Coping with rapid and cascading changes in Svalbard: the case of nature-based tourism

February 2023
Arctic Science Summit Week (ASSW2023)

Tourism has been booming in Svalbard, and has picked up where it left before the pandemic. At the same time, the island is a hotspot of rapid and cascading climate and environmental changes, already putting natural and social systems under stress. There is more snow, less sea-ice and glaciers are retreating at an increasingly faster rate. At the same time, sweeping legislative changes for Svalbard is underway, which held the potential for changing the conditions for tourism in multiple ways. Drawing on an assessment of recent projections for climate and environmental change, as well as interviews with tourism actors, this article outlines how climate and environmental changes is currently impacting nature-based tourism actors in the archipelago and discusses opportunities and barriers for tourist actors adaptation to current and projected changes. It finds that tourism actors have high adaptive capacity to projected changes, taking advantage of increased access due to shrinking ice in the fjords, and extending the summer season into the autumn month due to higher temperatures. At the same time are avalanches and other natural hazard risk increasing, causing a higher frequency of disruptions of planned tours and excursions.