Arctic tourism

Travel Destinations — By on August 30, 2007 at 2:33 pm

The Arctic climate of Greenland hasn’t traditionally been a big tourist attraction, but interest is growing. Climate change, ironically, is one of the factors behind a rise in tourism to Greenland, as this Associated Press article notes:

Hunting is the central element of the Inuit culture in Greenland, a semiautonomous Danish territory, but that immutable way of life is facing its greatest challenge: climate change. It’s a double-edged sword for the Inuit. It’s transforming their frozen landscape, melting glaciers and disrupting animal life…

Since 1995, Greenland’s vast ice cap has lost 7 percent of its mass and 300 feet in height…But the change also presents new opportunities. Twenty years ago, when visitors were rare, the fjords and bays were clogged with ice through July. Now, those bays are navigable by April or May. That means more tourists _ eager to explore one of the most remote and unexploited corners of the globe. Eight cruise ships will come to the area for the first time this month and next.

“You could say that the Inuit on Greenland are the early adapters to climate change,” said Jacqueline McGlade, EEA executive director. “The people here are determined to embrace a sustainable form of tourism that fosters their traditions and respects their landscape.”

A similar story in the Toronto Globe and Mail makes the same point, in between descriptions of the dramatic iceberg views:

I’m sitting atop a small hill of smooth rock watching centuries of history drift by. In front of me, Disko Bay is filled with icebergs – big ones, smooth ones, small ones. They seem to be waiting, glinting in the midnight sun. It’s approaching 11 p.m. in this village north of the Arctic Circle, but the sun is still two arms’ lengths away from the horizon and won’t set for a couple of weeks.

From my perch, it’s the scale of the scene, not the beauty of each iceberg, that is most impressive. The view is both peaceful and striking. It’s one of those travel-earned vistas that stays in your mind: the red rooftops of Florence from the Campanile, the golden forts of Jaisalmer at sunset, and, here, the shimmering white icebergs of Greenland pausing in the bay…

While Greenland often draws a passing glance on a polar-route flight or conjures up Vikings – or the 10th-century marketing spin by Erik the Red, who came up with the island’s contrary name – today, the country is becoming known as a destination at the forefront of climate change.

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