Spotlight Adventure Champions: Innovation Norway / Visit Norway

7 November 2022

Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) Adventure Champions are the vanguards of the adventure travel industry, having been members of ATTA and leaders in the community for a minimum of 15 years. They are true believers in the power of adventure travel and have made an impact on the direction of ATTA and on the industry as a whole. To honor their commitment to their ethos and lasting contribution to the adventure travel industry, we are spotlighting Adventure Champions through a series of interviews.

Innovation Norway / Visit Norway
Destination Management Company
Headquarters: Norway
ATTA Member since 2007

Introducing Hege Vibeke Barnes, Managing Director North America Innovation Norway
Tell us about your company:

Innovation Norway is the Norwegian government entity for trade and industries. We help Norwegian companies grow and scale their businesses globally through funding, mentorship, advice and joint marketing. Visit Norway is our product name for attracting tourism investments and visitors to Norway.

Why have you stayed an ATTA member for 15+ years?

We joined while I lived in Seattle in 2006. It was such a perfect fit for Norway. Norwegians are very outdoorsy and adventurous. We love exploring and enjoying nature. It is part of our culture, heritage and way of life. We live, work and play close to nature and have a deep ingrained respect for taking care of our natural resources. We also have authentic and exciting products to offer visitors, and our industry actors continuously invest in and enhances new products and experiences that respecting local communities and sustainable business practices.

How has your company/destination changed over the last 15 years?

We have taken our global challenges seriously and have developed a sustainability strategy that sets the direction for the whole travel industry of Norway, all stakeholders from government, corporates, investors and individuals. We have specific and measurable targets that will both reduce our total carbon footprint, as well as increase the value creation for Norway and the travel industry. It is an integrated strategy that requires all industry actors to pull in the same direction, make priorities and choices that might be tough in the short term, but will gain rewards and profitability in the long run. Only through conscious action, integration, and involvement can we achieve our ambitious targets of being a leader in sustainable destination management. We also fully believe in our vision that a good place to live is a good place to visit.

What is the greatest force that drives you to work everyday?

Our mandate. Value creation for Norway. That I can be a part of securing a sustainable and prosperous future for the coming generations. I also love the freedom to operate in a democratic and liberal society, and the opportunity to pay it forward through collaborations with various actors and stakeholders in the global tourism community. Only through sharing, caring, collaboration and real actions can we move forward and achieve much needed progress.

What gives you hope about the next generation of adventure travel leaders?

Their desire to do better, to care about the environment as a given, not a choice. The future generations are already challenging us and that is good. They are advocates for the environment, diversity and equality. They are making us realize that we need to do better, that we need to act and create real change. For me, they are the inspiration to continue to learn, to adapt, and to pilot and pivot new ideas that enhance the output of our industry, as well as create new and innovative ways of delivering real value to our customers.

What is your advice for young adventure travel companies?

Focus on authenticity and customer value. It is still all about the customer but be real about your internal values, your company's vision and beliefs. Transparency can be really good and give you competitive advantages as long as you are true to who you are and why you do what you do (no greenwashing). If you create a company that your employees are proud of, then show it, talk about it and be proud. Enthusiasm and loyalty is contagious and can be a really good marketing tool.

What gets you excited about the future of adventure travel?

That the industry is filled with passionate, caring and innovative people that take the real environmental, social, and cultural challenges we face for real. I also think the industry is agile and forward leaning, giving hope that necessary changes and product developments that create real impact will actually happen. I also wholeheartedly believe that we need nature based experiences to keep us grounded, respectful and at ease/in peace.

What else would you like to say?

I think the adventure community really benefits from having an organization like ATTA. We need to meet, discuss, share challenges and opportunities, and you do that excellently. Focus your actions and activities on what you know creates member value, and keep being an open and inclusive organization.