Local Business Perceptions of Weather Impacts on Tourism in Svalbard, Norway
Tourism in Svalbard, Norway has expanded rapidly in recent decades due to increased accessibility and the region’s appeal as a perceived wilderness destination. Using two-stage interviews with employees, mainly operators/owners, from thirteen small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Longyearbyen, this article explores the tourism and hospitality industry’s perceptions of weather’s impacts on their business. Perceptions of how future weather trends, expected due to climate change, will impact their work are also examined. Three main categories from the surveys comprise the results and discussion. First, weather is one factor amongst many affecting business operations and is not seen as being important. Second, the interviewees’ comments on changing weather requiring business flexibility and adaptation are discussed in the context of day-to-day and inter-annual variability, as well as longer-term climate change. Third, SME interviewees’ thoughts are described and analyzed regarding their perceptions of the weather preferences of and impacts on the tourists whom the businesses serve. Overall, weather is seen as being comparatively unimportant for SMEs’ operational decisions at any time scale. Instead, they accept weather as something that must be dealt with as it comes—part of life in the Arctic. This pragmatic attitude matches SMEs’ approaches in general in terms of not planning strategically for either the short-term or long-term. That works well at the moment since many tourists travel to the Arctic assuming that the weather is part of the experience, plus they cannot go elsewhere from Svalbard in case of inclement weather. Nevertheless, SMEs could consider longer-term planning to address climate change.
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