Arctic Tourism COVID-19 Greenland Guest Post Nordic Tourism Sustainable Tourism Tourism Tourism Education Tourism Employment Tourism lessons learned: from remote locations University of Greenland

Arctic Tourism – some lessons for the Greenlandic South

Guest post by Gestur Hovgaard, Professor at the University of Greenland.

Greenland is not only the largest island in the world, it is also the most sparsely populated country. Today more than 50% of the total population of 56000 live in the five municipal centers of Nuuk, Sisimiut, Ilulissat, Aasiat and Qaqortoq; the capital, Nuuk, has 19000 people. The Greenlandic economy is primarily based on fishing and fish processing, but there is increasing emphasis on developing industry (trade, construction, services), mining for e.g., gold, and rare earth elements and not the least tourism. Although still in its infancy, tourism grew slowly over the past few decades, save for a downturn during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A minor indication of tourism development in Greenland can be seen in Table 1, which includes national and international stays:

                      Source: own table based on numbers from

The Arctic in general has attracted great tourist interest, but destinations are unevenly distributed. The major tourist destination of the North, Iceland, had 4,5 million foreign overnight hotels stays in 2018, and 9 million overnight stays in all accommodations land and Greenland (Icelandic Tourist Board, 2019). Greenland is not Iceland and should not be, but the contrast between Greenland and Iceland suggests some possibilities for Greenland (Jóhannesson 2022).

Tourism in Southern Greenland

South Greenland is Greenland’s smallest municipality in terms of area and population. Today there are about 6700 inhabitants in the region, which is somewhat larger than Denmark, with four smaller towns (Narsassuaq, Narsaq, Qaqortoq and Nanortalik) and 11 settlements. There is a complicated geography, with no roads between towns and villages; the sea is the “highway”, with government providing some aircraft and helicopter connections.

In 2009, the three municipalities in the southern region, Nanortalik, Narsaq and Qaqortoq, were merged into Kommune Kujalleq, with Qaqortoq as the administrative center. The amalgamation was an attempt to use the region’s limited financial and cultural resources more efficiently. Although there is skepticism about the amalgamation, the region has gained Innovation South Greenland (ISG), an organization which serves as a meeting point for business development in the region ( In the municipality’s planning, the development of tourism into a year-round activity is a central focal point for ISG.

The first organized adventure tourism in South Greenland started back in the early 1970s, and has developed slowly over the years to the current number of operators and destination options (for an overview, see: South Greenland has also had development in cruise tourism that roughly follows the pattern in Greenland generally (see Table 2). The Disko Bay area has been particularly important. In 2020 and 2021, no tourist ships arrived, but the expectation is that cruises level will soon resume.

South Greenlandic tourism has been in a positive development in recent years, but was slowed down by Covid-19. As we see in Table 3, South Greenland had a declining relative share of total overnight stays in Greenland, but in fact increased relatively in 2020 and 2021. A probable exSouth Greenlandic tourism has been in a positive development in recent years, but was slowed down by Covid-19. As we see in Table 3, South Greenland had a declining relative share of total overnight stays in Greenland, but in fact increased relatively in 2020 and 2021. A probable explanation is that Covid-19 made South Greenland a popular destination for domestic tourism.

Some lessons for further tourism development

There are many challenges facing Arctic tourism (Rantala 2019). In a Greenlandic context, accessibility is the central parameter for the development of tourism. The planning of three new airports is particularly important. The airports in Nuuk (the capital) and Ilulissat (in the north) are underway, while the airport in South Greenland has not yet begun. At the local level, the formation of the ISG has been an important development. There are also two tourism programs at Campus Kujalleq in Qaqortoq which provide the entire country with new skills for the industry. Further, a short tourist season, and the many tourists with more and bigger cruise–ships will bring, pressure on local communities and the environment. It is also a challenge for the industry that work is seasonal and poorly paid. There is a need for more focus on environmental and social sustainability, both locally and nationally.


Icelandic Tourist Board. (2019). Tourism in Iceland in figures.

Jóhannesson, G. T.; Welling, J.; Müller D. K., Lundmark, L., Nilsson, R. O., De la Barre, S., Granås, B., Kvidal-Røvik, T., Rantala, O., Tervo-Kankare, K., Maher, P. (2022). Arctic Tourism in Times of Change. Uncertain Futures – From Overtourism to Re-staring Tourism. Nordic Council of Ministers.

Rantala, O., de la Barre, S., Granås, B., Jóhannesson, G. Þ., Müller, D. K., Saarinen, J., Tervo-Kankare, K., Maher, P., Niska M. (2019). Arctic Tourism in Times of Change – seasonality. TemaNord 2019:528.

Guest Post Life-long Learning Nordic Tourism Tourism Tourism Education Tourism Employment University of Turku

Lifelong learning in tourism and hospitality: Questions of inclusion

Guest post by Timo Halttunen, Head of Unit at Brahea Centre, Areal Research and Development, at the University of Turku, Finland.

Lifelong learning is customary concept to many of us working in research, development and innovation. The idea of learning taking place at any given moment is a positive one, adding a sense of progress and hope to the narratives of competence development. To accompany this positive notion of learning extending from the early steps of childhood to those of the elderly, another concept has been introduced to describe the spread of learning: learning in education, at work and during the leisure time. Hence, the concept of lifewide learning draws our attention to the contextual characteristics and circumstances where learning happens. However, does learning happen that easily, and do people from all walks of life have equal opportunities for learning?

In this short article, I draw attention to the circumstances and conditions that affect participation in lifelong learning. My focus is in the tourism sector and the kind of jobs available in the sector.

What do the numbers say?

According to statistics, work in tourism is low-paid, occupied by women, working in short-term contracts. From the perspective of employers, employee turnover is a challenge: there is a constant need to recruit workers for the next season, as those who occupied those positions have found employment in other service sector jobs. The ideas of lifelong and lifewide learning seem to resonate poorly to these circumstances described above. In contrast to these challenges, tourism sector beholds also positive perspectives for employment. Tourism offers jobs for people with migrant background, and international workers. Some of the jobs do not require lengthy training and can be obtained by people with learning from experience.

Picture 1: Employment in tourism industries, 2017. Source:

In the European Union, employment in tourism counts for 9 % of employment in the business sector. Respectively, in the Nordic countries, tourism forms 6-10 % of business sector jobs. As displayed in the statistics, Greece and Cyprus stand out with exceptionally high percentages (20-26%) of employment in tourism industries. In contrast, Czechia, Slovakia and Poland count only from 4 to 6 percentages.

Picture 2: Employment in tourism industries in the EU in 2020, % Source:

When looking at the kind of work available, we notice that in comparison to other service sector jobs work in tourism is defined by part-time work, temporary contracts and shorter average seniority. Hence, tourism gives opportunities for the young, those with lower education background, and for the foreign citizens. With this knowledge in mind, opportunities to attain education while working in tourism sector seem less compared to the kind of jobs with full time and long-term contracts. Education is an investment, and even Nordic countries offer free of charge education to their citizens, participation in education at a personal level comes with costs, and those are often related to not being able to work while studying, thus not being able to make the ends meet financially.

Picture 3: Adult participation in learning (last 4 weeks), 2020: Source:

According to statistics, all Nordic countries have a high rate of participation in education when compared to the EU average. However, when looking deeper into the statistics of how people from different social categories participate in education, we find out that the low-skilled and part-time workers participate less in education than the high skilled and in full-time or permanent work.

Picture 4: Participation in job-related training by group, OECD average. Source: Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) (2012, 2015),

According to the OECD, workers with less attachment to the labour market have more trouble accessing education). At the same time, recent megatrends such as automatization and digitalization are predicted to cause rise in non-standard work and a reduction in job stability. (OECD, 2019).

Lifelong learning in tourism: Possibilities?

Coming back to the question of lifelong and lifewide learning, what can education providers do in making learning affordances available for people in tourism sector? Looking at the kind of education we provide, the new perspectives of micro credentials and digital open badges may hold a promise of change for the industry. Micro-credentials are shorter and smaller modules or courses of study, offering a more flexible and targeted way of professional development. By splitting studies into smaller modules, educators can make their offering more in line with the social conditions and circumstances of adult learners – in short, making it possible to participate in lifelong learning. Furthermore, with these bite-sized portions of training, workers in tourism sector may not only partake in education while at work, but also attain in education during the low season, preparing them for improved work conditions and contracts for the coming high season.

Timo Halttunen, Head of Brahea Development Services at University of Turku


Eurostat (2020): European Union Labour force survey. Retrieved 11 May 2022.

Eurostat (2022): The EU tourism labour market in 2020. Retrieved 11 May 2022.

Eurostat (2020): Tourism vital to employment in several Member states. Retrieved 11 May 2022.

OECD (2019), OECD Employment Outlook 2019: The Future of Work, OECD Publishing, Paris,