More tourists venture to Russia’s remotest Arctic coast

By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer - October 15, 2017

Arctic tourism is on the rise, including in one of the remotest parts of the north.

Figures presented by the Russian Arctic National Park show that a total of 1,142 tourists this year visited Franz Josef Land, Russia’s northernmost Arctic archipelago. That is a 20 percent increase compared with 2016, and almost a doubling compared with 2013 when 639 tourists were on site.

Chinese tourists accounted for the biggest group (209) followed by Russian nationals (205) Swiss (146) and French (77) visitors.

The strongest growth this year comes from the Russians themselves.

Three times more Russians visited the remote Arctic islands compared with previous years. According to the managers of the national park, the growth is connected with the 40 years anniversary celebrations of icebreaker Arktika’s first visit to the North Pole, an event which was marked with a voyage to the islands by icebreaker 50 let Pobedy.

A total of 11 cruise vessels paid a visit to the islands this year. The ships followed three different routes through the archipelago and there were inspectors of the national park on board of each of them, according to a press release.

A visit to Franz Josef Land comes with a price. Rates start at $8,995 per person in a triple classic cabin. A premium suite is twice that price.

In an interview with the Barents Observer last year, CEO of Lindblad Expeditions, Sven-Olof Lindblad said mass tourism now is on its way to the Arctic. “Tourists are coming in a big wave. Companies follow each other,” he said. Lindblad Expeditions was in 1969 the the first company to get a purpose-built vessel for cruising the waters of the Arctic and Antarctic.

Several tour companies are currently involved in the voyages to Franz Josef Land, among them Quark Expeditions LTD, Poseidon Expeditions, Oceanwide Expeditions and Hapag Lloyd cruises.