Tourists come to Norway for its landscapes and natural phenomena including the midnight sun, the northern lights, snow-covered hills, deep fjords and waterfalls. Tourism is now a significant part of the Norwegian economy. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, tourism contributed 6.2% to Norway’s total GDP and accounted for 8.4% of total employment in 2012. Growth in both domestic and international tourism is expected over the coming five years. Domestic tourist expenditure is expected to reach NOK52.2 billion (US$9.0 billion) by 2017.
Norway is a key destination in the travel itineraries of tourists from neighbouring Sweden, Finland and Denmark, who travel to Norway because of its geographical proximity and similarity in culture. Transport links between the countries are well established and visa procedures are simple. With the start of the issuing of group tourist visas from 2004, the number of Chinese tourists travelling to Norway has also increased significantly. In July 2011 alone, the Norwegian Consulate General in Shanghai issued around 2,000 visas to Chinese tourists.
Outbound tourism is also expected to rise, increasing from 9.3 million outbound departures in 2012 to 12.2 million in 2017. Expansion in air transport capacity to key outbound destinations and Norway’s generally cold climate, which limits its tourist appeal, will support this trend. The aviation market is forecast to grow, supported by rising disposable income, improvements in airport infrastructure, better connectivity to key European destinations, and growth in low-cost airlines. Air passenger volume is expected to reach 41.5 million by the end of 2017.