Russia sees large opportunities for tourism on Svalbard.(Photo: Arcticugol.ru)
Development of tourism is one of Russia’s prioritized areas to secure its presence on the archipelago of Svalbard. The state company Trust Arktikugol is now registered as a tour operator and could welcome its first guests to the Arctic wilderness.
The coal company Trust Arktikugol stands for most of Russia’s activity on Svalbard, employing 439 of the 471 Russians living on the island, according to the Governor of Svalbard’s annual report for 2014.
In 2013 the company was registered as a tour operator under the brand “Grumant”, and now offers trips both summer and winter. Last year the operator had ten groups with a total of 100 Russian tourists and opened its own tourist camp in the Norwegian town of Longyearbyen. In addition, the company has hotels and hostels in Barentsburg and in Pyramiden.
Grumant recently published a web site where they offer trips like “In the footsteps of the Pomors” – a five-day, guided snowmobile trip to Longyearbyen, Barentsburg and the mining settlement of Sveagruva. A trip like that costs from €985.
Barentsburg has been the fastest growing settlement on Svalbard for the last couple of years, with the number of inhabitants rising from 370 in 2010. The place has undergone visible changes – the hotel, the mess, the hospital and the mining administration building have all been renovated. Barentsburg can also boast the world’s northernmost microbrewery, the “Red Bear”.
The number of Russians with permanent residence on Svalbard is of course nothing compared to the Soviet period. In 1990 there were 2407 persons living in Barentsburg.