Since July 2014, in cooperation with Statistics Greenland, Visit Greenland has registered the country of residence of airline passengers on departures out of Greenland and all figures can be seen on the website www.tourismstat.gl.
In the third and fourth quarter of 2015, this valuable data showed growth in the number of tourists arriving by air of 23.8%. Figures for the first and second quarter 2016 now show continued growth in the first half of 2016:
755% growth - can this be true?!
In March 2016, Greenland was the host of 'Arctic Winter Games (AWG)', the circumpolar sports and cultural event, which made 1,700 guests gathered in Nuuk. Since this was such a large and one-off event, we have two sets of tourist figures in 2016; with and without the figures from Arctic Winter Games. The very high growth rates in visitors from Canada and the USA are included in AWG, where the majority of guests came from North America.
Around 1,300 of AWG guests came from Canada, which gives a very large growth of 754.9%. If the AWG figures are deducted, the growth in guests from Canada is approximately 90%. The same applies to the USA where the growth including AWG guests was almost 100%, while without AWG guests, it was around 45%. However, these are still high growth rates.
The summer-autumn season is most popular
The largest proportion of the guests visits Greenland in the second half of the year, when the peak season continues during July through September.
The diagram above clearly shows how tourism is distributed between the first and second half of 2015. About one-third of the total number of tourists visit Greenland in January through July, and two-thirds visit in July through December, with the vast majority visiting during the summer peak season in July through September. Even though we do not have airline passenger data from before July 2014 that can show whether the same pattern existed in the years before, it seems probable when we look at the overnight stay statistics from 2015 and 2014:
NB: Unfortunately, only 47 out of 118 accommodations report overnight stay data. They show a trend but are not complete.
Figures for the peak season are anticipated with great excitement
Since almost half of all the tourists visit the country during July, August and September, we can only come with any conclusive information about the growth in 2016 when data from the third quarter is published in October. Based on the figures from the first half of the year and reports from the sector, there is, however, a greater probability that we will see continued growth in the second half.
Trends in Iceland
In Iceland, where a part of the Greenland's growth comes from, the first seven months of 2016 shows growth of as much as 34% in the number of international airline passengers through Keflavik Airport. The same figure was at 28% the year before. There is a high degree of coincidence between core markets in Iceland and Greenland (Scandinavia, Northern Europe and North America) and at the same time, we hear that the tourist stakeholders in Iceland have begun to realise that Greenland is an add-on in their product portfolio. If this Iceland/Greenland combination trip trend continues to grow, it will benefit Greenland to a great extent.
Pressure on capacity / Capacity limit
The growth in tourism in Greenland means that despite the healthy signs, we know from key stakeholders in Greenland, that the pressure on the number of airline seats and overnight accommodations in the important peak season are reaching their limits. On this basis, we should probably not expect growth in the second half of 2016 to be at quite the same level as in the same period last year.