There’s much more to Norway than salmon, fjords and the Northern Lights, as Torunn Tronsvang, founder of boutique travel agency Up Norway, tells Helen Dalley
What inspired you to establish Up Norway?
I spent several years studying hospitality and working with luxury hotels in Dubai, Bhutan, Thailand and the Maldives for Jumeirah, Anantara and Aman, and discovered many travellers were curious about Norway but knew very little about what our country has to offer. I then worked as a hospitality consultant in Norway for several years and realised our best service providers never reach out with their offerings to international guests. There was a need in the market for an intermediary who could connect travellers with Norway’s best experiences, places and people.
Tell us about the services you offer, and what makes you different from other tour operators?
We have built a digital system that understands what each of our travellers want based on their interests, so that we can match them with a personalised travel experience and itinerary. It’s a two-sided platform – a matchmaking system with a human touch – that connects travellers with these unique experiences and handles the entire customer journey for them.
Norway has thousands of unique experiences on offer, yet what the average international tourist knows about Norway is that we have fjords and Northern lights.
Your dream is to develop sustainable tourism in Norway. Tell us about your eco-friendly approach
We focus on sustainability in three different ways:
developing local communities, and making climate-friendly choices. We believe the value of travel in most circumstances outweighs the footprint one leaves when travelling to Norway, and we help clients make environmentally friendly choices while they are here, from utilising hybrid ships and renting e-cars to exploring by foot or bicycle. This will always be a challenge, and we will continue to strive to find partners to identify with our values. When travellers come all the way from Asia, we want to encourage them to spend more time in fewer locations to get a real feel for the country, rather than just travelling to tick off new destinations.
Tell us about your typical customers and their expectations
Our typical clients are simplicity searchers. They want as much as possible to be done remotely or by third-parties. They want options to be laid out before them in simple, transparent formats. There is a paradox at the heart of this tribe – they may want nothing more than escape, rest and rejuvenation, to forget home life and its worries, but true ease relies on these home comforts. Our clients are mainly from the US, but there are increasing numbers from the Middle East, Singapore, The Philippines and Hong Kong.
What destinations or attractions have clients been most impressed with when using Up Norway?
Guests have singled out experiences including visiting the remote fishing village of Veiholmen on the island of Smøla; a farm-to-table experience with farmer Hans Arild at Grndalen Farm just outside of Oslo; and going surfing at Unstad Arctic Surf in the Lofoten archipelago.
To what extent are travellers eschewing
traditional tour operators and seeking out more authentic experiences from companies such as yours?
We’re experiencing increased interest globally, as technology has enabled us to reach guests in far-away countries. Travellers understand a local company such as us is more likely to know Norway’s secrets and provide the best service while traveling rather than if they book through an agent in their home country.
Norway is already proving itself as a country that takes sustainability seriously, thanks to its progressive environmental policies. What can you learn from other countries embracing sustainable tourism such as Costa Rica’s plans to be carbon neutral by 2021, and Bali’s recent ban on single-use plastic?
Norway is learning every day. An increasing number of companies are banning plastic, and awareness is being raised all over the country causing both companies and private individuals to take measures. With its long coastline, Norway is striving to keep the oceans clean by introducing new electric ships and catamarans, and there’s initiatives like free diving and harvesting food from the sea at Sandøya island in Southern Norway, and tech development within salmon farming.
Tell us about any new experiences you plan to introduce to Up Norway
We are currently talking with our partners to get their take on Norway’s most romantic and luxurious experiences. We are also launching two new journeys in Norway’s Arctic Circle Region, and a new trip centred around the Northern Lights in Alta. upnorway.com