In March of 2015 a great many people will arrive in Longyearbyen to experience an extremely rare total solar eclipse, which will be seen at its absolute best from Svalbard. Many will have traveled far and pay exorbitantly to experience it themselves here. Despairing astronomy enthusiasts are looking for spare beds, but they must be willing to fork out up to 60,000 kroner for the opportunity – per person. Eivind Trondsen is renting out his holiday home for 50,000 kroner - for a week.
A sea of requests
Trondsen has for several years used Internet services where people can lend a couch or bed to travelers. Through these services he received numerous inquiries about renting his holiday home in March of 2015.
"It came in a sea of requests. The offers were just too good to not make something out of it," Trondsen said. When he got the opportunity to make 50,000 kroner for one week, he took it.
"There are six people who will be staying here for a week," he said. "They seemed very serious and I chose to accept them."
In the group there are both photographers and astronomers.
How did he decide the price?
"I wanted a price that was good enough to make money, but that was crazy." Trondsen said. "The gang seems very OK and they would land a deal right away, which was very fine."
Thinks more will do the same
Since Trondsen is only renting his vacation home, which he owns, it is completely legal. At the same time he said he thinks many more will will choosing to rent out, although few can do it legally.
"There are many people talking about it and I think private homes are very popular with those who no matter what will be here. There is some good to getting private and local help, instead of having to deal with large groups with tourist companies," he said. He is even attempting to help the group to find good observation places where they can get a bit away from people. Svalbardposten also knows about another rental out for 100,000 kroner.
Planning since 2006
Spitsbergen Travel, which operates the Radisson Blu Polar Hotel, Spitsbergen Hotel Funken and Spitsbergen Guesthouse, started a dialogue with the company Travelquest Tours as early as 2006 to cope with the influx. Travelquest has reserved all of Spitsbergen Travel's rooms, which includes 528 beds. Travel Quest is planning to send about 360 visitors.
"We expect that it will be sold out," said Anja Kristoffersen at Spitsbergen Travel.
Those purchasing trips through Travelquest must fork over more than 34,000 kroner per person from Wednesday to Sunday, but this includes the flight from Oslo.
"This is almost as if it were the Olympics in Longyearbyen," Kristoffersen said.
Basecamp Spitsbergen has sold out its 42 rooms in Longyearbyen, but still has vacancies available at Isfjord Radio and on the Noorderlicht ship in Tempelfjorden.
A planned hotel will not be finished
A year ago, Svalbardposten learned a new hotel being built behind Kroa was fully booked for the eclipse and that it would be completed by then. But John Einar Lockert, general manager of Svalbard Booking, now estimates the hotel will not be finished until September of 2015.
"There were many who were interested in the new hotel rooms, but we confirmed there are no rooms. There have been many changes in the design since that time, so the hotel is taking a little longer than expected," said Lockert, who also reports a few customers have been booked into other locations.
At least 130 Japanese
Gullivers Travel Agency has arranged a tour for 130 to 160 Japanese people who are traveling here by charter flight in the morning on March 20.
"These are probably the only Japanese," said Niklas Gerhardsson of Better Moments, which is taking care of the arrangements for the travelers when they are in Longyearbyen. The company has applied for permission to set up two lavvu tents just beyond the dog kennels.
Great demand at the airport
It is not just simply getting all the visitors to Longyearbyen. In addition to its two scheduled flights on March 18, Scandinavian Airlines has scheduled two extra flights. If SAS sends its largest aircraft, it will carry 189 people in each plane. Travelquest Tours also has two charter flights from Oslo scheduled.
"We constantly get requests from people who will land on those days," said Carl Einar Ianssen, production and maintenance manager at Svalbard Airport. He said they are struggling to find parking for all of the aircraft that will be here overnight.
"There are probably some aircraft that must land here and then go to the mainland to park afterwards," he said.
How are they coping with the influx?
"We are certainly pleased to have traffic over the airport, so that is probably good," he said. "We need to take into consideration when we make shifts."