Indigenous Tourism

In recent posts I have been talking about the Sami, a people who traditionally inhabit the northern areas of Norway, Sweden, Finland and a small part of Russia,  and their history, culture and involvement in reindeer herding.  Now I would like to look at their involvement in tourism.

The sub-segment of indigenous tourism is defined as the ‘indigenous culture, traditions and heritage forming the basis for tourism development.’

Indigenous control is an important factor when considering indigenous tourism, these control factors include limiting tourists use and access when regarding time and place. These limitations will allow the indigenous people to retain some control over the development of tourism but to also develop sustainable tourism.

Many western tourists are looking for authentic experiences among the Sami people, their primary motivator for travel is authenticity with the possibility to develop a personal and semi-spiritual relationship. There is often difficulty when discussing tourism relating to “endangered cultures” such as the Sami. If the development of tourism causes discomfort amongst the Sami it could lead to problems but on the other hand attractions without some commercialisation would attract hardly any visitors. For this reason and because the Sami have assimilated into modern society visitors are often offered staged attractions.

Even with the risks of tourism development many Sami are attracted to the idea of tourism, especially when it is becoming increasingly difficult to make a living from traditional methods such as reindeer herding. Sami people who have adjusted to the role of tourism are able to combine tourism with reindeer herding. This allows the Sami to spread information about the Sami and their culture to visitors.

Indigenous Tourism

Consumers are increasingly looking for new experiences and adventure outside of the ordinary products and services. Stories can help to improve the power of experience and can complete a service or product by giving it a deeper meaning and a more memorable experience. These stories can come from historic happenings or inspired by myths from the Arctic nature, local culture and finally the traditions and beliefs in Finnish Lapland. Being able to use these stories in tourism in a creative way while presented in a suitable place can lead to authentic experiences. Foreign visitors come to Lapland in order to experience new cultures. By being offered information and traditions based on cultural heritage can help create an experience that exceeds the customer’s expectations.

There is a tourist demand for tourism involving Sami culture that may even grow in the future. Sami culture is fragile and tourism may jeopardise the indigenous culture and harm the environment in which the Sami live. It is important to remember that Sami tourism does face some challenges and with an increased research into the opportunities and risks they will be able to develop a flourishing and sustainable industry for both host and guest.

For more about indigenous cultures you can see my posts about Australian Aboriginals and their role in tourism.

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