Arctic Network for sustainable tourism takes offRepresentatives from all eight arctic countries met at the end of June for a three-day intensive workshop in Finnish Lapland to help create a programme for promoting sustainable tourism in the Arctic.
The programme’s coordination committee, which consists of the State of Alaska, Alaska Wilderness Recreation & Tourism Association, Swedish Ecotourism Association, Executive Committee of Northern Norway, WWF Arctic Programme and the hosts, Kemi-Tornio Polytechnic, had invited organizations active in sustainable tourism issues in their respective countries to participate in defining a program that will bring a variety of benefits to the local tourism industry, communities and the environment in the circumpolar north. The idea had already been introduced and generally approved by the participants of the Arctic Ecotourism Conference (link) in Hemavan last April. This time, people gathered for a workshop to support the development of the idea with their experience and knowledge.
Despite the fact that there are existing projects of varying extent on national levels trying to make tourism more sustainable, this is the first initiative combining all efforts in the Arctic. "The geographic size of the program alone is unique. Only Latin America has tried something similar in tourism," said Australian Simon McArthur, the expert in sustainable tourism and ecotourism development who facilitated the international workshop.
Another unique advantage is that the region already has a widely accepted tourism Code of Conduct to build on. The Code of Conducts for tour operators and tourists are part of the "Ten Principles for Arctic Tourism” and have been developed in a multi-stakeholder process initiated and led by the WWF Arctic Programme’s "Linking Tourism and Conservation in the Arctic" initiative.
At the end of the workshop, participants agreed on a programme framework that will assist the arctic tourism sector to adopt economically, environmentally and culturally sustainable tourism practices. Providing information about the benefits of sustainable practices and tools that help to implement these in the daily operations of mainly small – and medium-sized tourism businesses will be the main means of achieving this goal.
However, the programme does not focus on knowledge-transfer alone as tourists also have to be made aware of the available alternatives to mainstream tourism. A market recognition scheme, such as a certification or labeling system, will be developed which recognizes businesses for proven sustainable practices and helps consumers to choose a quality and low impact vacation.