Social indicators for Arctic tourism: Observing trends and assessing data

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


The authors of this paper attempted to develop a database that would serve to track socialchanges 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 potentialsocial 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-86
Number of pages24
JournalPolar Geography
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Thank you to Ben Saylor and Søren Bitsch, Research Associates; Joel Ainsworth, Melissa Bradley and Sigfús Steingrímsson, student interns for their diligent work on data collection, formatting and documentation. This article is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. NSF OPP0638408.


Dive into the research topics of 'Social indicators for Arctic tourism: Observing trends and assessing data'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this