Online benchmark trip to Sweden – On the way to a cross-border tourism label

Text: Håkan Appelblad, Kjell-Åke Arensson & Randy Bruin

Videos: Visit Umeå, Swedish Lapland & Thomas Åberg

One of the main activities in the ARCTISEN project, are the benchmarking events that bring together different kinds of tourism actors across the Arctic. The first benchmarking trip took place in Greenland in December 2019 and at the end of April we joined the first online benchmarking trip, which presented tourism companies in Norway. The next month we continued our benchmarking journey in Finnish Lapland. On the 3rd of June, it was time for an online trip to Sweden. We welcome you to enjoy the shared stories, thoughts and (future) ideas we brought home with us from this digital journey.

In his words of welcome, Håkan Appelblad, researcher at the Department of Geography at the Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden, introduced the benchmark participants to Arctic Sweden. The theme of the afternoon ”Sharing knowledge as part of an innovative business-model to deal with culturally sensitive issues”. As a true geographer, Håkan presented the important tourism destinations via Google Earth, where amongst the three companies that presented their business-models during the webinar.

Image: Snapshot of Håkan Appelblad during the benchmark

Another (literally) warm welcome followed from Kjell-Åke Arensson , researcher at Ájtte museum – mountain and Sámi museum in Jokkmokk, Sweden, from a tropical and sunny Jokkmokk (28 degrees). After, Dieter Müller, professor in Human Geography at the Umeå University, was invited and described tourism development in Sweden through the years. He pointed out the so-called “Artification” of tourism and emphasized on the importance of reflection with different stakeholders about what has changed and how to move on. On to the three tourism companies based in Arctic Sweden.


The importance of living sustainably

Granö Beckasin

After a video of the tourism company, Granö Beckasin, Annika Rydman explained how the business came to life based on the premises of Pay respect & Eco Premium, where respect refers to respecting nature, animals and local people and Eco Premium is actually translated as sustainability. Furthermore, Annika described that when you decide to go Eco Premium: you need to live it in everything. And so they do: through inviting both tourists ánd local people on excursions. Also, they believe in presenting “real” stories, and so they invite Sámi people to explain their culture. Their persistence in building sustainably has paid off: Granö Beckasin owns an eco-hotel, tree-houses, birds’ nests and cabins and most of the houses are built with recyclable materials.

Annika ends with “Why has it always been important to us to be sustainable and include local people? Because, you learn from time to time that nature gives and takes, and we have to be fair: you cannot take more than you give.” Therefore, Granö Beckasin loves to be sustainable.

Image: Snapshot of Annika Rydman during the benchmark

Geunja The Sámi Ecolodge

Through a sphere full video, the participants got a taste of Geunja The Sámi Ecolodge. Ann-Kristine Vinka, owner of the tourism company together with Mikael Vinka, further explained the mindset of Geunja that is all about nature and culture conservation. In leaving a legacy for the future, Ann-Kristine and Mikael hope to enrich and embrace their guests with the warmth of their family and Sámi culture. During their stay, guests are part of daily life and help chopping wood, getting water, making food, moreover they are part of the family. The company is awarded with the WWF Arctic Award, Grand Travel Award and certified with the Nature’s Best label (Eco tourism certification) which means they practice small-scale tourism: 12 groups a year, 12 guests each time.

Ann-Kristine ends with welcoming the participants to share their lifestyle.

Image: Snapshot of Ann-Kristine Vinka during the benchmark

Peace & Quiet Hotel – Njannja Adventure

Björn Hedlund-Länta’s tourism company is introduced in a peaceful video, showing a calm and quiet floating igloo hotel. Björn starts with explaining that Jokkmokk is known as a Sámi destination with institutions such as the Ájtte museum. Björn used to be a military mountain guide in the Swedish army and taught others how to operate and work in similar climates, which for many soldiers “tough guys” appeared to be a very intense experience. Björn thought of what to do with his knowledge and decided to start a tourism company, which he recently re-named to “Peace & quiet hotel”. He believes that the hotel can offer guests a feeling of tranquillity and combines it with local experiences nearby, such as reindeer experiences, and local food tastings.

Image: Snapshot of Björn Hedlund-Länta during the benchmark


Thoughts and future ideas – How to move on?

During an interesting discussion in the digital common room, the following inspiring thoughts and ideas were shared. As illustrated with the examples below, participants offered various advocacies for a cross-border tourism label.