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It’s fair to say that Visit Greenland was not prepared for the particular 15 minutes of fame that came last week. The spotlight arrived, of course, at the utterances of President Donald Trump, who floated, then indirectly confirmed, then told reporters that he was indeed interested in buying Greenland, the autonomous Danish territory in the Arctic.
The country’s government-funded tourism board says that it’s had an uptick in interest over the past few days, and that the “surprising news” certainly came as a shock. Unsurprisingly, it’s hewing to the official statement of the government of Greenland. In essence: thanks for the attention and interest, but “of course, Greenland is not for sale.”
That said, Greenland is a place which would like to see more Americans visit (as tourists, to be clear). The destination has built a robust adventure tourism offering that is appealing to the growing number of travelers keen for experiential, transformational travel. As a destination famous for its snow and ice — it’s 80 percent covered by ice — it’s less aprés ski, and more dogsledding or kayaking amongst icebergs.
A report from research firm Technavio found that adventure travel is set to grow to from seven to 37 percent market share of global tourism types by 2020. Visit Greenland says currently, 42 percent of its visitors are motivated by some combination of nature and/or adventure seeking.
Idrissia E. Y. Thestrup, marketing manager for Visit Greenland, said the organization wants to see Americans comprise a greater amount of its total travelers. It currently receives 87,000 per year by land and cruise from all markets, which is significantly more than the country’s 56,000 inhabitants.
“Visit Greenland has been working on the North American market as a priority market. We have established strong business relations with the American adventure tourism industry which means that we now about 8,000 tourists from the USA. Approximately 4,300 arrived by plane and 3,700 by cruise ship,” Thestrup said. “We hope to see more American adventure travellers in Greenland in the future.”
Greenland’s tourism growth has also been steady, seeing 10 percent year on year growth between 2014 and 2017. In 2018, growth dropped to 3 percent. Visit Greenland did not cite a specific reason for the drop in growth, however it said preliminary numbers for 2019 are tracking higher.
It’s worth noting the woes of Greenland’s neighboring tourism economy, Iceland. Despite its tourism industry seeing a massive boom over the last decade — in effect becoming a kind of poster child for overtourism — the collapse of WOW Air earlier this year has seen arrivals drop 11 percent in the first two quarters of the year, according to the European Travel Commission. This could feasibly have an impact on Greenland too, as there are currently no direct flights from the U.S. Travelers must instead connect via Reykjavik, Iceland, or Copenhagen, Denmark.
“Visit Greenland wants to turn the global attention towards Greenland to something positive,” Thestrup said. So, yes, Greenland likes the attention from Americans. But no, it doesn’t want to be bought.