The interregional forum "Arctic Tourism Week" as part of Russia's chairmanship in the Arctic Council in the period from 2021 to 2023 was held in Norilsk. During the conference, 12 business sessions and discussions took place, in which participants discussed the basic principles of sustainable tourism development in the northern latitudes, the creation of tourist products, measures to support entrepreneurs in tourism, possible impact of the development of the hospitality tourism industry on the regions of the Arctic zone of Russia, and much more.
The issues of the session "Expedition Tourism as a Development Driver" were set by the report "Sustainable Arctic: Expeditions and Tourism" by Natalia Belyakova, director of the Expeditionary and Tourism Development Department of the Russian Geographical Society.
“Expedition tourism is in a single conceptual and practical field with popular science tourism. Together they create the basis for the sustainable development of destinations," Natalia Belyakova noted. “Knowledge gives rise to responsibility. This allows you to maintain a balance between the desire to see the income from a tourist immediately and the long-term planning for the guests who respect the vulnerable Arctic ecosystem.”
At the basic level, an expeditioner-researcher has a careful attitude to the object of their scientific interest – the environment. By enabling tourists to follow an expedition path – today we have several scenarios for the implementation of this option with the tourist business – the RGS forms a high entry threshold into the professional reception of tourists in areas where high anthropogenic load is not allowed .
The Russian Geographical Society strives to give everyone the opportunity to participate in its expeditions as a tourist. You can get to some areas of the Arctic coast only with an RGS expedition.
As a rule, advanced tourists who have already seen a lot and visited a lot of places tend to go to the Arctic. For them, joining RGS expeditions means participating in real scientific tasks and challenges: research is carried out by the specialists from the leading scientific institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences throughout the entire Arctic region of Russia.
“An expedition is most often a complex, specific route, the movement along which is determined by the logic of achieving a scientific or other specific result. The rest, including household comfort, is secondary,” Natalia Belyakova noted. “Nevertheless, many people dream of participating in a real (important!) expedition. The goal of the RGS is to determine the possibilities of adapting the expedition experience, turning it into a tourist one on part of the route. On this basis, we offer our own pool of tour packages, and are also open to partnerships. Joining an RGS expedition even for a couple of days gives any route a popular science component and additional value for the discerning consumer.”
Today, the RGS offers other opportunities to immerse yourself in expedition activities. For example, in the logic of "civil science", you can join scientific expeditions in the status of a volunteer. Volunteers help scientists in research by doing work that does not require academic training or higher education, for example, collecting and processing field data on the assignment of scientists. The participation of volunteers allows specialists to achieve their goals more successfully and in a shorter time, and gives the assistants themselves the opportunity to broaden their horizons, contribute to big science, take part in the implementation of initiatives that have proven value for the region: from environmental monitoring and promoting the conservation of flora, fauna, and the entire ecosystem of the Arctic as a whole to marking out new tourist routes and searching for artifacts for local museums. For tour operators, this is an opportunity to develop route programs that can stimulate economic, social, and cultural development of territories in the future.
Today the Russian Geographical Society is ready to give tourists the opportunity to join three expeditions: "Arctic: Spring Cleaning" on Wrangel and Kildin Islands, as well as in the village of Khatanga; the complex expedition to the Novaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land archipelagos; the expedition to survey the ALSIB Air Route.
Natalia Belyakova also drew the attention of the professional community to the system of tourist route certification "Recommended by the RGS", approved by Rosstandart. The RGS certification system is a format for assessing quality tourism in the interests of sustainable development of the region. First of all, it is aimed at complex routes, including those that belong to the category of expedition tourism. The RGS experts carefully check and study the scientific and methodological basis of each tour, its logical sequence and reliability, the availability of presentation of the excursion material, the availability of several route options in case of unforeseen weather conditions, compliance with safety standards, living conditions, food, transfer, availability of places of interest. Tour operators who organize unique programs in Russia: ethnographic and event-oriented, ecological and recreational, expedition and industrial, gastronomic and adventure, cruise and trekking can join the project "Travels with the RGS". Owners of ethnoparks, museums, estates offering visits to authentic cultural, historical, and natural attractions are invited to the partnership. The RGS also certifies places of interest – tourist information centers, cultural and historical heritage sites, etc.
Certification of a route by the RGS provides extensive marketing opportunities and significant audience coverage on social networks and on the RGS website.
Combining expeditions and tourism, the RGS experts have developed a series of Arctic routes that will introduce tourists to the Russian Arctic. Their geography extends from Murmansk to Taimyr.
A number of active, adventurous, historical and cultural routes will guide travelers in the footsteps of the polar discoverers, tell the story of the discovery, development, and preservation of the northern territories.
“The RGS is updating its marketplace, which will include both RGS's own package tours and those routes and places of interest that the Society recommends,” Natalia Belyakova concluded. “This is another effective marketing channel for local companies developing tourism in their region. We have a big task ahead of us – to gather a community of responsible travelers in Russia who share the approach of the Russian Geographical Society to the sustainable development of the regions. Practice shows that those who have taken part in Arctic expeditions or tours of the RGS don’t just start sharing our views, but also actively assist in the preservation of the Arctic ecosystem.”