Cultural Sustainability in Tourism

Picture: Antti Pietikäinen

“Cultural understanding requires knowing yourself and your culture”

This blog text is a summary of four inspiring case-presentations heard as a part of a small group discussion in the GRUDE Grennovation Camp in May.

The aim of cultural sustainability is to know and appreciate cultural diversity and to strengthen cultural identities. Local cultures and ways of living give tourism destinations their own personal character. Tourists, similar to local people, are more and more interested in sustainable and authentic experiences. Therefore, tourism companies are nowadays required to consider what sustainability means for their business and how they can operate in a responsible and culturally sensitive way. In the European Arctic, specific attention should be given to the indigenous Sami culture because of its vulnerability as a minority culture.

Hilde Bjørkli, Head of Competence and Development in Visit Northern Norway, gave a presentation about the project “Culturally Sensitive Tourism in the Arctic” (ARCTISEN). She talked about cultural sensitivity as a part of cultural sustainability. According to Hilde, it is the guests’ responsibility to behave respectfully towards the local culture. At the same time, the hosts are responsible for creating and facilitating encounters between travelers and the local way of life. Nowadays, tourists are generally well educated and it is high time to shift away from cultural appropriations, assimilation and stereotyping, towards recognition, respect and reciprocity.

Monika Lüthje who is also working in the project ARCTISEN, in the University of Lapland, introduced new, culturally sensitive tourism products. These products are based on local cultures and they promote meaningful interaction between hosts and guests. Culturally sensitive tourism products focus on breaking down stereotypes, enabling reciprocal learning and cultural exchange, as well as, enhance mutual understanding and respect. You can read more about the project ARCTISEN here.

Jose Antonio Gordillo Martorell, Education Project Leader in Norbotten’s Museum, continued with a presentation about Digital Experiences for Sustainable Tourism. Jose Antonio raised a question of how could digital and physical resources be mixed in an efficient way, in order to, create a powerful tourism experience. Could we move towards cross-disciplinary and holistic approach of tourism by, for example, including learning, as well as, sustainable and community building elements to travel business? You can read more about the project here.

Lastly, Sisko Häikiö at Lapland UAS approached the question of how could responsibility communication make a change in consumer behavior in tourism? She presented the VALUE-project which is funded by European Regional Development Fund. The aim of the project is to develop the business in tourism SMEs by supporting growth and competitive advantage, as well as, increasing sustainability expertise. Furthermore, the objective is to support sustainable business and growth of Lapland’s tourism companies by developing digital sustainability communication. To know more about the project you can contact Sisko or her colleague Kati Koivunen on LinkedIn, and check out Visit Levi and Visit Sea Lapland websites.

As a final remark we would like you to reflect upon these open questions: Why do we want to receive tourists in our region? What contributions tourism should have? What kind of tourism do we want to attract, and finally, how do we find the right target groups and develop meaningful experiences for them?

Interesting and current questions of cultural sustainability were addressed in a group session in GRUDE project’s fourth Greennovation Camp in May.

Blog text by,
Grethe Lilleng, SINTEF Nord, Norway
Kine Jakobsen, SINTEF Nord, Norway

Header picture:
Lapin materiaalipankki, Antti Pietikäinen