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Norwegian tourism, then and now


Spectacular nature with high mountains, narrow fjords, skiing and midnight sun attracted the very first tourists to Norway. 100 years later, this is still the case.  "The way we market Norway has not changed a lot in 100 years," says Arthur Tennoe, department head at the National Library, to NRK. 


Tennoe explains that the foundation for Norwegian tourism was made around the turn of the last century, when national romanticism was strong. People's interest for Norway was picking up throughout the last part of the 1800s, and tourists were curious to experience the great nature, salmon fishing and the midnight sun in Norway.

According to some, the Norwegian cuisine was not very impressive at the time. "The food is miserable, and consist mostly of flatbread and porridge," wrote the British minister Frederick Metcalfe after his first trip to Norway in the 1850s. 

However, tourists were as impressed by the nature back then, as they are now. Especially the British were wowed by the hunting and fishing opportunities that Norway could offer. After Norway became indepent from the Swedes in 1905, national romanticism truly blossomed, and meant a lot for the Norwegian confidence and the growing Norwegian tourism industry. 

The very first advertisement for Norway was produced by the Norwegian railway, NSB, and illustrated the midnight sun, Norwegian mountains and a stave church. "The national romantic image of Norway was noticed abroad. The fjord landscape, high mountains, midnight sun, skiing, Nordkapp and the Sami culture all gave Norway its status as an exotic destination," says Tennoe. 

According to Tennoe, nature is still just as important to our national self-image today as it was 100 years ago. "Nature is what we have in Norway, and tourism is a large and important industry in Norway."

Although nature is still Norway's key selling point to foreigners, a lot has a also changed in how Norway is marketed abroad. Whereas the typical tourist used to be a passive observer of nature, today's travelers want experiences that make them connect with nature.