Tromsø has one unique position in tourism with its urban centre. The city is surrounded by nature that can take people’s breath away. Yttersia with its chalk-white beaches, islets and reefs. Ullsfjord and Lakselvbukt, which I know best, have the majestic Lyngsalpan where Jiehkkevárri rises highest with its 1834 m.
Now it is being considered to introduce a tourist tax and Tromsø can become a pilot municipality in the area. Industry Minister Jan Christian Vestre is clear that the tourist tax should be used to improve car parks, toilet facilities and signage, and that this should especially benefit the districts.
We are many who have already called for better infrastructure. Therefore, I believe that it is not a given that the districts will get their share of any possible introduction of a tourist tax. Tromsø politicians have a tired tendency to distribute and concentrate on the areas where the most people live. Many districts lose out on this.
This week can we read in iTromsø that tourists leave in the bus shelters. We have read similar reports from other districts before. In November 2023, an initiative group in Lakselvbukt started a call to the Ministry of Justice to put in place the necessary infrastructure to accommodate the growth of tourists in and around Lyngsalpan in Tromsø municipality.
The case has been sent to Tromsø municipality and is expected to come to political consideration within a short time. In 2019, Lokalbutikken was adopted as a tourist host by the municipal council. This is to meet the increased tourist growth in the district. The case was duly discussed in the media, and optimism was at its peak. In 2024, five years after the decision, we will still be without a tourist host function.
The site development project for Ullsfjord was adopted with jubilation in 2022. The case was based, among other things, on the opportunity around this with tourism. But nothing has happened here either.
Tromsø municipality decided in 2019 a tourism strategy. In advance of the preparation of the strategy, public meetings were organized in the villages around Tromsø. The increased growth in visitors to the area was duly discussed at a public meeting in Lakselvbukt. The local population is still waiting for the necessary infrastructure such as toilets, parking and signage.
The district report for Tromsø municipality was adopted in the spring of 2023. At the beginning of the report, we can read about the importance of the districts for tourism, and that the districts contribute greatly to building Tromsø into an exciting destination. The district report with its 36 pages is a report that will highlight the district perspective. This is so that the municipal administration and politicians can make good decisions.
This time expect we to see effective and concrete measures that enable us to achieve the goal of viable villages and vibrant local communities. Viable villages and vibrant local communities have been repeated ad nauseam in countless plans and reports, and decision-makers must start taking the term seriously before it loses all its credibility.
We have others examples of good intentions in distributing the benefits to the entire municipality. The Aquaculture Fund is one such example. Tromsø municipality receives tens of millions from the Aquaculture Fund each year. The aquaculture fund shall contribute to local welfare and development. The payments are part of the social contract according to Fisheries and Oceans Minister Cecilie Myrseth.
Furthermore, it is said that the government’s action should give a significant part of the value creation back to the local communities. In 2022, Tromsø municipality was paid 43 million. For 2023, Tromsø received a new 20 million. As we can see from the minister’s statement, the local communities must be catered for. What are all the millions used for?
Tourist tax is on in many ways the same intention as the Aquaculture Fund, and benefiting the districts in particular. Tourist tax must help ensure that the wear and tear on nature must be compensated. It is therefore important that the local communities in the districts get their share. It will be important to play as a team with the districts, it will benefit both the local population, the tourists and the municipality as a whole.
It is not missing on local commitment and initiative, but ultimately it is the politicians in Tromsø who decide how the funds are distributed. Experience shows that the districts are not catered for in the same way as more central parts of Tromsø. It may quickly turn out that there are several city center streets that need to be upgraded with heating. If tourist tax is to be used for such measures, I am concerned that it will come at the expense of very basic infrastructure such as toilets, parking spaces and waste management in the Tromsø district.
Thus we must still deal with the fact that tourists and visitors leave where they are, whether it is behind a boathouse or in a bus shelter.