Ninety-five miles above the Arctic Circle, the remote, dramatic beauty of Norway’s Lofoten archipelago draws many wanderlusters to its clear blue waters, towering mountains, and reliable Northern Light displays. Some, though, are saying that number is getting too high. And they are blaming Hollywood, partially singling out poor Matt Damon, who has already found himself at the center of several controversies over the past year.
Damon arrived on the islands at the beginning of August to shoot his new movie Downsizing, which also stars Christoph Waltz. While many locals were pleased to get a glimpse of the Hollywood star, who happily posed for a few selfies, his arrival inspired others to comment on the difficulty facing these remote islands in sustaining a rapidly accelerating tourist trade. "It’s challenging," Hans Fredrik Sørdal, the mayor of the islands' Flakstad municipality, told public TV and radio broadcaster NRK. “In terms of tourism, we’ve become completely unbalanced this year.”
The problem started to become acute in 2013 when Frozen was released, inspiring masses of tourists to visit the land of Elsa and company, increasing visitor number in some destinations by 20 percent. Lofoten alone received a million visitors last summer. The sharp increase has led to some coastal paths being eroded, heavier than usual traffic, and a strain on infrastructure: a lack of public toilets has led to the woods near one popular mountain climb being locally known as, erm, the “forest of sh-t.”
Some locals fear that the Damon connection will lead to even greater numbers of tourists arriving and even those working in the tourist trade have expressed their concern. "Millions of people will see this movie, Gunnar Skjeseth, chief executive of the Lofoten Explorer luxury cruise ship, told NRK. ”It may be too much of a good thing if even more tourists come here thanks to the film. We in the tour business have more than enough to do already, all year round. It is debatable whether we need more tourists.”
Still keen to visit? Try traveling in winter instead. Far less tourists, even more Frozen-esque and a better chance of seeing those Northern Lights.
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