearbyen and its close vicinity.

Places and areas

Relations to other monitoring

Monitoring programme
International environmental agreements
Voluntary international cooperation
Related monitoring