Interview: Behind the Scenes of Routes Europe 2020

Routes Europe will take place in the Norwegian city of Bergen in 2020. We talked to Hanne Kjølhamar, Senior Project Manager at Avinor, about what to expect, what makes Norway unique as a host and current trends in route development. 

How did it feel when you heard Routes Europe comes to Bergen?

Hanne Kjølhamar: When I heard the contract was signed, I had only been here for 12 months and had quite a few things on my plate. I thought: what does this mean for Avinor? For Bergen? To be honest, I didn’t know how big it is. The next question was: who is going to organize all this? But this gave way to a realization about how much potential this event has for us. Norway is a complex country – to show the airlines how unique it is and how much business potential there is, they need to experience it first-hand. Routes Europe is the perfect opportunity for that.

How does Avinor see its role as a host?

The event itself is organized by Routes Europe, and the city of Bergen hosts the conference. But Avinor is deeply involved in the planning and various activities. Besides, we hold a C-level conference on sustainability – it is important to act now.

Of course, we want to make Bergen and Avinor visible. We want to be the best host. We work hard so that visitors will have the best experience ever. But it’s also about allowing visitors to experience our business culture, which tends to be more relaxed than elsewhere. Maybe this attitude has to do with the Norwegian way: we are both rooted in our outdoor tradition, our rough topography, and we are proud of our heritage. But we also have strong community values and help each other, are very welcoming. This gives inner balance.

What does it take to organize an event like this? What are some of the things you need to keep in mind, prepare for and so on?

It takes time (laughs). We cannot underestimate time. We work every day on making sure all stakeholders are updated. There is a constant dialogue going on with our external partners – what’s on your mind? Do you need anything? Do you have any ideas? But there is also another necessity : cost focus. We can do so many things, but we obviously don’t have unlimited funds. The challenge for us is to find things and experiences for the visitors that are unique and creative and at the same time cost-effective. But as we all know, sometimes the best ideas don’t cost much.

In addition, I would like to emphasize the collaboration with the regions, and especially Ingrid Helgesen, which is in lead of the Bergen team. We have a really good and constructive way of working together and are progressing according to our plan.

In Norway, you talk a lot about “kos”. What does that mean?

“Kos” is a Norwegian word that is hard to translate. It means something like “cozy”, but not quite – it’s not only about a cozy atmosphere. There is also a sense of togetherness, of community. It’s more than experience; it’s an inner attitude.

The “Kos” dimension is very much part of our concept for Routes Europe. We want share it with every delegate. Bergen is one of the most “kos” cities – you can experience it inside, but also outside. You can have a “kos” time when you are hiking, but also while sitting around with friends and business partners.

How do you bring this idea to Routes Europe 2020?

Hanne Kjølhamar, Project Manager

We will make Grieghallen, the location, the “kos” place to be. Elements like sheep fur, candle lights, good coffee, waffles, wine, lighting… all triggering a “kos” experience from the start. But this includes the outer area as well, like restaurants and bars. You have to come to experience it!

There is still another aspect to “kos”. We have long winters; we cannot just sit in a street café like in the Southern countries. We have a closer way of socializing. Part of it is also our openness: people from outside come here with new impulses. A vibrant design and start-up scene has developed.

Norway is in a state of change, there are lots of forward-thinking people here, but as mentioned earlier, we don’t forget our traditions. The tradition is transported into the future by making it a fertile ground for development. All of this fits very well with our concept for Bergen.

Did you encounter any challenges in your planning?

Some of the challenges have to do with aligning our airports, the Avinor network consistes of 44 airports, because we want to showcase all of Norway’s regions. This means we are working together with many people with different opinions! But this is actually very productive and as Norwegians, we are so used to how this works that we sometimes don’t notice what is special about it – we have a diverse team and so we get very diverse input.

Our ambitious plans can be challenging as well, of course. For example, we think about organizing activity sessions in the mornings that people can join – from Kayak in the fjords to Yoga and jogging. All of this needs to be planned. And then there is the weather in Bergen: the city is exposed to the Northern sea weather. We have to be prepared for all situations. One thing is for sure: everyone will get umbrellas!

What do you think is the significance of the event for the aviation industry?

Routes Europe is the European event for the route development community. It’s the most important platform where we can meet. Airlines and airports, including regional ones, are participating. Sometimes you meet people here and talk about partnerships you haven’t thought of before. You hear about trends and developments you haven’t heard about. You meet new people who entered the industry.

What current trends do you see in terms of route planning?

We believe the environmental impact of our industry will become even more important. In Norway as well as we in Avinor, we focus very much on sustainability, and the media is very interested in the issue everywhere. So, this is a big trend in the aviation industry in general.

Route development is about potential, figures, big data, while at the same time dealing with a saturated market. In short, it is already very complex! If we add sustainability as one more variable in this already complex endeavour, it’s not clear yet how this will impact route developers. The aircraft manufacturers deal with sustainability, marketing departments have their concerns. CEOs have strategic decisions to take. But how will the route departments tackle it? These are interesting questions for our business community.

Speaking of sustainability – you mentioned the sustainability conference that Avinor is organizing. What’s the idea? How does it work?

We want to bring together C-level representatives from the airlines, Norwegian companies and government officials. It’s too early to give details, but we want to talk about the sustainability issue from many different perspectives. The goal is to foster an exchange of ideas. Apart from the program there will, of course, be opportunities for informal talks. The assumption is that this topic is very much on people’s minds and we would like to talk about it and maybe get some inspiration that we all can take home to our companies. And by the way, the conference will take place on the opening day of Routes Europe, which makes it very convenient to attend. The conference also fits well with our overall approach of connecting people to find solutions for the future of the aviation industry – the Explorer’s Society could be seen as the roof under which we want to gather new ideas.

Thank you very much!


  • Deirdre Fulton
    Posted October 26, 2019

    I will be watching with interest to see what is on the agenda at the sustainability event!


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