At WTM London 2017, we caught up with Kristian Jørgensen, Director of Tourism for Fjord Norway, the western region of Norway. Kristian participated in our panel discussion, Learn how tours & activities are the core of guest experience, and shared some great insights.
Here's our pick of some of the best quotes from the panel, covering Fjord Norway's growth as a region, their decision to go with TrekkSoft as their region's standardised booking system, and his approach to sustainably growing the region's tourism sector.
1. They decided on their goals for the region
"I am going to go back about ten years, because ten years ago the Fjord region was mostly a round trip destination and we realized that we needed another foot to stand on. So what we decided to do was go deeper into adventure travel and try and build on that.
Since then, we’ve invested about $15-16 million dollars in building our region on adventure travel.
One of the things we needed to do was to create more adventure travel suppliers. So we’ve been working to educate, bring more companies in, help companies to build up, and so on.
At some point we realized that we weren’t commercial enough, we weren’t managing to convert enough when it comes to the market. This was because a lot of the adventure companies were quite small and they needed technology to get out into the world".
2. They looked for software that would help them reach their goals
"So what we did was, we decided to try and find software that would help us; a booking system that could help the suppliers in a much better way than just being a booking system. We wanted a system that would help them also run their whole business.
We started by looking at about 50 booking software companies and then cut that down to about 10, and then down to 3. We did a really deep go-through of these companies and TrekkSoft was one of the three companies in the final round. One was from Europe, one from the US. In the end, we landed on TrekkSoft as the solution that we were going to work with".
Read more: Paul Richer's 8 steps to buying a booking system that meets the needs of your tour or activity company
3. They emphasized to their suppliers the benefits of a standardized system
"Our idea was to bring as many activity companies on board one system. We wanted the whole region to use a standardized tool so that we could collectively approach the world in marketing and sales, and also in running their companies. Getting distribution is also crucial, and if you have too many systems, you don’t get that distribution to work.
By having one system, we as a tourism body could use our funds on marketing to bring that one funnel through and make many new [opportunities] for the activity companies to get that conversion and commercialize themselves. And that’s what we are seeing now".
4. They thought about sustainability
"I think sustainability is one of the most important issues that we should address as an industry. Our region has exploded in the last 10 years, we’ve had growth every single year, quite high numbers in fact.
Numbers from China alone have grown over 1000% in our destination within the last 10 years. But what’s sort of scary, and also potentially interesting, is the UNWTO’s estimate that we’re going to grow another 50-60% globally, from 1.2 to 1.8 million arrivals globally. Our industry is going to boom in the next few years.
One of the discussions we need to have is how we are going to handle that. How do we avoid using technology just to create more arrivals, how can we use technology to develop and control our destination in a better way? We’re a typical summer destination, May to September, and what we see is that growth is being hammered into those months, and it’s just too much in certain places at certain times.
We have nine months that are pretty much empty. And to make those months interesting, we need to fill them with more activities… again, this is what influences visitors, not airports or hotels.
But then we also need to get control over those activities and promote them and sell them in a better way. And I think that together with TrekkSoft's technology, we are now able to bring that message out there, not just as a promotion but as something concrete they can book and buy. That means we can get growth in those nine months and maybe bring down some of the excessive growth that we are seeing in our peak summer months.
For me, technology is not just a marketing and sales tool, it’s also a regional development tool. We need to ensure we develop a region that is sustainable for the future and the people living here.
We cannot turn our industry into an industry that nobody wants to touch."
Loenvatnet lake. Sverre Hjørnevik / www.fjordnorway.com
"Now that 110+ of our suppliers use TrekkSoft, we can develop and control our destination in a better way and not just hammer growth into the summer months.
We are up to about 600 products, our goal is to bring it up another 300 in the next year or two.
Another goal is really to own as much of the conversion and sales on adventure travel as possible. Not outsourcing it to OTAs, but have the companies run it through the system and then plug it in where we need it to be plugged in and be able to move it around as we wish.
Now we can see to it that funds stay in the region and that commissions aren’t too high when it comes to other partners.
That’s pretty much our story. Again, you talk about for the future; well, I think that what’s important for us for the future is to own the activity portfolio ourselves as a region and see to it that we are in charge of how we develop our region… that it’s not done by a third party.
Through a system like TrekkSoft, we have control of how we develop, both in a sustainable way and also in a profitable way."
Olan O'Sullivan, CEO of TrekkSoft, says of the partnership with Fjord Norway:
Fjord Norway is leading the way for the industry. It is great to see a large regional DMO going beyond using local experiences as pretty pictures and really making them a key focus. Fjord Norway’s vision and goals are very closely aligned with the TrekkSoft philosophy and founding vision, and we are excited to see how the partnership will inspire wider innovation and adoption in the industry.