‘Eth­i­cally re­spon­si­ble’ tourism

Muscat Daily - - FEATURES -

Once known by the now ob­so­lete term ‘Lapps’, the Sami are spread out across the north­ern parts of Swe­den, Fin­land, Nor­way and Rus­sia's Kola Penin­sula. Sami rep­re­sen­ta­tives ac­cuse some tourism providers of pre­tend­ing to be Sami when they are not, or sell­ing prod­ucts and tourist at­trac­tions por­tray­ing Sami peo­ple as mag­i­cal and prim­i­tive.

Last year, the Sami Par­lia­ment is­sued guide­lines for ‘eth­i­cally re­spon­si­ble’ be­hav­iour from tour op­er­a­tors and vis­i­tors in or­der to pre­serve Sami cul­ture.

Husky rides, among the most pop­u­lar tourist at­trac­tions in La­p­land, have also been sin­gled out for crit­i­cism by the Sami com­mu­nity, which has herded rein­deer across the area's vast fells and forests for over 3,000 years.

Sami rep­re­sen­ta­tives claim the dogs, which are not a na­tive La­p­land tra­di­tion, dis­tress the rein­deer which freely roam the forests.

The Sami also ob­ject to the grow­ing num­ber of ‘igloo’ ho­tels in the re­gion, which are a nonLa­p­land tra­di­tion bor­rowed from else­where in the Arc­tic. The par­lia­ment pro­posal says tourist providers build ac­com­mo­da­tion rel­e­vant to La­p­land’s his­tory, such as the Sami ‘goahti’ - a teepee-like wooden tent tra­di­tion­ally used by rein­deer herders.

Other worldly Arc­tic land­scapes

Ev­ery pass­ing win­ter brings record vis­i­tors to La­p­land in­clud­ing soar­ing num­bers of Chi­nese, but also much-needed rev­enue.

La­p­land's Re­gional Coun­cil says that tourism brought in € 1bn (US$1.1bn) to the re­gion last year. Of­fi­cial sta­tis­tics sug­gest that vis­i­tors from China spend over three times as much on av­er­age as hol­i­day­mak­ers from other coun­tries.

Au­thor­i­ties in Rovaniemi, on the Arc­tic Cir­cle, face a dilemma: How to reap the eco­nomic ben­e­fits, while pre­vent­ing ir­re­versible dam­age to one of the world's most vul­ner­a­ble wilder­ness re­gions. "Dog-sled­ding and longer hikes are pop­u­lar with French vis­i­tors for ex­am­ple, Bri­tish trav­ellers are es­pe­cially in­ter­ested in snow­mo­biles, and the Asian tourists are most keen on see­ing the North­ern Lights," Sanna Karkkainen, head of Visit Rovaniemi, tells AFP.

With his knee-length white beard, trade­mark red robes and over­size grey slip­pers, Santa switches from Fin­nish to French to chat to his next vis­i­tors, Celia and Jeremie from south­ern France.

Af­ter an of­fi­cial pho­to­graph, avail­able to buy af­ter­wards for € 45, the vis­i­tors are ush­ered to­wards the exit.

Ev­ery year this decade, the vis­i­tor fig­ures to La­p­land have reached new highs, hit­ting 2.9mn overnight stays last year, up from 2.2mn in 2010, ac­cord­ing to Sta­tis­tics Fin­land.

Some 45,000 Chi­nese tourists vis­ited La­p­land in 2018 - four times more than in 2015.

Party peo­ple

Boom­ing tourism helped drive Rovaniemi's un­em­ploy­ment rate down to be­low ten per cent last De­cem­ber, its low­est since 1990 ac­cord­ing to the town coun­cil.

How­ever, the spec­tre of mass tourism is a grow­ing con­cern in a re­gion where res­i­dents

Eco-aware tourists

His voice all but drowned out by the howls of 120 black, white and brown huskies, Beets says his grow­ing busi­ness caters to more and more

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