Arctic Circle Trail on its way to a tax? | Polarjournal

Increasingly popular on social medias, Greenland Arctic Circle Trail attracts more and more visitors each year. In addition to the challenges brought by the increased use of this hiking trail, such as search and rescue missions, there is now the question of whether foreign hikers will have to pay to access.

Over the weekend of March 9-10, two hikers on the Arctic Circle Trail had to be rescued, three days after leaving Sisimiut for Kangerlussuaq. Thanks to the help of local residents and the fire department, the two tourists were brought back to Sisimiut, where they were treated for frostbites.

The Arctic Circle Trail links the towns of Kangerlussuaq and Sisimiut over a distance of 165 km. It takes between a week and ten days to complete this trek through an ice-free region. Nine huts are set out along the route for hikers wishing to take shelter or rest.

Although the terrain is not really difficult, this tour is for experienced hikers only. Indeed, the hike takes place on a wilderness trail, where isolation competes with weather conditions that can be difficult, especially in winter. Knowing how to navigate with a GPS and maps is therefore crucial, as is first-aid knowledge in the event of a problem. It’s not unusual for hikers to have to be rescued. Last summer alone, the Greenland rescue services had to intervene six times to rescue hikers, often from abroad.

The Arctic Circle Trail is over 160 km long, separating Kangerlussuaq and Sisimiut. While the hike itself is not very technical (apart from the swampy areas, which can be a bit tricky), the challenge lies mainly in the fact that hikers have to be self-sufficient, carry their own equipment and be able to find their way around the terrain. At present, there are no guided tours. The Arctic Circle Trail offers two itineraries, the northern route and the southern route. Map: Arctic Circle Trail

The Arctic Circle Trail remains a popular hiking trail, attracting hundreds of visitors every year from all over the world to hike, fat bike, ski or snowshoe it. To start the tour, you only need to fill in a form, although this is not compulsory, which makes it difficult to count the exact number of visitors and compile statistics. It is estimated that almost a thousand visitors used the hiking trail last year. A number that should continue to rise, given the popularity of this hike.

Towards a future tax?

This is probably what has motivated Arctic Circle Business to suggest a tax for the trail to Naalakkersuisoq (Government of Greenland). Access to hiking is currently free, but may eventually be subject to a fee.

According to the project submitted last January, a fee of 700 DKK (just over 90 euros) per person could be charged to hikers. This tax would apply only to foreigners, residents still benefiting a free access to the trail, and could thus be used to more accurately count the number of visitors, particularly international ones. It could also be used to maintain and improve the trail, as well as to build additional infrastructure such as a new cabin and restrooms. Projects to extend and create additional routes for hikers are also being studied and could benefit from this tax.

Proposed at the same time as Svalbard’s decision to introduce stricter tourism regulations, the Arctic Circle Business proposal would come into force on December 31 if approved by the Government of Greenland. The introduction of fee-based access would be in line with a growing trend in Arctic regions towards more control on tourism.

To find out more about the Arctic Circle Trail: https://arcticcircletrail.gl/

Featured image: Visit Greenland

Mirjana Binggeli, PolarJournal

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