Wednesday 2 April 2014

AECO: Rapidly growing Arctic cruise tourism is a myth

Cruise passengers - Svalbard, Greenland, Franz Josef Land, Canada
Sources: Governor of Svalbard, Greenland Statistics and AECO. Numbers for Canada are based on an estimate by researchers from University of Ottawa and Lakehead University.


There is a growing interest in the Arctic and Arctic issues are often featured in the media, including stories about a rapid growth in Arctic cruise tourism. At an Arctic Council workshop held in Ottawa in March, these stories were brought into context.

Last week, under the guidance of the Arctic Council's Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) working-group, a workshop was held in Ottawa, Canada to address the topic of Arctic cruise tourism. During the workshop a number of speakers, including researchers, operators and industry representatives helped correct the myth about the supposedly 'large increase' in Arctic cruise tourism. In short - and as demonstrated below - Arctic cruise tourism is not a fast growing industry.

The downfalls of a wrong conception

A false notion of the actual number of visitors has the potential of creating too high expectations both in regards to opportunities and risks. Governments might put too large an emphasis on business opportunities, while authorities may consider the need for new regulations based on incorrect presumptions. This can – in turn – lead to unnecessarily strict regulations and a decline in local tourism and business opportunities. According to Frigg Jørgensen, Executive Director of Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO): "Expedition cruise tourism can be a driver of environment protection and a better local economy – if measures are based on facts and if operators, local communities and regulators work together".

Many Arctic cruise stakeholders represented

The workshop was an initiative undertaken by PAME, and was pursuant to Canada's Arctic Council Chairmanship and their 'Safe Arctic Shipping' initiative. The aim of the workshop was to bring together different stakeholders to discuss emerging trends, impacts, and oversight of marine tourism throughout the Arctic region, and to engage in open and constructive discussion on aspects of Arctic marine tourism. The number of participants was impressive, and both regulators, government agencies, and tour operators were present.

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