Travel interest in Greenland surges after President Trump's proposal to buy it

Nick Robertson
Senior Producer

President Donald Trump is rapidly heating up travelers’ interest in one of the coldest places on earth.

The president’s abandoned proposal to purchase Greenland has captured global attention. The prime minister of Denmark—of which Greenland is an autonomous territory—has stated the island is not for sale.

Yet that’s not stopping travel apps like Hopper from seeing Greenland searches skyrocket over 300% in the wake of the geopolitical saga.

“A spike in the order of [nearly] 340% is totally unforeseen,” Hopper economist Hayley Berg told Yahoo Finance’s YFi PM.

He added: “when something goes into the media in such broad strokes like the Greenland story has, it can pick up global attention. That’s when we really see those massive spikes.”

Greenland has not exactly been high on the priority list for U.S. tourists. Only about 7,000-8,000 American citizens visit per year, according to recent government data. By contrast, 2.36 million traveled to France in 2017.

Melting barriers to travel

On top of virtually year-round cold temperatures, one of Greenland’s major barriers to attracting more tourists has been its extreme geographic isolation. But Berg predicts the high-profile spat between Trump and Denmark could help change that.

Brightly painted houses with floating iceberg, Qeqertarsuaq, Greenland

“As interest grows and if it sustains itself, I can imagine that the [Greenland] tourism board will put some work into making it easier to get there—especially for American citizens,” she said.

The only international commercial flights currently serving Greenland originate in Iceland and Denmark.

“Access to destinations is one of the ways that tourism boards are able to increase tourism and interest,” Berg stated. “I think that until there are more direct flights, it’s not likely we’ll see a massive surge.”

While options visiting Greenland via air remain limited, Berg noted there are more tour options via sea.

“We’ve seen Greenland add stops on cruises, and they’ve made efforts to make the island more accessible,” she added. Major operators like Princess Cruises (CCL) have recently begun offering itineraries to the territory from cities like New York.

Yet one key question remains: How will the recent flurry of travel interest impact tourism-related revenue for the island?

“It remains to be seen if this will translate into a big surge in bookings of actual flights, Airbnbs, and hotels,” Berg told Yahoo Finance.

“We’ll likely see some bump in tourism to Greenland just because of all the type, but it will likely not be in the order of 340%,” she added.

Nick Robertson is a senior producer at Yahoo Finance.

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