Cruising away from strong sustainability? A case-study of the social and environmental trade-offs of cruise tourism in Flåm, Norway
Abstract: Cruise tourism is the fastest growing segment within the global tourism industry, allowing tourists to visit spectacular coastal destinations all over the world. Due to its pristine fjord landscapes, Norway is a popular cruise destination. Over the past decades, cruise tourism has increased in the country, both in terms of cruise calls and passengers. Yet, cruise tourism is a source of local air pollution and discontent among local inhabitants in its host destinations, such as in the port of Flåm. Flåm is located in a UNESCO World Heritage fjord on the West Coast of Norway, known for its steep mountains and narrow fjord landscape. Yet, by increasing air pollution and erosion of the shore line, cruise tourism is threatening the economic foundation of both the Norwegian tourism sector and cruise tourism itself, which is dependent upon sustaining the natural environment in host destinations. This thesis applies a strong sustainability perspective to analyse whether a trade-off is occurring between a growth in cruise tourism and the utility of natural capital for local inhabitants in Flåm. Based on qualitative methods, a literature review and semi-structured interviews, the findings reveal that the cruise industry is, to some extent, generating a trade-off that has a varied impact on the natural capital and people’s well-being in Flåm. Although the economic contribution of cruise tourism is still highly valued in Flåm as it sustains livelihoods, the study identified a reduction in cruise tourism as desirable for Flåm, both as a tourist destination and local community. In conclusion, the thesis discusses a preferred path for Flåm to pursue in order to make future economic activity from cruise tourism in line with a strong sustainability approach.
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