Study touts domestic tourism potential in Nordics, custom approach needed for Arctic

Tourists at Djupalonssandur, a beach in Iceland, in 2018. “Findings on the length of stay for each region show that Icelanders spent more nights in South Iceland and West Iceland in 2020 and 2021 than in 2019,” the report said. (Eilis Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)

A new report is highlighting the untapped potential of domestic tourism in the Nordics, saying cultivating this segment of the industry could help make the sector more resilient in the aftermath of COVID-19 or future disruptions to international travel. 

“According to the results, Covid-19 pandemic and related restrictions on international tourism – both outbound and inbound – served as an eye-opener to the significance of domestic tourism in the Nordic countries and autonomous areas,” the report “Exploring Domestic Tourism in the Nordics,” the report said. 

“Development of the domestic tourism sector was a low-priority effort compared to development of inbound tourism in all the Nordic countries before the pandemic. Loss of inbound tourism during the pandemic served as a catalyst for a breakthrough of domestic tourism to the agendas of tourism developers at the local, regional, and national level.”

Domestic tourists’ share of overnights in hotels, holiday resorts, youth hostels and camping sites in the Nordic countries and autonomous areas during 2017–2022. (Source: Statistics Denmark, Statistics Greenland, Statistics Faroe Islands, Statistics Finland, Statistics Iceland, Statistics Norway, Statistics Sweden, Statistics Åland).

The report was undertaken to better understand the value of the domestic market and the interests of domestic travellers. The study put together researchers from different Nordic countries who conducted statistical and literature reviews, interviews with tourism experts, workshops, and through surveys sent to tourism employees, organizations.

The countries included were: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, and the autonomous regions of Aland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands. 

A photo of Kiruna, Sweden. “The interest in various destinations in Sweden has increased among Swedes, and Swedes have become more inclined to visit new destinations rather than the most popular and crowded destinations,” the report said. (Eilís Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)

Investment in domestic tourism yielding results 

The authors found that despite the end of COVID-19 travel restrictions, international travel into the Nordic countries still has not rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, except in the autonomous areas.

However, those that have focused resources on domestic tourism have seen significant growth.

“Investing in domestic tourism has helped tourism enterprises in the Nordic countries not only to survive the COVID-19 crisis, but also to be able to grow during it,” the study said.

“In the survey, 58 per cent of those companies that have invested more into domestic tourism compared to pre-Covid situation also reported to have more domestic customers, whereas only 22 per cent of those companies who have not invested more report to have more domestic customers.”

Arctic residents need bespoke approach 

Among the report’s findings were the need for more research on domestic tourism in the different markets, better cooperation between Nordic countries on developing domestic tourism and increased marketing focused on domestic travel.

In addition, the study found that interest in nature and valuing quality over quantity were uniform priorities for domestic travellers no matter what Nordic country they were from.

A forest in Finnish Lapland. “Domestic tourism has protected and stabilised the Finnish tourism sector, especially during the pandemic and changing political developments,” the study said. (Eilís Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)

The authors said this provides greater avenues to develop inter-Nordic tourism as well. 

“Given similar preferences of the domestic tourists in the Nordic countries, products created to serve domestic markets in any Nordic country can be readily marketed in other Nordic countries as well,” the study said. 

However, when it comes to Arctic tourism, northern residents will require a bespoke approach, the research indicated.

“For example, it is hard to sell the local Arctic way of living to Greenlanders, since they already know about the local culture of Greenland,” the report said.

“With domestic tourists demonstrating relatively less interest in the local culture and history, marketing efforts targeting domestic tourists have focused more on promoting national parks, ice caps, fjords and UNESCO world heritage sites in Greenland.”

The study was  funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers and coordinated by Finland’s Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment of Finland.

Comments, tips or story ideas? Contact Eilís at eilis.quinn(at) 

Related stories from around the North: 

CanadaAirlines’ new routes from N.W.T. to Ontario can capitalize on int’l tourism: expert, CBC News

Iceland: Iceland moving ahead on better ways to manage tourism & safeguard protected areas, Eye on the Arctic

Russia: Old icebreakers eye upgrades for Murmansk-Vladivostok tourism, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Reindeer herding affected by increased tourism in Swedish mountains, Radio Sweden

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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