This strong and growing special interest segment is populated with a host of both large well-known companies such as National Geographic and Intrepid Travel and small independent tour leaders and industry specialists.

Special interest adventure travelers

Visit Greenland is now building upon knowledge gathered from a recent pilot project in East Greenland in order to help this market grow over the coming years.

Photo tours are a well established part of adventure travel in the global travel market. This strong and growing special interest segment is populated with a host of both large well-known companies such as National Geographic and Intrepid Travel and small independent tour leaders and industry specialists.

For most photography focused travelers the trip is a combination of pursuing personal creative interests and traveling with inspiring tour leaders. Photo tours tick a number of adventure travel boxes such as being active, developing new skills, exploring landscapes and new cultures, and traveling to new destinations with your peers.

However, photo tours are not exactly travel photography, where the photos tend to be a by-product of a journey with another purpose. In contrast to more general travel photography a photo tour is for specialized groups of travelers and each photographer brings in her own set of interests in landscapes, culture, night skies, wildlife, and so on traveling to destinations where they can explore their particular interests.

Photo tour status in Greenland

The global photo tour market in only just discovering Greenland, but conveniently there is already a large market in Iceland and lots of operators and tour leaders have been coming to our island neighbour for many years. This makes it all the more relevant to create a bridge between the two destinations for this market segment.

What we are starting to see is a spillover effect from the Icelandic market to Greenland, and this past September Visit Greenland has been involved in a pilot project in East Greenland together with established photo tour operator Isafold Travel and Travellodge Greenland in Tasiilaq to better understand the needs of the photography segment.

East Greenland and Kangerlussuaq already see a small number of independent photo tour groups each year, but there is no organized platform for photo tours anywhere in the country and from testimonials collected in the national mapping project we mostly gather that there is little to no product adaption in other parts of the country to better cater for photographers.

What interviews with photographers coming to Greenland on tours in general has also taught us is that there is already a niche of travelers in Greenland not finding experiences tailored to their needs, like this British photographer visiting Greenland in 2013:

“I think there really needs to be separate photography tours. There are some people that for instance want to just go see the northern lights and then go home, but then there are people who perhaps will want to stay from 10 pm until 3 am, and there has to be a photographers’ tour with not more than 5 to 6, or 10, people maximum.”

“I think there really needs to be separate photography tours. There are some people that for instance want to just go see the northern lights and then go home, but then there are people who perhaps will want to stay from 10 pm until 3 am, and there has to be a photographers’ tour with not more than 5 to 6, or 10, people maximum.”

“The most important thing is to be in the right place at the right time to get the right light. Food and accommodation comes second and third for my groups. We usually get up before 6 so we are in the right spots at 7AM. During the day people can rest and then we’re out in the evenings again, and the local operator must be able to work with a schedule like that.”

Voices from the East Greenland pilot project

Isafold Travel approached Visit Greenland and NATA with the goal of bringing in a group of tour leaders already coming to Iceland in order to sample the potentials in Greenland and share this knowledge with industry partners in both Greenland and Iceland.

The group spent four days on the ground in the Ammassalik District, traveling to a number of locations and along the way Visit Greenland collected testimonials from the photographers about their experience working in Greenland, among those Ron Rosenstock from the US:

“Greenland and Iceland are very different and combining the two destinations is going to be a very dynamic tour with many stops along the way. Iceland has more locations along the way but Greenland is more remote and challenging in a good way.”

The trip also confirmed that photographers do not go by the same clock as most other guests, as Dutch photographer Geurt Besselink explained:

“The most important thing is to be in the right place at the right time to get the right light. Food and accommodation comes second and third for my groups. We usually get up before 6 so we are in the right spots at 7AM. During the day people can rest and then we’re out in the evenings again, and the local operator must be able to work with a schedule like that.”

Building upon this insight we found that photographers don’t always like tours run on a set schedule. They follow the light and the changing weather conditions, and “the operator has to be able to change the program if we get the right light and we want to stay a whole day in a location where we only had a couple of hours planned”, as Wim Broekmann explained.

Photo tours are therefore less about the typical sights in an area and much more about working with locals skilled in finding locations that fit with the needs of a specific tour leader and the group, which Geurt Besselink summed up like this:

“For photographers it is all about shooting through the experience you are in, and if we don’t know what we miss out on, since we don’t go there, then it is not a problem. But then on the other hand it is good to have a guide who knows when it is important to move to a new location because it offers better opportunities for similar images.”

Next Steps

Photo tours are a part of the special interest segment in Greenland and should be approached in the same manner as local operators deal with anglers, heliskiers, hunters and similar segments. This means that groups will require flexible schedules, will probably not want to go to the most obvious sights in an area, and the guides on the ground working with the tour leader must have a good understanding of light conditions, locations, weather patterns, and logistics.

Isafold Travel and their tour leaders have generously shared their knowledge and experiences with Visit Greenland and our goal is to help grow photo tours from an emerging to an established special interest segment across all of Greenland, building upon knowledge gained from the pilot project in East Greenland.

The companies and tour leaders involved in the trip have already started work on new itineraries for 2015, and at Visit Greenland we are ready to assist with more background knowledge for operators interested in opening up this new market.

Get in touch with us at info@greenland.com for more info on destinations, seasons, locations, local operators, and the East Greenland project more specifically.

“For photographers it is all about shooting through the experience you are in, and if we don’t know what we miss out on, since we don’t go there, then it is not a problem. But then on the other hand it is good to have a guide who knows when it is important to move to a new location because it offers better opportunities for similar images.”