Norway’s more civilised side

Europe Features
Norway’s more civilised side

Norway’s more civilised side there’s more to Trondheim than vikings and fjords. CMW explores one of Norway’s meetings industry hotspots.

In the past two years, Norway has become 35% cheaper for organisers looking to host meetings and conferences. According to national convention bureau Visit Norway the oil crisis has had a significant impact on the value of the Norwegian krone. Cost has, for some, time been seen as a disincentive for conducting business in Norway, but while less well-heeled clients in Southern Europe are unlikely to be filling the country’s auditoriums for the foreseeable future, it’s now a prudent choice for PCOs and associations from locations with more buoyant economies.

Norway is already well positioned within the 20 most popular incentive destinations in the world, thanks to a high standard of venues and bucket-list incentive locations that include natural wonders from the north to the south, be it stunning fjords or mystic northern lights. However, it is unfair to limit Norway’s appeal as purely that of natural wonder.

Its industry and defining markets offer a great deal of opportunity to organisers. One such location you may not have encountered is the northern regional capital Trondheim. The city is home to the 2014 Laureates of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, May-Britt Moser and Edvard I. Moser, who shared the prize with John O’Keefe for their work in discovering a positioning system, an ‘inner GPS’ in the brain that makes it possible to orient ourselves in space, demonstrating a cellular basis for higher cognitive function. And if that orientation finds you in Trondheim, home to the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. where both May-Britt and Edvard are based, then you should be particularly thankful.

The city, Norway’s third-largest and the oldest, sits in the relatively small Trøndelag region and comprises many tourism elements including the Nidaros Cathedral, the country’s oldest and largest religious building; salmon rivers; the Rockheim Museum and the famous Atlantic Road. Nidaros Cathedral is the alleged resting ground of Olaf the Holy, who christened Norway, and it also marks the end of a pilgrimage, much like Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela does for another key European pilgrimage, the Camino de Santiago.

The cathedral sits near to several meeting locations, including the Britannia Hotel, capable of hosting groups of 400, and the Thon Hotel Gildevangen, a business hotel that caters for medium sized groups. The Clarion Hotel & Congress Trondheim, located by the harbour in Central Trondheim, is one of Scandinavia’s largest convention hotels with 400 rooms and 18 meeting rooms. It boasts of a modern design, exciting dining concepts, a vibrant atmosphere and a view of the fjord. The Scandic Lerkendal is Norway’s largest facility for meetings and conferences, with a capacity of 23,000 people (in partnership with Lerkendal stadium).

It claims to have up to 50 meeting rooms, including a large conference hall that is the biggest in the city at 1,420sqm, divisible into three equal parts. In addition, all the VIP lodges at the Lerkendal stadium add to the group’s conference offering. Scandic Lerkendal’s capacity is between 10 and 1,800 people.

The hotel was conceived to be the world’s most energy-efficient hotel, with an energy consumption of 50kwh per sqm, per year. For events organisers after a more thematic experience, the Rockheim Museum (literally ‘the home of rock) is a striking meeting place in the harbour area. The museum showcases the best of Norwegian rock and pop music from the 1950s to the present day through exhibitions, interactive experiences and performance.

Those who don’t know that Norway has a big rock heritage probably don’t know it is also home to some of the finest cuisine in the world. Arguably the best chef in the world currently hails from Norway. Ørjan Johanessen, chef of the traditional restaurant Bekkjarvik Gjestgiveri, came out on top in the prestigious cooking competition Bocuse d’Or in Lyon, France, at the beginning of the year, surpassing the efforts of 23 international competitors.

Events in the cuisine and ingredients sectors are likely to benefit from being staged in and around Trondheim. Kristiansten Fortress, which soars above the city, is another great location for visitors. The fortress was completed in 1684 and never saw active battle, but meetings can be staged inside the complex, and a tour of the fortress includes a famous dungeon and there is a defence museum, too.

There is also meeting space at the Ringve Museum, Norway’s national museum of music and musical instruments. Ringve Museum houses two permanent exhibitions, ‘The museum in the Manor House’ in the oldest section, and ‘The Museum in the Barn’ featuring modern sound and light technology. Norway’s natural beauty still lends itself to meetings.

Skistua Bymarka is an outdoor centre and restaurant with meeting space where Mid Norway Adventure, an outdoor incentives specialist, can accommodate the needs of a modest sized group. Just 10 minutes from the airport, Ersgard farm, run by Mrs Grete Sørebø and Mr Stein Sakshaug, caters for rural events for small groups and corporate meetings. It offers an escape from the busy cities to executives looking to clear their heads for designing, strategising, or teambuilding.

The landscape is the choice for several recent movies, not least of which is the (albeit animated) runaway smash Frozen. The film, Disney’s best-selling animated film through history, based in a fictional kingdom modelled on Norway’s coastline and towns, has boosted tourism to Norway, particularly from the US where there was – according to Visit Norway – a 37% increase in hotel bookings immediately following the film’s release in the first part of 2014, compared to 2013.

Flights with Norwegian Air increased by 52% in the same period. Films, it seems, can potentially have a big effect on a country’s tourism, says Catherine Foster, country manager at Visit Norway UK. Ex Machina, directed by Alex Garland, was set in Alaska but filmed in Norway (using the Juvet Landscape Hotel, for those interested).

Garland said at the time that if the production team was able to find “a spectacular landscape, it would provide a lot of the power of the guy. If he owns this landscape, he must be spectacular too”. This logic, Trondheim hopes, will continue into the business events and meetings industry. The natural landscape is an empowering part of the country’s events infrastructure and ideology. And in Trondheim’s case, almost bizarrely close to the town centre. Trondheim has the pedigree for all these things.