A visitor to Kiruna doesn’t just go somewhere dark to see the aurora, they have to go somewhere that sounds spectacular and special – to the ‘Aurora Sky Station’, ‘The Aurora Dome’, or ‘The Aurora Coliseum’. They have to have a Very Special Aurora Experience, in a magical make-believe world, out in the forest, ideally in something resembling a scene out of ‘Frozen’.
Alternatively they have to go ‘chasing the lights’ in a car, all night, for no apparent reason, driving to Abisko, or all the way to Finland, because perhaps, just perhaps, they might see the aurora there. Or maybe not. And if not, at least they’ve had an exciting car journey, in the dark, when they can’t see anything.
It’s a problem, obviously. You sell an northern lights tour but your customers don’t necessarily get to see any aurora so you have to give people something else to focus on. A Sky Station, a Dome, a Coliseum, a snow scooter trip, stories around the campfire, scouting for boys, anything – as long as it takes their minds off those pesky, non-appearing aurora.
Maybe tour companies are missing a trick here. The amazing thing about seeing aurora in Kiruna is that it happens in unspectacular settings, in ordinary life. You go out shopping and on the way there you look up and see the northern lights. You’re walking home from town, and suddenly, you see the northern lights. You’re packing up the car, calling in on a friend, going to fill up with petrol, taking the dog for a walk, having a pee in the back yard, and you see the northern lights. It’s totally laid-back, take it as it comes, for real.
So here are some ideas on how to maximise this aspect of the northern lights.
Cut ‘n Blow Dry Aurora
This one could work so well. You sit back in a chair to have a haircut, wash, blow dry, and there’s a viewing glass above you so you can watch the aurora at the same time. Could work for a nail parlour too. Or even a dentist. Hours would have to be night time, obviously.
Aurora and Chips
You have to trust me on this one. I’ve seen it work with the wildlife safari. What you do is you have a chip shop or stall, and then if people see northern lights they pay more for their chips. If they don’t see any, then the chips are cheap – as chips. Pink aurora are really expensive chips. Green are moderately priced chips. All you need is a chip fryer and some benches.
Another version of ‘Aurora and chips’. Present your time stamped ticket on departure, no recorded aurora, reduced parking fee.
No-one wants to get cold. No-one really wants to sit in a dome or igloo with a load of other tourists and make polite conversation while waiting for the northern lights to appear. What they want is a drive-in aurora – bring the car, turn off the engine, watch and wait. We’ve tested this one; it works.
You run. You might see aurora. If you don’t, at least you get fit. There doesn’t need to be any fancy building to keep you warm while waiting for them to appear. This business is very cheap to set up.
Aurora hunting is a gamble which involves a lot of sitting around feeling bored, just like Bingo. So at Aurora Bingo people fill in their bingo sheet, and if aurora appear, then their numbers get lucky. But only if they also line up in the right combinations.
Virtual aurora. A game supplied with local aurorastops, and players have to find and ‘capture’ aurora. Just like the real thing. Only, not.
(And our favourite….)
Stand in our backyard at ’68 degrees bed and breakfast’ to look for the aurora (see below). Prop yourselves up between the wooden stair railings and the snow shovel, with a view out over a (scenic) garage. If you stay with us you can do this one for free. If you’re cold, just come indoors and have a cup of tea. Go out again when you know they’ve appeared. Or try going shopping – that sometimes works. Backyard Aurora – the closest visitors will ever get to the real experience. Sorted.