How 'Frozen' tourism is driving Norway to breaking point

By Lauren McMah

The 2013 hit movie was released with the backing of Norway's tourist board, but the resulting onslaught of holidaymakers has led to a frosty reception from some isolated communities.

The Norwegian city of Bergen was reportedly the inspiration for Anna and Elsa's home kingdom of Arendelle in the movie 'Frozen'. Photo / 123RF
The Norwegian city of Bergen was reportedly the inspiration for Anna and Elsa's home kingdom of Arendelle in the movie 'Frozen'. Photo / 123RF

Many of us can confidently say we've survived the global juggernaut that was the 2013 Disney epic Frozen.

Queen Elsa and Olaf merchandise has been squared away out of sight, that damned theme song is finally out of our heads, and it's been at least a year since we've heard someone say, "I mean, I know it's a kids movie but I actually really enjoyed it."

But while we all relish in having been unshackled from Frozen's steely, all-conquering grip, spare a thought for Norway.

Specifically, Norway's suffering Lofoten Islands.

These remote islands, north of the Arctic Circle, risk being overrun by tourists lured by the dramatic snow-capped scenes that inspired Frozen, as well as a growing list of other Hollywood blockbusters filmed there.

And authorities say the islands are reaching breaking point.

Frozen, set in a fantasy kingdom inspired by Norway, was released in 2013 with the backing of the Norwegian tourist board and provided a huge boost to the country's tourism sector.

After its release, the film was attributed to a massive 20 per cent rise in foreign visitor numbers to the country. Those numbers are continuing to climb, with Norway recording a growth in numbers of 7.5 per cent in 2015.

Last northern summer, more than one million visitors flocked to the Lofoten Islands alone.

The Lofoten archipelago's public facilities are being exhausted, with problems plaguing local waste disposal, public toilets and car parking.

Sunset in Reine, a village on Norway's Lofoten Islands. The remote destination north of the Arctic Circle has been overrun with tourists since 'Frozen' became a global blockbuster. Photo / 123RF
Sunset in Reine, a village on Norway's Lofoten Islands. The remote destination north of the Arctic Circle has been overrun with tourists since 'Frozen' became a global blockbuster. Photo / 123RF

The environment is also taking a hit, with locals concerned about the severe erosion of paths leading to popular spots on the coastline.

Residents on the islands have even dubbed small woodlands near a popular mountain climb "the forest of sh*t" due to the mess left by tourists, The Guardian reported.

Fredrik Sørdal, the mayor of the nearby town of Flakstad, said the growth in tourism was "challenging".

"In Flakstad we have, for example, become extremely unbalanced when it comes to tourism this year, and need to take many measures before next year," he told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

More than a million tourists were expected to flock to Norway between April and September.

"This will mean more traffic," Mr Sørdal said.

"Part of the road network consists of narrow and complex sections.

"I fear that (a) dramatic accident, the accident we do not want to have here, is getting nearer day by day.

"Nature is vulnerable, and requires that we be much better prepared."

'Frozen' fever swept the world after the movie was released three years ago. File photo / Herald on Sunday
'Frozen' fever swept the world after the movie was released three years ago. File photo / Herald on Sunday

Hollywood star Matt Damon is currently causing a buzz on the Lofoten Islands as he shoots scenes for the upcoming science fiction comedy Downsizing.

The chief executive of the Lofoten Explorer luxury cruise ship suggested the islands' new-found fame was a double-edged sword.

"It may be too much of a good thing if even more tourists come here thanks to the film (Downsizing)," Gunnar Skjeseth told NRK.

"We in the tour business have more than enough to do already, all year round. It is debatable whether we need more tourists."

Norway has become a popular destination for Frozen fans keen to check out the dramatic, snow-capped peaks, spectacular fjords and glacier lakes that inspired the setting for the Oscar-winning animated film.

The storybook city of Bergen was reportedly the inspiration for Anna and Elsa's home kingdom of Arendelle.

Cruises are a popular way for tourists to see Norway's snow-capped peaks and spectacular fjords. Photo / 123RF
Cruises are a popular way for tourists to see Norway's snow-capped peaks and spectacular fjords. Photo / 123RF

After the film's release Disney launched adventure tours through Norway, including visits to Bergen and treks through fjord country, which remain popular.

It's a phenomenon similar to what's been dubbed the "Game of Thrones effect", which has seen visitor numbers skyrocket at filming locations used by the HBO series.

Game of Thrones has been cited as a key factor behind a surge in tourism in Norway's Nordic neighbour, Iceland, which saw the number of holiday-makers rise from 566,000 in 2011 - the year the series premiered - to more than one million in 2015.

The small Spanish city of Osuna, where scenes set in Meereen were shot, is experiencing a similar surge in popularity.

- news.com.au

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf02 at 10 Dec 2016 11:43:32 Processing Time: 842ms