When asked what negative experiences they had had in Greenland (if any), more than half of previous tourists answered that they had had none. However, for those who had experienced something that diminished their overall impression, the three most important factors were: 1) Mosquitoes 2) Waste in cities and in nature 3) Visible social problems. The controversial theme of visible social problems is included to get a real and unfiltered insight into how tourists experience all aspects of Greenland.
It makes good sense for the tourism industry to try to improve tourists’ experience of Greenland, but there are some improvement measures that are much easier to carry out than others. We can divide the three themes as follows:
||How easy it is to solve
|Mosquitoes (and flies)
||Inform tourists in advance about what to expect, and how to protect themselves. Sell mosquito spray and nets.
||Relatively easy (to reduce problems with mosquitoese – not to solve it 100%)
|Waste in nature and cities/towns
||Clean-ups and avoiding adding more waste
|Visible social problems
||Economic growth, better education, etc.
The mosquito season usually lasts from mid-June to the end of August, but climate changes have meant that the changing of the seasons can vary a lot from year to year. Fortunately, there are effective mosquito repellents, both with and without the toxin DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) – which carries a small risk of causing a rash on the skin, but which is allowed in concentrations of up to 40% in mosquito repellents. You can read Spejder Sport’s mosquito repellent guide here (in Danish). In the guide, you can also read about the types of fabric that protect the most against getting bitten through clothing.
A relatively new product on the market are the so-called ‘insect glasses’ which are non-prescription glasses (also available as sunglasses) on which mosquito nets are mounted. By selling these glasses as a tour operator – or simply referring tourists to the products – you can help tourists to enjoy the spectacular visual nature experiences in Greenland. If they do not want to use mosquito spray on their face, this product present tourists from having their field of vision disturbed by a mosquito net:
By preparing tourists as fully as possible in regards to where and when they can expect a lot of mosquitoes, and informing them in advance about the precautions that work best (mosquito nets, mosquito repellent and clothes that mosquitoes cannot bite through), they will be better equipped against the mosquitoes. But with these preparations tourists will also tolerate the mosquitoes to a much greater extent, since they have already mentally geared themselves up to deal with them.
Tip: There are almost no mosquitoes around the sheep farms in South Greenland – for as yet unknown reasons.
Waste in cities/towns and in nature
When we ask during tourist interviews about tourists’ main reason for wanting to visit Greenland, it is – not surprisingly – nature and natural phenomena that are clear number ones. With good reason, tourists expect to encounter overwhelmingly beautiful and ‘unspoiled’ nature. With this in mind, it is no wonder that waste in the towns and in nature causes significant annoyance.
Fortunately, it is very easy to do something about waste in towns and nature (aside from public waste management). More and more nature conservation initiatives have emerged in Greenland in recent years. Every year, CSR Greenland arranges the clean-up day Saligaatsoq in most Greenlandic towns and cities, which you can get involved in both as a company and as an individual. Over the course of one day, the whole town is cleaned up.
Nature’s Superheroes is a project started by the Ministry of Nature and the Environment, which offers climate information and organises clean-up events for school children and volunteers.
The grassroots movement Plastic Not So Fantastic is another example of volunteers fighting waste in nature.
In many of Greenland’s settlements, the waste ends up in an open landfill (called the ‘dump’ in Greenland). It is not very a beautiful sight, to say the least, especially not when storms blow much of it out into the surrounding areas. In the Government’s Waste Action Plan 2020-2031, the goal is to have the open landfills closed down as soon as possible, and instead collect it and send it to the larger towns’ and cities’ waste facilities, where it is either recycled or incinerated.
In Denmark and abroad, there are examples of tourist products in which tourists are invited to collect waste in nature. In Copenhagen, you can borrow a Green Kayak for free, with the expectation that you use it to collect waste from the harbour, and you hear more and more examples of tourists collecting waste at destinations.
It is also just really good style to collect waste that you come across while on trips with tourists, which many boat tour operators already do in Greenland. It’s just about getting started!