Text: Emily Höckert & Monika Lüthje
Film: Louise Romain
Photos: Outi Kugapi
Few months ago, a group of ARCTISEN members visited Greenland for the first benchmarking trip. While we – Emily and Monika – were not able to join the trip, we have been eager to know what happened during this very special gathering.
- What kind of thoughts they had given as gifts to their Greenlandic hosts?
- What kind of ideas and inspiration were born in those encounters?
- What kind of inspiration people brought with them as souvenirs?
The main idea of the benchmarking trip was to enable different kinds of tourism actors to share experiences, test new ideas and to learn from each other. This time the benchmarking trip was hosted by Greenlandic tourism experts, while tourism actors from Norway, Sweden and Finland got to take the role of a guest. This short text is based on the stories that these guests have shared with us after the trip. Moreover, the pictures and videos have given us a good chance to experience the trip from distance.
Sisimiut is 40 km north of the Arctic Circle. The name means “the people living in a place wherethere are fox dens". Sisimiut was founded in 1756 and has approximately 5,600 residents. It is the second largest town in Greenland. The town is an important cruise destination for both expedition vessels and medium sized cruise ships, linking Nuuk and Kangerlussuaq with the Disko Bay area and Ilulissat further north.
On the very first day, the ARCTISEN group had experienced a warm welcome in Sisimiut by Greenlandic tourism entrepreneurs. The opening activities had focused on storytelling led by Hilde Bjørkli’s (Northern Norway Tourism Board) inspiring speech, accompanied then by stories from Norwegian tourism companies. Hilde’s message to all tourism entrepreneurs from the Arctic had been important and empowering. She argued that tourism entrepreneurs should tell their own story, underlining how ‘Your story is enough!’. What an excellent and powerful guideline for culturally sensitive tourism!
The second day of benchmark had consisted a wide range of activities from product and service development, exchange of ideas, souvenir shopping, music and hiking. According to many of the participants, the most affecting experience had been a soul-massaging workshop with Sanni from SoundByNature. In a small snowstorm just outside of Sisimiut, Sanni had taught and shown how to breath in and breath out in the middle of the hectic world. A valuable gift that many had brought home from this trip.
The third day in Sisimiut had focused on community guidelines with Jesper Schrøder from Arctic Circle Business. The residents of Sisimiut have co-created guidelines for tourists who visit their home town. Many participants of the benchmarking trip had experienced that this was something that could and should be done in other destinations as well. You can find more information about the AECO community guidelines here.
During the first days in Sisimiut, tourism entrepreneurs from Norway, Sweden and Finland had been discussing how important and eye-opening it was to be a guest in someone’s home village or home town. What does it mean to be a tourist and an outsider in places where local hosts live their everyday lives? Isn’t it often the mundane details of the local culture that fascinate the outsiders?
We will continue with these reflections in our next blog text from Nuuk.