“Better Places to Live – Better Places to Visit” was the title of a conference held in Barcelona, a city that has had challenges, to the irritation of (some) the locals, due to the large amounts of tourists. This is a challenge that Greenland has yet to face, but if we wish to continue the positive development, we must act now.

Tourism Creates Growth

There are a lot of good reasons to prioritize tourism as an industry, and with a global growth of 7 % in 2017 and an expected annual growth of 4-5 %, tourism is something we must deal with.

From an economic perspective this makes sense, as tourism generates jobs, but also because tourism can help generate events that focus on local culture thus helping the culture flourish, be preserved and developed. Reykjavik is a good example of a place where a lot of restaurants have opened in the past five years and would not have done so had it not been for the tourists. If you ask the locals they are happy about this. The negative stories on tourism we often hear from Iceland come from people who do not live in Reykjavik, but rather from people who rarely come to Reykjavik or just read about tourism in the press.

”We want to have tourists in the city, but we don’t want the tourists to have the city” This was said by Doug Lansky, International Tourism Thought Leader. He believes that we must be better at managing the tourism in order for valuable attractions not to be crowded or the experience lessened because one visits Machu Picchu at the same time as hundreds of other tourists with selfie sticks and mobile phones.

Rather than talk about “overtourism” it would be more appropriate to talk about “unbalanced tourism”. It simply comes down to being better at “Tourism Management”. It is very telling that Barcelona spends 60 million euros to market the city and only 1.5 million euros on “Tourism Management”.

“Better Places to Live – Better Places to Visit”

In reality the title of the conference says it all: If we make our cities nice to live in, let the culture flourish and the locals are proud of their culture, the cities also make for more attractive destinations. We now it from ourselves – we like to visit new places and other cultures. Why go to Barcelona, Hong Kong or London to go to McDonald’s? We can do that anywhere. We do not want to go where all the other tourists are. Through proper Tourism Management we can ensure that all the tourists are not in the same place at the same time. It comes down to better capacity management – making it possible to book an experience at a certain time to avoid the crowds. That way everyone gets to have a good experience e.g. how the Eiffel Tower looks in the ad (with only three people in front of it), when the reality is that the tower and surrounding area are a sea of people and hour-long queues.

Transformational Experiences

Visit Flanders that is situated in Belgium have conducted some very interesting research by collecting stories from 1.644 travellers in their region on what made their trip special (or not). They concluded that three things influence the experience of the traveller and their transformation:

Places, People, Do.

Of course the place and the activities matter, but what really makes the difference is meeting people – the locals as well as other tourists are what make the experience special and something to remember. It is when we encounter other cultures that we grow as human beings and gain insight and a greater understanding of other people.

Personal Experiences Benefit both the Guest and the Local

The sharing economy greatly influences our experience when we travel as we for example use Airbnb, where we stay in private homes and are in direct contact with the locals. Eatwith (formerly Vizeat) also gains ground. Just as Airbnb it is an online platform, but instead of booking an overnight stay, one can book a dinner in a private home. There is enormous interest in this kind of personal and local experiences that benefit both the guest and the local.

If the locals have a positive view of tourism because it somehow also benefits them, the tourist is also more likely to have a better experience and thus be willing to spend more money in the area. It is also about preserving the uniqueness that we have. We are not to change our culture or nature to attract the tourists, rather we are to preserve and develop the culture to benefit the locals as well as the tourists.

Sustainable Tourism Development in Greenland

In Greenland we are not yet at a point where the country is overrun by visitors, but the tourism is on the rise, and if we do not prepare now and steer our tourism in a sustainable direction, we will end up destroying the very things that the tourists travel here for today and should also want to visit us to experience in 50 years. For Visit Greenland responsible tourism development means that one:

• involves the locals in the tourism development with the intention of generating as many economic advantages as possible locally,

• contributes in a positive way to preserve the natural and cultural heritage,

• minimizes the negative environmental and social consequences,

• offers experiences that create meaningful connections with the locals and thus a greater understanding of the local cultural, social and environmental questions,

• creates commercial cooperation between local tourism operators and international travel agencies that cater to the tourist segments that are relevant for Greenland.

2018 is the EU Year of Cultural Heritage

The European Commission wishes to focus on European cultural heritage, on shared history and cultural world heritage and values in order to increase the sense of belonging across countries in Europe and, above all, to look after and promote the cultural heritage. This is, among other things, done through UNESCO, where Greenland is also involved.

Bonus information:

International tourist arrivals grew by a remarkable 7 % in 2017, in total 1.322 million according the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. This momentum is expected to continue in 2018 with a growth rate of 4-5 %.