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Plagued by guests without equipment

Lisa Heigl (the left), Michelle van Dijk and Katja Will have been renting out tents and sleeping bags this summer. FOTO: Line Nagell Ylvisåker

Plagued by guests without equipment

The campground has in recent years received many guests without tents, sleeping bags and comprehension of the polar bear danger.

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05.09.2014 kl 11:01

"It's been an exhausting summer with many concerns," said Katja Will.

Along with Lisa Heigl and owner Michelle van Dijk, she has run Longyearbyen's campground this summer.

"We have many 'cheap' guests who end up at the campsite," van Dijk said. "Last year there were many who came only with hand luggage, so we bought tents and sleeping bags that we could rent out."

She said some also come with a tent of such poor quality that it would fly away if there was only a slight breeze.

"Many people have no idea what they are coming to," she said. "They just fly here because it is cheap."

According to Will, there have been 10 to 15 incidents where people arrived without tents and sleeping bags, and without having booked equipment in advance. They came from different countries and were of all ages.

"Unprepared people are coming from all countries and great people from all countries," van Dijk said.

The common denominator is they come on Norwegian Air flights.

Coming on Norwegian

Will and Heigl also worked at the campsite in 2010. Then they had no such problems. They could lie down at night and sleep until morning. This year they had to wait for night flights from Norwegian.

"One time there were three Poles who stood in front of camp and smoked, with only their hand luggage," Heigl said. "They just stood there and thought that someone would come and take care of them."

Many have also tried to haggle on the price and some are settling down just outside the piping which defines the camping area to get a cheaper stay.

"They are not paying that much since they are not staying at the campsite, but they use public buildings," Heigl said.

Will not pay

More visitors would rather not pay for the last day since the plane departs very early in the morning, even though they spent the entire day and evening at the camping facilities.
"That did not happen four years ago," Heigl said.

Will says that at one point they had to send some away because all tents and sleeping bags were rented out.

"I think they went back to the airport, " she said.

According to Will, they often received e-mails from people the day before the date they wanted to rent tents, sleeping bags and sleeping pads.

"In July and August we were fully booked for a time, and people then became angry," she said.

What can be done next year to prevent the problems?

"We will continue to have tents and sleeping bags for rent, but we will make it clear on our website that you can not come without anything," van Dijk said.

Not knowing about polar bears
Several camping guests were also irritated they could not move about freely in Svalbard.
"They did not know there are polar bears here," Heigl said.

Others were more concerned about the polar bear danger. A lady asked if it was best to buy only vegetarian food in order not to attract bears. Another had a package with lunch meat he was afraid bears would get wind of.

"But it's better with anxious people than those who do not care," Heigl said.

Ready for expeditions
A group of Germans has everything in order. Outside a red four-man tent at the campsite, ice axes lie ready for an expedition.

"We are hoping we can go out on a hike for 16 days," said Gert Wölferbütt. "We have just a small problem with the insurance that we have to clarify today."

This is the fourth time he is visiting Svalbard and this time he has brought three friends. They plan to go from Gipsdalen to Østkysten and back to Longyearbyen.

"We are used to being on hikes," Wölferbütt said. "I think we have everything we need."

The four have not heard of people who have come without equipment to Svalbard.

"But that is amusing," one laughed.

Good season
Van Dijk said it has been a good season, except for the extra work because of the guests who came empty-handed.

"This year we have had 2,800 guest nights," she said. "On average, there's previously been about 2,500 guest nights."

She she she is especially seeing an increase in the number of Poles.

"I think there have been some bargains there," she said "But most of them manage for themselves. Poles are not the major problem group."

Happens occasionally
Lt. Gov. Jon Starheimsæter said he can't determine if they have dealt with more instances of indigent tourists in recent years.

"They show up occasionally," he said. "We have no statistical basis for saying the Norwegian flights have something to do with that."

The Governor of Svalbard has on several occasions dealt with people who can not manage for themselves.

"They have no money, no place to live and no job," he said. "In winter there are also instances where they are lacking the equipment and clothing to stay here. Then most people realize that this was not the place for them."

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Se bildet større

This german group has all it needs. Mathias Bad Liebenstein (the left), Robert Chemnitz, Gert Wölferbütt and Franziska Chemnitz. FOTO: Line Nagell Ylvisåker

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