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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The statistics for overnight stays in Longyearbyen during the period 1995-2018 show a marked increase throughout virtually the entire period, with the exception of the period 2008-2012. Since then, there has been a significant increase every year.

The number of overnight stays reached a record 166,801 guest days in 2019. The largest increase is linked to the holiday and leisure market. The number of overnight stays in this segment more than trebled from 2005 to 2019.  The number of people attending courses/conferences rose steadily from 2005 through to 2018, but fell by two thirds in 2019 compared with the previous year. Since 2005, the number of overnight stays linked to business trips has fallen steadily, with the exception of 2018, which saw extensive construction work in Longyearbyen.

Status and trend

The statistics for the total number of overnight stays in Longyearbyen in 1995–2019 shows stepwise strong rises during the periodes from 1995 to 1997, from 1999 to 2001, and from 2012 to 2017.

In the period 2003-2008, there was a 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 2019 there were record high 166,801 overnight stays in total.

The largest increase in numbers is linked to the holiday and leisure market. In this segment, the number of overnight stays has more than doubled during the past six years, from 65,358 in 2013 to 147,332 in 2019. The number of people attending courses/conferences increased seven-fold through to 2018 compared with 1995. However, this number fell by 65% from 2018 to 2019. As regards business trips, there was a markedly weaker increase through to a peak in 2005. Since then, the number of guest days has declined, but the trend has once again reversed and 2018 saw a marked increase. However, the increase did not last, dropping by more than 50% in 2019.

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. The efforts of the tourism industry in Svalbard to promote the Polar night have borne fruit in the form of more guests and a higher occupancy rate at this time of year.

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
  • transport industry
  • hospitality industry
  • 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