On responsible tourism marketing in Mid- and Northern Norway


Text: Lena Nøstdahl, Northern Norway Tourist Board

In a market of 1.4 billion international travelers seeking new dream destinations, we need to re-think tourism and make an overall plan for what we want tourism to contribute to. Northern Norway Tourist Board (NNR) has a long-term strategy to help develop a sustainable year-round tourism industry. Our vision is to be a leader in experience-based value creation. Central in the strategy is an innovative segmentation tool based on travel motivation and personal desires instead of place of residence, age, income etc. This enables us to navigate and make wise strategic decisions on which guests to prioritize. So that we both create meaningful customer experiences and actively contribute to build greater local communities.

At the island Lånan, there is a long tradition for gathering eggs and down from the Eider duck. From the down, exclusive duvets and pillows are made and sold to the luxury market. Lånan is in the World Heritage area Vegaøyan (the Vega Islands) in Vega municipality, Nordland 16.6.06. Vegaøyan was listed on UNESCO’s list of important world heritage sites in 2004. In the photo Margit Nilsen Lande is at a stone house where a female bird, lies and hatches. Photo credit: Visit Helgeland

To be able to do this we need to involve and engage the locals, as well as relevant businesses in and outside of traditional tourism. We need to seek close collaboration with destination leaders and communities to create long-term benefits of tourism, for both business and citizens. And to break out of the tourism silo by inviting more people to contribute, but also make them more accountable. We believe that responsible tourism will be a key competitive advantage in near future.

This text first offers an overview of content and values of the project Responsible Marketing, and examples of the first pilot cases.

Innovation project

The project period of Responsible marketing is ongoing till 2021 and is funded by the County Council of Nordland and Trøndelag. We are in the early stages of this innovative project, but nevertheless we have gained some new insights that we want to share.

Responsible marketing is in many ways the change, from marketing to management, in practice. Where marketing strategy has its origin in an overall strategy for the entire destination, which is rooted locally. This means working from local wants and needs in such a way that tourism becomes a tool for creating good communities and not a goal in itself.

In this project we strive to find a working method where tourism as an industry and marketers, tailor measures based on local strategies. We want to test a new approach in building a responsible marketing strategy, using the bottom-up principle.

Simply put, responsible marketing is all about accountability and taking responsibility for the consequences of one’s actions. Note, doing nothing is also an action.

Our biggest challenge is limiting ourselves since this topic is overreaching in so many ways. Therefor we have defined a set of principles.

  • Developing a strategy for getting the right guest, in the right place, at the right time
  • Strategic planning from a holistic perspective and as an integral part of the business plan in the municipality
  • That the values created locally is greater than that consumed
  • A close interaction between the local community’s values, wishes and plans and marketing plans
  • To engage and involve the local community
  • Have a system for inputs, respecting all input and pointing to actual action
  • A bottom-up process
  • A continuous process rooted locally
  • To be accountable for once actions
  • Respect local choices and values
  • Ensure that the marketing communication reflect the actual experience.

What does responsible marketing mean to us?

It is all about creating a strategy to get the right guest, at the right place, at the right time. So that the values ​​created locally are greater than those consumed. This requires a close interaction between the local community’s values and needs, and action points implemented. Therefore, responsible marketing is about much more than just marketing.

The aim of the project is to develop new working methods and test how responsible marketing can contribute, as one of several tools, to create positive local value creation in both tourism and local communities. We want to find new key performance indexes (KPIs) to be able to measure sustainable development. Find ways to have ongoing dialogue to make sure that local choices and values are respected and considered.

The coast of Helgeland has more than 12000 islands. Conditions for kayaking between the islands are excellent.           Photo credit: Visit Helgeland

The Vega Archipelago, a pilot

In 2004, the archipelago’s cultural landscape was inscribed on the UNESCO List of World Natural and Cultural Heritage as representative of “the way generations of fishermen and farmers have, over the past 1,500 years, maintained a sustainable living in an inhospitable seascape near the Arctic Circle, based on the now unique practice of eiderdown harvesting”. The unique cultural landscape with bird tradition was the main reason why the Vega Islands in 2004 gained world heritage status. Vega was also one of the first to be certified in the Sustainable Travel Destinations brand and has already been through a re-certification. In addition, the municipality of Vega is now working on developing a new generation of tourism life plan. As part of this process, they have involved the locals at Vega in a discussion about what they want tourism to do for Vega and how they want tourism to be in the future. This has provided a very good knowledge base on how the population wants tourism to contribute to the development of the local community. One of the key aspects of this project is to find out how making can help create the sustainable tourism they want on Vega?

Partnership and twin project

Trøndelag Reiseliv has developed its brand strategy by model from Northern Norway and shares the vision of an experience-based and sustainable tourism development. This provides a good starting point for collaborating. Joining in as a pilot is Inderøy. Inderøy is home of The Golden Road, a detour passes through beautiful scenery in the Municipality of Inderøy. Participants along the route offer food, art- and cultural experiences, where both tradition and innovation are taken into consideration. Inderøy is also certified as a Sustainable Travel Destinations and has started the process of involving the local community in asking them what they want from tourism, what kind of tourism they want for the future and how’s the right customers, when and where.

To work with to different pilots is most inspiring. It gives the project different perspectives and a broader experience base. We will be able to test in different environments, learn from each other and share some of the same tools and resources.

Working group for the project. Photo credit: Lena Nøstdahl/Visit Northern Norway.