Tourism for Northern Peripheries? Presentations at the Nordic Geographers Meeting

September 11th, 2013 | Posted by Lize-Marié van der Watt in News | Publication

Early summer 2013, researchers involved in the project From Resource Hinterland to Global Pleasure Periphery? Assessing the Role of Tourism for Sustainable Development in Arctic Communities presented a session on Tourism at the Nordic Geographers Meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland. The presentations especially considered the relationship between natural resources and tourism in the Arctic.

Who owns this land?

Olle Stjernström (Department of Geography and Economic History, Umeå University, Sweden) & Albina Pashkevich (Dalarna University, Sweden)

In the Arctic region there is plenty of space for various activities. The Arctic region is increasingly interesting from many perspectives on different geographical levels. Exploitation of natural resources such as minerals, oil, gas and timber has over the last decades put Arctic region in focus since the global warming increases the accessibility to the Arctic but also due to the fact that the region is rich of unexploited natural resources. This development challenges or threatens to environment, local population and indigenous populations rights. It also challenges the governance of the Arctic region. In the Nordic countries local governance is a natural part of the political system. Local governance includes local population and local economic interest in the governance and planning of the local and regional level. The focus on the arctic regions also involves geopolitical interests (by security reason but also by trade reason and natural resources). This means that in many cases supranational geopolitical and or global resource interests coincide with local interests and environmental interest. This study is focused on how these interests on different geographical levels relates to each other on a specific location. The location is here Franz Josephs Land in the very far north Arctic. The study focuses three main interests. International tourism in the area, environmental issues, interests and legal framework in Franz Josephs Land, and the geopolitical interest of Franz Josephs land. The latter  relates both the strategic localization of the study area but also the proximity to natural resources.

Riding the boom: Tourism entrepreneurs’ perspectives on the role of tourism support organizations during intense mining investment periods in Arctic regions

Suzanne de la Barre (Vancouver Island University and Umeå University, Canada and Sweden)

The increase in price for raw materials has brought about mining booms across the circumpolar north. Despite discursive commitments to “economic diversification,” it is easy for governments at all levels to be swayed by resource extraction opportunities. In recent years, northern Sweden has experienced focal shifts in their economic development priorities. New mining efforts in Norrbotten, the country’s northernmost county, make the claim that “Europe’s last wilderness” can become “Europe’s strongest mining region.” Meanwhile, tourism is a possibility vigorously promoted when booms go bust, even though it is characterized as a precarious and unpredictable strategy for meeting regional and community economic development goals. In northern Sweden, economic restructuring processes have left a legacy of change that has made economic and community revitalization a challenging mandate. Given this context, and assuming that governance is a significant tool through which destinations adapt to change (Baggio et al., 2010), the evolving roles and adaptations required on the part of governing agencies are worthy of scholarly attention. The contribution made by small scale entrepreneurs, often referred to as “lifestyle entrepreneurs” to tourism development processes have gained significant attention in scholarly research. Understanding the perspectives that these entrepreneurs have of the tourism related support organizations, networks and relationships that influence governance is crucial for planning and sustaining innovative tourism development. For this qualitative case study research, interview and survey data collected in the Heart of Lapland – a destination management area in Norrbotten – is employed as a case study to gain insight into shifting economic development opportunities and priorities, and governance.

Sami tourism at the crossroad: Globalization as challenge for business, environment and culture

Dieter Müller (Department of Geography and Economic History, Umeå University, Sweden)

Tourism development is often seen as possibility to balance decline in indigenous industries even in Northern Europe. Hence tourism is considered a way to sustain culture and livelihood, but also as a way to stay within frequently otherwise economically contested peripheral regions. This is also applicable for the Sami, the indigenous population of the Nordic countries. Still in the scientific literature tourism solutions for peripheral areas are debated and questioned owing to reasons related to, for example, power, knowledge and location. Recent global interest in Northern resources like minerals, timber and wind power are competing land-uses not only for Sami reindeer herding, but also for Sami tourism. Against this background the purpose of this paper is to analyze how Sami tourism entrepreneurs assess these external challenges also in comparison with other requirements related to the business of tourism. The paper is based on a comprehensive phone survey among all Sami tourism entrepreneurs in Sweden during 2012. Results indicate that Sami entrepreneurs are highly concerned regarding the impact of increasing exploitation of northern resources. However, it is not only industry that creates problems. Even state policies on predators are seen as threat, which indicates that Sami entrepreneurs perceive business and culture as two sides of the same coin. In contrast business-related challenges are seen as manageable.

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