ARCTIC TOURISM IN A PANDEMIC: LOSSES, GAINS AND SURPRISING OUTCOMES

 

How has Covid19 affected Arctic tourism and what challenges, trends and innovations are on the rise among local tourism entrepreneurs? During the last few weeks, Elsbeth Bembom from ARCTISEN has been talking to tourism experts from Greenland, Norway, Sweden and Finland to explore Arctic’s current tourism landscape. Corona-proof, behind her desk.

 

While the concept of staycation in recent years has often been associated with strategies to reduce negative environmental impacts and flight shame, 2020 was the year where staycation became the new normal for tourists all around the world. While countries turned orange and red on the world map and lockdowns were enforced to stop the spread of the coronavirus, several positive stories also appeared in the news in the summer of 2020. Many destinations in Europe welcomed a record-high number of visitors, for instance in Denmark, where tourists could take the ferry for free to support island tourism. Despite some of these successful staycation hotspots, the overall industry is suffering, with UNWTO predicting a global drop of 70% in international arrivals in 2020.

But what has happened to tourism in the Arctic regions? Did the staycation trend boom in the North as well? As a destination, the Arctic is a highly diverse area with different cultures, tourism developments and products and, as a consequence, Covid-19 responses. It came therefore as no surprise that we heard many different and even contrasting stories from destination managers at local DMOs. As became clear from all the interviews with these tourism experts, some tourism businesses flourished this summer and welcomed more guests than ever before, while others were forced to shut down their business. So, what Arctic experiences attracted the exploded home market in 2020 and which did not cater for domestic staycation guests? Let’s explore the Arctic tourism landscape in times of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Reindeer sleigh ride in Levi

A staycation boom

After the many cancellations in March, some destinations received a record high number of domestic tourists due to the global travel restrictions. While domestic tourism is not a new phenomenon to the Arctic regions, the staycation trend has not been observed before to this extent. As Salik Hard, senior project manager at Semersooq Business Council, stated: “I think it’s this summer, we actually had more guests than we had normally, because we did a lot of things on the staycation activities”. What most of the popular destinations had in common this summer, was their rural and remote character. As the chairman of a local tourist organization in Northern Sweden explained, the mountain areas received many guests since “we feel it is safe to go to the mountains” to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

From a DMO perspective, several national and regional campaigns have been developed to attract domestic tourists and to support local tourism entrepreneurs, such as the Greenlandic Nunarput Nuan campaign, which aims to encourage people in Greenland to discover their own country. Similarly, the Destinasjon Sápmi campaign tries to inform Norwegians of the hidden Sámi gems in the North. These campaigns are specifically focused on domestic tourists, as, for instance, the websites are only available in local languages.

Basic or high-end experiences on the rise?

Companies that failed to benefit from the staycation boom included mostly expensive offerings that were mainly targeted at foreign tourists. For instance, many tour operators who organize activities such as zodiac tours, husky or reindeer visits and snowmobile safaris experienced a difficult summer. Kristian Sievers from the Regional council of Lapland believes that this development is caused because “the Finns come for the sort of more self catering holidays”, where they bring their own skies and bikes and prepare their own meals. To adapt to this Finnish market, Kristian observed that companies lowered their prizes. Similarly, in Jokkmokk, Northern Sweden, a great deal of the high-standard restaurants went bankrupt and in Greenland, Salik Hard saw extravagant glamping sites and big hotels struggling to run their businesses.

Quite remarkably, in Norway and to a lesser extent also Sweden, these exact luxurious accommodations and services were in explosive demand among domestic tourists. This resulted in dining at high-end restaurants to become the biggest trend among Norwegian visitors to Northern Norway over the summer. As Hilde Bjørkli, head of competence and development at the Northern Norway Tourism Board, described: “The [tour] boats were not used that much, but the kitchen was used a lot. And so, [the entrepreneurs] realize that Norwegians have to be treated in a different way.” While the Norwegian tour sector was at risk, some managed to save the season by offering food services instead. Similarly, some Sámi tourism businesses adapted their products to attract domestic tourists by, for instance, upgrading their accommodation to glamping lavvu’s, which is a traditional Sámi tent, and improving their food services with an outdoor BBQ and wine menus.

Cross-country skiing in Levi

Away from the popular destinations

Yet, many Indigenous tourism entrepreneurs in the Scandinavian Arctic suffered over the summer as they often host international guests arriving from cruise ships or boat tours. Correspondingly, tourism businesses in remote regions in Greenland, like Tasiilaq, which rely on cruise guests, have been dramatically hit, impacting the entire local community. However, some entrepreneurs were successful to invert this catastrophic situation by moving their tours to the tourism hotspot in Nuuk. According to Salik Hard, those who quickly managed to increase their capacity were able to profit from the Greenlandic staycation boom. As an example, the owner of a cruise company in Nuuk increased its capacity by offering short boat trips out of Nuuk to domestic tourists. Similar to Tasiilaq, local communities in Sisimiut also noticed the severe consequences of the absent cruise ships. As a response, tour operators took the opportunity to rethink their products, services and stories. Jesper Schrøder, destination manager at Arctic Circle Business, spoke with many tourism entrepreneurs in Sisimiut, who used the slow season to renovate cabins for longer stays and to come up with new ideas on how to use their sledge dogs in the summer season.

What’s next?

All developments considered, Arctic tourism in times of Covid-19 consists of a highly fragmented landscape where some services and destinations peaked through the sky, while in the valleys, some businesses found it hard to adapt. Despite some destinations experiencing growth, the level of tourism in the summer of 2020 has been much lower than previous years. Many local tourism entrepreneurs have been forced to downsize their business or fire employees to keep their head above water. Thankfully, some entrepreneurs have found strategies and innovations to transform their products, within just one season, to a whole new market. Since we are still in the middle of the crisis, the development sketched out in this blog triggers many new questions. Which innovations are there to stay when international visitors can be welcomed again? Can the experience with domestic markets offer clues towards the future development for a more sustainable Arctic tourism, as more people might increasingly consider a staycation? And, very relevant to ARCTISEN, what are the consequences of more domestic guests for the development of culturally sensitive tourism? Stay tuned for a new blog on domestic tourism and cultural sensitivity!

ARCTISEN INVITES YOU TO A TEASER OF THE ONLINE COURSE!

After learning from and traveling together with tourism entrepreneurs and organizations across the Arctic, there was the big task ahead of the ARCTISEN-team to analyse and explore the massive amount of valuable data. Now, during this unusual winter of 2020, we are happy to announce that the launch of the free online course is almost here! Starting today, we invite you to join the teaser of the online course on ARCTISEN’s Facebook and Instagram pages. Are you ready?

The aim of the social media campaign is to inform tourism entrepreneurs, organizations, students and our followers about the upcoming course and to share some of the practical learnings for developing culturally sensitive tourism yourself! What is cultural sensitivity exactly, how do you work with it, and how does it benefit your culture and your business? We will give the answers! The full online course is free and will be released early next year. With our social media campaign, we hope to inspire and motivate you to participate in the online course and to improve your skills to work in your local cultural and business environment.

However, to capture all the rich and context-specific insights from the online course in a short teaser was easier said than done! Sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming to work with all the data the team has gathered over several years in different countries. That is exactly why we wanted to go back to the core: What are the main learnings that are worth sharing? To find this out, we needed to adopt a bird’s-eye view, which was perfectly suitable for us as interns, since we are quite new to the team. The outcome? The “golden three”-rule: Present the three main takeaways per theme in a short and visual way, so our followers get curious to learn more in the online course!

 

Best wishes,

Emmanuel and Elsbeth

 

Emmanuel and Elsbeth are interns at ARCTISEN who have joined their forces! Emmanuel is from Germany and he is studying the master’s program Arctic Art and Design at the University of Lapland. He is a great contribution to the team, as he helps with creating catchy visuals for the online course. Elsbeth is from the Netherlands and is a master student of the Tourism program at Aalborg University in Copenhagen. She helps with finalizing the online course and tries to raise awareness for it on Arctisen’s social media channels.

Authenticity as a compromise: why labels can be very important

Text and photos: Cecilia de Bernardi

 

Since I started my work with Sámi tourism, initially I focused on analysing language, marketing, and specifically how culture is portrayed in pictures. The reason why I started with this is that marketing communication is an important aspect of the process of attracting tourists to a certain place. A website, a brochure or a picture on Instagram can affect the tourists’ expectations of a destination they want to visit.

If the tourists are presented with an exotic and historical version of Sámi culture(s), this is what they will most likely expect when they arrive at the destination. This can make it hard for Sámi tourism entrepreneurs to deliver experiences that are based on contemporary Sámi life, while also making sure that the tourists go home satisfied with their trip. This is one side of the coin, other aspects that I learned about while talking to entrepreneurs are the fact that tourists often do not know about the Sámi when they arrive and that they are eager to learn more and are most often respectful. My interviews with the entrepreneurs were the basis for the national baseline report on cultural sensitivity of Sweden for ARCTISEN and for my doctoral dissertation as well.

A view from the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi

 

Kiruna Church

Another aspect that became apparent during the interviews I conducted, is the different views from the Sámi entrepreneurs on what is regarded as authentic, while it was also clear for them what is not authentic. These findings and my studies of marketing communication are what has driven me to understand authenticity as a compromise. There are different and equally important views on authenticity, while, on the other hand, different views on authenticity have something in common. Due to the fact that there are so many ways in which Sámi culture(s) can be exploited in tourism, in order to protect Sámi culture(s) from unethical use in tourism, labels should be used to promote the aspects of Sámi culture(s) that are shared as well as the differences. An example of a label is the Sápmi Experience in Sweden, which hopefully can be an inspiration for other future labelling schemes. Nowadays with social media and other means of communication, it will be possible to spread information on such a label and gradually educate the tourists on more conscious choices. A label can help to support Sámi tourism enterprises, while also while also protecting the environment. This is another important part of being a Sámi tourism entrepreneur, which is to protect the nature that is so intertwined with culture. A tourism label can also support such efforts and communicate them to the tourists.

Finally, during my research and the interviews, I learned of the importance of Sámi culture(s) for tourism entrepreneurs operating at the local level in northern Sweden, but who are not Sámi. All of the people I interviewed highlighted how important it is for them to not disturb the reindeer, to cooperate with Sámi companies to convey Sámi culture(s) and to make sure that Sámi-related tourism products are in the hands of Sámi entrepreneurs. This is important regarding how a label could help the operations of other companies working closely with Sámi tourism.

In conclusion, a label based on authenticity as a compromise is a way to:

  • Highlight commonalities as well as differences within Sámi culture(s)
  • Protect Sámi culture(s) from unethical use in tourism
  • Potentially protect the surrounding environment
  • Promote education and information to the tourists
  • Support other local companies that cooperate and respect Sámi culture

 

Cecilia de Bernardi

PhD candidate at the University of Lapland (FI) and Dalarna University (SE). Her doctoral defense will take place on August 28 at the University of Lapland.

Contact details: cdb@du.se

Different Stories: Teaching Sámi Cultures in Tourism

Text and photos: Ella Björn

Why learn about Sámi cultures? Indigenous cultures are critical to our planet’s cultural diversity. Over the years in Finland, tourism entrepreneurs have spread stereotypical and inaccurate information about Sámi cultures. Although exploitation in tourism has decreased in recent times and Sámi people have started their own businesses, the need to teach the correct information about their cultures still exists.

Like other Indigenous cultures, Sámi cultures usually have a holistic worldview in which humans and nature are equal rather than separated. All forms of matter, including animals, are equal actors inhabiting this world. Humanity is not above them.

In her master’s thesis, Ella studied the socio-material practices of teaching Sámi cultures to tourists in Finnish Lapland.

This was a central focus of my master’s thesis; I studied the socio-material practices of teaching Sámi cultures to tourists in Finnish Lapland.

The concept of socio-materiality holds that the social and the material are strongly connected and tightly intertwined. Material elements, such as a table, enable the social activities around them, making the material social as well. The connection between humans and material can also be social in, for example, the making of handicrafts, which can build a relationship between the maker and the product.

Several ways of teaching Sámi cultures appeared in my research, and one was storytelling, a form in which material elements can also play a part. Storytelling is common in Sámi cultures, and stories carry significant meaning. They can help build individual and collective identities, are usually told by elders and are transferred from generation to generation. They highlight different values, worldviews, histories and attitudes, and they can also be funny. Stories also often represent or foretell change.

Stories can be told while making handicrafts, another important aspect of Sámi cultures. A convenient way of teaching and learning about these cultures is attending handicraft workshops and working with materials at the same time, as handicrafts can also carry information. A self-made or purchased handicraft carries a story and leaves tourists with long-lasting memories of Sámi cultures and their overall trip to Finland.

The bracelet I made in Julia Allemann’s Sámi handicraft workshop in Lauri House, Rovaniemi.

Apart from workshops, stories can often be told in nature, perhaps while walking from one place to another. In Sámi cultures, different natural places often have their own stories, and these are rarely written down; rather, they exist in the storyteller’s memory. Tellers learn the story by hearing them, and because they do so in nature, they incorporate their bodies and senses, such as touching, smelling, seeing and hearing. Once again, we see nature and different materials playing a big role in a learning process.

In sum, tourists who want to learn about Sámi cultures should be exposed to their stories, as they can:

  • enhance individual and collective identity,
  • enhance the connection with the nature when told in connection to natural places,
  • enhance the connection with material elements when told at the same time as one works on a handicraft,
  • make the experience memorable and therefore enhance learning, and
  • give voice to different actors.

 

Master’s thesis, in Finnish, can be found here: ”Kohti posthumanistista ymmärrystä – Saamelaiskulttuurien opettaminen sosiomateriaalisena käytäntönä”.

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.

 

National Reports on Cultural Sensitivity

NEARLY HUNDRED INTERVIEWS ACROSS THE ARCTIC

Little more than one year ago, members of our ARCTISEN team were travelling across the Arctic conducting interviews among start-ups, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), local destination management organisations (DMO) and other tourism actors. All together 13 interviews were conducted in Greenland, 23 in Norway, 18 in Sweden and 44 in Finland, while Canada’s research focused on existing guidelines on cultural sensitivity.

The interviews included questions about business environments, product development and needs for capacity building. These discussions formed an important part of the project’s Work Package 1 – ‘Baseline studies on cultural sensitivity’, led by the Arctic University of Norway. Together with desk-studies, the interviews enabled us to form a picture of the visions and needs across the project area and to create the  road-map for future project activities, such as, benchmarking trips, workshops and educational materials.

 

TRANSNATIONAL REPORT

An overreaching summary of  these studies was published at the end on the year 2019 with title Looking at Arctic tourism through the lens of cultural sensitivity: ARCTISEN – A Transnational Baseline Report. The report offers cross-national com­parisons to understand the multiple ways of drawing on place-based cultural resourc­es in Arctic tourism. It also seeks to answer to the question of ‘What does cultural sensitivity mean?’ or ‘In which ways can Indigenous peoples and other local communi­ties utilize their cultural heritage and contemporary life in creating successful tourism products and services

NATIONAL REPORTS

Today we are happy to launch five, more detailed, national reports on culturally sensitive tourism! All these reports can be found through our website or by following this link.  We believe that the reports can provide new insights, support and inspiration to tourism entrepreneurs, developers, DMO’s, students and researchers working with tourism is the Arctic. These reports will be also used in the forthcoming online course that the project will aim to launch by the end of the year.

The Swedish report highlights the situation for the entrepreneurs operating in tourism, both from a Sámi perspective and from other local and non-local stakeholders. Based on the interviews, there are several issues that have been identified connected to the expansion of tourism. One is sustainability, but also the use of culture in tourism and different structural problems related specifically to tourism entrepreneurship.

The report from Norway approaches community participation in Sámi tourism in Norway and its relationship with cultural sensitivity. It questions, for example, in which ways can Indigenous peoples and other local communities utilize their cultural heritage and contemporary life in creating successful tourism products and services.

The Finnish report (both in Finnish and English) offers an overview of tourism development in Finnish Lapland with a focus on cultural sensitivity and seeks an answer, for example, to this question: How could cultural sensitivity be enhanced, and what kinds of challenges might it present? The report has a special emphasis on the Sámi cultures.

The report from Greenland examines ongoing tourism development  through the lens of cultural sensitivity, offering an overview of the tourism landscape in Greenland, with a particular emphasis on Nuuk  and Sisimiut. The report discusses, for instance, how local communities and businesses can utilise their cultural heritage and contemporary way of life in creating successful tourism products and services.

The report from Canada examines existing guidelines or certificates for culturally sensitive tourism and attempts to assess guideline use by tourism businesses with cultural experience offerings in the Canadian Arctic. Based on a review of formal agreements, guidelines, and business websites, the report found potential opportunities for tourism development within formal agreements with Indigenous nations, and a lack of conclusive evidence for the application of existing guidelines by tourism businesses in the Canadian Arctic, and specifcally within Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.

 

Many thanks to all of you who participated in the interviews and helped to bring these reports into life! Please feel free to share and distribute them further.

Best wishes,
ARCTISEN Team

(N)ICE SCULPTING

Arctic Art and Design students’ visit in Hetta

Text: Chau, Emmanuel, Gu, Yiling & Misia
Video and images : Chau-Hsien Kuo

We are a group of Arctic Art and Design students from the University of Lapland in Finland who travelled to Hetta, in north-west Finland, for the annual ice sculpting competition. The peace-themed competition was organized together by Enontekiö municipality, local hotel entrepreneurs and volunteers. The competition started on Thursday morning, the 27th of February, the sculptures having to be completed by noon on Saturday, the 29th of February. The sculptors came from Norway, Ukraine, Germany and Finland, and from various different professional backgrounds, such as industrial design, architecture or stone masonry. There were 14 sculptors in total, who worked in pairs, so that 7 sculptures were entered into the competition.

 

The village of Hetta is spread over a significant distance along the shore of lake Ounasjärvi, and as the sculptures were sponsored by various local businesses and hotels, they were erected in front of each business or hotel and are thus spread quite far over the entire village. The motifs and techniques used by the artists also were very different. Some sculptures were abstract, with precise, simple, and geometric shapes, whereas others were figurative and had a much more organic style. Others still were a mixture of both, like the one made by two Ukrainian architects, which represented a pair of lovers, rendered in very abstract shapes. The tools and techniques reached from very basic scrapes and knives, to electric saws equipped with blades designed to cut ice. The artists experimented with different techniques to texture the ice and to make it fully translucent, milky white, or covered in thin layers of snow.

The names of the finished artworks were: 1. Northern peace, 2. No worries, 3. Weekend, 4. Balance, 5. Peace spreads in the wings of nature, 6. Peaceful lovers, 7. Peace of mind. We know that the winners were No.7, No.2 and No.3 but having observed the making and final result of each sculpture, we had a difficult time choosing our personal favorites, as the sculptures all were magnificent.

This trip to Hetta was part of a project that promotes the existing cultural program of the Enontekiö municipality (where Hetta is the biggest settlement), and improve online visibility and recognition of these events. The purpose of this specific visit was to observe the ice sculpture competition as a case study, to develop a marketing strategy based on it and other cultural events later in the spring. We are now working on adjusting our plans due to the pandemic situation world is in. The eventual goal of the project is that the strategy we design could then be applied to all the cultural events in Enontekiö, to help valorize the local culture as well as the nature.

With this project, we hope to be able to help the stakeholders (the local actors in tourism, such as hotels and other tourism-related businesses, as well as residents and tourists). We believe that our greatest strengths as a team lie in our multi-cultural and multi-disciplinary background, as we come from China, Germany, Poland, and Taiwan, and have studied different disciplines before beginning our Master’s program at the University of Lapland.

We used our short stay in Hetta to conduct interviews with local actors, artists, and tourists from all over Europe. We received a warm welcome in Hetta and enjoyed walking around the village for two (and a half) days, talking to many friendly faces, and gaining valuable information in the process. We also got to experience the wonderful nature in which Hetta is set and took plenty of pictures and videos, which we can use for the marketing. We even got to see beautiful northern lights!

 

Greetings from Rovaniemi,

Chau, Emmanuel, Gu, Yiling & Misia

Kaffemik in Nuuk

Text: Emily Höckert & Monika Lüthje
Film: Louise Romain
Photos: Outi Kugapi

Our previous blog text presented some inspiring souvenirs that ARCTISEN members had brought with them from the first benchmarking trip in Sisimiut, Greenland. While we were not able to join the trip, we decided to summarize the best parts of this very special gathering – according to what we have heard and read afterwards.

After three days in Sisimiut, the group had head towards Nuuk. Nuuk had offered various possibilities to learn about Greenlandic cultures in museums, cultural centers, by visiting community artisans, local shops and restaurants.

Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, has approximately 16,800 residents. 
There are three hotels in Nuuk – Hotel Nordbo, Hotel Seamen’s Home and Hotel Hans Egede 
with a conference center with seating for 300 people. There is also a number of small accommodations.

Nuuk has an international airport with year-round direct flights from Iceland, via Air 
Greenland and Air Iceland. Air Greenland operates domestic flights from Nuuk to every region of 
the country. Everybody can make use the Public and National Library of Greenland, including short term 
visitors and tourists.

While walking on the streets of Nuuk, many had been amazed by the colorful houses, and felt urge to look in through the windows. In our project on Cultural sensitivity, the project partners are well aware about the inappropriateness of this kind of behavior. The phenomenon of tourists trespassing people’s backyards and taking photos through windows has been recognized as a problem in our home towns and villages in the Nordic countries as well. However, in a role of a tourist, they were able to gain better understanding how one’s genuine curiosity toward ‘exotic’ local ways of life can lead to this kind of irresponsible behavior.

Luckily, our partners were welcomed to local homes for a Kaffemik, organised by Tupilak Travel! Kaffemik means going for a coffee to a local home as you can see in the following video. Please, don’t foget to remove your shoes when entering the host’s home.

We must confess that this part of the trip is the one we have envied the most.  While there are some examples of these kinds of tourism products across the Sápmi, our interviews (see reports) indicate that it is quite common that international tourists are interested in meeting the locals and visiting their homes. Visit Greenland’s instructions and inforgaphics  ’How to Kaffemik’, serve as great inspiration for those who are interested in developing these kinds of services.

On the following day, the ARCTISEN-team was hosted by award-winning Two Ravens: Greenlandic company that offers, for instance, hiking, camping, skiing, fishing and hunting tours around Nuuk and in the Greenlandic winderness around the year. Important part of their services is to weave together stories and traditions with food outdoors. For many this visit had been an inspiring example of how tourism companies can share local culture in a simple and meaningful way. And they have such a great slogan as well: It’s all about the stories you bring back home!

In sum, the most important lessons from this benchmarking trip included the following aspects:

  • Tourism entrepreneur, tell your story. Your story is enough.
  • Benchmarking enables tourism entrepreneurs to change roles, and to gain understanding how it is to be a guest in others’ home villages or home towns.
  • Tourists are interested in peeking through the windows and to experience local ways of life. What kind of services enable tourists to do this?
  • Examples from Greenland show how important it is to use the local resources for cooking and making handicrafts.
  • Keep it simple. Mundane things, like gathering around a cup of coffee or strolling around without a hurry, might be enough.

 

Finally, while the benchmarking trips are inspiring experiences for those who participate in them, it is essential to explore how as many as possible could somehow enjoy the fruits picked from these trips. These two blog-texts have aimed at sharing at least few bites. How could we continue to share these fruits and souvenirs in the future? While Covid-19 pandemic, has forced us to postpone our next benchmarking trip to Canada (planned for May), we are currently exploring the possibilities of organising these kinds of benchmarking events online.

ARCTISEN members will organise a workshop called ’Meeting Up!’ as part of the Nordic Tourism and Hospitality Sympoisum in Akureyri, Iceland. You can find more information about the symposium and our workshop here. Welcome!

Souvenirs from Sisimiut

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.

Story from Associated partner: Arctic Circle Business

Second blog post from our associated partner from Greenland, Arctic Circle business. Enjoy!

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Arctic Circle Business, partner in Arctisen – is a regional local business association with 66 businesses, located in Sisimiut, Greenland.  The business council, which has 4 employees is aiming to ensure that our region is developing. Besides the function as a local business council we are happy to be the Destination Management Organization (DMO) for “Destination Arctic Circle”.

We are promoting business development, supporting entrepreneurs in their startup process – last year we had around 55 entrepreneurs coming to get guidance and support.

Tourism is developing – in that we have a job making sure that our local communities gain from tourism – economically and socially. We have launched a Tourism strategy – in Destination Arctic Circle to make new adventure experiences – and to attract more tourists. In the strategy we come around how we can use our cultural heritage as captivating stories we can tell the tourists. In doing so we need partnerships and inspiration from something like the Arctisen project. In the strategy and our daily work, we tend to focus a lot on capacity building. The past 2 years we have taken initiative to offer our entrepreneurs courses that are related to make new experiences available for tourists. That includes training for local guides, storytelling for artists, language training, general courses about tourism, advertising and not least courses about finances and business planning tools.

We promote our Destination as the Adventure Destination in Greenland, in which dogsledding, northern lights, ice and snow, hiking, trophy hunting, fly fishing and whale watching are key points of experiences.

Whilst promoting economic growth we also care about educating children – in the mindset of having their own business by using our cultural heritage. If we succeed in that we will have more people in the future workforce to carry out the Tourism Strategy and hopefully represent the modern Greenland which has much to offer in sustainable adventure experiences.

Read more information from Destination Arctic Circle website.

Check also the beautiful Sisiumiut Community Specific Guidelines here. It is something to learn from!

Sisimiut 2018 Community Specific Guidelines
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