For the first time, revenues from tourism are now higher than those from coal mining in Barentsberg, the Russian settlement on Svalbard. That has been made possible by upgrades of local infrastructure, according to the journal Russky Vestnik Shpitsbergen.
Figures from the archipelago, a territory under Norwegian sovereignty, show that the number of Russian tourists is up about 500 percent since 2014. Only the last year, the number of Russians on the islands has tripled, Interfax reports. Half of them came in the winter.
Leader of the local Grumant tourism center, Timofey Rogozhin, told the news agency that the price for an 8-day visit with full program costs about 100,000 rubles (about €1,450 or $1,579).
In summer 2016, the local tourism company organized a first cruise to settlements around the archipelago. It included a Russian-language program with visits to a number of key sites, among them glaciers, Vestnik Shpitsbergen reports.
The Russian tourism activities in Svalbard are concentrated in Barentsburg, the settlement with about 450 inhabitants. And local business is dominated by Trust Arktikugol, the Russian state-owned company traditionally engaged in coal mining. About 100,000 tons of coal is extracted from local mine in Barentsburg yearly.
The tourism activities organized from Barentsburg are still far below tourism in the nearby Norwegian settlement of Longyearbyen, where about 60,000 tourists in 2015 paid a visit.
Tourism in Longyearbyen is also picking up pace. In 2010, only about 35,000 tourists visited the settlement.