106 cruise ships are booked to visit the West Fjords town of Ísafjörður this summer—prompting speakers at a recent conference on the topic to call for a coordinated strategy and rules to be put in place. Putting rules in place won’t stop the ships from coming, one speaker promised.
Ísafjarðarbær municipality has appointed a working committee on cruise ships coming to the municipality which, along with this month’s cruise ship conference in Ísafjörður, is intended to bring together differing opinions on the benefits and challenges that come with the cruise industry.
Some locals have had enough of all the tourists peering into their windows, taking photos of the pretty wooden houses, while others see the benefits and realize how important the ships’ docking fees have become to the harbor authorities.
Of course, there are as many different types of tourist as there are tourists: “The challenge for us is for those who want to be able to experience peace and tranquility to be able to do that, but to also be able to welcome groups as well,” working group chair Sigríður Kristjánsdóttir told RÚV. “And for all points-of-view to be heard and try to find a way through this that benefits as many as possible.”
The conference’s keynote speaker says it is important to identify the pressure points affected by the ships and their passengers, to put clear rules in place and instructions, with the interests of the locals in mind. “Locals have to lead tourism development. They decide how they want it to be. But it would be sensible to involve the tourism industry, because they are a key player and may be the door to how to solve the issues. Rules themselves are not an issue for the cruise industry. They are used to adhering to rules and I don’t think that’s a large problem,” Frigg Jørgensen, from the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators, explained.
The largest cruise ships visiting Ísafjörður regularly double the town’s population and put pressure on local infrastructure. But they can also provide extra trade for businesses.
The number of cruise ships visiting Ísafjörður has grown year-on-year from 15 in summer 2000, to around 30 in 2010, 83 last year, and 106 this year. Locals still refer to summer days and either ‘ship days’ or ‘non-ship days’, but this year the latter will be almost non-existent.
While the disruption can be huge, it is worth noting that many of the 106 ships will be much smaller and make little impact on people’s daily lives—and all ships come and go within a few short hours, meaning the evenings are always peaceful.