C.M. Hall & J. Saarinen (eds.), Tourism and Change in Polar Regions (London: Routledge, 2010, pbk. ed.)

The book deals with tourism development and tourists’ interest in both the Arctic and the Antarctic. The book is an edited volume and thus represents a rather eclectic mix of essays, each following an independent thought trajectory from the basic, albeit broad theme set out by the editors.

Their starting point is an outline of the issues of climate change and its possible impact on polar regions, revisited in the conclusion with more detail. A key to understanding tourism and change in polar regions is to recognise what constitutes the polar regions and how tourism has developed there in terms of modes of visitation and numbers. The theme of change is focused on climate change and tourism’s role therein, but also how tourists bring changes to society and biota through being there. This is comprehensively laid out in the opening chapters by the editors and can also be gleaned from several of the chapters in the book, all in all providing for a wide-ranging overview of what constitutes the region and tourism therein.

Fourteen chapters follow two introductory agenda-setting chapters for the book. The book is then capped off with a short reflective conclusion essay by the editors. The chapters are meant to widen the knowledge base of management decisions and policy-making for the polar regions, getting tourism included in those processes as it is both a vector for change and the recipient thereof. Chapter three in the book focuses on cruise tourism in Arctic Canada, its routes and itineraries, and how ice conditions impact these. Chapter four is also set in Canada, this time in Churchill, Manitoba, where polar-bear viewing has developed into a viable business with standing in the community. The question however is if it will be sustained with changes in polar bears’ behaviour with climate change. Chapter five is again set in Canada and also deals with polar bears, but focusing on governance and management of this type of tourism in the context of a provincial park set up around the animals. Chapter six keeps the reader in Canada and looks at tourist experiences through a survey on cruises and management implications for three of the most remote and recently established national parks in the country; Auyuittuq, Sirmilik and Quttinirpaaq. Chapter seven takes the reader to northern Scandinavia and outlines how changes in the demand and supply of nature-based tourism relate to climate change. Chapter eight stays in that region, but focuses on tourism entrepreneurs’ knowledge of these potential changes in the context of winter-nature-based tourism in Finland. Chapter nine brings the reader back to Canada and to a somewhat different aspect, having to do with the co-habitation of tourism and the resource extractive industries so prominent in Arctic regions. The chapter outlines the constraints and opportunities in combining diamond mining and tourism. Chapter ten has a bi-polar focus on cultural heritage, demonstrating the similarities in the early historical trajectories of Antarctica and Svalbard in terms of resource extraction and exploration and what remains to be seen of that in both places and how tourism is developed around that. Chapter eleven stays within Antarctica and talks about the impetus for expedition tourists going there, not least to get in touch with and somewhat reanimate the explorations of the “heroic age” by early polar explorers. Chapter twelve follows the ideas and methods of chapter six and its contributed by the same author. This time round the author focuses on the experiences of cruisers in the Ross sea region of Antarctica. Chapter thirteen tries to relate the images and ideas associated with these explorations to the key gateway ports to Antarctica. Focusing on Ushuaia, the chapter highlights how that gateway port to the Antarctic could do more in terms of showcasing what Antarctica is all about and thus become more of an attraction to the Antarctic expedition tourist. Chapter fourteen stays in Antarctica and provides the details of an integrated scenario analysis of tourism in the region, created through a series of business stakeholder consultative meetings. Chapter fifteen details tourism operations and management strategies for the numerous and often miniscule Sub-Antarctic islands. Chapter sixteen then lastly outlines how tourism is being used to legitimize sovereignty claims in polar regions.

Through these chapters, a comprehensive overview of tourism issues and opportunities is provided for in the polar regions. What is sorely missing is the Russian Arctic and issues of tourism and its development therein. A chapter or two could have been devoted to that sizable swathe of territory in the Arctic, in addition to a more detailed coverage of Greenland and the sub-arctic islands, perchance at the expense of some of the numerous chapters on the Canadian Arctic, some of which even deal with the same subject matter. Another point of critique is that although the book is comprehensive in its overview of tourism, the theme of change and climate change in particular does not feature throughout. By the end, and when climate change issues were revisited in detail in the conclusion, it became clear that this vital thread of analysis was in some cases absent. With this, each chapter in the book could be read as an independent essay without any reference to the book’s overall content. Thirdly and lastly in terms of critique, the quality of the material and research presented in the chapters ranged considerably.

Despite these concerns, the book provides for a comprehensive overview of tourism and change in polar regions, offered through relatively succinct chapter vignettes. Each can stand on its own, though the book can be read as a coherent whole. With the latter, the reader will have an almost full picture of tourism development and change in and around the poles, apart from Russia and some sub-arctic entities.