For more than two decades, Arctic destinations have experienced ever-growing tourism figures and an increasing global interest in the North and its attractions. This has contributed to the establishment of alternate livelihoods and new hope, at least in those places and regions that have recently suffered from de-industrialization and out-migration. Indeed, at some locations tourism development has become so dominant that it has been perceived as problematic and a phenomenon to be managed properly, while in other places of the Arctic there is still an aspiration to facilitate further growth.

As this report is being finalized in May 2020, destinations in the Arctic world are facing a new dawn, forced forward by the Covid-19 pandemic sweeping over the globe. As some of the Arctic regions have their core tourist season during the winter, not all of them have yet faced the consequences of the pandemic, while others are already seeing the immediate consequences on their labor market, economy, and society. Whether these impacts will be long-lasting, and whether the pandemic will lead to new tourism practices and trigger a reform of the contested tourism industry, remains to be seen. However, we aspire for this report to provide a useful background in considerations of how to recover and develop tourism into a more sustainable state.

This report is based on a workshop and field course held in Umeå, Sweden, in October 2019. For a week, fifteen researchers and roughly twenty students from Sweden, Finland, Norway, Iceland, and Canada experienced and discussed tourism in a northern city. Furthermore, they compared their experiences from all across the Arctic North and shared them with representatives of the local tourism industry as well. This concept is the result of a long-term cooperation grown out of the University of the Arctic’s Thematic Network on Northern Tourism and a circumpolar master’s program in Arctic Tourism organized by UiT (the Arctic University of Norway), the University of Lapland, the University of Oulu, Umeå University, the University of Iceland, Vancouver Island University, and Nipissing University.

The workshop in Umeå and the work on this report were conducted as part the project Partnership for Sustainability - Arctic Tourism in Times of Change. The project is funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers Arctic Co-operation Programme. Furthermore, Nordplus funding facilitated student mobility, and the Arctic Five cooperation between Umeå University, the University of Oulu, the University of Lapland, and UiT contributed to the workshop as well.

Over the years we have all appreciated the opportunity to engage in a circumpolar cooperation committed to our home regions. While these regions are often considered peripheries, in the perception of their residents they are not. Hence, our cooperation places the Arctic region at the center and also empowers us and our research. I would therefore like to express my gratitude to everyone who has contributed to this report and to the meeting in Umeå.

Dieter K. Müller

The report is available here

Authors: Dieter K. Müller, Doris A. Carson, Suzanne de la Barre, Brynhild Granås, Gunnar Thór Jóhannesson, Gyrid Øyen, Outi Rantala, Jarkko Saarinen, Tarja Salmela, Kaarina Tervo-Kankare, Johannes Welling