Norwegian hotels ended up recording a disappointing summer season this year, and those tourists who did come filed a record number of complaints. The country’s famed scenery doesn’t always make up for poor service or high prices.
It had seemed like the summer was off to a good start, following high occupancy rates in June. But when business travellers disappeared during the holiday season, they weren’t always replaced by tourists on pleasure trips.
The strong Norwegian currency made Norway even more expensive than normal through most of the season. It can be a shock for American visitors to enter an Oslo restaurant and not find a single bottle of wine under USD 70.
With the kroner trading as high as just NOK 5 to the dollar, that also made hotel rates relatively high. When even modest three-star hotels charge the equivalent of USD 200 per night or more for a double room, foreign tourists’ expectations rise accordingly. Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv reported this week that many were disappointed enough that they wrote letters of complaint.
Per-Arne Tuftin of Innovasjon Norge, which has tried for years to boost the numbers of foreign tourists traveling to Norway, conceded that the number of satisfied guests sank this year. “We have received more letters and e-mails than in previous years from tourists who aren’t satisfied,” he told Dagens Næringsliv. Their complaints, he said, stemmed mostly from the quality of their accommodation, or lack thereof.
While many Norwegian hotels now have better standards than in earlier years, “there are some that haven’t followed along,” Tuftin noted. “The gap between the good and the less-good has widened, but not the price gap.”
His organization also monitors blogs and other online rating services, where he’s read messages from unhappy guests like “The pictures that the hotel presents on their web site are a far cry from reality,” while others complain that it costs so much to eat and drink in Norway that it’s the best place in the world to go on a diet.
Tuftin says Innovation Norge forwards such complaints to the respective properties. “Competition for tourists is tough, and it’s very important that we deliver a standard in relation to what tourists expect,” he said.