Overtourism in Svalbard?

Tourism has become a linchpin to Longyearbyen’s community and economy over the last decade, with rapid growth in the last 5 years inparticular. Whilst thinking through these changes I saw a call for a conference asking for presenters speaking on the topic of ‘Overtourism’. I wondered, can we really call tourism in Longyearbyen overtourism, has it gone so far so fast?

In researching further in to the concept (which is a relatively new label), I found that it is the perception and governance of tourism rather than tourist numbers per se that is important here. So, I put a proposal forwards and last week presented the evidence and my ideas around tourism in Longyearbyen at the Royal Geographic Society’s annual conference in London.

The conference session was very interesting and myself and the gathered panel saw many similarities in the things I have been observing in Svalbard with many other cities and destinations around the world. You can read what I presented by downloading the slides. With thanks also to fellow researchers from the Svalbard Social Science Initiative for bouncing around their ideas and sharing photographs.

Do let me know what you think – is this overtourism, and is calling it overtourism a helpful thing to do?

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