Greenland, a destination that has seldom appeared on a list of tourism hotspots is finding new interest and even some crowds as it becomes more accessible, ironically because it is also in danger of the cause of its attractiveness disappearing.
Greenland has long been isolated by its glacier cap that leaves little land for human residents, much less visitors, but with the accelerating melting of the polar ice cap, more of its coastline is accessible and full of startling views of pristine waters and floating icebergs.
Up to now, fishing has been the heart of the economy of the autonomous Danish-owned land, but climate change is changing that, too: a longer season in which boats can go out, but catches largely of smaller fish than in the past. So, the arrival of tourists is both opportune, and possibly dangerous.
Greenland authorities are considering what measures will be needed. One, mayor of Ilulissat, at 5,000 people the third-largest city, has proposed limiting cruise ship visits to one a day, with fewer than a thousand passengers each. He pointed out a recent day when three ships arrived with a total of over 6,000 passengers and said the infrastructure simply won't sustain it.
“We don’t want to be like Iceland. We don’t want mass tourism. We want to control tourism here. That’s the key we have to find,” he said. On the other hand, the country's hoped-for complete independence depends on finding ways to replace the third of its budget that comes from Danish subsidies.