Polar Tourism: An Environmental Perspective (Aspects of Tourism)


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Stewart et al. In the area of tourism policy and management, they urged further researchers to concentrate on effectiveness of tourism regulation and governance in the Arctic. However, since there have not been any studies focused specifically on the insufficient legal framework and the regulation of Arctic tourism in midst of increasing environmental risks, human activity, and geopolitical challenges in the region. Polar tourism is still a relatively new issue on the global agenda and well-structured research, development of knowledge and suitable policy initiatives may contribute to decisions connected to practical management of the Arctic region, including the promotion of sustainable tourism development.

Policy interventions and awareness campaigns focused directly on further development of sustainable tourism in the Arctic are quite limited. The report included a brief guide for policy makers. Snyder, This paper first briefly presents the general issues of tourism in the Arctic region. Positive and negative impacts of tourism in the region are explored, particularly in relation to the indigenous populations. The third part of the paper discusses the main actors in Arctic governance and their relevance to tourism regulation, including multilateral organisations, Nordic co-operation bodies, Arctic states, NGOs and non-profit organisations.

Union as an aspiring Arctic player. The discussion then turns to the relationship between governance and tourism development, and the potential future considerations. Tourism in the Arctic Globally, tourism is one of the most significant industrial sectors with almost one billion international tourism arrivals annually contributing nearly one trillion dollars to the global economy UNWTO, While the actual number of visitors to the region is difficult to estimate due to the fact that the region is made up of Arctic and Subarctic territories of eight nations Stewart et al.

In the past, tourism in the Arctic was limited to a small group of individuals who had both the financial means and the adventurous spirit to take a trip to this peripheral region. Recently, mass tourism has increased as the diminishing ice cover provided easier access via maritime routes Johnston, In the future as a result of environmental changes, technological progress and higher demand, an increased number of tourist destinations and a longer tourist season can be expected.

Cruise tourism, for example, has increased dramatically due to better accessibility and the increased competition within the cruise industry that has resulted in the cruise lines expanding to more exotic destinations. Marquez and Eagles provided a comprehensive review and analysis of the tourism policy related to cruise ship tourism in the Arctic. Many of the key policy issues they explored regarding the cruise industry in the Arctic are important points for wider discussions regarding the impact of tourism in the Arctic particularly those related to sociocultural and community issues, environmental and economic impacts, safety and security, and sovereignty linked to climate change.

Mass tourism in the Arctic has had both positive and negative environmental, socio- cultural, and economic impacts Snyder and Stonehouse, , Mason, and The Arctic has been described as one of the last great wildernesses of the planet, many parts of which have received some environmental protection or designation national park, UNESCO World Heritage Site, etc.


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Conservation of these natural areas is directly threatened by the fact that tourists want to see and experience the vast wilderness areas. The increasing number of tourist arrivals can and has resulted in a compounding threat to the bio-security of many of the fauna and flora species that have become vulnerable in the face of climate change.

The natural environment is also threatened by the transportation networks that bring the tourists to and carry them around the Arctic. Consequently, marine mammals are being disturbed and fisheries damaged. Oil leaks from tourist ships can have very dramatic impact on the environment as clean-up of such consequences is extremely difficult due to the natural conditions, the unclear legal framework and lack of mechanisms for attributing responsibilities for clean up.

Another aspect clearly harming the environment is connected to the waste disposal — tourists leave waste behind and it is currently unclear who is responsible for its disposal. Other environmentally harmful aspects include air pollution, increased noise pollution, and other existing environmental contaminants in the region, for instance former military bases.

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A rising number of tourists may contribute to more hazardous conditions in the region. On the other hand, tourism development in the Arctic has brought economic profits, jobs, and an increased quality of life for indigenous populations.


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Tourism offers an alternative to traditional economic activities such as subsistence fishing and hunting. It has also empowered indigenous populations with an opportunity for economic independence that in most cases is lacking in the other developing industries in the region. Industries such as mining, commercial fishing, forestry, and oil all require expensive infrastructure development. Furthermore, denser transportation networks in the Arctic have increased the mobility of local populations.

The expanded transportation infrastructure will continue to result in increased flows of people in and throughout the Arctic, including tourists in search of authentic experiences with indigenous people in the region. As more and more indigenous people start to make their livings from tourism, many of them shift away from the traditional economic activities thus increasing their vulnerability to the seasonality and other external risks related to the tourism industry Notzke, Due to the Arctic climate and the limited tourism season, the majority of the economic activity is concentrated within a few summer months.

This can lead to negative social impacts as individuals and communities go through long periods of economic inactivity. At the same time, fears exist that this shift to a tourism based economy may lead to a loss of knowledge of the community about the traditional ways of survival in such extreme conditions see for example Nuttall, The local capacity to receive large number of tourists also becomes an issue, as is the case in cruise tourism where the number of tourists visiting from the ship can often outnumber the number of local residents Johnston, The emphasis on the development of tourism in the region as an alternative to more invasive industries can have a positive impact on the environment, or at least have a relatively smaller negative impact than alternative industries.

Tourism can contribute to conservation of the natural environmental and cultural heritage because that is in many cases what tourists are coming to see in the Arctic. Tourism in the Arctic can also contribute to more comprehensive awareness of vulnerabilities of the region and even the world to climate change. The extreme conditions of the Arctic contribute to another area of concern as tourism continues to develop in the region.

Currently, there is a lack of clarity regarding responsibility and response to crisis. There is a lack of transparency of who is responsible for rescue operations or even simple monitoring within in the region.


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Given the problematic issues connected to cruise tourism, this issue could emerge quite dramatically in the near future, as the potential for incidents will be rising. In order to do so, the overall aim for sustainable tourism development in the Arctic needs to be bought into by the various stakeholders and institutions that have an interest in the region. The current economic and environmental trends suggest that there will be increased human activity, including tourism, in the Arctic.

A vision for sustainable tourism has been, with varied intensity, discussed since the end of the s within the governing institutions of the region. A vision for sustainable tourism was developed during the conclusions of the Northern Forum in Finnish Rovaniemi in In the framework of the SMART project, discussed more later on in this paper, sustainable tourism was explained as a reality when economic interests do not concentrate solely on economic profit but also take into account environmental and social aspects of its activities.

It is clear that the understanding of sustainable tourism of the various organizations and institutions is aligned with prevailing definitions of sustainable tourism development. Questions concerning environment and corporate social responsibility have recently become a necessary part of discussions about tourism development in the Arctic.

In order for sustainable tourism development in the Arctic to succeed, the complex legal and governing frameworks of the region need to be explored.

Final Report. Sustainable Model for Arctic Regional Tourism (SMART)

The governance of the Arctic region must have a foundation of appropriate mechanisms for facing the challenges of the region including the increased number of tourism arrivals, the potential environmental hazards, the regulation and enforcement of laws and treaties, and the promotion of sustainable development. The problems of Arctic governance are explored in the following section through the discussion of the frameworks currently in place. Main actors in Arctic governance and their relevance to tourism regulation The aim of this section is to offer an overview of the political actors and their roles in Arctic governance with a particular focus on tourism-relevant instruments.

The basic instruments for governance and administration of the Arctic comprise of activities of the Arctic Council, international treaties signed among states represented in the region as well as one-side proclaimed national strategies. The relevance and influence of these individual actors for the field of tourism varies.

Besides the formal actors including the Arctic states , several informal actors have a strong level of influence in the region including non-profit organizations and industrial actors. Within the limited scope of this paper, a comprehensive review of all the actors in Arctic governance are not discussed in detail, however the most pertinent of these actors in relation to the non- regulation of tourism in the region are presented.

It was established in with the aim to support co-operation, co-ordination and interaction among Arctic states in the field of sustainable development and environment protection and is based on the Ottawa Declaration as a follow-up of the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy AEPS iv. It is comprised of the eight member states and five organisations representing the indigenous Arctic populations with status of permanent members. A number of countries not geographically connected to the region, NGOs, inter-parliamentary also hold observer status.

Nor does it deal with security issues, which are regarded as one of the main failures of the current legal framework, particularly in the soft-security sphere. For example, the AC in May adopted the Nuuk Declaration, which was the first binding agreement for search and rescue efforts in the Arctic Arctic Council, Since an AC working group on sustainable development has concentrated directly on tourism and other relevant topics.

The AC Action Plan for Sustainable Development focuses on the extreme vulnerability of the Arctic ecosystem in connection with the impacts of human activity and climate change. Additionally, it addresses issues facing indigenous population due to climate change and the insufficient transport and communication infrastructure in the region State Provincial Office, This project has significantly contributed to a more intensive discussion on the sustainability of tourism in the Arctic.

Also, coinciding with SMART, the Sustainable Arctic Tourism Association SATA was established in as a non-profit organisation aimed at improving the polar communities and expanding the discussion about sustainable tourism in the region. As a result, the Council functions as more of an advisory body. Originally, the AC was established through a declaration, not an international treaty, which explains the commitment of the Council members and the shared understanding that the it is a soft-law instrument Koivurova, Despite the above-mentioned drawbacks, the potential of this organisation is still often underestimated.

There does not appear to be much urgency within the AC to take on a more functional role, indicating that, at least in the near future, it will stick to the practice of issuing non-binding recommendations. On the other hand, status of the AC still leads to acknowledge it as one of the most important institutions with the political and legal leadership within the Arctic region.

Arctic Tourism in the Age of Climate Change | Environmental Law Institute

Currently, there is a specific working group for tourism in the organisation. However, due to the limited geographical focus around the Barents Sea region, the mandate of this group concentrates mainly on promoting tourism in the region and the development of tourism in a sustainable manner. Additionally, the Arctic University is being financed through the two main Nordic co-operation organisations.

Polar Tourism

The Nordic Council is one of the more invested organisations working toward improving the Arctic environment and addressing search and rescue issues, both of which are connected closely to increased shipping, including cruise ship traffic, in the region. However, even when there was a concrete pledge in the declaration — with an explicit link to tourism — to co-operate in addressing issues connected to environmental problems and risks, no concrete measures have been taken to adopt all-encompassing common and valid policy guidelines.

At the national level the Arctic states all have a certain degree of tourism regulation, but this area is also largely dependent on the dominant political economy paradigm within each country Webster, Ivanov and Illum, Although priorities for such actions are probably valid for the whole region, there is currently no common Arctic strategy on how to mitigate potential negative impacts of the increased number of tourists.

However, the individual states have taken various measures in trying to address these challenges. Tour operators need to qualify to receive the label, which in an environmentally mature country such as Sweden implies a significant sought- after value for the consumers. Russia — instead of concentrating on tourism regulation — has rather concentrated on gaining a more significant share of the Arctic tourism market, as the Russian Arctic is one of the least travelled to parts of the region.

Besides introducing national tourism branding, countries have established Arctic national parks which then automatically encompass a certain degree of regulation. Canada has three national parks in Nunavut, and Russia followed in with the establishment of Russkaya Arktika Russian Arctic National park.

Arctic tourism is potential threat to environment as ice melts

Snyder gained wilderness tourism experience as an Alaska Registered Guide and has applied his environmental management knowledge to assist Arctic governments and Native People. Those experiences were then used to evaluate tourism management issues in Antarctica and South Georgia. Appendix A. Appendix C. Appendix D. Appendix E. That represents an area more than one and a half times the size of Texas — and was the second-lowest level recorded by satellite since In , only 7, cruise passengers passed through Iceland.

By , a quarter of a million were visiting the country yearly. The Russian Arctic also saw a 20 percent rise in visitors last year , with Chinese tourists accounting for the largest group. But experts warn that the increasing traffic raises the chance of a catastrophe such as an oil spill or a sewage leak that would damage the pristine polar environment.

The Arctic is prone to severe and changing weather conditions that complicate travel and endanger seafarers. The high latitude also disrupts maritime navigational and communication systems. Should an oil spill, a crash or a machinery malfunction occur, the region's remoteness makes an efficient emergency response nearly impossible.

The Northwest Passage — a route through Canada's Arctic Archipelago that is miles north of the Arctic Circle and connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific — was first crossed by sea in The vast majority of Arctic voyages since then have involved minimalist research vessels, according to Marta Bystrowska, a climate scientist completing her Ph. In addition to crew members, the ship carried guests who dined in its luxurious restaurant and observed glaciers from private verandas.

These ships must withstand the grueling conditions that once made the Arctic the planet's most daunting maritime challenge.

Polar Tourism: An Environmental Perspective (Aspects of Tourism) Polar Tourism: An Environmental Perspective (Aspects of Tourism)
Polar Tourism: An Environmental Perspective (Aspects of Tourism) Polar Tourism: An Environmental Perspective (Aspects of Tourism)
Polar Tourism: An Environmental Perspective (Aspects of Tourism) Polar Tourism: An Environmental Perspective (Aspects of Tourism)
Polar Tourism: An Environmental Perspective (Aspects of Tourism) Polar Tourism: An Environmental Perspective (Aspects of Tourism)
Polar Tourism: An Environmental Perspective (Aspects of Tourism) Polar Tourism: An Environmental Perspective (Aspects of Tourism)
Polar Tourism: An Environmental Perspective (Aspects of Tourism) Polar Tourism: An Environmental Perspective (Aspects of Tourism)

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