Greenland Tourism eyes U.S. market

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NEW YORK -- Greenland's 8-year-old tourist board is researching the U.S. market and eyeing it with interest -- if not marketing dollars just yet.

This fall, Greenland Tourism assigned one of its staff of 16 to the New York offices of the Scandinavian Tourist Boards for five weeks to follow up on a year full of Leif Eriksson activities, study the American market and report findings and recommendations.

"So far, the American market has only been a tertiary market," said Jesper Kunuk Egede, marketing and public relations coordinator with Greenland Tourism.

The tourist board said it has reason to believe American interest is there, despite the fact that the U.S. and Canada together made up only 2.4% of the country's 26,000 tourists last year. The U.S. accounted for 7,778, or 3.8%, of Greenland's 205,047 hotel room nights. Canada accounted for 1%.

One indication that America is more interested in Greenland than the numbers of arrivals show: North America accounts for a disproportionate 50% of the 100,000 monthly visitors to Greenland Tourism's 1,800-page Web site, Visitgreenland.com, Egede said.

Another encouraging surprise for Egede came when he read through Travel Weekly's Sept. 25 Tour Operators Source Supplement, to find some 30 tour operators who listed Greenland.

"We don't know half of them," he said, adding that he would be contacting them.

Greenland, part of the kingdom of Denmark, receives 75% of its overseas tourists from that country, Egede said.

"The profile of our main customers are 50-plus, well-educated empty-nesters with money and time to spare. That's typical of our European and especially Danish tourists," he added.

While American tourist numbers to Greenland are too small to profile, Egede said, "the Americans who come to me are really into adventure tourism, much more than the Danish we encounter," who, he said, primarily visit Greenland for its tranquility.

"It seems that the way to enter the American market would be to focus on adventure rather than the peacefulness that we advertise in Europe," he said.

In the U.S., Egede said, "We don't do direct advertising, simply because we can't afford it. So we operate fam trips for agents and tour operators, and press trips for travel journalists."

U.S. market fam trips started last year.

The tourist board also has participated in the Non-Profits in Travel Conference in Washington for several years.

A full-page ad in the Denmark/Copenhagen travel catalog for the U.S. market, Egede said, "is the only print advertising we do here."

The theme of the ad, Egede said, has shifted from emphasizing "old meets new and the marvels of nature" to promoting Greenland's various sporting events, such as the cross-country ski Arctic Circle Race and Drambuie World Ice Golf Championship.

The ad first ran last year with the tag line, "A world you'll never forget." For the 2001 catalog, it is "The unexplored land of adventures."

The Web site also has been adjusted to feature adventure travel and active vacations, Egede said, "and that is a direct result of my being here and seeing how big adventure travel is."

Star power may also help Greenland on the adventure travel front.

The crown prince of Denmark drew media attention for a dogsledding vacation he took in January, which occurred during the launch of a three-year, $350,000 advertising campaign in Denmark.

A stateside celebrity plug happened to come recently from actor Kevin Spacey.

Appearing on CBS' "Late Show with David Letterman" on Oct. 5, Spacey chatted about his vacation in far northern Thule, "spoke nicely about Greenland and showed pictures of himself rowing around among icebergs," Egede said.

The obvious weak point in attracting more American tourists to Greenland is accessibility. Americans must visit Greenland via Iceland or Canada.

"I hope in time that we get a direct route into the U.S.," Egede said.

He also said he would like to see Greenland Tourism appoint a representative in New York.

"It's difficult to find an agent who does Greenland," Egede said, noting that the majority of North American agent business comes from Canada.

"Many people call the Scandinavian Tourist Boards, which does the best [it] can," he said.

"In time, we should have a person sitting here as well, to deal with the press and refer people to travel agents in their area."

Egede said he also would like to see Greenland incorporated into the Scandinavian Tourist Boards' Scandinavian Travel Agent Registry, a referral network of agent specialists.

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