Last updated 31 September 2022
The traffic has a potential for having negative effects on birds, mammals and cultural heritage sites. On Svalbard, you must as an individual traveller notify the Governor of Svalbard prior to trips in areas which requires notification. The majority of individual travellers behave in a considerate manner, but there are exceptions. The time series illustrates the numbers of individual travellers in the areas which require notification far from the settlements in Svalbard.
What is being monitored?
Number of individual travellers in areas where prior notification is mandatory
The number of individual travellers in areas which require notification outside Management Region 10 (incl. Nordenskiöld Land, Dickson Land, Bünsow Land, parts of Sabine Land and areas surrounding Ny-Ålesund), and who will travel on sea ice or land briefly from a boat in Isfjorden, Van Mijenfjorden and Kongsfjorden. Individual travellers are defined as any visitor, permanent resident, scientist, or other people that are traveling outside Management Region 10, without taking part in field and tour program organized by a tour operator or research and educational institution.
The number of individual travellers has varied between 170 and 925 since 1997. The number of individual travellers has increased steadily and depends on ice and weather conditions, private initiatives, other tour operators’ offers and traffic in connection with research. The number of individual travellers that go on trips with sailboats outside Management Area 10 have increased in recent years. The low numbers in 2020 and 2021 are due to the corona pandemic.
(Cite these data: The Governor of Svalbard (2022). Number of individual travellers in areas where prior notification is mandatory. Environmental monitoring of Svalbard and Jan Mayen (MOSJ). URL: http://mosj.no/en/influence/traffic/individual-travellers.html)
Details on these data
|30 September 2022
|Norwegian Polar Institute
|Governor of Svalbard
As stated in the Tourism regulation for Svalbard, individual travellers outside Management Region 10, who are not permanent residents, are required to notify the Governor of Svalbard beforehand. A report must be delivered to the Governor’s Office when the visit is over. The Governor’s Office handles these reports and compiles the results. Individual travellers who are permanent residents are required to notify trips to or inside Sør-Spitsbergen, Forlandet and Nordvest-Spitsbergen national parks and Søraust-Svalbard and Nordaust-Svalbard nature reserves.
The Governor’s Office quality assures the data. There used to be a problem that not everyone complied with this obligation to pre-notify and submit a report on their visit. Nowadays this is not considered to be a problem.
Status and trend
The number of individual travellers has varied between 400 and 700 since 1998 until 2014. Since then, the number has increased, and 2017 was an exception. Scientists make up a varying proportion of this figure, depending on the kinds of projects taking place at any one time and where they are located. There were more scientists than normal in the International Polar Year in 2007–2008.
In 2020 it was registered 170 individual travellers in areas where prior notification is mandatory. There was a slight increase in 2021 with 244 individual travellers. The low numbers in 2020 and 2021 are due to the corona pandemic and travel restrictions. In 2020 and 2021 many permanent residents went on trips, and there was some research activity. Tourism statistics show that recreation is the aim of some ⅔ of the travellers, whereas scientists normally comprise ¼ of the number, but they generally stay longer out in the field.
According to the Governor of Svalbard’s Office, the number of privately owned yachts visiting Svalbard and sailing along the west coast of Spitsbergen has been increasing. Some also venture much further. An increase in the number of small boats in Longyearbyen and Ny-Ålesund may have contributed to the increase in numbers of individual travellers in areas where prior notification is mandatory.
The International Polar Year accounted for some of the increase from 2006 to 2007–2008, when there was more scientist doing fieldwork. Since 2013 the number has increased, probably due to both scientist and other travellers.
Most traffic takes place in June–August.
As a category “individual travellers” spans a wide range of types of travellers who have different reasons for their stay. Some scientists take part in research projects, which include catching, anaesthetising and tagging animals. Others just undertake passive counting, or study glaciers, plants, marine organisms, and so on. Tourists experience the wildlife, scenery and cultural heritage sites without being guided or directed by a guide. This brings with it great responsibility for correct behaviour.
The number of days individual travellers are in the field is more important than the number of people, but the data set fails to pick this up. How many groups are concerned is also important. For instance, 30 people in 5 groups and 5 base camps impact on the environment differently from 30 people in 6–10 groups of differing sizes who travel around and visit a large number of places. Base camps may cause wear and tear on the vegetation and lead to path formation. Itinerant groups will affect far more localities.
The traffic has a potential for having negative effects on birds, mammals and cultural heritage sites (cf. comments in the Interpretation of Cruise Tourism). Individual travellers perform landings at locations they choose themselves, without being led by an expedition leader or a guide. Obviously, they must meet the requirements laid down in the Svalbard Environmental Protection Act and the Regulation on Tourists, but they do not have to follow the Site Guidelines, like AECO members and their tourists must. Groups of scientists often remain at the same place for quite a long period of fieldwork.
The majority of individual travellers behave properly, but there are exceptions. Lack of knowledge about the regulations is generally the cause. Individual travellers are known to have breached the Cultural Heritage Act in recent years. Often this concerns camping or burning bonfires within the security zone surrounding protected cultural heritage sites. Everyone is responsible for acquiring knowledge about legislation and provisions. Institutions involved in education or science have the same responsibility.
A few polar bears have been shot in self-defence in recent decades outside Management Region 10. Several were shot by scientists and some by tourists or guides. When people travel in areas frequented by polar bears, conflict situations may be created that are fatal for the polar bears or people. Thorough training, correct equipment for scaring away bears and knowledge of how to use it are important.
About the monitoring
It is important to monitor the number of individual travelers in regions of Svalbard where travel plans have to be notified beforehand, i.e. everywhere except inside Management Region 10 (incl. Nordenskiöld Land, Dickson Land, Bünsow Land, parts of Sabine Land and areas surrounding Ny-Ålesund, and travel on sea ice and short landings from boat in Isfjorden, Van Mijenfjorden and Kongsfjorden).
The data set gives an indication of the number and distribution of individual travelers in remote areas far from the settlements.
Places and areas
Outside Management Region 10
Relations to other monitoring
International environmental agreements
Voluntary international cooperation
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