In Greenland, Trump’s Unsolicited Interest Is Raising Hopes for a Tourism Boom
When it comes to attracting tourists, a (mostly) ice-covered island in the North Atlantic might need all the publicity it can get—even if it comes from an unsolicited takeover bid from President Donald Trump.
The controversy over the U.S. president's interest in the island reportedly resulted in a traffic spike to Greenland's official tourism website so intense it crashed the platform last Friday, Visit Greenland CEO Julia Pars told Greenlandic news site Sermitsiaq last week. Pars didn't respond to a request for further comment.
There's hope that the brouhaha—in which Trump expressed a desire to buy Greenland from Denmark, and Denmark rebuffed the offer—will also translate to an increase in U.S. visitors to the self-governing region. The Greenland tourism site seems geared at capitalizing on the possibility; it published a timeline of the U.S. interest in the island—including an updated section to reflect Trump's overtures.
After all, what's wrong with a little attention? Pars pointed out it worked for Iceland. After the country's Eyjafjallajökull volcano grounded flights across Europe in 2010, interest in visiting the island spiked. (The implication being, at least after that, that people knew where Iceland was.)
The recent tourism interest in Greenland is also reflected in flight searches. According to KAYAK, a division of the travel group Booking, flight searches for Greenland for the week from August 14-21 were up 204% compared to the same period last year. Only two airlines regularly fly to Greenland—national carrier Air Greenland, and regional carrier Air Iceland Connect—and flights typically connect through Denmark or Iceland.
Tourism from the U.S. was growing even before Trump got involved, according to Visit Greenland. In 2013, 4,285 Americans visited the island by plane, reflecting a 30% rise over the previous three years, the tourism body said. A further 2,212 Americans visited by cruise ship in 2017, the last year numbers were available—a 67% increase over the previous two years. After tourists from Denmark and Germany, U.S. tourists are a key market for Greenland, the site says.
Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump was set on "buying" Greenland—drawing a swift "no thank you" from Greenland, which is part of the Kingdom of Denmark. After the Danish prime minister called the idea "absurd", Trump cancelled an upcoming trip to the country, and called her "nasty."
All the buzz may already be generating some political benefits for Greenland: it's heightened security co-operation between Greenland and Denmark, it's highlighted the geopolitical importance of the Arctic, and it's drawn attention to climate change, which is rapidly melting the island's ice sheets.
But with the summer—Greenland tourism's high season—coming to a close, the industry that serves the island may have to hope that the boom in interest will last.
Air Iceland Connect has received a spike in searches from the U.S., said marketing manager, Gróa Ásgeirsdóttir. But the airline hadn't seen that translate to more bookings—yet.
"We are very optimistic for next summer," she said.
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