Snow-less Alps driving skiers to Scandinavia, says Norwegian airline boss

By Thomson Reuters Feb 16, 2024 | 4:17 AM

By Gwladys Fouche

OSLO (Reuters) – Lack of snow in the Alps this winter is encouraging tourists to hit the slopes in Scandinavia instead, according to the CEO of budget carrier Norwegian Air.

An unusually mild winter has driven sports aficionados away from the low-altitude stations in Switzerland, Italy and the French Alps. Some of them may be heading north instead.

Norwegian Air, whose key markets are the Nordics, is seeing increased demand from European holiday-makers flying into the region, CEO Geir Karlsen said in an interview on Friday.

“We are definitely seeing an increased demand … from Germany, Holland, from the UK,” he said after presenting forecast-beating fourth-quarter results.

“And then you have the Northern Lights traffic,” he said, referring to tourists heading to Arctic Norway, Sweden and Finland to admire the aurora, which is at its best during the winter polar nights.

Karlsen declined to give specific numbers on how many more tourists had been flying north this winter.

“We have been putting up routes from, let’s say, Copenhagen, to Bergamo in (northern) Italy and the most interesting thing there is that’s more than 70% inbound traffic,” he said.

“So it’s not people starting from Norway going to Italy, but it’s actually Italians … flying from Italy and then down again.”

Looking ahead, for the fourth quarter of 2024, Norwegian Air was planning to increase its capacity – the number of planes it will fly – by 16% year-on-year.

The increased demand from Europeans looking for snow in Scandinavia was partly behind the move, Karlsen said, but also because other markets are performing better in December and January than expected. He did not name them.

Generally, the fourth quarter is usually a slow period for holiday travel in the northern hemisphere but Norwegian last month raised its earnings forecast for 2023 on the back of strong demand in the final two months of the year.

(Reporting by Gwladys Fouche; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)