SINGAPORE – Travel agencies and hotels are expecting a swell of northbound travellers towards the Arctic Circle to view the northern lights in 2024.
The cosmic light displays, also known as aurora borealis, are expected to be more frequent and stronger in 2024 due to higher solar activity.
Travel companies contacted by The Straits Times said they have received a significant increase in inquiries and bookings for tours or accommodation in countries where the lights can be spotted, such as Finland and Iceland.
Travel booking site Klook reported a sevenfold increase in bookings for northern lights tours from August to December 2023, with a tenth of these from Singapore.
A Klook spokesperson said online traffic for hotels in Finland tripled in the second half of 2023, compared with the first half of the year.
Chan Brothers Travel senior marketing communications manager Jeremiah Wong said the company has a 30 per cent increase in bookings for northern lights-related trips in 2024 compared with the year before.
He said: “The anticipation of 2024 being the most promising year for northern lights viewing in over two decades is contributing to the heightened interest.”
Chan Brothers offers eight northern lights tours to destinations in northern Europe. A 13-day tour to Finland’s Lapland region, for instance, starts at $7,488. Meanwhile, Klook offers 14 northern lights packages to Iceland and Finland, such as a Magical Auroras Northern Lights tour that lasts three to four hours and costs US$94.25 (S$127).
Hotels in popular northern lights destinations have observed more worldwide interest from travellers wishing to catch the natural phenomenon.
A spokesperson from the Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel in northern Norway told ST that the property has had a “strong increase in bookings related to the northern lights”, while Mr Ryan Sheldon, experience director at Sheldon Chalet in Alaska, said the hotel has been receiving more inquiries.
“Everybody is talking about the northern lights. Our guests have recently been able to view them three out of four nights,” Mr Sheldon added.
The increased northern lights displays are a result of the solar cycle peaking in 2024. Besides light and heat, the sun also sends energy and small particles towards Earth via solar winds or solar storms, according to American space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
During a solar storm, some of the energy and small particles can amass at the north and south poles in the planet’s atmosphere. There, the particles mix with gases in Earth’s atmosphere to produce light displays called auroras.
Said Dr Abel Yang from the National University of Singapore’s department of physics: “A solar cycle is an approximately 11-year period when sunspot activity rises and falls. At solar maximum, there can be large sunspots that last over a month.
“These sunspots are an indication of heightened solar activity. The overall effect is that the solar wind will be stronger, so the auroras will also be stronger.”