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Daily Archives: 12. May 2021 − News & Stories


Offi­ci­al cer­ti­fi­ca­ti­on sche­me for gui­des in Spits­ber­gen on the way

The Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment has star­ted work on a new set of rules for tou­rism in Spits­ber­gen. With the depart­ment of trade and indus­try and the depart­ment of jus­ti­ce, two minis­tries are invol­ved in the work which will touch many aspects. It appears that gui­des will play one cen­tral rule. Gui­des are pre­sent during any tou­ristic acti­vi­ty in Spits­ber­gen and they play a cen­tral rule in mul­ti­ple ways: they car­ry respon­si­bi­li­ty for a qua­li­ty expe­ri­ence, often with an edu­ca­tio­nal aspect, for safe­ty – an important aspect in a poten­ti­al­ly dan­ge­rous envi­ron­ment such as the Arc­tic – and for com­pli­ance with a ran­ge of legal regu­la­ti­ons and indus­try and com­pa­ny stan­dards con­cer­ning safe­ty and the pro­tec­tion of the envi­ron­ment inclu­ding wild­life and cul­tu­ral heri­ta­ge.

The polar gui­de: a cen­tral posi­ti­on, but not a pro­tec­ted pro­fes­si­on

One can only won­der that such a cen­tral pro­fes­si­on within an indus­try that is more than one hundred years old* and that has seen deca­des of inten­se indus­tri­al deve­lo­p­ment both local­ly and inter­na­tio­nal­ly, is not pro­tec­ted. Anyo­ne can offer gui­de ser­vices. Of cour­se the­re is a ran­ge of con­side­ra­ti­ons and initia­ti­ves to cer­ti­fy qua­li­fied gui­des, and this has been going on for many years now both local­ly in Lon­gye­ar­by­en (Visit Sval­bard) as well as inter­na­tio­nal­ly (PTGA), and many acti­ve gui­des have used one or ano­ther sup­pli­er to achie­ve some kind of cer­ti­fi­ca­ti­on. And of cour­se, AECO, the “Asso­cia­ti­on of Expe­di­ti­on Crui­se Ope­ra­tors”, is working on the issue and various tour ope­ra­tors have deve­lo­ped their own qua­li­fi­ca­ti­on sche­mes.

*Regu­lar com­mer­cial Spits­ber­gen crui­ses star­ted in 1891 with Wil­helm Bade.

Guide, tourists and walrusee in Spitsbergen

Tou­rists obser­ving wal­ru­ses in Spits­ber­gen: the gui­de play a key role in enab­ling tou­rists to have a good, safe expe­ri­ence wit­hout dis­tur­bing the wild­life or doing any other kind of harm to natu­re.

The pro­blem is: the­re is, so far, no offi­ci­al­ly ack­now­led­ged cer­ti­fi­ca­ti­on. It is unclear who can and will issue ack­now­led­ged cer­ti­fi­ca­ti­ons, which qua­li­fi­ca­ti­ons will be requi­red for cer­ti­fi­a­ti­on, how, whe­re and by whom the­se shall be veri­fied and so on.

The Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment is working on an offi­ci­al cer­ti­fi­ca­ti­on sche­me for Spits­ber­gen gui­des

This is sup­po­sed to chan­ge. The Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment has asked the indus­try and other inte­res­ted par­ties to give their input and to make sug­ges­ti­ons.

Many might bene­fit from a well thought-through cer­ti­fi­ca­ti­on sche­me, inclu­ding the gui­des them­sel­ves. Pay­ment and work con­di­ti­ons in parts of the indus­try have repea­ted­ly been sub­ject to cri­ti­cism in recent years. It is easy for com­pa­nies to replace expe­ri­en­ced employees by new­co­mers when a pro­fes­si­on is not pro­tec­ted. The­re are ple­nty of young peo­p­le who would be wil­ling to work for next to not­hing or even for free for a sea­son of adven­ture in the Arc­tic. This may even be under­stan­da­ble from the individual’s posi­ti­on, but it is, at the same time, a very unfort­u­na­te struc­tu­re for expe­ri­en­ced pro­fes­sio­nals who want to be just that – pro­fes­sio­nals in the sen­se that they want to make a living of their work.

Ide­al­ly, ever­y­boy could bene­fit: tou­rists, the indus­try, the envi­ron­ment – and the gui­des

Addi­tio­nal­ly, many gui­des have alre­a­dy put a lot of effort into aqui­ring cer­ti­fi­ca­ti­ons wit­hout kno­wing if and by whom they will real­ly be accept­ed. Essen­ti­al­ly, any step within qua­li­fi­ca­ti­on is a good step, but if it invol­ves more bureau­cra­cy than any­thing else to docu­ment know­ledge and expe­ri­ence that some have used and shown in ever­y­day work in years, wit­hout being cer­tain that it is real­ly worth the effort, then it is under­stan­da­ble that a cer­ti­fi­ca­ti­on sche­me roo­ted in rele­vant legis­la­ti­on may pro­vi­de plan­ning relia­bi­li­ty that makes it worth to spend some time and effort on.

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