The Murmansk Region declared 2023 as the Year of Active Tourism. EcoTourism Expert talked with Artur Shynkaruk, Head of the Association of Arctic Guides about the peculiarities of active tourism in the South or North of the Arctic Circle regions.
- Please tell me how developed is active and adventure tourism in the Arctic zone today?
- Of course, we can say that adventure tourism is developing, but at the same time, it is developing not as fast as we expected. We can say with reasonable confidence that in recent years, the demand for this type of travelling has been growing, increasingly more tourists choose some regions of Russia for their vacations, including the northern Russia ones.
Support is an important factor. In 2022, the Murmansk Region’s authorities allocated millions of roubles to support the entire tourism industry. I would like to add that businesses should also invest in tourism, the state alone is definitely not able to bring this industry to a leading position.
- Are the businesses investing insufficiently?
- I can say that at the moment, not all the businesses do investments. The reasons for their surprisingly cold attitude towards such investments are plain to see - they are afraid that they will not get the return on their investments quickly, and they lack a ‘business knowledge’, an understanding of why this is necessary, how profitable it is, and so on.
- What is active tourism in the rather harsh conditions of the northern Russia in summer and in winter, as well as in spring and autumn?
- Let’s talk about winter. As for South or North of the Arctic Circle regions in the Murmansk Region, active tourism sector offers primarily skiing. But there are also more exotic options, such as winter swimming and arctic swimming (we even hosted the world championship in arctic swimming).
The tourists have some other options like freediving, scuba-diving and snorkelling. Just now, for example, you called me at the moment when we were getting off the harbour. And, if the weather becomes better and we are able to see whales, we will dive with ‘whales’.
As for other types of active tourism, surfing and SUP-boarding are becoming popular in the coastal northern regions.
- And what active and adventure tourism options are in the summer in the North?
- You can go along special proven routes on quadrunners, ATVs and jeeps, go rafting and mountaineering in the Murmansk Region.
In our case, active and adventure tourism is developing in our region thanks to the unique nature. The Murmank Region boasts of the sea, mountains, taiga that create excellent conditions for many types of outdoor activities.
By the way, we have a very developed sport fishing. There are, for example, the so-called ‘salmon fisheries’, places where salmon fishing is allowed, and depending on the season, you can go ‘catch and take’ or ‘catch and release’ fishing, for example, when spawning is in progress.
- What hinders the development of active and adventure tourism in the South or North of the Arctic Circle regions?
- In general, the development of tourism is hampered by the lack of understanding among businesses of how to properly conduct business in this area. Very often, such entrepreneurs come to a tourism industry who are only eager to earn money, but they invest practically nothing.
Another problem is that a sufficient support is needed, and I am not talking about a state support. There should be an educational programme, workshop sessions to give various useful information. People can get to know about useful ‘life-hacks’ and start implementing them in real life!
- Tours to the northern Russia regions are often associated with quite serious expenses. Please give an idea about the prices - it is useful for those who would like to go to the North areas but cannot afford to spend a lot?
- In fact, having an adventure travelling and activities in the North are not as expensive as it might seem. I can say that a three-day tour of the northern Russia costs about 25 thousand roubles per person and more.
- What should a traveller going to the North areas as a tourist for the first time be prepared for?
- First, you need to study in detail the information about the places you want to visit. For example, if you would like to visit Teriberka that is now very popular with tourists, you need to understand that the road, especially in winter, can be closed due to snowdrifts. The sea may also be closed, this is the North region and getting off the harbour in bad weather is really dangerous!
As the Head of the Association of Arctic Guides, I would strongly recommend using the services of experienced route consultants as it may be much more difficult to organize an trip on your own. We even have such a joke in the Association that a ‘tourist should suffer without a guide’ (laughs).
Moreover, as ‘there is a grain of truth in every joke’, in this one, the truth is that travellers visiting the North regions simply do not understand the specific features of this area, the places they visit.
For example, the other day, we were rescuing a car with Chinese tourists from a ditch. How did those tourists get off the road? They saw a track of a snowmobile and thought they could drive along it! And in the end, it took us more than five hours to free them from their snowbound predicament!
- And how to make travelling safer?
- It is necessary to sign a tourist services agreement. You know, at least 2-3 tourists call me as the Head of the Association after every weekend and tell me about the problems they had during their journey. And the first thing I ask them is whether they concluded a contract for tourist services? Most of the travellers answer “Of course, not!”. And in this situation, we cannot help them because without an agreement, all relationships are outside the legal field.
The North often does not forgive mistakes, so it’s better to use the services of the people who know its specific features, and not be afraid to demand that you formalize your relationship during the tours and excursions to avoid any problems later.
- As for the tourist gear, are there any nuances associated with travelling to the North regions?
- As in any other form of active tourism, be it travelling to the South or North of the Arctic Circle, special attention should be paid to tourist gear. In general, travellers need to be ready for anything. Here, for example, it can be minus two degrees Celsius in the morning, and by the evening, the temperature may drop to minus 22oC. Strong winds are typical of the northern areas. Therefore, we always recommend the tourists to take windproof and waterproof clothes and at least two pairs of shoes and a several pairs of socks along with them.
We must not forget about medicines. It is clear that travellers should not take a huge first aid kit, but they should definitely have a reasonable one! In this case, activities in the northern Russia’s regions can bring unforgettable and, most importantly, positive experiences and wonderful memories!