‘Melting’ Greenland wants tourist quota

Ilulissat, Denmark (AFP) — As tourists flock to Greenland to take in its breathtaking icebergs and natural beauty, authorities are mulling ways to control crowds to protect the fragile environment, already threatened by global warming.

“It’s a dream destination,” Yves Gleyze, a veteran off-the-beaten-track French tourist in his 60s said as he arrived at the airport in Ilulissat.

Visitors to the third-biggest town in the Danish autonomous territory are met by a rugged, austere landscape of grey rock and sparse vegetation.

But mesmerizing views of massive icebergs come into view after just a short drive.

Breaking off from the Ilulissat glacier in the neighboring fjord, the majestic blocks of ice drift slowly by in Disko Bay, the occasional whale making an appearance.

The postcard views attracted 50,000 tourists in 2021, more than 10 times the town’s population.

More than half make only a short pit stop during an Arctic cruise.

One ship per day
With the immaculate landscape so coveted by tourists changing, officials are determined to protect it without turning away tourists.

“We want to control the arrival of tourist ships here,” Mayor Palle Jeremiassen, noting the risks posed by the highly-polluting vessels, said.

In order to protect the environment and community, Ilulissat should only welcome “one ship max per day, max one thousand tourists per ship,” he said.

Recently, three cruise ships arrived on the same day, spewing out 6,000 visitors.

Jeremiassen said the town’s infrastructure is not designed to accommodate such numbers, nor is it able to ensure that tourists respect protected areas, notably in the fjord.

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