'Frozen' fever again going around in Scandinavia

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The wooden Borgund Stave Church in Borgund, Norway.
The wooden Borgund Stave Church in Borgund, Norway. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Vacations By Rail
Felicity Long
Felicity Long

One of my favorite travel stories of the past few years was the frenzied tourism boom in Norway inspired by the mania over Disney's Oscar-winning film "Frozen."

Consider its impact on travel: Tourism to Norway from the U.S. increased 31 percent the first year after the movie's release in 2013, according to VisitNorway and Innovation Norway, and through 2018, the tourism increase from the U.S. attributed to the film rose to 170 percent.

What's especially astonishing is that this is an animated film set in a location called Arendelle that doesn't exist. 

That said, the movie's scenery, much of it breathtaking, was inspired by real locations in Norway, such as Akershus Fortress in Oslo; Stiftsgarden, the royal residence in Trondheim; St. Olaf's Church in Balestrand; Sognefjord; and the Unesco World Heritage Site Bryggen in Bergen.

When the movie first opened, VisitNorway and Disney teamed up on an Adventures by Disney tour that traced some of the locations the filmmakers chose as inspiration, including wooden stave churches, snowy fjords and castles.

Since then, the enthusiasm from travelers -- most of them families -- has shown no signs of melting.

Well, guess what. It's back.

Disney's "Frozen 2" opened on Nov. 22, and once again Norway and other destinations in Scandinavia are poised to reap the rewards.

"At the genesis of creating 'Frozen 2,' our filmmaking team embarked on a research trip to Iceland, Norway and Finland," said producer Peter Del Vecho, adding that location research is "crucial to building fantastical yet relatable and believable worlds."

"Frozen 2" location scouts added new Norwegian destinations to the film, including the Karasjok region, which served as inspiration for an enchanted forest; sailed with Hurtigruten to Tromso and the Lofoten Islands; and collaborated with the region's indigenous Sami people, also known as Laplanders, to learn about reindeer herding and other aspects of their culture.

One company already linking its Scandinavia tour promotions to "Frozen 2" is Vacations By Rail, which is offering several customizable packages -- including Fjords Cruise & Historic Cities of Norway, Arctic Circle Express and Arctic Norway & Midnight Sun on the Lofoten Isles -- that incorporate some of the places that inspired locations in the film.

And Disney Cruise Line, which offers "Frozen"-themed entertainment on many of its sailings, will sail to Norway next summer on several itineraries. Families can also opt for the excursion Sunnmore Village, Norway - A Celebration with Anna, Elsa & Kristoff in Alesund that features not only "Frozen"-inspired scenery, but also interactions with costumed characters.

Bottom line, "Frozen" is back -- although based on the numbers, you could argue that it never really went away.

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