Publication of a review article

Title: Cruise tourism destinations: Practices, consequences and the road to sustainability

Article written by: Hindertje Hoarau-Heemstra, Karin Wigger, Julia Olsen, Laura James

Published in: Journal of Destination Marketing & Management,
Volume 30,2023, 100820

Link to the article

About our writing process

This article is the result of a collaboration among researchers from Nord University, Nordland forskning, Linköping University, and Aalborg University.

Reviewing the literature on cruise tourism destinations was an essential part of the project “Sustainable Arctic Cruise Communities: From Practice to Governance.” It helped us gain an overview of and a deeper understanding of other studies related to cruise tourism destinations.

We were interested in learning about empirical research and the effects of cruise tourism on destinations worldwide. Therefore, we excluded conceptual papers and review papers from our list of articles. We found a wide range of geographical cases that focused on the local, land-based effects of cruise tourism.

Our focus was on sustainability, encompassing social, environmental, and economic aspects of cruise tourism. We observed that recent studies have shifted their perspective on sustainability from merely economic to a more holistic approach, taking into account the social and environmental aspects of hosting cruise tourism in coastal destinations.

We initiated our review process in 2020, conducting a scoping of the available literature. We had to make decisions about what to include. Given the significant impact of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (2015) on sustainability research in tourism, we began including articles from 2015 onward. This provided us with a seven-year window during which we concentrated on empirical studies published in tourism journals. We worked with a comprehensive Excel table, structuring categories and capturing relevant information from each article. To ensure alignment, we all read and analyzed the same articles and discussed them during meetings. We had to update our search twice during our writing process.

In early spring 2023, we reached a consensus regarding the shape and content of our article. We decided to submit it to the Journal of Destination Marketing and Management because our review findings and discussion aligned well with the journal’s scope. During the summer, we received the article back for major revisions and resubmitted it in August. It didn’t take long after that to receive the good news that our work was accepted for publication!


This narrative review article contributes to the discussion on destination sustainability by focusing on cruise tourism practices. Cruise tourism is a complex industry, particularly from a destination perspective. There have been many calls for cruise tourism to become more sustainable for destinations but little consensus about what this means, or how it could be achieved. The aim of this article is to review the literature on cruise tourism destinations and to unpack the ways in which sustainability issues are framed at destination level. We have reviewed 98 peer-reviewed empirical journal articles (2015–2022). The article shows how the research literature on cruise tourism and sustainability issues has evolved over 7 years, which aspects of sustainability are considered to be most important and/or problematic and what solutions are suggested to improve the sustainability of cruise tourism. We develop three critical avenues towards sustainable cruise destinations: 1) from specific outcomes to the interconnectedness of desired practices, 2) alternatives to the growth paradigm, and 3) governing for coexistence and the commons. These critical avenues are based on the discussion of what sustainability means for cruise destinations, and translates these into pathways of future research.


Doing fieldwork in the Arctic is always an adventure! We experienced several seasons during the same day, are blown away by natural beauty of fantastic landscapes, by welcoming and friendly people, discovered the unexpected along the way and met with old and new friends. During our stay at our destinations (study areas), we also need to learn what they have to offer, to be able to see it through the eyes of both visitors and locals.

Hiking is a very popular activity in the north of Norway, and many people using the same trails can create challenges for nature protection. For example, popular hiking trails, due to their extensive usage, eventually pose a threat to vulnerable ecosystems that may take many years to recuperate. One approach to raise visitor awareness is by creating signs that provide information about these detrimental impacts. The picture above shows the warning signs that hikers encounter on popular trails, saying that the vegetation is vulnerable and that erosion of the soil is a treat to the landscape.

What else can be done at Arctic destinations in order to prevent negative effects of increasing number of visitors on their vulnerable nature? Some places install new infrastructure to protect the vegetation and the soil, like the Sherpa stairs in Honningsvåg, the North Cape stairs. Other destinations, like Alta, put signs to warn tourists to stay on the same path and be careful where they walk. Tourism providers have a responsibility to take care of nature and landscape, by not bringing too many visitors, and to educate people about how to treat the Arctic nature with respect and care.

By talking to local people, observing tourists and tourism practices, we not only learn more about the destination, but also able to understand the challenges and possibilities for coexisiting with tourism industry in a sustainable way.

Cruise trouble. A practice-based approach to studying Arctic cruise tourism

This conceptual article was the first output from the project, and got published in 2021. The article forms the basis for the conceptual logic of our empirical work, and inspired the project members to design a guide for fieldwork (interviews and observations) based on practice theory.

Link to the full article (open-access)


Cruise arrivals in the Arctic often take place in small coastal communities. Although there may be economic benefits for these communities, these are often counterbalanced by social and environmental stresses. In this article, we ask how we can tend to Arctic cruise tourism development using Haraway’s concept of staying with the trouble. As a way to bridge often polarized views on cruise tourism as either an economic tool or a destructive force, we propose a practice-based research approach to engage with the complexities of cruise tourism. The aim is to foster response-abililty for Arctic cruise communities to live (better) with cruise tourism. We argue that practice-based approaches help researchers ‘stay with the trouble’ as it is rooted in everyday experiences and the materiality of cruise destinations. Also, its flat ontology supports a ‘tinkering’ approach to cruise practices.


Carina Ren (Aalborg University), Laura James (Aalborg University), Albina Pashkevich (Dalarna University) and Hindertje Hoarau-Heemstra (Nord University)