Frozen: Norway's gift that keeps on giving

By By Felicity Long
InsightIn January, I wrote about Disney’s partnership with VisitNorway to promote the megahit animated film Frozen.

That partnership expired as of May 31, so it seemed time to take stock of its impact on Norway tourism. The results may have other European tourist offices jumping up and down to attract Disney’s attention for possible projects.

By January, Frozen, which was released in November 2013, had racked up $300 million in North America alone. Anticipating a spike in Norway interest among family travelers after seeing the movie, Disney and VisitNorway promoted a seven-night Adventures By Disney tour of Norway designed to play off of the film’s scenery.FelicityLong

To be clear, the Kingdom of Arendelle depicted in the movie is imaginary, but the filmmakers scoured the destination for cinematic details like stave churches and castles that brought the setting to life.

VisitNorway was already seeing an uptick in travel to Norway from the U.S. as early as January, but since then the returns have become quantifiable.

From January to March, travel to Norway spiked 37% compared to the same time last year, according to Harald Hansen of Innovation Norway. Norwegian, Europe’s third largest low-cost carrier, saw a more than 50% boost in traffic from the U.S. to Oslo in March 2014, compared to the same period of 2013, although the carrier’s increased presence in the U.S. is another factor for those strong numbers.

Despite this early optimism, however, VisitNorway said the real test would be the strength of summer bookings. So far, the news is all good.

Tour operators are reporting increases in sales to Norway for the summer of between 20 to 40% over last year, and Virtuoso has seen a 65% increase in sales to Norway for the season, according to Hansen.

In addition, Flight Tracker is reporting that the number of people searching for flights to Norway leapt by a whopping 154% since the film’s premier.

And while the bulk of interest is to the fjord region, Oslo is also increasingly on the radar of American families – so much so that the VisitNorway site is currently promoting a contest for a family vacation to Oslo.

How long until Frozen's impact melts?

Long term, these strong tourism numbers could mean a shift beyond the usual American visitor to Norway – traditionally ski and outdoor buffs – to families, especially, those with young children who may grow into future repeat visitors.

And the film’s popularity isn’t likely to wane any time soon. In March, it became the biggest grossing animated movie of all time, raking in more than $1 billion at the box office for Disney.

So yes, the marketing partnership between Disney and VisitNorway may have expired, but with the DVD release March 18, stage and ice shows in the works and rumors of a possible film sequel, Frozen is Norway's gift that keeps on giving. 
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