Heading into 2020

April 13, 2020

So we head into 2020 - nearly 40 years from the beginning with the discovery of the Foteviken ships in 1981, and the 25th anniversary of the Foteviken Viking Museum.

We have closed down the museum for the 2019 season as usual, everything cleaned up and ready for the next season in 2020.

The flow of refugees to Sweden has ebbed considerably and thus Vellinge municipality's need for housing has deceased. There is a desire to shorten the rental contract of the cottages.

The rent income has thus far funded renovations of the lower area, the Community centre and the construction of the new restaurant Smokey BBQ & Pickles, along with freshening up the parking lot and green areas.

The Smokey concept is a lot of fun, and the backyard has been turned into Smokey Garden growing vegetables and various kinds of chili, ranging from mild to "you definitely don't want to try that one".

We had plans to bring back the holiday cottages and renovate them for the season. 10 of the apartments in the old office building have now been turned into the Foteviken Office Hotel, renting out small scale office space with 2-3 office rooms, a private living room, kitchen and toilet with shower for each office unit.

The season looked so promising. Last year we received record numbers of visitors and we hoped the trend would continue this year. School trips, visitor groups and tourist bus tours were booked as usual. The community centre has its own planned events. The restaurant Smokey took shape, slowly but more than surely getting ready for its grand opening at the Easter weekend of 2020.

Then the Corona virus epidemic struck with full force. Country after country went into lock-down, closing down air travel, shops, museums and restaurants.

Our bookings were cancelled one by one, as was happening to everyone working with visitor attractions and tourism. Suddenly our calendar was empty and we were forced to cancel or reschedule planned activities as time passed and the danger increased.

As an older-than-70-year-old myself I have had to adapt and almost exclusively work by phone and Skype meetings.

How will all this year turn out?

We are not the only ones in a threatening economic situation. Everyone without public funding who are mostly active during the warmer part of the year are hit hard. Kulturen in Lund and the Trelleborg have been limited to outdoor activities with small groups. The Trelleborg has cancelled their Viking market and Vikingatider awaits our own decision that is likely to come as our visitors and participating Vikings from across Europe will be unable to attend.

The open air museum Leire, the oldest experimental archaeology site, is now also threatened with closing down in 3 months. The money will then have ran out.

The Trelleborg in Denmark and the National Museum are also closed. Fynske Landbyn Ribe Viking Centre and Moesgårds Museum in Denmark, and Skansen in Sweden along with several other open air museums have no visitors, tourist groups or school tours. They are forced to beg for support from the state, municipalities and fellow human beings.

All activities, tourist groups and school tours are cancelled.

It is much the same at the Foteviken Viking Museum. We have moved our official season opening from Walpurgis to the Swedish National Day, but this now seems to be too early as well. Midsummer celebration and the Viking Market are next in line to be cancelled. Our international guests, who make up about 90% of our total visitor numbers, are unable to leave their home countries. We are left with local visitors from Scania who may visit, but no more than 50 at a time may attend events.

Our purse is usually completely emptied during the off-season, ranging from September to May. During this period we do not earn any money. During the summer season we fill up our larders for the next off-season. In other words, if we are forced to close this summer we will earn no money until June 2021. That economic math does not add up.

What do we do now? Will anyone support us? Do we have to keep closed during 2020? Are we forced to lay off staff?

If this continues all of this summer's revenue will go up in flames. We will try to keep the museum open, but may need to do without any craftsmen and activities in the Viking town. We will have to be a traditional open air museum where our fantastic Viking Age environments are available for visitors to experience.

Our small skeleton crew will take care of the entrance shop and we hope to be able to bring in at least some volunteers. Sadly we will still need to keep our current prices and hope our visitors will show forbearance in this difficult time.

Björn M Buttler Jakobsen