On responsible tourism marketing in Mid- and Northern Norway


Text: Lena Nøstdahl, Northern Norway Tourist Board


In a market of 1.4 billion international travellers seeking new dream destinations, we need to rethink tourism and make an overall plan for what we want tourism’s contribution to be. The 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 to the strategy is an innovative segmentation tool based on travel motivation and personal desires instead of place of residence, age, income and so on. This enables us to navigate and make wise strategic decisions on which guests to prioritise so that we both create meaningful customer experiences and contribute actively to building greater local communities.

On the island Lånan, there is a long tradition of 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. 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 incubates her eggs. Photo credit: Visit Helgeland.

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

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


Innovation project

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

Responsible marketing is in many ways a change from marketing to management in practice. The marketing strategy has its origin in the 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 involving tourism as an industry and marketers with tailor-made measures based on local strategies. We want to test a new approach to 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 that doing nothing is also an action.

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

  • Developing a strategy for locating 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
  • Ensuring that the values created locally are greater than those consumed
  • Close interaction between the local community’s values, wishes and plans and the marketing plans
  • Engaging and involving the local community
  • A system for inputs that respects all inputs and points to actual action
  • A bottom-up process
  • A continuous process rooted locally
  • Being accountable for one’s actions
  • Respecting local choices and values
  • Ensuring that the marketing communication reflects the actual experience



What does responsible marketing mean to us?

Responsible marketing is all about creating a strategy to locate the right guest in the right place at the right time so that the values created locally are greater than those consumed. This requires close interaction between the local community’s values and needs and the 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 to test how responsible marketing can contribute, as one of several tools, to creating 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 and 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 12,000 islands. The 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 a 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 a tradition of birds was the main reason for the Vega Islands gaining world heritage status in 2004. Vega was also one of the first to be certified in the Sustainable Travel Destinations brand and has already been through recertification. In addition, the municipality of Vega is now working on developing a new generation of tourism life plans. As part of this process, it has involved the locals in Vega in a discussion about what they want tourism to do for Vega and what they want tourism to be like 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 marketing can help to create the sustainable tourism that the population wants in Vega.


Partnership and twin project

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

Working with two different pilots is most inspiring. It gives the project different perspectives and a broader experience base. We will be able to conduct tests 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.