Climate Change and the Double Amplification of Arctic Tourism: Challenges and Potential Solutions for Tourism and Sustainable Development in an Arctic Context
Northern Sweden has recently attracted a growing number of tourists from all over the world looking for adventure and nature experiences in a region that is increasingly promoted as the European Arctic. One reason for the recent boom is climate change, which creates awareness for the destination and motivates tourists to see the Arctic before it is too late. This is the point of departure for this research project that addresses various challenges caused by the recent tourism boom.
Today, the winter season attracts growing numbers of international tourists to the North. Climate change and globalization enhance this development by constantly creating attention for the region all over the world, portraying it as unique and threatened by increasing temperatures. This research project addresses this situation by analysing how local and regional government, industry and community stakeholders in Arctic Sweden tackle challenges and opportunities related to tourism, globalization and climate change and what future development they aspire. By doing so, the research project provides knowledge about tourism’s role for community development and land-use conflicts and proposes ways forward to integrate tourism in policy and planning for the northern region.
Tourism has been regarded as an opportunity to create employment, not least in northern sparsely populated areas. Globalization and climate change have entailed greater media exposure and public awareness for the Arctic region, resulting in quickly increasing tourism demand. Sometimes this growth is explained as a form of ‘last chance tourism’ enabling tourists to see the melting Arctic. However even future flight taxes are expected to increase demand for the European Arctic. This ‘Arctification’ of tourism poses a number of opportunities and challenges for local communities.
To better understand these, a political-ecology perspective is applied. In this context tourism is seen as an external force disturbing prevalent human-environment relations. In four work packages it is addressed; how the Arctification of tourism in northern Sweden has evolved; how communities have benefitted in terms of improved innovation capacity; how land use conflicts and over-tourism are being managed; and how Sami people handle the touristic commodification of their heritage.
These issues are addressed empirically by combining public statistics, analysis of marketing material, interviews and ethnographic field studies in Väster- and Norrbotten, This is also achieved by pooling resources with universities in Norway and Finland. An important aspect is to work together with tourism organizations and other community actors to contribute to a sustainable development of the region.