International interest in the Arctic has grown substantially in recent years.
The North is viewed as one of the few unspoiled natural regions left in the world and more and
more people want to experience it first hand. Especially travel industry growth sectors such as
experiential or adventure travel, aboriginal tourism, and learning vacations present real
opportunities for communities. The far North's communities, no matter in what country, have
in common not only a unique natural environment, abundant wildlife, ancient cultures and vast
pristine areas, but also serious economic and social challenges. Tourism can offer an opportunity
for sustainable development in the North, something that the SMART
project (SMART stands for "Sustainable Model of Arctic Regional Tourism") set out to promote.
The beginnings of the SMART project date back to 1999, when the Northern Business Conference took
place in Rovaniemi, Finland. In 2002 the initiative was formalized and combined the "Links" project started
by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) together with the State of Alaska, USA, and the "SusTour" project
initiated by Kemi-Tornio Polytechnic in northern Finland. The project was strengthened through new partners from
Canada and Sweden and supporting members from around the Arctic.
In the years 2003 to 2005, the SMART project worked for the promotion of sustainable tourism practices,
training and capacity building for businesses, market incentives and circumpolar co-operation.
SMART also sought to help businesses and communities understand what sustainable tourism is and how to
get involved. This project brought together people and businesses from diverse cultures of the North in
an effort to innovatively develop sustainable tourism. This web portal for sustainable arctic tourism and
many of the materials and information you find on it are outputs from the SMART project. So is the Sustainable
Arctic Tourism Association which has the goal to continue the work of SMART in the future.
Throughout the project period, SMART was an official project of the Arctic Council's
"Sustainable Development Working Group" and the Northern Forum. Activities of European
partners were financed through the European Union's Northern Periphery Programme and matching
national funds, while the Canadian government funded the Canadian participation. The Northern Forum
contributed to the project financially, especially to ensure Alaskan participation, and also the North
Calotte Council was fundamental in securing a broad participation through their support.
SMART project has ended in the end of 2005.