Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE), University of Kent, UK
Supervisors: Dr. Ian Bride, University of Kent, and Dr. Rachel Dodds, Ryerson University
Project Duration: September 2018 – August 2019
The Interactions Between Tourism and Climate Change in Svalbard (working title)
Project: Traveling to faraway places–particularly to remote destinations in polar regions–is a highly carbon intensive activity. In reference to climate change impacts, the Arctic is warming at a rate that is two to three times higher than the global average. Visitors who come to an Arctic destination like Svalbard do so primarily to enjoy the island’s natural features–the ice, snow, flora, and fauna; however, these signature features entice visitors to travel here and are simultaneously imperiled by the human act of travelling. Some visitors travel to polar regions because they want to see it “before it disappears,” others for the sense of mystery and exoticism, while some see it as an educational opportunity. Some individuals believe that tourism has conservation value, and that one must see and experience the natural world for ourselves in order to be inspired and driven to act upon protecting it. The proliferation of the world wide web and social media in recent history has also served to drastically alter modern lifestyles and behaviours both within our day-to-day lives and within our travels. Through analyzing the perspectives of tour operators and visitors within Svalbard’s tourism industry, this study seeks to elucidate the extent to which the “last chance to see” phenomenon exists amongst visitors to Svalbard, whether experiences gained in Svalbard translate to conservation-driven actions, and the threats and opportunities that social media presents to tourism and environmental conservation.