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Friday, 02 May 2014 12:37

Scandinavia

Written by  Barbara Radcliffe and Stillman Rogers

Europe-ScandYour clients already have images of Scandinavia: fjords, Vikings, reindeer, colorful fishing villages, northern lights, maybe a stave church. This much they know, but you can introduce them to Scandinavia in 2014, and to a few things they may not
be expecting.

Scandinavia is a hands-on place, filled with active people, and travel there is all about experiences. More than half the residents of Copenhagen, for example, bike to work. So you’ll have no trouble arranging for clients to rent bikes, skis, kayaks, even a yacht. Visit Norway (www.visitnorway.com) will help you arrange for them to canoe mountain waters, hike by midnight sun, climb a mountain, go whitewater rafting, go off-piste skiing or mountain biking, take a snowmobile safari or dogsled across frozen tundra. In the forests of eastern Finland, wildlife enthusiasts can meet and photograph bears in the wild (www.wildtaiga.fi). Visit Denmark (www.visitdenmark.com/en-us/itineraries) has a set of pre-planned itineraries especially designed to inspire travel agents, with themes covering every interest, including culinary, design, Viking heritage, island hopping, cycling, castles and Christmas.

Speaking of Christmas, don’t forget that Scandinavia has some of Europe’s best Christmas markets. Finland has a special relationship with Christmas, with Santa himself living at the Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi, where your clients and their children can visit him (www.santaclausvillage.info).

What’s New
The Swedish band ABBA now has a state-of-the-art interactive Stockholm museum, where fans can sing and dance with ABBA holograms and record a song (www.abbathemuseum.com). Spritmuseum features alcoholic drinks, and along with exhibits and a tasting room, includes the Absolut Art Collection of works by modern greats, including Andy Warhol (www.spritmuseum.se). Also in Stockholm, the new Fotografiska showcases the best international contemporary photography (http://en.fotografiska.eu).

Following close on Oslo’s recent opening of Renzo Piano-designed Astrup Fearnley Museum and the new harbor art district is Ekebergparken Sculpture Park, an outdoor collection with 30 works already in place. The artistic spectrum ranges from classical masters such as Rodin to Salvador Dali’s surrealism, to modern and contemporary styles (www.ekebergparken.com/en). Den Blå Planet is Denmark’s new national aquarium, with striking architecture that allows 360-degree viewing, and a new Maritime Museum has opened in Elsinore, next to Hamlet’s Castle. Clients visiting Helsinki can get a whole new view of the harbor from the giant Ferris wheel in Market Square.

See it by Sea
Along with what’s new, your clients will want to savor the favorite icons; none says Scandinavia like Norway’s historic Hurtigruten (www.hurtigruten.us), the ships that for 120 years have popped in and out of 34 towns along the fjord-cut coast each day. Part cruise, part scenic spectacular, part cultural immersion and all great fun, this journey is on every traveler’s bucket list. Each season brings different views and experiences, from summer’s midnight sun to winter’s northern lights.

You’ll find a lot more boat experiences for your clients. Regular ferries shuttle from Oslo’s harbor across to the museums of Bygdøy and from Helsinki’s dock to the historic island fortress of Suomenlinna; boats weave among the islands of Stockholm’s archipelago, and a century-old ship carries passengers along the Gota Canal between Stockholm and Goteborg. This is Sweden’s second city, on the west coast, a center for water play from crayfish or mussel gathering cruises to week-long kayak trips in the archipelago. Clients can even stay at a floating hotel, Salt & Sill, on the small island of Klädesholmen (www.taberhols.co.uk), or relax after a shrimp safari in Gullmarsfjorden fjord, at the Vann Spa and Hotel (www.vann.se).

Hotel News
In Copenhagen it’s the reopening of grand dame D’Angleterre Hotel after the most ambitious hotel restoration in Danish history upgraded rooms and added a luxury spa and Balthazar champagne bar (www.dangleterre.com). The 5-star Kokkedal Castle Copenhagen has opened north of the city, a stately manor house transformed into a contemporary hotel with a restaurant, spa and meeting rooms. The castle experience is retained, with formal invitations instead of booking confirmations, and hosts replacing a reception desk (www.kokkedalslotcopenhagen.dk). Hotel SP34 opened this April, targeting “luxury Bohemian” business and leisure travelers with 118 rooms and a conference center (www.brochner-hotels.dk/our-hotels/sp34).

Oslo’s THE THIEF wows with a swanky new spa experience that targets men as well as women. The city’s largest spa, it features a pool, sauna, steam room, Oslo’s first hamam and a full gym (www.designhotels.com/hotels/norway/oslo/the-thief). THE address in Oslo, though, is Europe’s winner of this year’s World Luxury Hotel Awards, the elegant Grand Hotel, known for its opulent suites, the open-faced sandwiches served in The Grand Café and the Royal Guard parading past its door each day. Your female clients will especially like the dedicated Ladies Floor, Europe’s first (http://grand.no/en). On Norway’s west coast, Rica opens a new hotel this spring in the center of Bergen, the city’s largest with 370 rooms and modern conference facilities (www.rica.no/bergen).

Finland’s first hotel under InterContinental ‘s Indigo brand will open in Helsinki in 2015, and the city’s only Design Hotel, Klaus K expands this spring with 30 additional skyloft rooms. Design Hotels has announced the rebirth of one of Stockholm’s finest Art Nouveau buildings as the stylish boutique hotel, Miss Clara (www.designhotels.com). Gothenburg will soon have Europe’s largest fully-integrated hotel, exhibition and conference facility, with the new tower added to the Hotel Gothia Towers. After completion the end of 2014, the three towers will have 1,200 rooms (www.gothiatowers.com). And, of course, new each winter is Sweden’s ICEHOTEL, 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle and built entirely of crystal-clear ice (www.icehotel.com).

Agent Support
Planning your clients travels couldn’t be easier, with the Scandinavian Tourist Board’s recently launched e-learning Scandinavia specialist program (www.scandinaviaspecialist.com), and with operators specializing in the region:

Scandia World Travel (www.scandiaworldtravel.com): Fully escorted tours and independent packages include Four Capitals, Norway’s Southern Coast and Hardanger Fjord, and Lofoten Islands/North Cape.

Scandinavian American World Tours (www.scandinaviantravel.com): Fully escorted Grand Tour includes the capitals, Bergen and the fjords, or Night in an Igloo under Northern Lights in Finland, with lodging in  a glass igloo with a panoramic sky view.

Borton Overseas (www.bortonoverseas.com): Guided and independent excursions and active adventures include Island Hopping by Bike in Finland.

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