Free ferry scheme swamps Danish islands with extra tourists

People who live on islands around Denmark say they now have more visitors than they need after domestic tourism increased.

Free ferry scheme swamps Danish islands with extra tourists
The Fanø ferry pictured in 2015. Photo: Claus Fisker/Ritzau Scanpix

Islanders on Fanø, which is close to west coast city Esbjerg, say they are tired of the spike in tourism this year, a result of the increase in Danes holidaying domestically as the coronavirus crisis curbs international travel.

“We are getting too many now. You get stressed by it and the people who make their livelihoods from many (tourists) coming are unable to manage it,” Fanø resident Søren Vinding told DR.

The broadcaster reports that social media platforms used by people who live on Fanø reflect that sentiment, with the tourism situation described as “crazy”.

July 1st -21st saw a 22.5 percent increase in the number of people taking the Esbjerg-Fanø ferry compared to the same period last year, DR found based on data from ferry operator Molslinjen.

That works out at almost 1,000 more people per day coming to Fanø compared to last year.

The increase can be credited in part to a government scheme making 53 ferry journeys free in July as part of a wider package to promote domestic tourism.


Although the scheme has proved widely popular, island residents have expressed frustration with crowding and issues such as queuing at ferry terminals.

“I don’t think this is a luxury problem,” Jørgen Christiansen, a café owner on the Limfjorden island of Fur, said to DR.

“If you disappoint too many people, things get negative, firstly from queuing at the ferry and then not being able to get a seat when you want to eat. So I’m concerned about that and think it should be spread out across the season,” Christiansen said.

The Ministry of Transport and Housing’s summer scheme is a 700 million-kroner injection aimed at boosting the economy following the coronavirus crisis.

One of the measures is cheaper ferries, including free domestic ferries in July for pedestrians and cyclists.

Subsidies are also provided for price reductions on ferries to smaller islands, as well as Fanø, Læsø, Ærø and Samsø, in August and September.

Ticket prices on the Ystad-Rønne ferry service will also be reduced in August and September.

READ ALSO: Which countries are people from Denmark travelling to post-corona shutdown?

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Could Oslo-Copenhagen overnight train be set for return?

A direct overnight rail service between the Norwegian and Danish capitals has not operated since 2001, but authorities in Oslo are considering its return.

Norway’s transport minister Knut Arild Hareide has asked the country’s railway authority Jernbanedirektoratet to investigate the options for opening a night rail connection between Oslo and Copenhagen.

An answer is expected by November 1st, after which the Norwegian government will decide whether to go forward with the proposal to directly link the two Nordic capitals by rail.

Jernbanedirektoratet is expected to assess a timeline for introducing the service along with costs, market and potential conflicts with other commercial services covering the route.

“I hope we’ll secure a deal. Cross-border trains are exciting, including taking a train to Malmö, Copenhagen and onwards to Europe,” Hareide told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

The minister said he envisaged either a state-funded project or a competition awarding a contract for the route’s operation to the best bidder.

A future Oslo-Copenhagen night train rests on the forthcoming Jernbanedirektoratet report and its chances of becoming a reality are therefore unclear. But the Norwegian rail authority earlier this year published a separate report on ways in which passenger train service options from Norway to Denmark via Sweden can be improved.

“We see an increasing interest in travelling out of Norway by train,” Jernbanedirektoratet project manager  Hanne Juul said in a statement when the report was published in January.

“A customer study confirmed this impression and we therefore wish to make it simpler to take the train to destinations abroad,” Juul added.

Participants in the study said that lower prices, fewer connections and better information were among the factors that would encourage them to choose the train for a journey abroad.

Norway’s rail authority also concluded that better international cooperation would optimise cross-border rail journeys, for example by making journey and departure times fit together more efficiently.

The Femahrn connection between Denmark and Germany, currently under construction, was cited as a factor which could also boost the potential for an overland rail connection from Norway to mainland Europe.

Night trains connected Oslo to Europe via Copenhagen with several departures daily as recently as the late 1990s, but the last such night train between the two cities ran in 2001 amid dwindling demand.

That trend has begun to reverse in recent years due in part to an increasing desire among travellers to select a greener option for their journey than flying.

Earlier this summer, a new overnight train from Stockholm to Berlin began operating. That service can be boarded by Danish passengers at Høje Taastrup near Copenhagen.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about the new night train from Copenhagen to Germany