A new international airport could change Greenland forever

It’s unclear exactly how much tourism could grow in the span of a few years, but Selmer says it would be best for it to grow slowly, and thoughtfully. She said the country wants to put an emphasis on attracting adventure travelers—people coming to hike, go on wildlife tours, or focus on other nature or cultural experiences. Even though it’s much bigger than Iceland, the country doesn’t currently have the capacity—there aren’t enough hotels or tour operators on the ground—to support millions of tourists per year. 

“We want to better the livelihood of people and give them jobs and educate them and bring more money into the society in general, so we get better services and all the things that more money can bring in,” Selmer says. “Everybody wants that, but we also don’t want the way of life to be threatened by tourists, which it can be.” She referenced Venice, which now charges visitor fees, and Japan, where officials recently blocked a view of Mount Fuji because tourists were stopping traffic trying to get photos.

There’s also the elephant in the room: Greenland is made up of an awful lot of frozen ground, and planes aren’t exactly ice-friendly. But the reality is that the country is pretty disconnected from the rest of the world, and its towns are also disconnected from one another. Because of the country’s topography, most towns aren’t connected by roads, so flying is essential. Improving connectivity will make life easier for locals—a welcome change of pace. Aside from the airport in Nuuk, which opens in late November, two new airports are also in the works in Qaqortoq and Ilulissat.

“I think everybody, in Nuuk, at least, is just looking forward to having this airport because it means less wasted time, more direct business, political, and social connections,” says Tanny Por, head of international relations at Visit Greenland. “Everything will be more connected in that way.”

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