This interaction between the value of the visitor’s experience and the site’s preservation makes UNESCO interesting in terms of tourism and sustainability.
The UNESCO World Heritage List identifies sites of cultural and natural value around the world. Since June 2018, we have had three spectacular UNESCO sites in Greenland, and the three sites are distributed along the west coast of Greenland. In addition to the three physical areas, in 2021, UNESCO included Qilaatersorneq (the Greenlandic drum dance) on its list of intangible culture, which is about preserving living expression.
UNESCO and the role of monitoring tourism
The spectacular Ilulissat Icefjord was the first place to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Greenland, and this happened in 2004. The Icefjord is a mountainous magnet for all who visit the area, and because of the increasing focus on global climate change, the area attracts climate journalists, celebrities, scientists and tourists. Most of the UNESCO area is a fjord, a fjord that no visitors sail on, as it is so filled with ice that only the local fishing boats can navigate there from time to time. Attention to the global climate crisis, and the subsequent urge to experience the majestic icebergs, has attracted many visitors to Ilulissat.
Since the fjord itself has no direct contact with visitors, the landscape in and around Ilulissat experiences the pressure. This landscape offers fantastic hikes, punctuated by the sight of icebergs floating over the fjord mouth or stranding there, and the unique sound of icebergs calving.
The relatively high visitor pressure in the area makes monitoring and regulation necessary, which is also a requirement of UNESCO to avoid over-tourism. In this way, due to its World Heritage listing, Ilulissat has become better at setting a framework for protecting the nature around the Icefjord, including ensuring that visitors stick to the marked trails. Phrases like “have you walked the yellow one” or “are you up for the blue one” are used frequently by visitors and locals alike.
There are amazing stories linked to the importance of the ice’s presence in the area. The story of how the ice has been crucial to the area’s historical and cultural development will be told at the new Icefjord Centre, beautifully situated at the beginning or end of the hiking trails.
(Read the full article with stories from all three UNESCO sites here)
Human, social, economic and environmental sustainability
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