The Breakout Session about Arctic tourism attracted seminar quests in the Arctic Business Forum, organized in Rovaniemi on April 6-7. It became evident that tourism needs cross-border cooperation to develop.
Besides aquaculture, mining, oil and gas production and forestry, tourism is one of the main industries in the Barents region. It is an important employer, shows growth and is quite stable. Intensifying the cooperation between the tourism industries and promoting the Barents tourism potential at the international market is also one of the priorities for the Russian Chairmanship in the Barents Euro-Arctic Council.
Accessibility is one critical point when talking about promoting the region as a travel destination in the international markets. Paavo Virkkunen, the Executive Vice President of Visit Finland, in his presentation highlighted the importance of good connections to the region but also cross-border connections between the destinations in the region and inside the resorts.
Visit Finland has done a lot of marketing to penetrate the Asian tourist markets. Still, Virkkunen states that the further away we are looked at, the smaller we appear if we don’t cooperate.
– Visit organizations in the Nordic Countries have small budgets to penetrate into the new markets alone. The competition area in Asia is large and we can reinforce the different kind of attraction attributes. We have to think how to make sellable products together, says Virkkunen.
New project promotes northern Scandinavia as a single destination
One activity for the cooperation is the new Visit Arctic Europe project, which promotes tourism cooperation between northern Norway, northern Finland and northern Sweden. The duration of the project is from August 2015 to December 2017 and it is funded by the Interreg Nord program, by the public sector and the participating companies.
The aim of the project is to develop northern Scandinavia into a cross-border, high-quality tourist area, which is an internationally competitive and well-known Arctic tourist destination.
– We are supporting the tourism brands of the market areas. Our focus is in new operations and low seasons, Rauno Posio, the Project Manager of Visit Arctic Europe, presented the project in the forum.
Target groups for the marketing activities of the Visit Arctic Europe are people in the UK, Benelux, German-speaking Europe, China and the US. Besides marketing, functional networking, R&D and accessibility are the priorities of the project. Networking is carried out for example by contacting tour operators and flight companies. Also, the project is creating cross-border travel packages together with companies and the whole delivery chain.
Tourism is a growing source of export revenue which also has a multiplier effect on other sectors. For the region where long distances and long cold seasons are typical, the industry has many opportunities to develop. At the same time, it is important to consider how to develop the tourism in an ecologically, socially and culturally sustainable way.
Text by Johanna Westerlund
Photos by Johanna Westerlund and Arctic Business Forum