Award Number

Project Abstract

This project is advancing understanding of convergent challenges in the Arctic and Subarctic by systematically analyzing the impacts of the rapidly growing regional tourism industry. While there may be economic benefits to the destinations visited including seasonal employment, private sector investments, and increased tax revenue, more tourism may also bring other outcomes. These include air, water, and noise pollution, environmental degradation, and cultural effects such as the overcrowding of ports and adjacent areas and a sense of being overwhelmed by tourists among local populations. The overarching goals of the project are to: 1) systematically document, compare and interpret the ways in which cruise ships in Arctic and adjacent waters are impacting coastal communities; and 2) work together with local decision makers to develop a set of data-driven community-defined indicators to determine policies to enhance local adaptive capacities for identifying, monitoring, forecasting and responding to effects from cruise ships. The project is developing methods to create a set of indicators to measure the integrated social-ecological systems in which tourism functions and assess trade-offs among developments that are likely to occur with various scales and configurations of tourism. The stakeholders will include societal groups (e.g., neighborhood associations, NGOs), government officials (e.g., city department representatives addressing tourism issues), and the private sector including representatives from the cruise-ship industry, its trade associations, and small businesses working in the destinations.

Within the context of a warming Arctic, this project will address the challenges and opportunities that expanded regional tourism poses to the natural, social and built systems of coastal communities in Alaska (Juneau and Nome), Iceland (Akureyri), Sweden (Visby), and Norway (Bergen). The project is advancing the boundaries of science by examining methods to enable community policy makers to make optimum use of data-based indicators to improve outcomes for local communities using an Adaptive Policy Framework. This goal is being achieved by analyzing the acquisition, assimilation, transformation and exploitation of cruise tourism sustainability indicators in conjunction with a detailed analysis of coastal community policy and budget-making processes. Specifically, the research team and local stakeholders will use the Sustainometrics model, applicable domains of the Arctic Social Indicators, and the Global Sustainable Tourism Council destination-level criteria, to create a suite of indicators for cruise impacts. This study is among the first to provide a holistic examination of the interdependencies of the social, natural, and built systems of these communities as they respond to changing environmental, economic, and social conditions.

Logistics Summary

This collaboration between Orttung (2022525, LEAD, George Washington), Ogilvie (2022529, CU) and Powell (2022699, UA Juneau) aims to understand the impacts that cruise ships have on the natural and built systems of coastal communities in Alaska (Juneau and Nome), Iceland (Akureyri), Sweden (Visby), and Norway (Bergen). Beginning in 2021, a field team of 6 will travel to these locations over the course of four years to conduct in person interviews, hold workshops with stakeholders, and collect data.

Season Field Site
2021 Alaska - Nome
2022 Norway - Bergen
2022 Sweden - Visby
2023 Iceland - Akureyri
2024 Alaska - Nome

Project Location




Nome, AK; Bergen, Norway; Visby, Sweden; Akureyri, Iceland


Principal Investigator

Dr. Robert W. Orttung
George Washington University

Principal Investigator

Dr. Astrid E.J. Ogilvie
University of Colorado Boulder

Principal Investigator

James Powell
University of Alaska Southeast

Co-Principal Investigator

Dr. Martin W. Miles
INSTAAR, University of Colorado - Boulder

Co-Principal Investigator

Sheryl Elliott
George Washington University

Co-Principal Investigator

Seleni Matus
George Washington University