As tourism becomes an increasingly important part of global trade, the benefits and costs of increased tourism must be understood in the greater context of sustainable development. The overall project goal was therefore to investigate how to utilize existing human capital, natural resources (especially marine living resources) and infrastructure capacity to develop innovative sustainable tourism that can diversify and make Arctic economic development more resilient. This was to be achieved by a series of interrelated workshops in the Arctic regions of the Nordic countries, in which participants have been involved in identifying community challenges and opportunities pertaining to Sustainable Arctic Tourism.
The first workshop was hosted in Northern Norway in April 2018 (see a short summary here) and the second workshop took place in Northern Iceland in March 2019. Iceland, and especially Northern Iceland, was selected as a workshop location for studying sustainable Arctic tourism and its challenges and solutions because it features a unique case of rapid tourism growth strongly supported by government initiatives, yet challenges for regulations and investments to follow the speed of tourism development as well as uneven distribution of resource flows.
The overall aim of the second workshop was therefore to understand the challenges facing nature based tourism in peripheral regions of Iceland. As in the first workshop, the workshop activities were a combination of meetings with key industry stakeholders, especially tourism operators, entrepreneurs and administrators, as well as discussion and problem-focused debate among the workshop participants, partly including additional local academics. In this second workshop 19 attendees gathered, largely overlapping with the group from the first workshop, but including some unavoidable absences due to scheduling and some new participants.
Four overarching themes relating to the sustainable tourism development in the Arctic evolved during the academic discussions of the workshop participants and especially through the interaction with local tourism stakeholders. These included (1) the need for collaboration among competitors to agree on sacrifices and synergies toward sustainability especially under conditions of seasonality and peripheral location; (2) issues of scale and scope, the challenges imposed by “pressure points” or cruise as well as community impacts; (3) casual complementarities and sustainable substitutes of natural resource use, public infrastructure and technological advances in tourism; and (4) challenges in developing recreational fishing, including international dimensions of trade and competition.
Directly following the workshop, a session was hosted by Polar Research and Policy Initiative at the Icelandic Parliamentary Committee on Tourism and Transport. The aims of this meeting were both to further inspire and stimulate the discussion of the network and to disseminate the knowledge created in the workshops to policy makers.
A professional videographer joined the group and produced a video capturing the workshop activities and featuring some of the major themes of the discussions.
The video is available here.
For more information about the Sustainable Tourism Development in the Nordic Arctic project click here.