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Staying on top of the world

The Nordic Arctic is a beautiful but fragile environment. Developing sustainable tourism through a EUREKA project is helping protect it from damage and reducing its dependency on very few other economic resources.

EUREKA Project E! 2408 on Arctic Tourism had the ambitious target of mapping the effects tourism has already had on Arctic areas and pointing the way to tourism development without threatening the delicate ecosystem. Four widely differing locations within the Nordic Arctic region showed traditional reliance on just a few economic activities, making them vulnerable to unemployment. Project results demonstrate that tourism can offer a new source of local jobs in the Arctic region, provided it is developed with regard to sustainable use of resources, including the environment and wildlife. This EUREKA project, involving collaboration from Denmark, Iceland and Norway, focused heavily on influencing the progress of tourism to ensure socioeconomic benefits to the local people involved. As well as financing, project leaders took inspiration and access to very varied viewpoints through being part of the EUREKA Network. Although the four areas had significant differences, the experience gained led to the development of common guidelines for managing the delicate balance between sustaining the economy, the culture and the Arctic environment. Important lessons emerged from the work, despite some initial reluctance to adopt a new approach. It became clear that tourism can offer a new source of local jobs in the Arctic region, provided it is developed with regard to sustainable use of resources, including the environment and wildlife. This should reduce the dependency of the traditional society on the few other sources of income. At the same time, generating tourism involves co-operation between many different types and levels of stakeholders, at both the local and national level. The project, coordinated by Kåre Hendriksen, at the time a consultant for the Danish project coordinator Ramboll, set out to plan the rehabilitation of damaged areas (at two locations in Greenland, plus one each in Iceland and Norway). Now new initiatives are helping encourage eco-friendly visitors, generate new local jobs and revive pride in traditional culture and occupations. Stig Hirsbak from Ramboll explains: “The project was trying to encourage people not only to prevent degeneration of the environment, but to recover from damage already done, and also to create some revenue”. And all on a budget of €0.86 million. Hirsbak continues, “It’s easy to talk about sustainability at the desk level, but much harder to make it work.” The key is preventing further damage, otherwise increased tourism would only be short-lived. More information: Stig Hirsbak, Ramboll, Teknikerbyen 31, 28301 Virum Denmark. Tel: +45 45 98 85 70; Fax: +45 45 98 89 50; Email: sgh@ramboll.dk

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Denmark, Iceland, Norway