Innovation Norway has introduced a “Safety First” educational film pilot project carefully woven into Norway’s digital marketing strategies to help the country cope with an influx of visitors to natural attractions, especially at wildly popular spots such as Trolltunga. It’s in these same areas where an increasing number of rescue incidents involving inadequately prepared travelers hiking in the rough terrain of Norway’s mountains have occurred. The Norwegian Centres of Expertise (NCE) Tourism Fjord Norway assisted with advice about the development, production, and delivery of the films.
Despite Norway’s investments and commitment to improve and advance trail signage and maintenance, challenges persist in helping visitors have a safe experience. The first video in a series of eight proposed films, which will have captions in various languages, informs tourists ahead of their visit about what to expect in the mountains, and how to properly prepare for a safe hike. The videos are published on the Visit Norway sites and delivered to travelers through their email and social media campaigns.
Innovation Norway’s first of eight videos focuses on hiking safely in the country.
An interview with Innovation Norway’s Haaken Christensen, senior advisor adventure tourism, reveals more about the project:
ATTA: What prompted Visit Norway to produce this film?
Christensen: Norway has seen a great increase in the number of travelers who come to experience the natural attractions like Trolltunga (the Troll’s Tongue), Preikestolen (the Pulpit Rock), and other mountain attractions. In fact, the “selfie” trend has contributed to a major volume increase to these attractions. Trolltunga saw approximately 900 hikers in 2009, and in 2016 there were approximately 90,000 travelers hiking the 24-kilometer trail. This is, of course, a great opportunity for Norwegian tourism, but it is also a big challenge.
Too many of these travelers are not used to hiking in rough terrain and in a climate where the weather situation can change quickly from sunny and warm to snow in a few hours. Too many are not dressed accordingly for the mountain climate. They wear shoes that are not appropriate for hiking, and they don’t know that it is essential to bring extra clothes and enough food and water, and to follow the marked trails.
As a result, the local volunteer rescue teams are really busy. In 2016, 42 rescue operations were conducted only on Trolltunga. This year, it has been even busier. The Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Fisheries has given Innovation Norway the responsibility for the development and maintenance of the official travel guide to Norway. The vision of VisitNorway.com is to make it easy to choose Norway as a travel destination. Therefore, it is also important for us to inform tourists on what to expect when they come here to hike the famous attractions. We want everyone to have a safe experience in Norway and hope these films can help keep the volunteer rescue teams more or less unemployed.
ATTA: Was there some debate about whether to create a film that focuses on safety? For example, were there concerns about showing Norway as being too challenging for many people? Please elaborate on what primary discussion points/concerns were addressed leading up to the the production of this film.
Christensen: We did have some discussions about what the best way to communicate this topic to the travelers coming here would be. We have, prior to this project, tried brochures. Last year we did a campaign looking at the selfie trend in a humoristic way (#BeSafie), and we have tried other ways of communicating.
We consider short films to be the easiest way to communicate this important information. It is easy to share in social media, and it is easy to find the essentials on VisitNorway.com. The films can be projected in buses, trains, and ferries on different screens, and the content can be translated into other languages.
We are not scared of showing Norway as being too challenging. We think it’s better to show the real facts about hiking in the mountains. We think that if travelers are better prepared, they will all have a better chance of a good experience. We also lift up the importance of hiring a guide if you’re uncertain of your abilities of taking a hike on your own. A good guide can turn a bad day into a fantastic experience.
ATTA: Did you build this film off a model or production that was previously done either inside or outside of Norway, or was this originally and entirely conceived in Norway?
Christensen: This project is an idea that we have had for a while. We have done our research, and we know other countries have tried communicating safety issues in different ways, but we thought, based on our experience with former projects, that detailed films with the essential information communicated with a smile would be the best. But there’s always the issue of whether the travelers do what we tell them; we know that many travelers see the information, read it, and say they understand, but they still do the hike in bad weather, underdressed, and unprepared.
ATTA: Will there be other films like this one about safety in regard to other adventure activities?
Christensen: Our first video is about hiking in the mountains in Norway in summer. The concept is transferrable to other activities, like deep sea fishing, off-piste skiing, and paddling, which are all activities where we see travelers taking greater risks. We will keep producing content for both hiking and other activities because this is of great importance for Norway and for the safety of our visiting tourists.
ATTA: Are there plans to have captions in other languages to help support your major source markets for travelers?
Christensen: All eight films will have captions in Mandarin, Russian, German, French, Spanish, Italian, and English. This is being translated and implemented as we speak. There’s a button in Vimeo and YouTube where you can choose captions, and it will all be available there.
ATTA: What are Visit Norway’s next steps on the safety and risk management front?
Christensen: This is an ongoing project that will be of great importance for a long time, so content will be created continuously. In addition, we are working closely with the Norwegian Environment Agency on the new national project National Trails, which will look at developing better infrastructure (e.g., rescue cabins, toilets, waste handling, etc.) on the most visited natural attractions. This work has just started.
The connection between nature management and visitor management is highly relevant, and we collaborate with other tourism, rescue, and governmental organizations on this matter.
ATTA: Who is responsible for the associated costs in situations related to rescues and accidents? And, has it and/or will it change in the coming year(s)?
Christensen: Rescue operations in Norway are the government’s responsibility, but very often volunteer organisations like the Red Cross and Norwegian People’s Aid are on site doing the actual rescue operations. People being rescued are not charged for the costs, as long as they have not acted in an obviously hazardous manner. There is an ongoing discussion about this matter, but I don’t think we will see a change in this in the near future.