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Arctic Tourism COVID-19 Greenland Guest Post Nordic Tourism Sustainable Tourism Tourism Tourism Education Tourism Employment Tourism lessons learned: from remote locations University of Greenland

Arctic Tourism – some lessons for the Greenlandic South

Guest post by Gestur Hovgaard, Professor at the University of Greenland.

Greenland is not only the largest island in the world, it is also the most sparsely populated country. Today more than 50% of the total population of 56000 live in the five municipal centers of Nuuk, Sisimiut, Ilulissat, Aasiat and Qaqortoq; the capital, Nuuk, has 19000 people. The Greenlandic economy is primarily based on fishing and fish processing, but there is increasing emphasis on developing industry (trade, construction, services), mining for e.g., gold, and rare earth elements and not the least tourism. Although still in its infancy, tourism grew slowly over the past few decades, save for a downturn during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A minor indication of tourism development in Greenland can be seen in Table 1, which includes national and international stays:

                      Source: own table based on numbers from stat.gl

The Arctic in general has attracted great tourist interest, but destinations are unevenly distributed. The major tourist destination of the North, Iceland, had 4,5 million foreign overnight hotels stays in 2018, and 9 million overnight stays in all accommodations land and Greenland (Icelandic Tourist Board, 2019). Greenland is not Iceland and should not be, but the contrast between Greenland and Iceland suggests some possibilities for Greenland (Jóhannesson et.al. 2022).

Tourism in Southern Greenland

South Greenland is Greenland’s smallest municipality in terms of area and population. Today there are about 6700 inhabitants in the region, which is somewhat larger than Denmark, with four smaller towns (Narsassuaq, Narsaq, Qaqortoq and Nanortalik) and 11 settlements. There is a complicated geography, with no roads between towns and villages; the sea is the “highway”, with government providing some aircraft and helicopter connections.

In 2009, the three municipalities in the southern region, Nanortalik, Narsaq and Qaqortoq, were merged into Kommune Kujalleq, with Qaqortoq as the administrative center. The amalgamation was an attempt to use the region’s limited financial and cultural resources more efficiently. Although there is skepticism about the amalgamation, the region has gained Innovation South Greenland (ISG), an organization which serves as a meeting point for business development in the region (https://www.isg.gl/kl/). In the municipality’s planning, the development of tourism into a year-round activity is a central focal point for ISG.

The first organized adventure tourism in South Greenland started back in the early 1970s, and has developed slowly over the years to the current number of operators and destination options (for an overview, see: https://visitsouthgreenland.com/all-adventures-in-south-greenland/). South Greenland has also had development in cruise tourism that roughly follows the pattern in Greenland generally (see Table 2). The Disko Bay area has been particularly important. In 2020 and 2021, no tourist ships arrived, but the expectation is that cruises level will soon resume.

South Greenlandic tourism has been in a positive development in recent years, but was slowed down by Covid-19. As we see in Table 3, South Greenland had a declining relative share of total overnight stays in Greenland, but in fact increased relatively in 2020 and 2021. A probable exSouth Greenlandic tourism has been in a positive development in recent years, but was slowed down by Covid-19. As we see in Table 3, South Greenland had a declining relative share of total overnight stays in Greenland, but in fact increased relatively in 2020 and 2021. A probable explanation is that Covid-19 made South Greenland a popular destination for domestic tourism.

Some lessons for further tourism development

There are many challenges facing Arctic tourism (Rantala 2019). In a Greenlandic context, accessibility is the central parameter for the development of tourism. The planning of three new airports is particularly important. The airports in Nuuk (the capital) and Ilulissat (in the north) are underway, while the airport in South Greenland has not yet begun. At the local level, the formation of the ISG has been an important development. There are also two tourism programs at Campus Kujalleq in Qaqortoq which provide the entire country with new skills for the industry. Further, a short tourist season, and the many tourists with more and bigger cruise–ships will bring, pressure on local communities and the environment. It is also a challenge for the industry that work is seasonal and poorly paid. There is a need for more focus on environmental and social sustainability, both locally and nationally.

References

Icelandic Tourist Board. (2019). Tourism in Iceland in figures. https://www.ferdamalastofa.is/static/files/ferdamalastofa/tolur_utgafur/january-2019.pdf

Jóhannesson, G. T.; Welling, J.; Müller D. K., Lundmark, L., Nilsson, R. O., De la Barre, S., Granås, B., Kvidal-Røvik, T., Rantala, O., Tervo-Kankare, K., Maher, P. (2022). Arctic Tourism in Times of Change. Uncertain Futures – From Overtourism to Re-staring Tourism. Nordic Council of Ministers.

Rantala, O., de la Barre, S., Granås, B., Jóhannesson, G. Þ., Müller, D. K., Saarinen, J., Tervo-Kankare, K., Maher, P., Niska M. (2019). Arctic Tourism in Times of Change – seasonality. TemaNord 2019:528.

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Business Academy SouthWest Dania Academy Digital Competences Finland Life-long Learning Linnaeus University Meeting News Nordic Tourism Tourism lessons learned: from remote locations University of Greenland University of Turku Western Norway University of Applied Sciences

TourNord goes to Turku, Finland!

Perspectives to life-long learning, Nordic coastal tourism, blended intensive programmes, and multisensory research environments in the food sector were just a few of the topics covered at our 2nd network meet in Turku, Finland. From the 28-30 of March 2022, the University of Turku was host to our TourNord partners, coming from Business Academy SouthWest, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, University of Greenland, Linnaeus University and Dania Academy!

Serving as a forum for exchanging best practices and experiences for education and knowledge development within Nordic Tourism, the central themes of the network meeting were:

  1. Life-long learning: How can educators continuously update their skills and competences
  2. Nordic Tourism: What makes it unique
  3. Tourism lessons learned: From remote locations

The network meet also had scheduled in workshops to continue working on the ideas created at our first network meet in Esbjerg, Denmark – namely projects within digital competence development in the tourism sector, and development of Nordic coastal tourism.

Turku, Finland. Source: Flickr

Day 1: Perspectives to life-long learning and Developing Nordic Coastal Tourism

After a warm welcome, Timo Halttunen, Head of Unit at Brahea Centre Areal Research and Development, at the University of Turku, gave us a presentation about professional learning, the reform of continuous learning in Finland, as well as the challenges the tourism sector faces with regards to continuous learning – a challenge not only unique to the Nordics, but to the EU sector as a whole! An interesting fact, was that the Nordic countries were ahead of the curve in Europe with regards to continuous learning, yet the tourism sector still lagged behind when comparing to other industries.

The presentation was followed by a great discussion on key areas that TourNord’s partner institutions could focus on in their respective countries when it comes to current students, as well as plans for continuous learning throughout a career of a tourism sector employee.

Continuous Learning in Finland

After the presentation and discussion, Gregory Kwiatkowski from Western Norway University of Applied Sciences and Christian Dragin-Jensen from Business Academy SouthWest led a work-meeting about how to progress from our desire to jointly work on developing a Nordic Coastal Tourism project (from our network meet in Esbjerg). We have excitedly concluded to create a book: “Developing Nordic Coastal Tourism” with all partners contributing to chapters, as well as inviting other practitioners and scholars to contribute! Gregory and Christian will serve as editors. Mia Post-Lundgaard from Business Academy SouthWest also raised the important notion of the book’s necessary contribution to not only academics and practitioners, but also to students. Moreover, the important question was also asked that if we are a Nordic cooperative, should the book not also be available in (at least some) of our Nordic languages?

In the evening, we were introduced to a Turku tourism destination concept: The Turku Food Walk, at local restaurant Di Trevi. The Turku food walk is an initiative by Visit Turku and its partners to showcase the best of the city’s culinary scene with just one card. That is, for a modest fee, tourists can visit an array of restaurants and sample many dishes from many different restaurants. The tour is ideal if you’re new to the city or visiting Turku and are interested in the food culture of the Nordics. It was fascinating to hear how many of the city’s restaurants found benefits in coopetition (the act of cooperating between competing companies) to give tourists a more holistic experience of the city’s food scene.

An example of a dish for Food Walk Turku at restaurant Di Trevi.


Day 2: A day of Senses in Tourism Research and Experience Development

Our second day was a a true day of exchanging best practices. This day was dedicated to exploring how the University of Turku research the use of senses in developing and understanding experiences. The first item on the order of the day was a fascinating presentation by Emmi Järvi, Project Communications Specialist, titled “Multidisciplinary research platform for producing new scientific knowledge and consumer understanding for society and businesses”. The research platform was using in-house facilities at the University of Turku campus, namely an experimental restaurant called Flavoria, and a multi-sensory room full of modern technologies to enhance sensory experiences.

The experimental restaurant was a veritable smorgasbord of data collecting points, from how guests selected their food, to how much bio-waste they generated, as well as desired portion sizes. The multi-sensory room, titled Aistikattila, is an immersive multi-sensory space for research and teaching and for hosting innovation workshops, seminars and events. More specifically:

Aistikattila provides an interesting setting for e.g. co-creation, product, and group interview studies. With studies measuring the effects of different environments can be discovered, how a certain audiovisual environment or augmented reality affects, for example, eating experiences, human behavior, or sensory experiences. The research possibilities go beyond the above-mentioned framework; the object of study can well be a technological solution

Aistikattila

Inspired by sitting in the Aistikattila space, we had a double brainstorming session on how we could work together on the following:

  1. Creating a blended intensive programme. Led by Gregory Kwiatkowski, we discussed on which common tourism topics where we could lead a blended intensive program – the area of Event Management drawing particular interest. Great experiences were shared on Dania Academy’s efforts by Henrik Pahus and Mikkel Lodahl of their summer school programs in Vietnam and elsewhere around the world. It was decided to continue this avenue to create a blended intensive programme for our Nordic partners!
  2. Continue our work on digital competences within tourism. Led by Timo Halttunen and Christian Dragin-Jensen, an intense discussion was had with all partners, but followed with a fruitful creation of a concept note for an Erasmus+ application (further developed from our ideas at the 1st network meet in Esbjerg). Specifically, a project which focuses on creating a tourism platform to better define digital skills and competences within tourism, how to upskill and reskill existing tourism employees, assessing learning in digital contexts, and how to create a blueprint for micro-credentials within tourism educations. Trine Thomsen from Business Academy SouthWest also highlighted the tremendous importance of linking digital skills with lifelong learning, as the realm of the digital is simply moving so fast, that what is taught at the beginning of an education, may no longer be relevant when students receive their degree!

In the afternoon, we continued along our journeys of senses – more specifically, the sense of sight. A presentation was given by Marjaana Puurtinen, Adj. Professor at the University of Turku, on Eye-tracking technology in educational research: higher-order cognition, learning in different domains and contexts. This was a fascinating presentation on not only how we can optimize teaching by using eye-tracking technology, but also how we could design tourist experiences. One of Marjaana’s projects was about designing a better museum experience by eye-tracking guests throughout the museum, to gain a novel and unique understanding of what guests spent the majority of their time looking at, as well as discovering what elements were most interactive for them. A future project we surely can’t wait to see more of!

Mrjaana Puurtinen’s presentation

The session was followed by a great discussion on how can we use these technologies in understanding professional learning, particularly when comparing to “hands-on task” learning, vs. theoretical and conceptualisation learning.


Day 3: Designing a “hands-on” museum visit – how a multi-sensory exhibition was developed with researchers and stakeholders

The final day of our 2nd network meet was an excursion day to 40,000+ exhibition at the Forum Marinum. Here we were guided by Ira Lahovuo, Project Manager at the City of Turku, and the main driving force behind the exhibition, an output of an Interreg project, Archipelago Access. Turku is the main city closely located to Finland’s famous archipelago, home to more than 40,000 islands. The project’s summary was the following:

Sustainable nature and culture-based archipelago tourism are still characterized by a large number of SMEs, public actors, uncoordinated promotion and scattered information. Thanks to Archipelago Access, Turku and Stockholm archipelagos join forces and invite Åland along to increase the attractiveness of the whole archipelago area.

Archipelago Access

Guided by Ira, we were given a unique insight in how many different stakeholders took part in creating the exhibition, from digital and sound specialists, tourism experts and marine biologists. Much focus was placed on finding the perfect balance between informing potential visitors about the region and the difficulties it faces (loss of biodiversity, climate change, etc.), but also to show how it could be an attractive place to visit – when done right.

Ira Lahovuo guiding several TourNord members
A TourNord member trying the VR experience of the Archipelago.

All the participating TourNord members would like to thank the University of Turku and its partners for their warm hospitality, and a fantastic program which ensured that our network meet serve:

1. As a forum for exchanging best practices and experiences for education and knowledge development within Nordic Tourism
2. To discover and implement innovative ways of teaching to benefit educators and students in preparing them for the current/future demands of Nordic Tourism

3. To promote & advance student/staff mobility amongst partners for learning, innovation and R&D activities within NT.

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Business Academy SouthWest Dania Academy Denmark Digital Competences Linnaeus University Meeting News Sustainable Tourism University of Greenland University of Turku Western Norway University of Applied Sciences

TourNord’s 1st network meeting!

What an exciting week this has been! After so many delays and postponements due to COVID-19, TourNord was finally able to have its first ever network meeting!

From the 22 – 24 of November 2021, Business Academy SouthWest hosted the network meeting in Esbjerg, Denmark, where participants from Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, Linnaeus University, University of Turku, University of Greenland and Dania Academy attended.

Serving as a forum for exchanging best practices and experiences for education and knowledge development within Nordic Tourism, the central themes of the network meeting were:

  1. Preparing students and educators in tourism with digital skills & competences
  2. Developing Sustainable Tourism Destinations


Day 1: A day of digital skills & competences

After a warm welcome, TourNord got straight down to business with a presentation from Alice Bank Danielsen from Danish Coastal and Nature Tourism, who gave us a fascinating insight on the schism that exists between educational institutions’ understanding of digital competences in the tourism sector versus the actual reality. She also rounded off by presenting the digital toolbox they have created, to serve as an inspiration and guidance tool for tourism actors in Denmark. This was followed afterwards by a great debate on how we (as educational institutions) can better gear our staff and students to be more prepared for the digital world that is tantamount to succes in modern tourism.

After a quick break, we then went into a brainstorming session on how we could generate a concrete course which would help contribute to the digital competences skill gap in the Nordic tourism sector. Splitting into two groups, we came up with two very different (but equally inspiring) ideas!

One group laid a framework for a completely digital course (geared at both higher education students and the life-long learning adult education sector), which could be completed through a series of achievements and tasks (microcredentials). The course would stand on ‘three digital legs’, focusing on strategy, marketing and operations. The course would be case-based, in order to be context specific for the local partner institutions’ needs and demands.

The second group loved the idea of a digital course, but also saw the need and desire after long COVID-19 lockdowns for students to travel and meet – creating a short and intensive physical course where partner institutions’ students where required to travel to 2-3 partner schools. Students would receive both lecturing and be able to work on local cases with regards to using digital tools to optimize business performances of local tourism actors. Each partner institution has different skills (close ties to practitioners, workshop and creative thinking facilitation, digital skill application, etc.) and would be fine-tuned accordingly.

We plan to further work on these two ideas at our next network meeting!

Innovation Consultant Alice Bank Danielsen presenting.

Day 2: Excursion and Sustainable Tourism Development

Esbjerg is known for being windy (and the odd spot of rain as well!), yet we could not have asked for better weather in late November for our excursion to the Wadden Sea National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). The morning started off with a visit to the Wadden Sea Center, where we were introduced to the the park, the relationship between nature and tourism, and how the Wadden Sea was unique in its biodiversity.

We then went on an oyster safari in the Wadden Sea, traversing ca. 2.5km into the ocean during low-tide (our guide informed us that the difference in water level between low and high tide was 1m70!).

Once we reached an oyster reef, our guide showed us how to chuck and eat oysters, all the while informing us about the types of tourists these tours normally get, interesting information about the wildlife (including snails that surf the waves, and white-tailed eagles) and the importance of knowing how to navigate the landscape.

Safely back at the Wadden Sea Center, the TourNord group then held a brainstorming session on future development projects – inspired by the Wadden Sea excursion, sustainable tourism development was the focal point. After a great discussion (where many ideas where generated), we decided that coastal tourism in the Nordics is indeed incredibly unique in the world of tourism (and how to develop it sustainably). We will therefore continue working on developing a project revolving around Nordic Coastal Tourism at our next network meeting in Finland!

Our day ended by passing by Ribe, Denmark’s oldest town, and a well-known tourist destination.

TourNord on an oyster Safari in the Wadden Sea National Park!

Day 3: Sustainable Tourism Development: Academic discussions and practical realities

The final day of the network meeting had a very special guest – Professor of Tourism Janne Liburd from the University of Southern Denmark, and Chairman of the Board for the Wadden Sea National Park. Janne invited us to a scintillating group discussion on understanding collaborative and sustainable tourism development. We were inspired by Janne Liburd’s transformative approach to sustainable tourism development, and we collectively tried to see how we could introduce this paradigm shift of moving tourism as growth-based industry selling a ‘product’, to instead how tourism can be a generator of wellbeing (moving across domains of cultural, economic, and ecological wellbeing). Specifically, how tourism can move from an industry that depletes an area of its resources, to instead to become a holistic part of its habitat – something the UN development goals would definitely adhere to!