National Reports on Cultural Sensitivity



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.



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


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,


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!


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

Hei from Finnish Lapland, Enontekiö and familyhotel Hetan Majatalo!


We are proud to start publishing posts from our associated partners, who are really important part of this project. First one comes from Finland, from Enontekiö, and Tiina will participate to our first benchmark-journey to Greenland later this year. Enjoy!


Mother and daughter – the entrepreneurs

I am Tiina Vuontisjärvi, the fourth generation at Hotel Hetan Majatalo. Enontekiö is a wide and sparcely populated municipality in north-west of Finland (about 8400 km2 and 1850 inhabitants) and we live in the main village Enontekiö / Hetta. Behind our hotel it is just tundra until the costal of Norway.

My great grandparents started the accommodation business 95 years ago in 1924. At that time they also had a grocery store, bank and post offices, gas station, telephone center – this was the centre of our village.

Grocery store of Majatalo

In the Second World War / Lappish War almost all the houses were burnt down, also ours. After that my grandparents took the business over and started to re-build everything back to the same place. They built among others the guesthouse for tourists and travelers. At the end of 1980’s my parents wanted to build again and expand the business so they built a hotel which they expanded in 2000. Soon after that my father died and I came back from studying to my home village to help my mother.


1st and 2nd generation

2nd and 3rd generation in a TV show

Majatalo before the War

Majatalo during summer

For all these decades Majatalo’s main things have been friendliness, personal service, hospitality and continuity of the family’s way of life.

Since my childhood I have been serving Majatalo’s guests and since 2008 the main owner of the hotel, beside my mother. My husband is also part of our business = way of life, luckily. I am 36 years old (having my 37th birthday in Greenland) and my family consists of my dear husband Petri and mother Tuula + all the relatives, god children and friends.

Tiina, father and tourist

Tiina, parents and grandparents – 3 generations


I love to live in Lapland and Enontekiö and I love to continue the work after Majatalo’s previous generations. I am really honoured that I have learnt so much from my grandparents and my parents and am thankful that they have made all their work so well so I can continue in a well-known and successful family company. I respect and cherish the old history and many stories of Majatalo and Enontekiö a lot. My grandfather was a great story teller and I am so happy we have all his stories in written and read by him. During the three decades among other interesting things I have made thousands of pancakes in the wilderness for our guests, guided many groups and read lots of my grandfather’s stories to travelers.

Tiina making pancakes for tourists

Tiina in Hetta Huskies with self-made handicrafts

I love to make handicrafts, especially Lappish ones, stay outside, go to the nature / wilderness by walking, hiking, skiing, snowmobiling, quad biking. I would like to do more berry and mushroom (still learning!) picking and fishing both summer and winter but of course the hotel takes a lot of my time. I also love to travel, as often as possible. I love the sun and warm places but I also like winter a lot and I appreciate that in Enontekiö we have eight seasons instead of four. I love to spend time with family and friends and enjoy of good food in restaurants or made by my man. This summer my husband taught me to drive my own motorbike.

I am really excited to go to this benchmarking trip to Greenland and I am so happy that we were chosen to the project. I am sure we all countries have many similarities and I can learn a lot and get many ideas to both Lapland and our familyhotel. I can not wait to meet other participants of this project.

As a hotel we only offer accommodation and meals. We are working closely with the locals and local entrepreneurs like Näkkälä Safaris / Samuli and Taina who are also participating the project. We want that our tourists and travelers can feel the authenticity and genuineness of our area and company and we prefer to have guests who have the same values than us. We would like that they could experience as local experiences and adventures as possible, as sustainably and responsible way as possible, with respect towards our nature, culture and local life. Experiencing the real life and real people is important for the future guests of our area, hopefully.

I wish you a great rest of the autumn / beginning of winter and can not wait to meet you in person!

Ystävällisin terveisin,
With kindest regards,

Tiina Vuontisjärvi
Majatalon 4. polvi, 4th generation at Majatalo

Arctic Tourism and Cultural Sensitivity in Canada

Text: Chris E. Hurst, PhD student, University of Waterloo

Relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada are complex and vary significantly across different parts of the country. The overarching legacy, however, is one of colonialism, attempts to force the assimilation of Indigenous cultures, and consistent displacement of Indigenous peoples from traditional lands. The impacts of these practices continue to be experienced by Indigenous communities. Recent efforts in Canada have been made to recognize this legacy, promote healing, and build and maintain relationships with Indigenous peoples. These include several commissions of inquiry, formal apologies, and reconciliatory initiatives at the local, provincial/ territorial and federal levels of government. The intended aims of these initiatives are linked to improving relationships between Indigenous peoples and non-Indigenous (including state representatives) living in Canada. Tourism has the potential to foster or thwart these efforts, especially in the northern territories of the Canadian Arctic.

Canada’s northern territories—Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut—account for 40% of the country’s landmass (NRCAN, 2017). More than 111,000 people live in the Canadian territories; over half of which identify as Indigenous (Statistics Canada, 2019). In recent years, the Canadian Territories have seen an increased demand for Indigenous tourism products and experiences; highlighting the need to examine how sensitivity is understood and applied in Canadian contexts, with specific consideration for Arctic settings.

Our team of researchers, Dr. Bryan Grimwood (Associate Professor), Chris Hurst (PhD student), and Michela Stinson (MA student) from the University of Waterloo, as well as Dr. Harvey Lemelin (Professor) at Lakehead University joined the ARCTISEN project to better understand the significance of cultural sensitivity to Arctic tourism in Canada and to identify opportunities to improve sensitivity domestically and within international tourism networks.

Chris E. Hurst speaking about Canadian literature review

A recent presentation at the 26th annual Graduate Student Leisure Research Symposium at the University of Waterloo, highlighted preliminary findings of a systematic literature review carried out to understand cultural sensitivity in Canadian and academic contexts. The results described what the literature says about how cultural sensitivity should look and what cultural sensitivity should encompass. This includes interrelated concepts and themes such as respect, trust, ethics, cultural identity, cultural exchange, self-determination, capacity building, and wellness.

Our current activities involve examining how existing domestic guidelines associated with cultural sensitivity are applied in the tourism industry, focusing on tourism in the Northwest Territories (NWT); specifically, the city of Yellowknife and surrounding areas. Members of the research team are also preparing to travel to Yellowknife to engage tourism business and operators, tourists, Indigenous communities, and government officials in exploring possible partnerships for future research and building connections with activities of ARCTISEN project partners and associated partners.

Ice palace in Yellowknife


Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN). (2017). The North. Retrieved from

Statistics Canada. (2019). Aboriginal Peoples Highlight Tables, 2016 Census. Retrieved from

Greetings from Jokkmokk

Text: 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

Text: 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

Text: 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.