Idols and rabbits in the Urals – designing Arctic ecotourism

Researchers from Ural State University of Architecture and Art proposed an innovative approach for developing tourism in Russian Arctic destinations where holidaymakers commonly avoid travelling. Tough climate, remoteness and non-existing hospitality services make it a challenge to tempt any tourist.

Attracted by wilderness, endangered fauna, melting icebergs and glaciers, vanishing indigenous cultures, endangered mega-fauna has grown public interest in the polar regions, especially the Arctic. Some have been travelling to unique sites; however, the unstructured tourism poses rather a threat for both tourists and to the vulnerable lands. Their fragile nature is at risk of pollution, while indigenous people would report they feel threatened by arising socio-cultural conflicts. Lack of available hospitality and medicine make it a very risky holiday experience.

Researchers attempted to model Arctic tourism in a way that address both economic considerations and fragile natural and cultural environments. To address all sides, they introduced an ‘Arctic design approach’. This goes beyond thinking about tourism in just economic terms, focusing on the opportunities for local nature and culture. It looks at how tourism can be turned in conscious consumption process rather than just addressing travellers’ needs, whilst revealing the tourist potential of the extreme and inhospitable environment.

The approach is at the exploratory stage, shaping an idea rather than outcomes right now. To begin, researchers designed two would-be tourist destinations in the Russian North: the plateau Manpupuner (‘a small mountain of idols’ in the local language) and a small island Zayachii Ostrov (a Rabbit’s Island) in the Polar Urals. A comprehensive Arctic design approach seems to be essential for future tourism in environments that need to adapt to citizens and visitors alike.

Original source: Usenyuk-Kravchuk, S., Gostyaeva, M., Raeva, A., & Garin, N. (2020). Encountering the extreme environment through tourism: The Arctic design approach. Journal of Destination Marketing & Management, 100416.

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Photo: Daniil Silantev

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