The goal is to encourage research that can inform decision-makers, local communities and operators at a time of increased interest in Arctic tourism.
The report points to research needs and suggested studies ranging from exploring technological innovations that 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 organization of emergency reception camps on land or on another vessel in case of mass evacuation, among other things.
A main challenge identified relates to the risks associated with unorganized tourism, which has the potential to negatively impact organized tourism, the environment, communities and safety.
The report proposes a number of possible solutions to challenges connected with tourism. Among those: 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.
Further possible solutions include enhanced management of private sailboats and yachts, mandatory training and certification of all guides and the use of drones to map the impact of tourism and traffic on vegetation.
The report also noted that well-organized tourism should be considered as an opportunity and a possible solution to potential challenges.
The report results from a workshop that took place Longyearbyen, Svalbard, in the fall. The more than 50 participants included key researchers from a broad range of fields such as social science, economics, natural sciences, business, tourism, Arctic issues and preparedness. Representatives from research funding institutions and those working in tourism were also present. The event was made possible with funding support from Svalbard Environmental Protection Fund.
According to Trine Krystad of Visit Svalbard, the workshop was 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,’ she said. That’s why researcher from different fields, industry, authorities, locals and funding institutions were invited to help map the areas and issues that need focus 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,’ Krystad said.
According to Frigg Jørgensen, executive director of the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators, the organizers hope researchers will make use of the suggestions outlined in the report.
‘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,’ she said.
A summary of research needs as well as the full workshop report are available on the websites of AECO and Visit Svalbard.