Environmentally responsible tourism as a new trend in the Murmansk Region
Alexandr Yeliseyev
Chairman of the Tourism Committee of the Murmansk Region

Environmentally responsible tourism as a new trend in the Murmansk Region

Northern nature touches everyone’s feelings. Alexandr Yeliseyev, Chairman of the Tourism Committee of the Murmansk Region, spoke to the EcoTourism EXPERT about the growing tourist flow to the region and the tasks of preserving the unique northern eco-environment.

- Thanks to the Khibiny tourism and recreational cluster, the Murmansk Region has become one of the favorite places for mountain skiers. When do you usually open your skiing season?

- In 2023, our skiing season started on November, 5 and we were the first to open it in Russia. Two years ago, two snow-making systems for the slopes for the Kirov Sports School of the Olympic Reserve for Alpine Skiing and for the ski slopes of Mount Aykuayvenchorr were put into operation. This made it possible to open the mountain skiing season in the Khibiny Mountains on relatively fixed dates, and the skiing season reaches now 200 days a year, which is the longest one in our country.

Coming to this place to relax has also become more convenient and comfortable. As part of the implementation of the federal target program - the Development of Domestic and Inbound Tourism, the road junction at the entrance to the city of Kirovsk leading to the main tourist infrastructure of the Khibiny tourism and recreational cluster was reconstructed. And on the top of Mount Aykuayvenchorr, a high-mountain panoramic cafe and restaurant Plateau were built where travelers can enjoy stunning views.

Blue Lake.jpg

- The tourist flow is growing every year. Is the existing infrastructure sufficient to cope with it?

- Indeed, the growing tourist flow and great interest in the Murmansk Region are real challenges for us in developing the infrastructure for providing good-quality services to tourists.

As part of the national project - the Tourism and Hospitality Industry, the state support for the tourism industry entities in our region increased by 30 times in 2022 compared to previous years. Sixty three tourism projects received support for a total amount of 317 mn rubles, and private co-financing amounted to about 500 mn rubles.

Five new tourism facilities have appeared during the construction of comfortable module hotels, including those in the most beautiful places on the coasts of the Kola Bay and the Barents Sea. In addition, new year-round campsites have been built that have become real ‘points of attraction’, including a houseboat on Lake Lumbolka in the city of Monchegorsk, the Chirvas camping ground, and a network of mountain shelters and equipment rental stations in the Kandalaksha Region, as well as the Glemp Camp site in Kirovsk and the Uyutnaya (Cosy) Valley camping ground in Murmansk. 

In August 2023, work was completed on the development of beaches located on the banks of the Ura River and the shore of Lake Kanentyavr located 49 km from the Serebryanskoye Highway in the Kola District that will be used as sites for watching the Aurora Borealis, Polar Lights, in winter.

Северное сияние_2.jpg

- The growing tourist flow is also a burden on nature. What do you do to preserve the environment?

- Natural areas, of course, are the main tourism resource of the Murmansk Region, and according to statistics, almost 85% of our tourists come to enjoy them. But the northern nature is very vulnerable, it takes decades, not years, to restore it, so it is very important to use it wisely. This factor became decisive in working out the concept of the tourism development in the Murmansk Region, and that is why 2022 was under the slogan of environmentally responsible tourism in the Murmansk Region. We integrated our nature reserves and the northernmost botanical garden while developing and promoting eco-routes; together with the scientists from the Kola Science Center, a pilot text was developed for guides on the most popular ecological route in the Teriberka Natural Park.

This year we continued to work in this park that is a key area for us. Now, a small fee is charged for visiting the Teriberka Natural Park; all funds received by the regional budget will be used to develop tourism infrastructure in the natural parks of the Murmansk Region.

During the thematic year, not only new routes and objects appeared but also new traditions. We agreed to use thermal mugs to reduce the amount of plastic waste in our region. At any event where Arctic cuisine is served and at some restaurants and cafes, travelers will be offered some beverage for free or at a significant discount if they came with their own mug to support our idea.

Северное сияние.jpg

- What new projects will you offer to ecotourists?

- In 2022-2023, very interesting programs appeared in the Murmansk Region. For example, there is a unique night excursion to the Lapland Nature Reserve held during a polar day. The Kandalaksha Nature Reserve has developed its ‘philosophical’ excursions through the littoral area that can be carried out in any part of the White Sea coast, including within the city of Kandalaksha located nearby. And the Pasvik Nature Reserve holds interesting volunteer camps.

I think it will be important for ecotourists to know that we have digitized all available ecological routes in the Murmansk Region - some of them pass through the nature reserves, others are intended for individual travelers’ walks. On the regional tourism portal Murmansk.travel you can find all the information about eco-routes (https://murmansk.travel/journals/107) and choose the most interesting eco-trails. For example, one of the most amazing trails is to the Volostnaya hill, and the easiest trail Forest of Miracles in the Lapland Nature Reserve is the best choice for the first walk with your children.

Photos courtesy of the Committee for Tourism of the Murmansk Region