Arctic Yearbook 2014 - Page 292

292 Arctic Yearbook 2014 as it is lacking Norway (including Svalbard) and Greenland. However, this should not diminish the contributions from Alaska, Canada, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Alaska Alaska constitutes the Arctic presence of the United States of America (USA). Alaska’s economy is dominated by federal spending and natural resource extraction – primarily oil and gas but also mining, seafood, and forestry – but tourism also plays an important role. Moreover, Alaska is an iconic tourism destination for many Americans, with glaciers, wildlife, scenic nature, and hunting and fishing serving as key attractions (GMA Research Corporation 2011). The Alaska state government contracts an independent research firm to compile statistics on the state’s visitor industry; where visitors are defined as non-state residents. The most recent report covers the 12-month period of October 2012 through September 2013 (McDowell Group 2014). In this period, an estimated 1.96 million individuals visited Alaska, with approximately 51% arriving on cruise ships, 45% traveling by air, and 4% by highway or ferry. Visitor spending within the state was estimated at $1.82 billion US. Total employment resulting directly and indirectly from the industry was estimated at 39,000. Combined revenue to municipal and state governments was estimated at $179 million US for the period. While these numbers are relatively small compared to oil and gas activities, which were estimated to contribute over $2.6 billion US to the state’s revenue in fiscal year 2013 (AKDOG 2014), tourism is a significant source of income for many Alaskans, especially in the south central and southeast regions of the state (McDowell Group 2014). While tourism provides a rare non-extractive economic option for Alaska, it has its own challenges. One set entails mitigating the negative impacts of tourism on the environment and on communities. Cruise ships in the southeast have been criticized for polluting marine ecosystems and disrupting the daily activities of residents (Ringer 2010; Cerveny 2004). There are also cases of non-resident hunters infringing on the territory of Alaska Natives, who rely on access to game for subsistence (personal communication). While tourism is economically valuable, it must be prevented from overwhelming ecosystems and subsistence-based life-ways through appropriate regulation. A different set of challenges results from efforts to expand and maintain Alaska tourism – which is predominately nature-based – in the face of climate change. Tourism has been proposed as a tool for economic development in remote far-north communities, but is severely hampered by a lack of infrastructure, including search and rescues capacities for ship-based tourism. While marine access to remote coastal communities is expected to improve as Arctic sea ice shrinks, terrestrial access has been predicted to decrease as permafrost beneath the ground thaws (Stephenson et al. 2011). Retreating glaciers and shifting ranges of wildlife are causing visitors and tourism operators to alter their spatial patterns in order to secure viewing opportunities in many parts of the state (personal observation). While the Alaska tourism industry possesses economic and lifestyle incentives to adapt to the rapidly changing environment, their capacity to adequately respond is not fully understood. Arctic Tourism