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Arctic Tourism        

Arctic Tourism

from Lloyd’s Report 2012: Arctic Opening – Opportunity and Risk in the High North


Tourism has a long history in relatively well-developed parts of the Arctic, such as coastal Norway. Improved accessibility has increasingly allowed tourism to develop in less populated and economically developed areas, creating a substantial seasonal economy. The number of nights spent at hotels in Greenland increased from 179,349 in 2002 to 236,913 in 20081 . In Longyearbyen on Svalbard these numbers rose from around 30,000 in 1995 to over 89,000 in 2008 (before declining to 77,000 in 2010) (xxx). Arctic tourism has not only become more common, it has also become far more global, with greatly increased numbers of tourists from outside the home country.

The cruise sector, less constrained by limits on onshore tourist accommodation and more difficult to regulate because it operates in offshore areas, has also expanded substantially. In 2003, an Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO) was set up to support and establish best practice for cruises, particularly in the Norwegian Arctic. Of fifteen AECO vessels off the coast of eastern Svalbard in 2011, five were Russian registered, three Dutch, two from Nassau Bahamas, two registered in the Bahamas, and one each French, Panamanian and Swedish2 .

Many of the challenges associated with cruise ship tourism in the Arctic are similar to those affecting commercial shipping: relatively poor knowledge of seabed features, lack of infrastructure in terms of port facilities, and the need for winterisation of vessels and the removal of deck-icing. In 2010 the MV Clipper Adventurer cruise ship ran aground in the Canadian Arctic on a rock initially claimed to be “uncharted”. The Canadian Coast Guard took two days to reach the vessel. There has been subsequent legal disagreement over potential compensation. While the Arctic Council reached a pan-Arctic Search and Rescue (SAR) Agreement in May 2011, providing a firm basis for co-operation between Arctic states, search and rescue infrastructure and capability remain constrained.


(xxx) The final figures for 2011 are expected to show an increase in the previous year.


  •  1. 2011 Greenland in Fact
  •  2. Management plans for the nature reserve on eastern Svalbard 2011 Svalbard governor’s office

Charles Emmerson, Glada Lahn, 2012, Arctic Tourism, Lloyd’s.©

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