Greenland’s contrast filled nature and its exciting culture continues to attract more a more guests from Denmark and from outside the country. Tourism is today one of the most important industries in Greenland just after fishing. It is estimated that during 2004, approximately 31,000 tourists came to Greenland. In addition, 16,000 cruise ships as well as a large number of undocumented one day tourists visited primarily East Greenland. One must conclude that tourism is here to stay in Greenland.
Tourism in Greenland took its first baby steps at the end of the 1950s with organized tours in south Greenland and Kulusuk in the east. The participants then could be counted on the fingers of one hand and tourism as a source of income was not known amongst the Greenlandic population. During the next 20 years new actors on the scene periodically appeared and more cities opened tourist offices to receive the then, relatively few tourists.
Greenland’s home Rule government decided in the beginning of the 90s to seriously push the development by establishing Greenland’s tourist development company Greenland Tourism. The vision was to make tourism a self sustaining industry and Greenland was to both live of and with tourism. The country was both to be promoted in Denmark and in foreign countries selling tours to a broader net of travel agents and also then there was the task to develop a reception apparatus in Greenland. During the 1990s the number of tourists grew quickly. Several more actors appeared on the scene and attention on Greenland was focused via the press and through the distribution of brochures in several languages. In addition, Greenland Tourism developed an outfitter ordinance for those just starting up and made it easier for participants to market their products in manuals, brochures and at conventions.
Today, tourism contributes markedly to the income of both private participants, transport carriers and the state coffers. Not least, the increased number of tour operators both in Greenland and Denmark have formed the basis for rapid growth in the number of tourists, just as the collective advertising approach from the tourist branch side has contributed positively to its advancement.
Package tours, individual travel, sailing tours and cruise ship visits are now available in all Greenlandic cities. Spectacular events with participation of international teams and with much media attention are also being arranged.
More cities and settlements have opened the possibility of selling experiences to tourists and the settlements’ authenticity especially attracts the cruise shiptraveller.
These years an attempt is being made to strengthen the effort to professionalize the tourist industry and transport carriers, municipalities. Greenland’s Home Rule government together with private participants contribute in broader frames of reference: early planning of travel schedules, establishing destination businesses and greater financial cooperation for those sharing common advertising.
Today, Greenland’s Tourist and Business Board (the former tourist development company) plays a central role in advancing tourism and business development.
Businesses are responsible for consultant work, innovation and development, developing export and promotion, developing competence, analysis, documentation and information.
Tourism has throughout the years attracted greater political focus and today enjoys recognition as a growing business with great potential.
The requisites for even more growth are – amongst other aspects – the initiative of private participants to set activities in motion and the education of more and more in the business of tourism.
Globally, tourism grows at a rate of 5-6% (WTO 2005) and is one of the most important industries in the world. Greenland has during some years experienced a growth of up to 14% which is especially positive. However, Greenland is also affected indirectly by acts of terror and epidemics. It is reassuring that Greenland is seen as a safe place and this enables, together with greater goal oriented promotion in the foreign market, the possibility for a greater growth of foreign guests visiting Greenland.
Statistics for overnight stays and plane passenger figures are today the most important tools for analyzing the effect of the tourist branch’s efforts. In 2004, approx. 81% of all tourists were Danes, 3.8% were Germans, 2.7% Norwegians and 2.9% Swedes. The largest number of tourists came to Greenland to vacation and the primary overnighting form was stays in hotels followed in number by stays in private housing and hostels. Tourists come to Greenland primarily to experience its nature, icebergs and culture.
More information can be obtained from Greenland’s Tourist and Business Board’s WebPages at www. gt.gl (also in Danish) and www greenland.com, www. inussuk.gl (Danish and Greenlandic). Tourist statistics can be seen on Greenland’s Statistics website www. statgreen.gl.