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Thursday, 1 September 2016

SLM FOCUS NORTH. First day of IPTRV conference in Akureyri, Iceland – Monday, August 29, 2016 Submitted by Michelle


First day of IPTRV conference in Akureyri, Iceland – Monday, August 29, 2016
Submitted by Michelle

Iceland! Woo-hoo! As promoted by the national tourism partnership: “The Land of Fire and Ice.” I’d be inclined to add “sheep” in there as well, since after traveling from Akureryi to Raufarhöfn by bus yesterday several stops were necessary to avoid a sheep-bus collision. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

We arrived Saturday afternoon by plane from Oslo, Norway, and spent the evening relaxing, settling into our hostel, napping, and doing some sightseeing in Reykjavik. This was my only chance to take things slowly since I’d be up again at the crack of dawn for a day of scuba diving at Silfra, meaning Silver in Icelandic. Silfra is one of the world’s top ten diving sights because of its uniqueness. Diving takes place in the fissure between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. The plates are drifting away from each other at a rate of about 2cm per year, slowly tearing Iceland apart. With 150 meter visibility due to natural filtration of the water through volcanic rock, and excellently managed guides and tours that are staggered so you feel alone in there and able to reflect on what you’re experiencing, this has been a major highlight of my trip. How’s that for an Iceland leisure tourism pitch!

Monday was the first day of the IPTRN conference, which brings scholars, practitioners and students together from all corners of the world for five days of information generation and dissemination on sustainable tourism development in the north. The theme of this particular conference is “Tourism, People and Protected Areas,” and topics explored include how tourism can be managed to protect the environment and contribute to the wellbeing of local communities and economies.

After a brief meet and greet over morning coffee at the University of Akureyri, lectures on these various topics were presented. The mix of those well-established in their academic careers and those just starting out, completing master’s and PhD research, made for an interesting mix of perspectives and a very supportive environment for those of us new to the game. I presented my thesis research just after the lunch break and, although I was nervous, I received some very positive and helpful feedback – a valuable experience for a budding new scholar.

The day wrapped with an evening reception hosted by the Canadian Embassy in Iceland, complete with maple leaf napkins and Moosehead Lager, and it was announced that the next IPTRN conference would be held in Whitehorse, Yukon two years from now. There is a large Canadian presence here, and I’m glad to see that we’re well represented and invested in protecting our north.

There are many lessons to be learned from other northern regions, where tourism has just happened without a plan or process in place. This is the value of conferences like this – to share this information and the lessons learned so that a better path can be carved moving forward.  Tourism development is happening in these pristine remote regions, whether we all like it or not. Now is the time to make a plan and take necessary actions so that it is done in a way that incurs as little negative impact and as much positive effect as possible.

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