Sustainable Arctic Tourism
The large body of recent scientific evidences proves the raising temperature among the Arctic regions, loss of the sea ice and melting of the Arctic ice sheet.
Opening of new Arctic shipping routes and the ability of modern marine ships and aircraft to access the remote parts of the planet, bring more and more opportunities for human activities in the northern regions, but also cause the significant net of challenges with regards to Arctic indigenous communities and fragile environment.
The Arctic has been attracting tourist from all over the world since the early 19th century. Quick development of steamships and early ages ice - breakers, railroads as well and an increase of personal wealth and more leisure time, enabled interest in the northern hemisphere. However people who traveled up North, were mostly explorers, adventurers and mountaineers, attracted to exotic wildlife, remote nature and its resources or the ones who intended to conquer inhabited Arctic territories.
According to the newest scientific report, provided by United Nations Environmental Program, the marine tourism traffic in the Arctic has increased by almost 500 % in last 15 years when the land - based tourism activity has gone up by close to 800 % in a past decade.
Nowadays, tourism represents the third largest human presence in the Arctic region and the overwhelming traffic is held by the maritime industry. The most popular destinations include Alaska´s Glacier Bay and Canadian Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon. Cruises to Greenland, Faroe Islands and Iceland are easily accessible through the scheduled fares during the summer period. Sweden and Finland have designated national part in their northern parts easily accessible by railroads.
Majority of Northern communities relay on tourism for jobs and private income, sales and public finance revenue. It was measured that close to 400 thousands visitors came to northern part of Norway in 2012 and its northernmost part - Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, had more that 50 cruise calls, what is almost twice as much than over past five years.
Icelandic state´s budget heavily depends on tourism as it provides close to 30 % of earnings with its annual growth of more than 10% what makes it nation´s second largest industry.
Recent improvement of the access to remote Arctic territories among the northern Russia, Greenland and Canadian Nunavut, strongly promoted tourism in those regions.
The high travel cost and reduced opportunity for outdoor activities in northern part of Canada is still a major market issue to governmental organizations as well as the private sector. Nevertheless, according to the Nunavut Department of Economic Development and Transportation in the year of 2011, more than 40 thousand people from various parts of the world, visited the Canadian Arctic.
Russian government has defined Northern Sea Route, Barents and the White Seas as the most - attended by the cruise tourism. Nowadays, there are more than 350 ships visiting the Russian Arctic waters every year, what is close to 700% more than ten years ago. Kamchatka and Kola Peninsulas offer various possibilities for wildlife tours and expeditions. Indigenous communities in Chukotka and Komi Republic, attract modern civilizations from globalized Europe and North America.
Alaska attracts more than two million people every year who mostly travel by cruise ships. The tourism industry is the highest of the key Alaskan industries with the 77% resident hire rate. It is mostly operated by the private sector with the supervision of states´authorities.
The tourism industry in the Arctic is on definite raise and becoming an integral part to its culture and economy. In present days the attention must be drawn especially to impacts the tourism has on remote Arctic communities, natural environment and its resources.
Development of new technologies means the larger vessels could sail through the nortern hemisphere what would cause the natural, economic benefits for the local industries. Communities could observe the business growth, tax contributions and various secondary effects of tourist spending. Nowadays many of the Arctic families can rely on tourism as a part of a sole source of year - round income.
The expansion of leisure activities into more isolated Arctic areas meant that local communities, using those territories for subsistence harvest had to share the space with visitors what caused and is still causing various disputes.
Increased commercial shipping, involving presence of global marine tourism industry, makes the environmental impacts a reality. Potential oil spills from ships, marine accidents, waste from garbage and sewage are just the example. Emergency response from the Arctic states and implementation of relevant regulations is a necessity.
Please, click here to read more about potential environmental impacts of marine shipping.
Source: 2009 Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment