This Chinese family is only one among thousands of Asian families, groups and individuals for whom Scandinavia has become an increasingly popular destination in recent years. They come to experience our beautiful nature (particularly the Norwegian fjords), shop for unique designer products and explore our culturally rich capitals, said Flemming Bruhn, Director of VisitDenmark.
According to VisitDenmark, Asian nationals accounted for 600,000 overnight stays in Denmark in 2016, twice as many as in 2010. Chinese tourists in particular account for a large number of these overnight stays, and they are an interesting customer segment for a company with a product such as the one DFDS offers.
“The Chinese are often not as experienced travellers as the Japanese are, so they want to see the most classic attractions Copenhagen has to offer, such as The Little Mermaid, Nyhavn and Amalienborg, to name a few. Most Chinese tourists visit Scandinavia in tour groups that take them on a round-trip through Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland.
This means DFDS has a very attractive product to offer, because the voyage is an easy and natural way of travelling between Denmark and Norway. At the same time, it is also a great product because it appeals both to experienced travellers and the tour groups," said Bruhn.
“We see this as a collaborative effort with other Nordic actors and competitors, where in workshops in Asia we have been ‘selling’ the Nordic countries as a single destination and together created a solid and common Nordic brand, which has increased group tour sales. Online, we have been good at capturing the younger demographic - who typically book the trips themselves - by being active on social media, which is where you find them. We are growing online day by day, and we can already see now that the goal we set for 2017 has been reached,” Djurhûûs noted enthusiastically. She sees a large untapped potential in Asia and a journey that has only just begun.
The queue at the seafood buffet is no coincidence. Travellers from Asian countries love Nordic fish and shellfish, and they expect to find them served at the ship’s evening buffet. It is an expectation DFDS has taken seriously, said Djurhûûs.
“We have invested in a comprehensive upgrade of the buffet, putting a particular effort into meeting and surpassing the Asian passengers’ high expectations for delicious Scandinavian seafood. We have also made an extra effort, via info leaflets and clear signage, to help them understand and respect Nordic buffet culture. We can already now see the results of this in the form of a reduction in food waste on board the ship.”
Their love for Scandinavian seafood is just one of the many things about the Nordic countries that attracted Ivan Tang and his wife to the region. They are from Hong Kong and part of a larger group travelling around Scandinavia. This is their first voyage on the Oslo cruise, but four years ago they visited Scandinavia on their own, where they among other things travelled to the majestic Norwegian fjords around Bergen.
“We have returned to experience the beautiful scenery up here, which is very different from what we have at home. Being a history teacher, I am also very keen on exploring and learning more about the rich history and culture that you find in the cities. There are so many beautiful castles, characteristic buildings and great museums, and on top of all that, we love the food. This time we have tried roast pork, herring and fish fillets with remoulade,” said Ivan Tang, who could easily imagine coming back for a third visit in a few years. Next time, however, he would like to plan the trip himself.
"So far the trip has clearly surpassed my expectations. It is easy getting here, and people are so friendly and welcoming. We have been really impressed by the beautiful houses in Nyhavn and especially the simple and elegant décor we have seen in many places in Copenhagen. All the restaurants have had really enticing menus and looked trendy, and you can tell that they really attach importance to detail. Now, we’re looking forward to experiencing Oslo and seeing some of the famed Norwegian nature.”
The time is 9:45am and Pearl Seaways has docked in port. The passengers are disembarking and leaving the arrivals hall, where they are greeted by Oslo’s frosty winter weather and a slowly dissipating fog. The Asian tourists eagerly begin photographing the surroundings and trees, which are covered in a fine layer of hoarfrost. Elan Xiong and her friends waste no time heading into the city, while Ivan Tang and his wife board the waiting tourist coach, which will take them further into their Scandinavian adventure. They wave. Their enthusiasm and excited smiles make Oslo’s frosty weather feel a few degrees warmer.
Photo credit: Linda Johanson