Norway: Hurtigruten in crisis during the corona pandemic

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Corona pandemic strikes hard against tour operators and tourism companies worldwide. Hurtigruten is no exception. Normally, the vessels between Bergen and Kirkenes are fully booked by foreign tourists in May. Now, two vessels run the route from Bodø and Kirkenes, primarily to transport goods. A total of 3,000 employees have been laid off since mid-March.

When the magazine VG travels with MS Richard With, there are a record number of passengers on board after the virus outbreak. That means 50 people on a ship that holds 560. Some days, only four people have eaten dinner in the deserted dining room. On several occasions the boat has been completely empty between two ports.

Last year, Hurtigruten had record revenues of SEK 6 billion, writes the site E24. According to forecasts, 2020 would be even better, but now there have been cancellations for SEK 1 billion until the summer. At the turn of the year, it could be about SEK 5 billion if traffic along the spectacular coast does not start during the summer high season.

Norwegian society is being opened after the corona closure, but Hurtigruten does not put more boats into traffic. The UK-owned shipping company requires the government to announce a large rescue package before such a decision can be made.

– The Hurtigruten is in a dramatic position. There is no travel company in the world that can handle a total downtime for a long, long time. It doesn’t exist, says Hurtigruten’s CEO Daniel Skjeldam to VG.

In order to maintain daily traffic throughout the year for goods and passengers, Hurtigruten receives 800 million in state support from the government. This money will be paid out for 2020 despite the fact that the staff has been laid off and only two vessels are in operation. However, the government has not made any promise of support packages and favorable loans to the company, which in recent years has made a big profit

According to Daniel Skjeldam Hurtigruten has quickly succeeded in reducing costs. Among other things, new engines have been canceled for several of the boats.

– But if you have to withdraw the money you previously saved each month, it will eventually stop. If the travel restrictions are not lifted, if the customers do not come and we do not receive a crisis loan from the state, we will reach a point when it no longer holds, he tells VG.

– If the travel restrictions are not lifted, if the customers do not come and we do not receive a crisis loan from the state, then we have finally done away with all the money.

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