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COVID-19 Guest Post Nordic Tourism OVertourism Research Tourism Western Norway University of Applied Sciences

Overtourism, Pandemic and Nordic Tourism

Guest post by Ove Oklevik, Associate Professor, Grzegorz Kwiatkowski, Associate Professor, and Gurid Gjøstein Karevoll, Assistant Professor, at Western Norway University of Applied Sciences.

During the last decades, most Nordic destinations have tried to increase the number of tourist arrivals. In recent years, before the pandemic, tourist arrivals secured continued growth in Nordic countries’ most popular destinations. This growth has in turn caused crowding challenges. Crowding is labelled ‘overtourism’ in academic literature and causes an ongoing debate among researchers. But overtourism has created a substantial public debate as well. One of the dilemmas is that overtourism is related to a few destinations only. Most of the areas in the Nordics are underpopulated and under-visited. There is room for a substantial increase in the number of inhabitants and visitors in these areas.

Overtourism in the Nordic Countries

Let us give some examples of overtourism from the pre-pandemic period in Nordic countries. These examples are not exhaustive, but might function as illustrations. In Denmark, Copenhagen is the most attractive destination. A high share of the visitors to the capital of Denmark – around 87% – tend to stay in and around the inner-city, especially the canal district Nyhavn. Nyhavn is well-known for its colourful merchant houses. The concentrated inflow of tourists in the city’s heart strains urban life with increased noise and traffic levels.

Copenhagen is bicycle-friendly but is also suffering from overtourism. Image by Visit Copenhagen

In Norway, examples of overtourism are Flåm and Lofoten. Several newspaper articles have documented the problem of large queues. In summer 2019, travellers had to wait for 5 hours to get a place on a ferry to Lofoten, a group of islands in Nothern Norway. On the mainland, in the same area, no queuing occurred.

Lofoten in Norway. Queuing is needed for travelling to Lofoten. Image by Pixabay.

Lapland is Finland’s northernmost region bordering Russia, Sweden, Norway and the Baltic Sea. Lapland is famous for its ski resorts, Northern Lights and subarctic wilderness. However, the most popular activity in recent years is husky rides. The growing interest in husky sledging puts the animals at risk. The tourist season in this region is short, between three and four months every year. A short season, combined with increasing demand, put a lot of stress on dogs and operators.

Dog sledging has become very popular in Lapland, Finland, but this also represents an overtourism challenge. Image by Pixabay.

The arrival of the pandemic

Declared as a pandemic on 11 March 2020 by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak has heavily influenced the travel and tourism industry worldwide. The travel and tourism sectors have been affected by travel restrictions, quarantines, lockdowns and mandatory testing. These pandemic measures have created volatile and unpredictable business and travel environments.The global tourism industry now looks into a third year of uncertainty. Some researchers argue that the COVID-19 crisis should be a turning point, and that a return to pre-pandemic overtourism phenomena is undesirable and also unlikely to happen. However, according to Gössling and Scheiggart (2021) there is minimal evidence that the crisis has changed or will change tourism at an aggregated level. On this question, the future will give us the answers.

The pandemic has also taught us some other lessons regarding to how people react to different behaviour from government, individuals and companies. Based on a research project funded by the research council of Norway, with researchers from Italy, the US and Norway, we have now learned more about how these actions might influence travel patterns.

In an experiment, researchers exposed respondents for information containing a government that responded to the pandemic in either a good or bad way. The study showed that bad politics regarding government responses to the pandemic (i.e. ignoring the dangers of the virus, not imposing any social distancing, and not listening to medical advice) might generate bad feelings like anger, disgust, and scornfulness in the population. Those negative feelings will, in turn, impact travel intentions among tourists. Bad governmental response of pandemics might impose a stronger desire (and more travelling too) to travel among the population. However, the impact is evident only for one group of people. As human beings, we might be described with two different individual characteristics. Some of us are highly individualistic, and others are highly collectivistic-oriented. Being highly individualistic means that they are highly competitive oriented, like to make decisions on their own, and are also more likely to travel alone or organize their travel as an individual. Their counterparts are collectivistic-oriented persons, who are more concerned about their group members’ well-being than their own needs, and they are more likely to travel in groups. Most people can be placed along a continuum between those two extreme points. However, the distinction between individualism and collectivism might help us better understand possibilities and challenges regarding travel patterns in post-pandemic time.

From left to right: Grzegorz Kwiatkowski, Associate Professor. Gurid Gjøstein Karevoll, Assistant Professor. Ove Oklevik, Associate Professor.

The research from Western Norway University of Applied Sciences shows that individualistically oriented tourists tend to travel in defiance if the government in their country mistreat a pandemic situation. The collectivistic oriented tourists don’t have this tendency. Collectivistic oriented tourists have a low desire to travel during a pandemic, independently of how their government treat the pandemic. Combined with existing knowledge that individualistically oriented tourists have higher spending, are more involved in special interest tourism, and tend to stay longer in a travelled area, those tourists might be a part of the solution of the overtorusim issue. Tourists visiting longer in an area are more likely to spread than short-time visitors. Short-time visitors are more likely only to target the main ( and crowdy) attractions. The individualistically oriented tourists represent more diverse interests than their collectivistic counterparts too. This might contribute to spreading those tourists on many different types of activities and thereby reduce the overtourism problem.

Solution on the overtourism problem? Shooting festival in Norway placed in rural regions. Image by the Frivillige Skyttervesenet.

One example of a special interest activity in Norway is “Landsskyttarstevent”  (i.e. a shooting festival). The festival is hosted in rural areas in Norway. The event is a one-time activity that lasts for eight days and it draws 10-15.000 people every year. And more important, it’s located outside the main tourist destinations in the country.

References

Drivers of public responses toward Coronavirus outbreak and implications of social dynamics – COSD – Høgskulen på Vestlandet (hvl.no)

Overtourism in Finnish Lapland puts huskies at risk – TAN (travelandynews.com)

Is Copenhagen the latest city to fall victim to overtourism? – Lonely Planet

Står fem timer i fergekø for å komme til Lofoten – NRK Nordland

Gössling, S. and N Schweiggart (2022). Two years of COVID-19 and tourism: what we learned, and what we should have learned.  Journal of Sustainable Tourism. 30(4)

Oklevik, O., Gössling, S., Hall, M., Steen-Jacobsen, K., Grøtte I.P. (2019). Overtourism, optimization and destination performance indicators: a case study of activities in Fjord Norway. Journal of Sustainable Tourism. 27(12); 1804-1824.

Oklevik. O, Kwiatkowksi, G., Preuss, H. and A. Kurdyś-Kujawska (2021). Contextual engagement in event visitors’ experience and satisfaction. Scandinavian Journal of Hospitality and Tourism.

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Business Academy SouthWest COVID-19 Denmark Koszalin University of Technology Linnaeus University News Norway Poland Research Sweden Western Norway University of Applied Sciences

TourNord partners to investigate how to build resilient events and festivals in times of uncertainty!

We are starting 2021 with a bang!

We are pleased to announce that an international team from TourNord, working under the direction of Dr. Grzegorz Kwiatkowski, Assistant Professor at the Koszalin University of Technology and Associate Professor at the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, will be investigating how to build resilient events and festivals during uncertain times! A very relevant topic considering the severe effects the global pandemic COVID-19 has wrought.

COVID-19 has led to a lockdown of local, regional and even national economies for months at end. Society has faced new (and severe) social and economic challenges, huge losses in experience economies such as the event, tourism and hospitality industries. The International Labour Organization (ILO) predicts that unemployment will rise by 24.7 million people due to the COVID-19 pandemic. ILO further estimates that by the end of 2020, the economic loss due to COVID-19 will tap up to 3.4 trillion dollars.

(Left: An empty festival ground makes for a haunting landscape)

This situation constitutes to be a great societal challenge which calls for urgent intervention, to save what is left and (re)build a resilient Event & Festival (E&F) sector through action research. The rational for this project, running from February – August 2021, lies in the need for up-to-date knowledge and knowledge-based tailored solutions to build resilient E&F ecosystems in our “new reality”.

The project is to be undertaken by an international group of researchers from: Koszalin University of Technology in Poland (Dr. Grzegorz Kwiatkowski, Dr. Dorota Janiszewska, Dr. Luiza Ossowska, Dr. Dariusz Kloskowski), Business Academy SouthWest in Denmark (Dr. Christian Dragin-Jensen), Linnaeus University in Sweden (Dr. Marianna Strzelecka) and the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (M.L. Vilde Hannevik Lien).

Project lead, Grzegorz Kwiatkowski, is looking forward to the international cooperation and the results the project will bring:

The possibility of implementing this grant is the result of the beneficial international cooperation implemented so far by our department. We will be able to conduct important research on issues that affect us all.

Gregory Kwiatkowski,
Ass. Professor, Koszalin University of Technology
Associate Professor, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences

Financial support for the project was obtained from the “Intervention Grants” Program of the National Agency for Academic Exchange (NAWA) in Poland. The purpose of the program implemented is to support international cooperation of research teams in response to sudden, important, unforeseen social, civilization and natural phenomena with global or regionally significant consequences.

We look forward to hear what findings the project will bring, and how we can help bring forward these findings to practitioners, students and researchers alike!