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Social indicators for arctic tourism: observing trends and assessing data

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The authors of this paper attempted to develop a database that would serve to track social changes brought about by the expansion of arctic tourism resulting from climate change. In this paper we review and assess the state of data used to describe and monitor tourism trends in the pan-arctic and their potential social effects. We selected 12 potential indicators for long-term assessment and monitoring changes in arctic tourism. We attempted to collect consistent data from 1980 to 2008 for Alaska, Canada, Norway, Greenland, Lapland and Iceland. In addition to visitor counts of various types, the database includes tourism-related employment and earnings at the place and regional levels, though the data are not consistent or complete for all the countries. The World Tourism Organization provides relatively standardized tourism data definitions. However, data collection by national agencies varies across the arctic countries and data are not available for all selected indicators. A significant problem is that most jurisdictions use sampling and reporting protocols that result in statistically unreliable estimates for remote rural areas. These same areas may also be most vulnerable to potential impacts and changes brought about by expanding tourism development. We discuss the critical need for an arctic tourism observation system. Standardization or comparability of time series data sets will be important for the future monitoring and modeling of changes in the arctic environment and associated impacts of expanding tourism, especially as diminishing sea ice cover increases visitor access.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Institute of Social and Economic Research,University of Alaska Anchorage, AnchorageAK, USA 2: School of Engineering and Natural Sciences,University of Iceland, Reykjavik, Iceland

Publication date: 2011-03-01

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