Sami Parliament in Finland publishes digital guide for responsible tourism in Lapland

Sajos, the Sami cultural and administrative centre and home to the Sami Parliament of Finland, in the Arctic village of Inari. “The guidance hopefully awakens the awareness of arriving as guests to an extraordinary place where visitors need to pay special attention to holistic sustainability of the destination, especially the wellbeing of local communities and their chance to live peacefully their everyday lives and private festivities without the negative impacts of tourism,” the new digital guide to travel in the region says. (Eilís Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)

The Sami Parliament in Finland has published a digital guide to responsible tourism in Lapland in hopes it will encourage visitors to travel ethically and sustainably in Indigenous regions of the country’s Arctic. 

“I hope the visitor guidance for Sami tourism will be widely used and it benefits as many stakeholders as possible,” Leo Aikio, the II Vice President of Sami Parliament in Finland, said in a statement. 

“We want to encourage tourists to make responsible and ethically sustainable choices while visiting Sami Homeland in Finland.” 

The visitor’s guide is based on the 2018 ethical guidelines for Sami tourism adopted by the Sami Parliament in Finland.

Negative impacts of tourism

The guidelines were adopted after an explosion of tourism to the region that prompted negative cultural and environmental impacts in Sami areas.

Among the issues that emerged were the growing popularity of dog mushing trips (marketed as husky safaris) something that prompted complaints from Sami hunters, fishers and reindeer herders that their traditional activities were being interrupted by the activity.

A reindeer near the village of Inari in Arctic Finland. The digital responsible tourism guide warns visitors that what may look like wilderness without human presence to them, is actually a home to Sami and must be treated with respect. “There is not a single place or area in the Sami Homeland that does not have a Sami name and that has no cultural use or significance related to a season,” the Sami Parliament in Finland says. (Eilis Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)

Culturally, the Sami community also became increasingly concerned about non-Indigenous travel operators offering ‘Sami activities’ that promoted racial stereotypes and misrepresented their culture, as well as being frequently photographed without their consent, including their children when alone.

The ethical guidelines are aimed at both international and domestic visitors, as well as tourism operators and employees, and cover everything from obtaining consent before photographing a Sami person going about their everyday life, to avoiding the use of Sami people or culture as exotic props in marketing materials.

“General knowledge regarding Sami people, their history and modern Sami society is still superficial, and often coloured by preconceptions and misrepresentations,” Tuomas Aslak Juuso, president of the Sami Parliament in Finland said.

“Hence, increasing and distributing truthful information and knowledge about the Sami also through tourism is crucial, says Tuomas Aslak Juuso, the President of the Sami Parliament in Finland.

Interactive guide

An intersection in Lapland with directions to different tourist services. As post-pandemic tourism ramps up, the Sami Parliament in Finland is working to sensibilize visitors to responsible tourism in Arctic Finland. (Eilís Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)

The digital guide is available in both English and Finnish and is accompanied by interactive cartoons by Sami artist Sunna Kitti that allows site visitors to toggle back and forth between the dos and don’ts of travelling in the region. 

The guide also includes a vocabulary page and quiz where visitors can test their knowledge after going through the site.

Kirsi Suomi, the co-ordinator of the project at the Sami Parliament in Finland, says the site will rest dynamic and be updated regularly to reflect new tourism trends or emerging challenges to local communities . 

The Responsible Sami Tourism Visitor Guidance is available on the Sami Parliament in Finland site

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Inuvik, Canada, braces for surge in tourism, CBC News

Iceland: 10% of Iceland’s workforce employed in tourism, The Independent Barents Observer

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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