Polar Tourism: Definitions and Dimensions

C. Michael Halla & Jarkko Saarinen

Scandinavian Journal of Hospitality and Tourism

Volume 10, Issue 4, 2010



Polar regions are attracting more public, political, economic and scientific attention than ever before, with the role of tourism becoming increasingly recognised. Tourism activities are still relatively new in polar settings with the role of tourism primarily seen as highly beneficial with a capacity to contribute to socio‐economic development, especially in the Arctic. However, the growth in tourism is also regarded by some commentators as potentially damaging to the polar environments, especially when combined with the effects of climate change. Yet in order to understand future change it is important that past and present tourism numbers can be benchmarked. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the definitions and dimensions of tourism in polar regions and how the term polar tourism can be understood. The paper aims to define polar tourism in a manner that is consistent with that of international tourism statistics in order to identify gaps in our knowledge base. Based on the existing statistics and overview of current levels of tourism in polar regions it is indicated that the number of visitors to high latitudes is already substantial, especially in the Arctic, and is continuing to grow.