Last week, Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO) experts conducted inspections of Fuglehuken and Sallyhamna, two sites in Svalbard that are expected to receive an increasing number of cruise tourists.
The purpose of the inspection was to develop guidelines to allow tourists to visit the sites without disturbing their unique nature and cultural remains.
Seeing the Arctic up close is one of the attractions of expedition cruises in the Polar regions. Itineraries often include excursions and landings that give travellers the opportunity to go ashore and get a closer look at the area’s terrain, vegetation and wildlife.
Some areas also offer visitors a glimpse into the region’s history in the form of man-made structures and other signs of human activity. However, visitors must tread carefully and take care not to leave traces of their visit.
The expedition cruise industry, represented by AECO, has been working with the Svalbard authorities to ensure that visits to vulnerable sites are well regulated. A central tool are site specific guidelines that map and describe individual sites. The guidelines give advice on how tour operators can carry out landings with groups of people while avoiding negative environmental impacts and safety risks.
AECO’s executive director Frigg Jørgensen said that the site guidelines constitute an effective management tool for Arctic tourism. “Before these guidelines were established, the authorities in Svalbard were actually considering closing some of these sites to tourism. The guidelines make it possible to regulate visits, and give operators the information they need to make responsible and careful use of these magnificent sites,” Jørgensen said.
Since 2011, AECO has created guidelines for 20 sites in Svalbard. AECO’s site guidelines for Svalbard have served as a model for others, such as Russia’s Arctic National Park and has inspired similar initiatives in Canada, Greenland and Iceland.