Norway’s tourism industry is getting bigger year by year, and contributes significantly to both local and national economy. People are coming from all over the world to experience the unique culture, the amazing nature with the fjords and mountains, and the special atmosphere of the Norwegian cities and towns.
But how many international tourists are visiting Norway per year, how much do they spend, and which nationalities are actually coming to Norway as part of a vacation?
This article is going to be looking closer at all the numbers, figures and statistics for Norway’s tourism industry, including things like number of visitors, their demographics, travel behaviors, and the economic impact of tourism on the country.
Key statistics and figures for tourism in Norway
- Number of international tourists per year: 5.9 million.
- Number of nights spent at accommodation in Norway per year by international tourists: 10.7 million.
- Top 5 countries to visit Norway as tourists ranked: Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and the United States.
- Total tourism consumption: 194.3 billion Norwegian kroner (roughly $18.7 billion USD).
- People employed in the tourism sector in Norway: 182,900 people.
- Average sum of money spent per day per tourist: 1,680 NOK ($163 USD).
- Average cost for a family of four to vacation in Norway for one week: 47,040 NOK ($4,500 USD).
- Main tourism season: More than 50 % of all tourists visit Norway between May and August.
Summary of the statistics for tourism in Norway
The very short summary of tourism to Norway is that we get 5.9 million international tourists per year, who spends a total of 10.7 million nights at Norwegian accommodations. Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and the US are the top countries to visit Norway.
Tourists in Norway spend 194.3 billion Norwegian kroner (roughly $18.7 billion USD) per year, which makes for 1.7 % of Norway’s GNP. International tourists are responsible for 59.4 billion NOK of this tourism spending.
The tourism industry in Norway employs over 182,900 people, meaning that around 7 % of the Norwegian population work in a field related to the tourism sector.
PS: Many of the numbers and figures in this article will be from 2019. The reason is simple: all data from 2020 and 2021 is very skewed due to covid restrictions, so the numbers from 2019 are the best numbers to use to give an idea of the actual numbers when everything is normal. Some stats have updated numbers for 2022 as well, which are fairly close to the 2019 numbers, but not all stats for 2022 are available as of March 2023.
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Number of international tourists to visit Norway in 2019
The actual number of non-Norwegian people to visit Norway during a full year can be a good indication on how attractive Norway is to international tourists.
Norway had 5.9 million international visitors enter the country in 2019, counting all points of entry other than visa-free entry by car.
The same numbers for 2020 and 2021 are 1.39 million and 1.43 million – clearly much lower than in 2019. And covid with all its restriction on travel is obviously the one to blame for this huge decline.
The official number of international tourists to enter Norway in 2022 is not yet publicly known. Please also be aware that it’s not possible to tell from the numbers if the people who enter the country are in fact tourists, or have other business in Norway.
Number of nights spent at accommodations in Norway from foreign tourists in 2022
Another good indicator to how healthy the tourism industry in Norway is, is to look at the number of nights spend at any Norwegian accommodation by non-Norwegian citizens. All hotels, hostels, campsites and other accommodation facilities report in where their visitors are coming from, giving a pretty good number on it.
The number of nights spent at Norwegian accommodation by non-Norwegian citizens were 9,831,299 in 2022, down from 10,701,481 in 2019.
Seeing as Norway has almost 6 million international visitors the same year, the average number of nights spent at a Norwegian accommodation is just under 2 nights.
There could be many reasons for this low number, including stays at private residents (many people are likely coming to Norway to visit relatives, their significant other etc.), at places that do not report who’s staying there (such as AirBnb), or people who spend time wild camping during their stay.
Top countries to visit Norway
When looking at the nationalities of the tourists who are visiting Norway, we see a clear pattern that it’s mainly European tourists who are somewhat close to Norway to visit – with the US being a big exception.
Citizens from the United States of America spend around 820,000 nights in Norway in 2022, down from almost a million back in 2019.
It’s Germany that holds the lead with most nights spent in Norway, with over 2.2 million nights spent at accommodations in 2022. They are followed by citizens from the Netherlands on the 2nd spot, followed by Sweden and Denmark.
The table below shows the top 11 nationalities that have visited Norway and spent nights at Norwegian accommodations in 2022 and 2019:
The economy of Norway’s tourism industry
The money coming to Norway from international tourists is pretty massive, but Norwegians themselves spend the most on the tourism industry in the country.
The entire tourism industry brings in 194.3 billion Norwegian kroner (around $20 billion USD) per year, which is 4.2 % of Norway’s GPN. Out of these 194.3 billions, 59.4 billion NOK is coming from international tourists.
This means that 69 % of the Norwegian tourism economy is from Norwegians themselves, while the remaining 31 % is money coming in from international tourism.
The entire tourism industry employs 182,900 people, which is around 7 % of Norway’s population. Certain tourism-heavy areas (like Lofoten, Flåm etc.) have a much higher number, where over half the population is employed in the tourism sector.
How much tourists spend when visiting Norway
You have probably already heard that Norway is a very expensive country to visit, and you’re absolutely right. But how much money does an average tourist spend when visiting Norway?
On average, each international tourist spend 1,680 NOK ($163 USD) per day, including everything except for flights to and from Norway. Each tourist who visit Northern Norway during winter spends more though, with an average of 2,560 NOK ($250) per day.
The numbers include everything from accommodation and food, to excursions and souvenirs.
While this might not sound like a lot, let’s do some quick calculations to see how much it would cost for a family of 4 to visit Norway for one week:
1,680 NOK * 4 (people) * 7 (days) = 47,040 NOK , which is around $4,500 USD for a family of 4 visiting Norway for one week.
This is obviously the average, and there are many good methods to make your visit to Norway cheaper.
The reason why tourists spend more in Northern Norway is because there is higher demand for hotels and excursions, driving up the costs. There are generally less cheap or budget options if you are visiting Northern Norway during the peak tourist season.
Most visited tourist attractions in Norway
There are hundreds of different tourist attractions all over Norway, but some are obviously much more popular than others.
Below are the most visited tourist attractions in all of Norway, ranked by the number of yearly visitors and grouped into being a cultural or natural attraction:
10 most visited natural attractions in Norway
|Rank||Attraction||Type of attraction|
|2||Trollstigen||Road / Scenic area|
|9||Preikestolen / Pulpit’s Rock||Mountain Hike|
|10||Atlantic Ocean Road||Road / Scenic area|
10 most visited cultural attractions in Norway
|Rank||Attraction||Type of attraction|
|1||Fløibanen in Bergen||Railway|
|2||Holmenkollen in Oslo||Ski jumping hill & Museum|
|3||Bryggen in Bergen||World Heritage Wharf|
|6||Flåm Rail Line||Railway|
|7||Hadeland Glassverk||Glass Works|
|8||Fredrikstad Fortress||Heritage Fortress|
|9||Viking Ship Museum||Museum (Note: Currently closed)|
|10||Hunderfossen Adventure Park||Amusement Park|
All the rankings for the most popular cultural and natural tourist attractions are from 2019. They have definitely changed a bit in 2022, but there are currently no official information for 2022 available.
What brings tourists to Norway
We at The Norway Guide has asked out visitors exactly what exactly interests them in Norway, and why they are spending their time reading about the country.
We got a lot of interesting results, but there are 5 clear reasons why tourists want to visit Norway: the nature, the northern lights, the culture and heritage, the viking heritage, and arctic adventures.
Let’s take a closer look at the top reasons why people visit Norway.
1) Norway’s nature and geology: the mountains and fjords
The spectacular beauty of the Norwegian nature is ranked as the number 1 reason why tourists choose Norway as their destination, and I can’t see any reason to disagree.
The nature of Norway is absolutely breathtaking, and photos of fjords and incredible mountains are among the biggest factors to make Norway an attractive destination for tourists.
The fjords themselves are the biggest attraction, but people are also very interested in the high amount of untouched nature, as well as the hiking culture and amazing trails in the country.
2) The northern lights
The northern lights (also known as aurora borealis) takes the number 2 spot when it comes to why people are planning to or dreaming about visiting Norway as a tourist.
Even though it’s possible to see the northern lights in all arctic parts of the world, Norway is actually one of the most hospitable places to see it, since the Gulf stream makes Norway much warmer than other areas on the same latitude.
This makes Norway a much better destination for seeing the northern lights compared to Alaska or Siberia (who even wants to go to Russia anymore?).
You can catch a good glimpse of the aurora all winter long, but be aware that it might not show up every single day, and might have days when the clouds are covering it.
However, you’re likely to see it if you spend a week or so in northern Norway.
3) Norwegian culture and traditions, or family heritage
The Norwegian culture is something special, and feel exotic to many. If you can get over the myth that we’re all introverts and cold, then the Norwegian culture can really impress you.
There are many unique parts of the Norwegian culture that interest people, even though we apparently have the world’s worst cuisine.
Finding the town of your great great grandparents
Many visitors dream or plan to visit Norway because they have a certain Norwegian heritage. Mostly this is people who had their great great grandparents emigrate from Norway between 1820 and 1920, and want to experience where their family originates from.
I often get messaged by people who are looking to return to their family town or village and need a little help finding it.
Norway is a great place to live
One of the things that makes Norway attractive to many people is because it ranks very high on most happiness scales, on ranking of work-life-balance and other rankings of where people live the best life possible.
Tourists are of course not going to be able to fully take advantage of these factors, but visiting here can at least give you a great idea what and why Norwegians are so unique.
4) Viking heritage and Norse mythology
The viking heritage is yet another big reason why people are wanting to visit Norway, either to just get a feel for the areas and regions where the vikings lived, or to see viking relics and the vikings ships.
The Viking Ship Museum used to be Norway’s number 1 tourist destination, but it’s unfortunately currently closed for renovations. However, there are several amazing viking exhibitions in Oslo and other parts of the country.
5) Arctic adventures
The fifth most popular reason to visit Norway is to have a true arctic adventure. How about going dog sledding far away from any civilization, going on a snow mobile expedition where you meet a polar bear, go mountain climbing, or walk on a glacier? And all of this while seeing the northern lights filling sky sky above you!
Many of the winter arctic adventures are best done far north in Norway, or even on Svalbard (and even exclusively on Svalbard in the case of the polar bears). However, there’s also a lot of cool stuff to do in all of Norway.
Norway is a big adventure destination, and we have amazing opportunities to do things like:
- Mountain climbing.
- Multi day hikes in huge, remote wilderness.
- Dog sledding.
- Snow mobile adventures.
- Animal safaris (like musk oxen, whales or puffins).
- Glacial hikes.
- Downhill skiing.
- Whitewater rafting.
- Fjord kayaking.
- Ocean kayaking.
Tourism from China in on the rise
Norway has always been a popular tourist destination from closer European countries (Netherlands and Germany in particular), but the last decade has seen a sharp increase in tourism from Asian countries, particularly China.
Chinese tourists had 177,138 nights spent at accommodation in Norway in 2019, and has a “market share” of about 4 % of the Norwegian tourism sector.
I have seen that many popular tourist destinations have begun to include Mandarin signs on informational signs, so they are clearly taking up more space in the travel sector.
Statistically speaking, Chinese tourists are more interested in seeing the fjords (market share of 5 %), and not so much in seeing the northern lights or Northern Norway (2 % market share).
Interestingly Chinese tourists spend about 50 % more money per day compared to non-Chinese tourists (2,400 NOK instead of 1,680 NOK).
Sources and additional information
The below articles and reports are used as the base for this article. They are all in Norwegian, and you can easily click on the titles to read directly from the source:
- “Stabilt år for norsk reiseliv i 2019” by SSB (Statistics Norway).
- “Nøkkeltall om norsk turisme 2021“ by Innovasjon Norge.
- “Tall of fakta fra og om reiselivet“ by Norsk Reiseliv (Norwegian Tourism Partners.
- “Tall og fakta om reiselivsnæringen“ by NHO Reiseliv.
Bias and errors in the data
It’s important to be aware that all figures and numbers are affected by a certain amount of error and bias. Some important things to keep in mind is that it’s impossible to know how many of the international travelers who enter Norway do so as a tourists. Many of them are probably here to visit family or for work assignments.
There are also certain nationalities that can enter Norway without registering or telling any government official. Our neighbors from Sweden can freely drive to Norway as they please without needing any paperwork or documentation, so they will not be counted for the statistics if they just drive in without telling anyone. However, they will be counted if they enter by ferry or plane.
These are some of the biggest errors in the data, but I’m sure there are many smaller errors as well, so we can never trust the numbers 100 %.
Nicklas is the owner and editor of The Norway Guide, and is responsible for most of the content on the website.
He lives in Skien, Norway with his wife and two children. Nicklas is specialized in Norwegian ecology (including Norway’s geology, wildlife and flora) from his degree in Ecology And Nature Management at University of South-Eastern Norway, but has a particular interest in tourism and content creation.
His biggest hobbies are fishkeeping, going on hikes with his dog, and rooting for the local football team.