Arctic tourism stakeholders have outlined knowledge gaps and research needed to support responsible Arctic tourism management.
A report, compiled by the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO), Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) and Visit Svalbard among others, aimed at encouraging researchers to undertake projects that can inform decision-makers, local communities and operators in a time of increased interest in Arctic tourism.
It highlights research needs and suggested studies ranging from exploring technological innovations, which can be relevant for tourism, to reviewing the legal framework regulating tourism in Svalbard. On the preparedness side, the report calls for more research on the organisation of emergency reception camps on land or on another vessel in case of mass evacuation, among other things.
One of the main challenges identified in the report is the risks associated with unorganised tourism, which has the potential to negatively impact on organised tourism, environment, local community and safety.
The report proposes a number of possible solutions to challenges connected with tourism. Some of the solutions proposed by researchers and stakeholders include the following:
• Tools and policies to ensure sustainable management of visitors, which could include mapping sensitive areas, enhanced management of capacity thresholds, and a holistic consideration of the number of visitors as well as their distribution by category, season and activity.
• Enhanced management of private sail boats and yachts.
• Mandatory training and certification of all guides.
• Using drones to map impact of tourism and traffic on vegetation.
The participants also highlighted the fact that well-organised tourism should be considered as an opportunity and a possible solution to potential challenges. According the participants, which included many local stakeholders, societal challenges can be managed by ensuring local value creation, strengthening infrastructure, well-coordinated destination management, identifying and attracting optimal clients and generating empirical knowledge about tour operators, visitors and people of Longyearbyen.
The report is the result of a workshop that took place Longyearbyen, Svalbard last Autumn, which was attended by over 50 participants, including key researchers from a broad range of fields.
The objective of the gathering was to discuss, define and pitch research projects that can help Svalbard find the optimal balance in tourist development. The event has been made possible with funding support from Svalbard Environmental Protection Fund.
According to Trine Krystad of Visit Svalbard, the workshop is part of a wider effort to contribute to knowledge-based tourism management in the Arctic.
“When we talk about sustainable tourism, we need to consider all aspects of how tourism can impact and benefit the Arctic. This includes everything from environment, communities, local benefits, safety and preparedness. We invited researchers from different fields, industry, authorities, locals and funding institutions to help us map the areas and issues that we need to focus on now and in the future.
“We were impressed to see how these stakeholders representing different industries and research disciplines were able to come together to tackle these important questions. The report shows that this cross-sectoral approach was very successful,” she said.
Frigg Jørgensen, executive director of AECO, added; “We know that Arctic tourism is a topic of interest for many research environments. We encourage researchers to consult this list of topics identified by local and tourism stakeholders. This is a chance to carry out research that will be actively used by decision-makers and end-users.”