Problems and conflicts of
Recently, European high-latitude tourism has become
more and more popular. Due to economical problems in
Russia, even the largest icebreakers of the world have
started to be involved in the Arctic tourist cruises.
High-latitude coastal areas are attractive for tourists.
The Russian sector of Europe may be subdivided into
two main groups:
- Coasts of the Barents and the White Seas.This
is more or less inhabited land. However, basic roads,
hunting houses or deserted settlements of previous
times still remain here.
- High-latitude archipelagos. Cruises
to Franz Josef Land and the Nova Zembla islands may
include even a visit to the North Pole on nuclear
icebreakers (e.g. Yamal) or helicopters (sometimes
- with last kilometres on skies). These areas have
no permanent population. Infrastructure here is completely
absent or undeveloped.
concerning the high-latitude tourism are as follows:
Inadequate infrastructure. Visiting
the so called Arctic deserts, tourists sometimes cannot
behave in a sustainable way even if they wanted to.
For example, absence of specially constructed planked
footways on some Arctic islands (see below) leads to
the trampling down of the thin vegetation cover. This
worries tourists but they cannot avoid or change the
situation. Furthermore, infrastructure development is
not projected, since the few tour operators dealing
with Arctic tourism are not interested in large investments.
Nobody can force them since there are no controlling
entities in the area. Another example is the Franz Josef
Land, legally speaking a Protected Area but permanent
protecting service is absent here. So, the tourism in
the area is actually uncontrolled. Formally, special
observers representing the regional nature protection
authorities are included into the staff of the Arctic
cruises. Yet, those people are usually not qualified
for the job (it is not their main speciality) and they
depend on the tour organisers because the firm provides
them with services on a level with all tourists (including
feeding in the high-class restaurant) free of charge.
Neglecting of natural processes.
In high-latitude areas life is highly concentrated on
small sites (vegetation, bird colonies, seal-rookeries,
walrus shore and ice grounds). These sites are both
the most attractive for tourists and for nature. However,
guides frequently visit them in the course of foot or
boat excursions. Moreover, such sites are specially
visited during the helicopter excursions from the tourist
Tourism development is not well planned. Activities
are planned only for short-term perspective.
knowledge of tour providers. Icebreaker based
excursions to bird colonies located on coastal cliffs
are not harmful while helicopter excursions are extremely
dangerous to nestlings and young birds. Pursuit of walruses
or polar bears on motorboats with tourists willing to
take pictures of these animals as close as possible
leads to stress them. However, that is exactly the attraction
for which the tourists pay good money. Therefore, the
environmental knowledge of tour operators in insufficient
and their tendency is just to please the tourists.
Low level of education.
Environmental knowledge of tour operators and guides
working in the Arctic is not always high enough. Usually
they have no special professional training and certification.
A Special Code of Conduct for the Arctic Coasts (for
both tour organisers and tourists) is absent. Even if
a tour organiser does not possess all required documents
nobody controls his activities.
Neglected carrying capacity. High Arctic
vegetation is extremely vulnerable and its rehabilitation
is extremely slow. Visiting high-latitude areas by lots
of tourist leads to the impact on vegetation (e.g. some
islands of the Franz Josef Land Archipelago are visited
by approximately a thousand tourists during summer).
Deterioration of natural resources. Environmental
deterioration of the Arctic may be caused by the use
of inadequate transport (teams of hunters-tourists are
transported to the hunting places by caterpillar tractors).
In many cases that causes disturbance or even destruction
of the abundant permafrost layer in the Arctic, besides
soil erosion and consequent ravine formation.
Actors, location and Time
The Agency VICAAR ( "Victory in the Arctic and Antarctic
Research") was founded in 1991 in St. Petersburg. The
director of the agency is Dr. Victor Boyarsky, a famous
polar explorer, member of the International TRANSANTARCTICA
Expedition, the International Arctic Project Expedition,
having crossed the Arctic Ocean with dog-sled and canoe
from the Russian Arctic via the North Pole to Canada.
The personnel consist of professional scientists and
polar explorers working as logistics supervisors, guides
producers and programs managers.
Concerning tourism, VICAAR focuses on education and
preservation of the nature values. It enables tourists
to enjoy, appreciate and learn about the unique and
fascinating Wild Nature regions. Its programs are aimed
at providing maximum safety for all participants with
minimum impact on the environment. VICAAR intends to
develop this form of tourism in a more sustainable way.
The initiatives in the field of the sustainable Arctic
tourism development are not specifically financed. Instead,
it is the team view which is moving VICAAR towards an
environmentally friendly behaviour.