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Social-Ecological Systems Meta-Analysis Database: Component

SummaryTourism is one of the main pillars of the Svalbard economy. Tourists come to participate in an array of outdoor activities and to experience the polar wilderness. Coding focuses on large, commercial tourism operators (specifically AECO - Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators), because an organized cruise is essentially the only way to visit the East Svalbard Nature Reserves. Although some private boats may visit the reserves, these numbers are very small in comparison to the organized tours (Governor of Svalbard 2013).
SubtypeGroup of Local Resource User Groups
SectorMarine protected areas
Interest HeterogeneityLow (1)
ExplanationIn general, all tourism operators have an interest in providing a wilderness experience for the clients. There may be small distinctions between the ‘expedition cruises’ (which start & end in the main town of Longyearbyen and which are operated from within Svalbard) and the ‘overseas cruises’ (which visit Svalbard as part of a longer voyage and have less contact with the local villages) (Report No.22 2008-2009). Although there are different types of recreation (e.g. kayaking, cruise ship), all tourism companies recognize that the tourism business depends on maintaining wildlife populations and a pristine environment.
Costs Of ExitYes
ExplanationFor each organization, the boats used for cruises in northern environments cost millions of dollars. This infrastructure investment may present considerable cost to leaving the industry. In addition, in the tourism industry where reputation matters, it may be difficult to ‘jump-ship’, because it would take a while to establish a new operation in a new location.
Proportionality (Of Costs And Benefits)Yes
ExplanationAs a growing industry, the number of tourists visiting Svalbard increased throughout the time period coded (2004-2012) (Sysselmannen på Svalbard 2012 ). As the second largest industry in Svalbard, in 2007 tourism directly employed 211 people and contributed NOK 317 million (about $41 million US) to the economy (Report No.22 2008-2009).
Actor Group CoordinationBoth formal and informal
ExplanationAECO has a well-defined organizational structure with a Secretariat, an Executive Committee, and several other thematic committees. Their operational guidelines ask companies to coordinate itineraries before the tourist season commences, and to maintain radio contact while at sea to ensure that too many boats are not using the same area at the same time (AECO 2013). In a small town where everyone knows everyone, Evers et al (2013) found that companies recognize the need to respect the formal agreements (the written contracts) and the informal agreements (the ‘cognac deals’).
ExplanationAECO has formal leadership structure. There is an Executive Director, along with several elected committees.
Leadership AccountabilityHigh (3)
ExplanationAt each annual general meeting, there are elections held for the positions on each committee of AECO. Since AECO members pay an annual fee, (likely which helps to pay for salaried positions) we would expect the Executive Director to have high accountability to the member organizations.
Leadership AuthorityMedium (2)
ExplanationThe Executive Director appears to have authority on day-to-day matters and considerable personal influence during meetings with stakeholders such as local communities, government agencies, shipping companies, etc. However, the big decisions (such as the Organizational Guidelines) are subject to vote by the AECO membership.
Actor Group TrustHigh (3)
ExplanationAlthough group trust is difficult to judge, the evidence of past collaboration and continued operation of AECO suggests that group trust is likely to be high. Literature searches so far have not indicated substantial distrust among members of the group.
Past CollaborationHigh (3)
ExplanationBefore AECO was formally established, there is evidence of past collaboration. Since the Svalbard community is very small (2000 people in the largest town), companies likely all knew one another and had a least some coordination of itineraries. In recognition of the growing numbers of tourists (although perhaps also partly due to the government desire to create a management plan) the tourism industry worked together to create their own management plan in 1994 outlining how they wish to see the industry operate.
Personal CommunicationMore than once a year (5)
ExplanationMembers are all invited to participate in the Annual General Meeting (AGM). Members who are part of committees also have an AGM, and may meet more frequently.
Remote CommunicationMore than once a year (5)
ExplanationThe AECO Guidelines (2014-2015) require operators to communicate in the pre-tourist season in order to coordinate schedules and itineraries. In addition, vessels are required to communicate with one another at sea to avoid too many boats in one area.