All eyes on Greenland

With the ice sheet melting, the whole world is looking towards Greenland to see how it will be impacted by climate change. And with the rise of tourism in Greenland, the sector has a responsibility to ensure that it reduces its negative impacts and fosters positive development in the country.



Visit Greenland became a member of CSR Greenland in early 2018. In August, Visit Greenland participated in an internal CSR workshop where it was unanimously agreed that the national tourist board had an integral role to play in driving sustainable tourism development. This is not only because we can lead by example and connect the industry, but also because CSR is already inherent in our everyday work.


The importance of responsible tourism

Sustainability across the tourism industry in Greenland has not always been prioritised due to lack of awareness of its economic benefit. However, what needs to be stressed to the local tourism operators is that a business with a good sustainable strategy actually has a competitive advantage in the industry. Here’s why: 


  • Your business will gain respect and recognition in the industry

  • More international companies are choosing suppliers who have a responsible tourism strategy. They will actively check that their partners have goals which align with theirs


"A business with a good sustainable strategy actually has a competitive advantage in the industry."

Visit Greenland will work towards showing the importance and advantages of responsible tourism. In our audit of ourselves, we currently do this by: 


  • Developing and promoting adventure tourism, which is a sector that respects that culture, nature and economic growth need to go hand in hand

  • Developing and promoting season expansion

  • Connecting international operators to local operators

  • Sharing knowledge of responsible tourism at Campus Kujalleq, the national tourism education programme

  • Promoting and developing settlement tourism in cooperation with our regional DMOs (destination expansion)

  • Enhancing community involvement through closer cooperation with our regional DMOs

  • Conducting port readiness programmes, thereby highlighting the quality demands of the international cruise operators, plus showing the local community how they can create business out of international tourists

  • Promoting the ‘good stories’ and becoming more and more present online


Overall, we and the tourism industry could be so much better at doing this.


Working together on Sustainable Development Goals

Responsible tourism was a large focus at the Towards More Tourism conference held in November for Greenlandic tour operators, hosted by Visit Greenland and Air Greenland. It is important to have the locals involved to plan and agree upon a unified strategy for the sustainable development of tourism.


We need to involve different stakeholders  - sustainability is a goal which cannot be achieved alone. 

Using UNWTO’s Sustainable Development Goals, we can do this, among other goals, through:

  • promoting decent work and economic growth (goal 8), 

  • responsible consumption and production (goal 12), 

  • and partnerships for the goals (goal 17). 


Adventure Tourism

Adventure Tourism is also sustainable tourism, not only because these tourists are usually environmentally and culturally engaged, but also because the adventure tourist invests most money into the local community. The adventure tourist puts about 65% of their holiday costs into experiences, accommodation, transport, souvenirs compared to a ‘mass’ tourist, finds research from a USAID Report in 2017.



There are already some strong examples of Greenlandic and international operators doing great work that promote responsible tourism tied to local betterment. Here are 13 tourism providers or operators who are doing some great work: 


Air Greenland

Air Greenland’s CSR strategy is incorporated into its business strategy. Besides having a dedicated CSR manager, Air Greenland works in responsible tourism by providing access to transport, involving and supporting the local society in community events and initiatives such as the biggest dog sledding race in Greenland Avannaata Qimussersua, and the development of interns with a comprehensive education program. 


Arctic Dream and dog food

Lars Anker runs Arctic Dream which offers tourist operations in East Greenland. As a previous dog owner himself, he has been a driver behind producing nutritious dog food at a cost-efficient price, and helping to develop a water distribution network in collaboration with Robin Hood Tierschutzverein, an Austrian Animal Welfare Society. All dog sled owners within Greenland get benefit of the food. KNI has also been involved in the project.

He also employs locals as guides and drivers, and runs an education program where young Greenlanders who have proved that they have potential skills and can show up on time are offered a 5 week course as a boat driver. Any staff who can take an English course also receives a higher per hour salary. During the weekends Arctic Dream employees and their families can use the company’s boats for leisure activities. 


Blue Ice Explorer

Blue Ice Explorer has been the anchor for tourism in Southern Greenland for over two decades. It was therefore fitting that they were awarded the Greenland Tourism Award 2018, for their work in delivering top quality service and safety. The company has had an enormous influence on the development and accessibility of local attractions such as fly fishing, hiking, Viking ruins, settlement tourism and farm holidays - the cooperation with farmers especially has meant that the destination has positioned itself uniquely in Greenland.


Ilimanaq Lodge

Ilimanaq Lodge has set itself apart in Greenland tourism because it is based in a small settlement with just over 50 permanent residents a year. The development of these lodges has attracted tourists to a new destination they otherwise would never have visited, and provided a new source of income and employment for local residents. According to the mayor of Avannaata Kommunia Palle Jerimiassen, the per household income is 240.000 DKK per year in 2010 to 420,854 DKK in 2017 (Sermitsiaq 2018). 


Glacier Lodge Eqi

These famous lodges have panoramic views over the icefjord and the comfort huts use solar energy for heating and electricity. The bathroom and flushing toilets also use water from meltwater.


Greenland Adventures by Icelandic Mountain Guides

IMG shares its expertise, among other things, through the East Greenland Rock Climbing Project. Running since 2014, the project aims to create climbing sectors with routes that could be used for locals and visitors, and to explore potential rock climbing areas elsewhere in East Greenland, but also to teach locals and nurture their interest in climbing. During summer the guides at Greenland Adventure run courses free of charge for kids in Kulusuk and from Tasiilaq. 


Greenland Outdoors

The recent winner of the Sustainability Award for Greenland Tourism in 2018, Greenland Outdoors has characterised itself by creating a healthy business with a high focus on safety, active efforts in nature conservation and faithfulness to the Greenlandic way of using and being in nature. The company gives its guests intimate and deep experiences in the Greenlandic nature, which is designed sustainably by avoiding motorized transport and offering self-produced food on the tours.


Hotel Arctic

This flagship hotel has long been in the business of educating and developing the capacity of the youth in Greenland. They have an extensive internship training program, which incorporates long term and environmental planning. 


Hotel Icefiord

Using food that is only brought by sea and not plane, encourages the local employees to be creative about the food they serve. Hotel Icefiord is now having such success in producing local food such as sausages from reindeer, or musk ox, and producing smoked fish with this strategy, that they will hire another employee soon.


Inuk Hostels

Inuk Hostels has an innate respect for local food and local culture. This can be seen in their accommodation and product offerings. Guests can stay in a Greenlandic inspired cabin and taste the local cuisine from the kitchen.


PGI Greenland and guiding education

PGI Greenland is a Greenland-registered company based in Ilulissat focusing on providing experiences to travellers who want to discover the authentic settlement life. In Oqaatsut, where they have their second base, the number of international guests visiting at one time is limited, and as much as possible it is the local people cooking meals, offering accommodation and offering dog sledding trips.

PGI Greenland also collaborates with Qajaq Ilulissat, which is an association that promotes the building and use of traditional Greenlandic kayaks, built with the technique of skin-on frame. As a kayaking company, PGI aims to connect their guests with the roots of kayaking, and collaborate with the association to show how the first kayaks were made and are still used today. They also exchange equipment with the club, and lend the appropriate gear and suits to practise longer in water so that the youth can also learn more about the sport without being afraid. 

Editor’s note: PGI was acquired Jan 1st 2019 by Albatros Arctic Circle Ilulissat with no intention by the new owners to change PGI’s way of engaging with the local society.


North Sailing

North Sailingis an Icelandic company that uses traditional sailing ships, including a hybrid electric two mast schooner, to explore Greenland’s East coast. North Sailing has a focus on environmental protection and careful behaviour towards marine life.


Uummannaq Seasafaris

One of the northernmost operators in Greenland, Uummannaq Seasafaris takes pride in engaging local staff when offering experiences and logistic services. They develop and differentiate their product by using knowledge of the land, and local expertise for tours like dog sledding and fishing, and will soon be offering better quality accommodation in the form of ‘Easy Dome’ cabins.