Illustrations by Sunna Kitti

Responsible Sámi Tourism: Visitor Guidance and Teaching Material for Travel Industry to Safeguard Sámi Culture

Tourism in Sámi Homeland is controlled. The challenges arising from constantly increasing number of visitors have been successfully addressed, tourism operations and activities are monitored, and sanctions for misconducts are enforced. Principles for Responsible and Ethically Sustainable Sámi Tourism are followed. Sámi tourism is responsible and ethically sustainable in all its aspects, paying specific attention to nature’s carrying capacity. Tourism plays a positive role in the distribution and increase of an accurate portrayal of the Sámi around the world.

The Sámi Parliament in Finland adopted Principles for Responsible and Ethically Sustainable Sámi Tourism on the 24th of September in 2018. In the vision of these ethical guidelines (excerpt above), tourism increases local well-being affecting positively Sámi Homeland and the Sámi and their culture. There is still fair way to go before the vision is realised.

The whole tourism industry needs to use every available means to safeguard the preservation of the sensitive and deeply culture-bound Arctic natural environment for future generations. The main tourism assets of Lapland may be at risk without a shared understanding of the priceless value of Sámi culture and nature inseparably connected to it, and of the richness of its intellectual heritage, and of the importance of preserving all this. Tourism based on Sámi culture and tourism taking place in Sámi Homeland should focus on authenticity, uniqueness and quality over quantity.

National and international visitors arriving in Sámi Homeland as well as all parties involved in tourism exploiting Sámi culture must be aware that they are guests in the area that is rich in culture-bound customs, which must be recognised and respected. The regions, the local environment and Sámi culture include various tangible and intangible elements which all bear an impact on how natural resources in the given locality are utilised and, particularly, on the limits and restrictions of such utilisation. Visitors to the area must take into consideration these area-specific and seasonal practices and customs inherent to the culture.  Extensive collaboration benefitting various parties must extend at the local level outside the population who profits from the travel industry directly or indirectly. Co-ordination between traditional livelihoods and tourism regarding land use and other practices of the travel industry is vital for the Sámi both at the community and individual level.

Applying the precautionary principle is necessary as the impacts of climate change on nature in Sámi Homeland and on traditional Sámi livelihoods are difficult to predict. Many visitors’ understanding and idea of nature and culture, and their survival strategies and conduct in Arctic conditions differ greatly from those of the Sámi. Therefore, the need of visitor information and guidance is of acute importance to prevent potentially irreversible damage that may occur not only to Sámi culture and the fragile Arctic environment but also to the visitors themselves, if they do not have the necessary background information and/or know-how of Arctic conditions and the living cultural environment of the Sámi.

Increasing and distributing truthful information about the Sámi also through tourism industry is of utmost importance. Preserving the vitality of Sámi culture also promotes the development of tourism in Lapland. Combining these elements for mutual benefit is possible, but it requires collaboration, increasing knowledge and establishing new means of and channels for interaction between the tourism industry and the custodians of Sámi culture. The prerequisite for developing ethically sustainable Sámi tourism is broad collaboration based on multilateral understanding and respect. The primary basis is that the Sámi people, Sámi tourism entrepreneurs and other tourism industry professionals would share the definition and understanding of responsible and ethically sustainable Sámi tourism.

The objective of the Sámi tourism visitor guidance project is to improve the equity and equality of the Sámi community, and advance Sámi culture’s maintenance, development, and enablement of its inter-generational transmission. The project aims at promoting equality between various ethnic groups by eradicating objectification of the Sámi in tourism, improving equality by strengthening positive portrayal of the Sámi by distributing accurate information, participation by highlighting the opinions of the Sámi, mutual respect by paying attention to different cultural customs and practices, and sustainable development that lies at the heart of Principles for Responsible and Ethically Sustainable Sámi Tourism – guidelines. The project supports particularly responsible conduct aiming at improving and/or ensuring the safeguarding of meaningful life on equal basis also to the part of the Sámi population who is not involved in tourism at pressures of constantly increasing tourism and the loss of the natural habitats and resources.

Sámi Parliament in Finland has received financing from the Ministry of Education and Culture to implement Sámi tourism projects almost continuously since February 2017.

More information

Kirsi Suomi
+358 10 839 3118
+358 40 594 5492