Tracy Michaud, Colleen Metcalf & Matthew Bampton
The old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” is apt when examining social media photo posts. The Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) embedded within social media photos from online sites such as Flickr provides depths of information for tourism managers beyond the image itself. This research analyzes Flickr VGI from photos of Kalaallit Nunaat or Greenland, from 2004-2020 within a netnography framework and cultural geographic approach. This theoretical outlook argues that geo-visualizations create novel impressions of what tourists and local people value, give insights into how people perceive a destination, and influence sense of place. Greenlanders, although familiar with exploration and colonization, have only recently begun to deal with a growing number of tourists. While the tenants of responsible tourism management include a strong local voice in conversations on tourism development, results show Flickr images of Greenland are dominated by tourist photos, especially those in cruise ship ports, many likely taken from the ship. Furthermore there appears to be distinctly different photo patterns between locals and visitors. These dichotomies suggest the need for more conversation within broader tourism planning work around how the world “sees” Greenland, how it might affect the quality of life of locals, and sustainable tourism development for travelers. As visitation increases in Greenland, and in Polar regions in general, VGI provides an efficient, cost-effective way to visualize perceptions of various stakeholders, which can guide conversations in tourism management, and serve as a reminder to acknowledge and prioritize local voices.