Norway's Idyllic 'Time-Free' Island Outed as PR Stunt

The idea of a remote island supposedly opting out of a traditional schedule to enjoy the midnight sun has turned out to be little more than an advertisement campaign, launched by a state-funded promotional agency. The hoax had been accused of undermining the credibility of the country's authorities.


The scenic island of Sommarøy outside Tromsø gained international coverage over its quest to become “the world's first time-free zone”, but it turned out to be a hoax orchestrated by none other than Innovation Norway, a government-run advertising agency, which, among other things, promotes tourism.

The tourism director of Innovation Norway, Bente Bratland Holm, called it “a successful stunt” devised by “creative souls”. According to her, the trick was aimed at raising northern Norway's tourism profile and attracting visitors.

An earlier press-release by Innovation Norway, replete with photographs and videos, showed numerous watches reportedly strapped onto signs by local residents, who were in the process of ditching clocks altogether in order to create a world without the stress of time-sensitive schedules or appointments.

​While northern Norway has been luring tourists with fjords, fishing and unforgettable midnight sun experiences for years, the race for constant increases has been equated with fake news by the Norwegian Press Federation.

“I react negatively that Innovaton Norway, as a state agency, was behind a press release with arranged photos that tells a story that’s not true”, Norwegian Press Federation legal adviser Kristine Foss told national broadcaster NRK. “This will weaken the media’s confidence in Innovation Norway as a source”, Foss suggested.

According to NRK, the story about the “timeless” island has been run in at least 1,650 articles globally.

Katrine Mosfjeld, digital marketing chief for Innovation Norway’s travel and tourism division, parried that her agency would have been open, “had anyone wanted to dig into the issue”.

Kjell Ove Hveding, a Sommarøy resident and part-owner of the island’s only hotel, who reportedly held a community meeting on “taking back time”, called Sommarøy “an ambassador” for all of Northern Norway and said he was proud of the international attention it got. While Hveding stuck to his guns and said he still believed that the idea of abolishing time was a good one, his fellow Sommarøy residents later called it “a bunch of nonsense”, suggesting that they had enough tourists to boot.

Meanwhile, the watches that purported to symbolise Sommarøy becoming “time-free” have been removed as a traffic hazard, as motorists started stopping to find out why they had been hung up in the first place.

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