A Warm Welcome: Opportunities for Great Tourist Discoveries in the Arctic
Arctic tourism in Russia has great potential for development
“The demand for the Arctic around the world is increasing every year. Unfortunately, Russia remains on the sidelines of this tourist boom. About 4,000 people visited the Russian Arctic zone last year. <...> At the same time, Svalbard is visited by more than 120,000 tourists a year,” Zarina Doguzova, Head, Russian Federal Agency for Tourism.
“Last year, Rosturizm conducted a survey which showed that 73% of those surveyed in various countries would like to take a cruise along the Northern Sea Route,” Nikolay Pegin, General Director, Development Corporation of Kamchatka.
“What makes the Russian Arctic attractive is that it allows a combination of ecotourism in ecoparks and visiting places of historical and cultural heritage,” Yulia Zvorykina, Director, Institute for Research and Examination of Vnesheconombank.
“The average tourist is somebody who has the means and is willing to buy this product. The Arctic is extremely attractive; we just need to learn how to use its potential,” Inge Solheim, Norwegian Traveller, Expert on Polar Regions.
Underdeveloped infrastructure in the region
“The question of infrastructure is a good and well-posed one. <...> Places that are most attractive for tourism are located in the areas with interrupted transport accessibility,” Yulia Zvorykina, Director, Institute for Research and Examination of Vnesheconombank.
“We have vast wide-open spaces, and the main problem with the development of tourism is the road and transport infrastructure. There is a lot of beauty but getting to see it is either very difficult or impossible,” Valentina Pivnenko, First Deputy Chairman, State Duma Committee for Regional Policy and Issues of the North and Far East.
High cost of tours
“Everything that has to do with the sea is very expensive. An average Russian will never be able to visit the park. The share of Russians in the total tourist flow is 5% on average. <...> If we develop air travel to the Arctic, we can reduce the cost of tours. Currently, the price of a ticket to Franz Josef Land starts from 600,000 roubles,” Alexander Kirilov, Director, National Park Russian Arctic.
“Russian people practically do not know anything about the Arctic. It is interesting for those who live in the central part of the country, it is interesting for southerners, but it takes a lot of money to fly to Murmansk or Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky,” Valentina Pivnenko, First Deputy Chairman, State Duma Committee for Regional Policy and Issues of the North and Far East.
Strict environmental restrictions
“More than 1,000 specially protected natural areas with limited economic activity are registered in the Arctic. <...> If there are places that are attractive for tourists, it is impossible to have the tourist facilities located in those areas. So, these mechanisms should be given additional consideration,” Yulia Zvorykina, Director, Institute for Research and Examination of Vnesheconombank.
Local authorities show little interest in the development of tourism
“One of the biggest challenges is how to keep the money flowing into tourism, keep it regional and local. Much of the income goes into profits of travel companies and is paid in taxes, while the local population does not benefit from visiting tourists. Very little money goes into local and regional budgets,” Inge Solheim, Norwegian Traveller, Expert on Polar Regions.
Creating incentives for investors and local authorities to develop tourism
“Working with investors, creating a favorable investment climate. <...> We need to look into the tax incentives that would be possible for a socially responsible business that would be willing to invest in tourism along with the government,” Zarina Doguzova, Head, Russian Federal Agency for Tourism.
“We should study the experience of Yakutia, which provided tax incentives to support entrepreneurship in the region. Entrepreneurship in tourism can drive the revitalization of the Arctic territory,” Valentina Pivnenko, First Deputy Chairman, State Duma Committee for Regional Policy and Issues of the North and Far East.
“There is no need to build gargantuan plans; we must resolve the issues of support for local authorities in the regions that welcome travelers and create tourist centres for family or countryside tourism. This <...> will ensure employment for the locals, among other things,” Valentina Pivnenko, First Deputy Chairman, State Duma Committee for Regional Policy and Issues of the North and Far East.
Creation of new cross-border and interregional routes
“To make sure the [tourist – Ed.] routes pay off, they need to go across the borders. Norway, Sweden, Finland have cross-border routes which increases economic efficiency of tourism,” Yulia Zvorykina, Director, Institute for Research and Examination of Vnesheconombank.
“The Arctic will develop in a breakthrough manner if we include the process of interregional cooperation, when tourism products are developed on the basis of two or three regions. Kamchatka could be most interesting as an entrance point,” Nikolay Pegin, General Director, Development Corporation of Kamchatka.
“Since last year, we have had a working group whose activity is aimed at the development of Arctic tourism. The group includes government representatives from all Arctic regions and some of the cross-border ones, because we also see the need for cross-border routes. Many regions that are not part of the Arctic zone, but are related to it geographically, are the gateway to the Arctic,” Aleksey Tikhomirov, Deputy Executive Director, Russian Geographical Society.