Russia lays out plans to boost Arctic tourism

529

At a meeting in St. Petersburg Monday, Russian culture ministry officials said new efforts are underway to ramp up tourism to the nation’s Arctic regions.

The assembly focused on the country’s Silver Necklace of Russia tourism project, Russian state-owned news agency TASS reports.

Tourists travel by ski in Russian Lapland, on the Kola Peninsula. (Getty)
Tourists travel by ski in Russian Lapland, on the Kola Peninsula. (Getty)

Russia’s Deputy Minister of Culture Alla Manilova called for the country to develop new strategies for Arctic tourism, including “inviting” tourists from southern countries and working on a new federal program to create “tourism clusters.” Citing an anecdote from the head of Madrid’s Visit Russia office, Manilova pressed that Russia needs to offer more options to potential visitors wanting to see the Arctic.

“Head of our Visit Russia office in Madrid told me Spanish tourists are buying out planes to visit Iceland and Finnish Lapland to see the Northern Lights, to get acquainted with the Arctic,” the deputy minister said. “We must offer similar options to them.”

Funding details for the programs were not outlined at the time, according to TASS.

The Silver Necklace of Russia project, launched in 2013, links 11 regions in northwest Russia through significant cultural and natural monuments.

The meeting comes as Russia grows both its tourism and military presence in the Arctic. Earlier this month, during an annual call-in program in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin linked the two: foreign tour guides in Franz Josef Land, he said have told tourists that “these islands once belonged to the Soviet Union” — something that should worry Russia. “After all, this is our territory.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin visits the cave of Arctic Pilots Glacier in Alexandra Land in remote Arctic islands of Franz Josef Land, Russia March 29, 2017. Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via REUTERS
Russian President Vladimir Putin visits the cave of Arctic Pilots Glacier in Alexandra Land in remote Arctic islands of Franz Josef Land, Russia March 29, 2017. (Sputnik / Alexei Druzhinin / Kremlin via Reuters)

In May, the country unveiled a new military base in the Franz Josef Land archipelago, after Putin visited the islands in March with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and members of his cabinet in advance of a major Russian Arctic conference held in the port city of Arkhangelsk.

As global warming continues to warm Arctic waters, far-flung destinations like the Franz Josef Land islands are expected to become more attractive tourism destinations. According to the Barents Observer, major cruise liners currently have 16 new Arctic expedition vessels in the works. In the Norwegian Svalbard archipelago, the Barents Observer reports that tourism has increased 20 percent each year in the last decade. And the Crystal Serenity plans to again sail the Northwest Passage this year.

Still, challenges remain. High costs, challenging weather and a lack of infrastructure are all obstacles to tourism in the region.