Greetings from Jokkmokk

Elina Nygård

Jokkmokk, just north of the Arctic Circle, has always been an obvious meeting place for trade, gatherings, festivals and meetings between friends. This is the site of Ájtte, Swedish Mountain and Sami Museum, a gateway to the high mountains, to Laponia world heritage area and to the Sami culture. We tell the story of Sápmi, the land and the people, of life and survival in a demanding climate and environment. It is a story set in the wetlands, forests and mountains.

Entrance to Ájtte, Swedish Mountain and Sami Museum
Photo: Tenneh Kjellsson

Sápmi, the land of the Sami – extends without bounds across the territory of four nations. Here, we have hunted and fished for thousands of years, we have wandered endless paths and given names to mountaintops and streams. We have raised our children, sung praises of the land and appeased the gods for good hunting. We have followed the reindeer, driven our herds to better grazing and watched over the new-borns.


The museum’s Laponia exhibit, about Lapland´s world heritage area, gives an insight into its cultural and natural significance for all of humanity.

The museum opened in 1989 and this summer we celebrate our 30 year anniversary. During these years thousands of people have visited us; last year we had almost 50 000 visitors. We are happy to tell our history and our visitors enjoy becoming a part of it. People want to learn and try to figure out how to behave when leaving the museum and heading out in the nature surrounding us. Our culture is built upon the nature, and we want to save it for the following generations. That is why we find the Arctisen project so important.

Tourism, nature and culture in Greenland – telling and selling a story of many ties

Carina Ren

Nature is interweaved into the Greenlandic society in ways that are often characteristic of indigenous cultures. As tourism is gaining increasing attention and traction in Greenland, the question is how tourism actors can innovate and narrate tourism products and experiences in new ways to reflect the entanglements of humans, culture and nature.

Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland. Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Visit Greenland, the public organization responsible for marketing tourism to Greenland, already acknowledges the inseparable bonds between nature and people. They describe their brand ‘Pioneering Nation’ as the “core story of Greenland (…) about the relationship between nature and people. The key concepts in the nation brand are ‘Powerful & Pioneering’ – nature’s might and man’s pioneering spirit and the relationship between the two” (Visit Greenland, 2014).

Still, while destination offers in Greenland have understandably been shaped by the nations’ unique nature attractions, such as the UNESCO-listed ice fjord in Ilulissat, there are far less tourism products and services, which more explicitly incorporate Greenlandic culture. According to many of the stakeholders already consulted as part of the first ARCTISEN activities, more work is needed in developing and narrating tourism experiences acknowledging the dynamic relationship between nature and culture.

Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland. Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Both tradition and modernity is reflected in the communities and everyday lives of Greenlanders, often surprising some visitors. As argued by many tourism stakeholders, striking a good balance between ‘old and new’ and making the dynamic expressions of Greenlandic culture more prominent in the tourism product, is crucial. So is, many argue, communicating it to tourists coming from afar and often with little knowledge of Inuit culture and contemporary, everyday life in Greenland.

As part of the Centre for Innovation and Research in Culture and Living in the Arctic (CIRCLA) at Aalborg University, associate professor Carina Ren and postdoc Mette Abildgaard will work on digital capacity building with a focus on these perceived needs for more culturally sensitive tourism. Together with local partners, the Arctic Circle Business in Sisimiut and the Sermersooq Business Council in Nuuk and their network of Greenlandic tourism entrepreneurs and start-ups, they will be working on this task in Greenland for the next two years.

During that time, Sami and Greenlandic tourism actors will also gain inspiration and knowledge, share stories and strengthen relations in the common work of building knowledge and collaboration in culturally sensitive tourism. This will happen through the development of online courses and digital learning material based on both pan-Arctic and local case, experiences, learnings.

Some notes on Sami tourism in Sweden

Dieter K. Müller

For a long time tourism in northern Sweden has centered around outdoor experiences and wilderness, at least when looking at travel brochures and other promotional materials. However, already early travelers in the North reported about their encounters with local population and not least the Sami, too. The Sami were portrayed in exotic terms and provided guiding and transportation.

In a Sami kåta in Ammarnäs (Photo: Dieter K. Müller)

Of course, a lot has changed since these early days, but still today, Sami and reindeer herding are important ingredients in the touristic supplies of the Swedish North. As many destination representatives confirm, the supply of Sami tourism products does not correspond to a much larger demand. This is despite various initiatives by Sámiid Riikkasearvi, the Swedish Reindeer Herders’ Union SSR, and the Swedish Sami parliament aiming at profiling tourism as a Sami industry. For example, about 10 years ago SSR launched Visit Sapmi, an indigenous destination management organization, in order to strengthen Sami tourism. In this context, the organization developed a quality label signifying high-quality Sami tourism products but also pointing out original Sami experiences for the benefit of tourists. Economically the initiative turned out to be not viable when financial support from regional policy funds discontinued. Hence, the number of Sami tourism companies in Sweden has stagnated for many years and the expected take-off never took place. However, even today there are hopes that tourism can become an important Sami enterprise, as for example a new OECD-report indicates. An increasing international touristic interest in northern Sweden creates preconditions for this, but brings along also risks for conflict and cultural misunderstanding when growing amounts of poorly prepared tourists meet a reindeer herding culture contested by climate change and land use competition.

How Sami tourism has developed and how tourism fits into Sami livelihood strategies have been important topics of tourism research at the Department of Geography, Umeå University, for the last 20 years. The ARCTISEN project provides a welcomed opportunity to develop this research further and continue a comparative approach on tourism and indigeneity in the Arctic. Hence, we see forward to this project and the opportunity to learn together about how to develop Arctic tourism with respect for its environment and people.



Leu, T.C. (2018). Tourism Work among Sámi Indigenous People: Exploring its Prevalence and Role in Sparsely Populated Areas of Sweden. PhD-thesis. Umeå: Department of Geography and Economic History.

OECD (2019), Linking the Indigenous Sami People with Regional Development in Sweden, OECD Rural Policy Reviews, OECD Publishing, Paris.

Viken, A. & Müller, D.K. (Eds.) (2017). Tourism and Indigeneity in the Arctic. Bristol: Channel View.

Survey for travellers in the Arctic

Have you recently travelled somewhere in the Arctic? We in ARCTISEN team are keen to learn about your experiences.

Link to the survey:

The purpose of this visitor survey is to collect information about tourism development in the Arctic region. The data will be used for dialogues with small and medium-sized enterprises and for scholarly publications. We will not gather any of your personal data, only demographic information to help us analysing the data. All the data will be processed confidentially and in accordance with data protection legislation (the General Data Protection Regulation and Personal Data Act).

It takes between 5-10 minutes to answer to the survey. Many thanks for your help!

If you have any questions, please contact the Project manager Outi Kugapi, outi.kugapi(a) and Professor Kjell Olsen, kjell.o.olsen(a)




Arctisen and WINTA

There is no other global tourism organisation like WINTA in the World

Johnny Edmonds

WINTA World Indigenous Tourism Alliance

WINTA views the Arctisen project as a positive opportunity to explore European perceptions of the concept of cultural sensitivity to guide the forward development of culturally sensitive tourism in the Arctic.

WINTA was borne out of the global, collective aspirations of Indigenous interests in tourism and is an Indigenous led initiative that aspires to give practical effect to key articles under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 2007 (UNDRIP) in tourism. The establishment of WINTA in 2012 coincided with the Pacific Asia Indigenous Tourism Conference in Darwin Australia and the promulgation of the Larrakia Declaration by international tourism industry stakeholders at that conference.

The Larrakia Declaration was subsequently adopted by Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) and endorsed by the UNWTO in 2012.

In promoting the rights of Indigenous communities, the principles articulated in the Larrakia Declaration encourage tourism developments where:

  • Tourism decisions will be underpinned by respect for customary law and lore, land and water, traditional knowledge, traditional cultural expressions and cultural heritage
  • Tourism industry stakeholders have a duty to consult and accommodate Indigenous peoples before undertaking decisions on public policy and programs designed to foster the development of Indigenous tourism
  • Indigenous peoples will determine the extent and nature and organizational arrangements for their participation in tourism and that governments support the empowerment of Indigenous people
  • The tourism industry will respect Indigenous intellectual property rights, cultures and traditional practices, the need for sustainable and equitable business partnerships and the proper care of the environment and communities that support them
  • That equitable partnerships between the tourism industry and Indigenous people will include the sharing of cultural awareness and skills development which support the well- being of communities and enable enhancement of individual livelihoods
  • Indigenous culture and the land and waters on which it is based, will be protected and promoted through well managed tourism practices and appropriate interpretationThe Larrakia Declaration also recognised the launch of WINTA to facilitate, advocate and network with each affiliated Indigenous tourism body and with industry, governments and multilateral agencies.


WINTA Councillor Lennart Pittja (Sweden) and WINTA Director Johnny Edmonds

Today, WINTA operates as a not for profit organisation formally constituted under NZ legislation with a Leadership Council comprised of Indigenous tourism leaders from Australia, Canada, Nepal, NZ, Sweden and the USA. WINTA has developed tools to facilitate practical implementation of tourism developments consistent with the Larrakia Declaration and UNDRIP; provides specialist advisory services on Indigenous rights-based tourism; and has developed a global network of stakeholders which currently extends to 66 countries.

From WINTA’s perspective, the Arctisen project is a splendid opportunity to consult a range of tourism industry stakeholders in the Arctic, in order to develop the concept of cultural sensitivity for practical implementation in the Arctic.



A brief history of the use of Sámi cultures in Finnish tourism business

Monika Lüthje

Due to the Finnish school system curricula and government strategies, which aimed at incorporating minorities into mainstream cultural majority, as well as the modernisation of the North, Sámi identities became weaker during the decades after the Second World War. During this period, Sámi assimilation to Finnish culture and society accelerated more and more. At the same time, increasing numbers of tourists travelled to Lapland. They were expecting to see Sámi during their visit the same ways as the Sámi were portrayed in the travel brochures. On spot the Sámi and their cultures were, however, not visible ‘enough’ to the tourists.

In order to satisfy the tourists coming to Lapland, the Finnish tourism industry started selling its own versions of Sámi cultures. These versions appeared in advertising, they were sold in the form of Lapland souvenirs, and Finnish tourism entrepreneurs and workers dressed in Sámi costumes impersonating Sámi. The same continues even today.

The Sámi costumes are the most visible sign of somebody being a Sámi. For the Sámi, they are an important expression of their cultural identity – for the tourists, a colourful, exotic attraction. Here the costumes are on display in a museum, with nobody inside them. Some tourists seem to treat the Sámi wearing their costumes in the same way as they do with these empty costumes: as objects that can be gazed at and photographed freely.

Many Sámi have criticised the touristic versions of their cultures created by the tourism business. For decades, the tourism industry has given a false image of them, a picture of a primitive, exotic and mystic tribe with which they do not want to associate. Moreover, the tourism industry has benefitted economically from this distorted image for a long time.

The Sámi Parliament aims at Sámi tourism that is managed and owned by the Sámi and based on real Sámi people and cultures. Today, more and more Sámi are working with tourism and running their own tourism businesses. Sámi identities are stronger. However, non-Sámi tourism companies are still selling the tourists their distorted versions of Sámi cultures.

It is in this context that we have planned the ARCTISEN project, knowing that Indigenous peoples face similar problems with tourism also elsewhere. We want to contribute in changing this situation by creating tourism that is in harmony with the local cultures and with the desires and wishes of the local people. You are welcome to follow us!



Lüthje, Monika (1998). The impacts of tourism on Saami domicile area from the point of view of carrying capacity and Saami culture of the area. In Seppo Aho, Heli Ilola & Jari Järviluoma (eds.), Dynamic aspects in tourism development. Proceedings of the 5th Nordic Symposium on Tourism Research. Volume 1 (pp. 31–46). Lapin yliopiston matkailun julkaisuja. B. Tutkimusraportteja ja selvityksiä 3. Rovaniemi: University of Lapland.

Saamelaiskäräjät [Sámi Parliament] (2018). Vastuullisen ja eettisesti kestävän saamelaismatkailun toimintaperiaatteet. [Principles of responsible and ethically sustainable Sámi tourism.] Retrived February 27, 2019 from here.




Welcome to ARCTISEN blog!

At this very moment, the members of the ARCTISEN-team are visiting and interviewing tourism actors across the Arctic. The main purpose of these encounters is to gain better understanding of different kinds of visions, challenges and needs among local communities living in the project area. Moreover, we are using questionnaires to explore what the tourists’ – the guests’ – might be expecting and thinking in relation to cultural sensitivity in the Arctic. After few months of conducting interviews, collecting questionnaires and gathering information from a wide range of documents, we will be able to weave together with our colleagues a transnational, initial report on culturally sensitive tourism, and most of all, to draw a road-map that will guide the forthcoming activities of the project.


For us at the University of Lapland, this project is in many ways a real dream-come-true. Monika Lüthje and Nuccio Mazzullo have worked with similar questions in Finnish Lapland already in the 90’s, Outi Kugapi and Ritva Saari have more recently conducted research on indigenous tourism in Sápmi, and Emily Höckert’s work has been driven by curiosity of collaborative ways of developing tourism. A more concrete idea for a common project was born in the end of 2015 from mutual concerns about the exploitation of indigenous cultures in the middle of expansive growth in tourism. We constructed the project plan together with stakeholders who shared similar concerns and found it important to support innovative tourism enterprises to develop their products and services in culturally sensitive ways.


Finally, in June 2018, we received positive news from Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme: the project had been selected to receive funding for around 1,5 million euros. In November, project partners and associated partners from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Greenland, Denmark, Canada and New Zealand gathered by the Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi, Finland for the kick-off meeting of ARCTISEN. The project

Project manager Outi Kugapi presenting ARCTISEN in November 2018.

is set to run for the next three years (2018-2021).


During the following weeks, all the ARCTISEN partners will present themselves more in detail, and share their thoughts on cultural sensitivity in tourism. Please notice that you can find detailed information about the project from our website, and follow the latest moves through Instagram and Facebook. In case you have any questions, comments or ideas, please do not hesitate to write to our mail address


Best wishes from ARCTISEN team at the University of Lapland (the lead partner),

Monika, Outi, Emily, Ritva and Nuccio



Welcome to the ARCTISEN blog!