Conservation Tourism: Interview with Ralf Buckley, International Centre for Ecotourism Research

At the end of 2010, CABI published the world’s first book on Conservation Tourism. The book was written by Professor Ralf Buckley and his colleagues at the International Centre for Ecotourism Research in Griffith University, Australia. Featuring 100 international case studies from private marine reserves to bird watching lodges, this book covers key topics including sources of capital and operational funding, corporate and organizational structure, marketing strategies, primary conservation outcomes and spin-off effects, links to public protected areas, future plans and global trends. Learn more & order this book from CABI.

*Through TIES partnership with CABI, special discounts (20~% off) are available to TIES members on all online purchases of CABI publications. Please go to Member Center to access the discount codes, or contact for information on this and other TIES member benefits.

Interview with Professor Buckley

TIES: How do you define conservation tourism, and how is it different from ecotourism?

Prof. Buckley: We defined conservation tourism as commercial tourism which makes a net positive contribution to the continuing survival of threatened plant or animal species. There are a number of different possible mechanisms for positive contributions to conservation, but the key issue is to calculate net outcomes after subtracting the negative impacts. Many definitions of ecotourism do include contributions to conservation, but there are very few companies that can demonstrate their overall net contribution at global scale is positive. So, conservation tourism is a very small sub-sector of ecotourism, which is itself a small sub-sector of the multi-trillion dollar tourism industry. Budgets for conservation are small and stretched, especially in developing nations. Conservation tourism, while very small, is very important as there are several rare species where significant populations are protected in private reserves funded by tourism.

TIES: Where do you see this research going in future, and what are the most critical issues which need to be addressed?

Prof. Buckley: The companies considered in this book are driven by visionary individuals who saw the potential to use commercial tourism as a conservation tool, who understood the practicalities of both tourism and conservation, and who had both the charisma and the perseverance to combine them successfully. As we showed in one of our earlier CABI books, Case Studies in Ecotourism, nature based tourism can certainly generate money; but tourists and tourism development generally have negative environmental impacts, unless there is a system to harness it specifically for conservation. In Conservation Tourism, we show that a few companies do this directly and voluntarily; but usually, it only works if there are public national parks, and systems of fees.

There are several parallel lines of research. The first is to extend what we did in Conservation Tourism, as tourism funded models for conservation on private and community lands become more widespread worldwide. We’re just starting to see these models extend into Asia and the Pacific, for example, and we will try to track how they develop in different countries.

The second research theme relates to individual tourists visiting public national parks. This is a longstanding area of study, but as conservation in many countries is now heavily dependent on park entry fees, the large scale interactions between parks agencies and their visitors are becoming more significant for conservation.

The third is the management of small scale commercial tourism concessions in public national parks. Many countries permit small scale commercial tour operators in their parks, and some contract out quite large proportions of their visitor services. The US National Parks Service recently held an international meeting to compare concession management models. Historically, these concessions have made very little contribution to conservation, but the demand is certainly there, and parks agencies might well increase their permit fees considerably. In fact, some developing countries have already done so.

The fourth theme relates to relatively large-scale privately owned tourism accommodation and infrastructure inside national parks. Of course, property developers push for this, because they can profit under the pretense of partnership. By tracking existing examples worldwide, we found that most are there through various historical accidents, and that very few indeed yield any net gain for conservation – usually, only those operated by the same companies that run their own private reserves.

TIES: What types of destinations are most or least vulnerable to the negative effects of tourism, and why?

Prof. Buckley: While of course the answer depends on the type of tourism, generally, the marginal impacts of tourism will be less in areas which already have high human impacts, such as urban or agricultural landscapes. In wilderness areas, whether national park or not, even very low levels of human visitation can have major impacts, especially on any endangered plant or animal species.

That is true in any kind of ecosystem, but of course, different types of tourist activities have different impacts in different ecosystems. The 2006 CABI book, Adventure Tourism, discusses the types of activities; and the 2004 CABI book, Environmental Impacts of Ecotourism, the types of impact. And we have a new review in the 2011 volume of Annual Review of Environment and Resources, which updates the picture on environmental impacts and management.

TIES: What kinds of positive benefits can tourism bring to the environment, and how can we harness these benefits?

Prof. Buckley: One of the most important benefits of tourism, especially in less wealthy nations and regions, is that the money it generates. So, it’s all about what happens to that money, who gets it and what they use it for. In Conservation Tourism, we described cases where tourism funds conservation directly, by establishing private reserves and funding rehabilitation works, wildlife relocation, anti poaching patrols, and so on. In cases where communally owned lands are converted to conservation, or indeed where local residents help to reduce poaching in public national parks, it’s generally because they get immediate local gain from doing so.

The usual problem is that some people gain, but others lose, so it becomes a question of redistribution within a local community, which is outside the control of tour operators. This applies just as much in the wealthy continents as it does in the poorer regions. Tourists want to see wolves, for example, but farmers still kill them.

In some cases, the benefits of tourism can be harnessed through control of funds generated by tourism, for example when parks agencies charge tourist entry fees and use the money for conservation. This itself is a hugely complicated process, because it also depends on how their ability to earn money from tourism affects their other sources of funding, especially from central governments. Park fees, in addition, are part of a broader political context. In most countries, rich or poor, governments want their citizens to visit and appreciate national parks, so they want to make that affordable for all. So the best strategy depends on the country, and whether it is cash or political support that is most critical at the time.

TIES: What about the social and community impacts and benefits of tourism?

Prof. Buckley: Tourism is both an engine of economic growth, and an agent of cultural change. So, of course, the individuals who gain from tourism are happy, and the ones who see themselves losing out are not. Injecting new wealth into any community, no matter what the source, creates social changes, and some people will see those changes as good, others as bad. This applies for all kinds of tourism in all kinds of communities.

Cultural changes can work both ways too. Sometimes, locals want to become like tourists, copying their clothes and music. Sometimes, tourists want to become like locals, trying to learn their artistic or outdoor skills. Sometimes, tourism leads to loss of local traditions; but sometimes, it renews pride in traditional skills and practices. Even within our own societies, it’s not always easy for people with different backgrounds, trades and professions to find mutual respect for each other; and between widely different cultures which live in completely different ways, it can be even more difficult. But it seems to me to be a goal well worth pursuing.

TIES: Anything else you would like to add?

Prof. Buckley: Just one thing. We have summarized the whole of Ecotourism: Principles and Practices into short bullet points, and put them together as 120 easy to read powerpoint slides, to use as teaching materials with the textbook. And with permission from CABI, these will be available for download from Griffith Research Online. We are also doing a short PDF version as a study guide. Of course these are just outlines, for the full picture you need the book too. We have not yet done the same with Conservation Tourism, for which we’re still at the initial case study level, and tour operators are still experimenting with different approaches and strategies. It is possible with ecotourism, because it is a well-established field. For conservation tourism, it will be a few years before we can boil it down to key points. Watch this space!

More about CABI
CABI is a not-for-profit science-based development and information organization that applies scientific expertise to solve problems in agriculture and the environment, to address the challenges of food security, and to improve access to agricultural and environmental scientific knowledge. CABI’s mission and direction is influenced by member countries who help guide activities undertaken. These include scientific publishing, development projects and research, and microbial services. CABI has published numerous books on the subject of tourism and ecotourism. For a complete list of these publications, visit the CABI bookstore here.

Nutti Sámi Siida Leads the Way for Responsible Development of Indigenous Ecotourism in Swedish Sápmi

My experience with Nutti Sámi Siida has been a dream come true. My interest in ecotourism began while I was studying Scandinavian studies, geography, and tourism at universities in Germany and Sweden. During my research, I observed that travelers today are ever-more fascinated by the uniqueness and distinctiveness of indigenous cultures, as well as by the often stunning natural environments where these cultures reside (Zeppel 2006, Notzke 2006, Hinch and Butler 2007, Butler and Hinch, 2007).

However, while tourism is spread to many different geographic areas, it often happens that these areas are indigenous peoples’ inhabited homelands. This type of touristic encroachment has happened, for example, in Sápmi in northern Scandinavia, which is the traditional homeland of the Sámi people (the indigenous people of Fennoscandinavia).

Another issue that has arisen since indigenous tourism has gained popularity in recent years is that there are sometimes cases in which people who are not members of an indigenous community may exploit the touristic appeal of a particular culture. For example, there have been instances where people who are not Sámi have showcased the Sámi people and culture in an inaccurate way, thus creating and spreading untrue stereotypes. This is sometimes referred to as “Disneyfication.”

Considering the subject of Sámi tourism, I noticed that there was a paucity of knowledge regarding these important issues, and that ecotourism in the Sápmi region had been scarcely addressed. Thus, I decided to write my Master of Arts paper on the subject of “Indigenous Ecotourism in Swedish Lapland.” I contacted several Sámi tourism entrepreneurs in Swedish Sápmi about my plan, and requested a visit to their businesses so that I could experience Sámi tourism first hand, and could distribute my questionnaires to their guests. One of these Sámi tourism companies was Nutti Sámi Siida, based in Jukkasjärvi in the far north of Swedish Lapland.

Nutti Sámi Siida invited me to join them in Jukkasjärvi, and I remained there from December 2007 until March 2008. My experience during this time is one that I will never forget; the people, the reindeer, and the natural environment struck me deeply and would later draw me back without hesitation.

The Story of Nutti Sámi Siida

Nutti Sámi Siida is a Sámi tourism enterprise situated in the village of Jukkasjärvi in Sweden. The enterprise is owned by Nils-Torbjörn Nutti, a reindeer herder from Saarivuoma Sámi village, and Carina Pingi from Gabna Sámi village. During one particularly bad winter in the pastures, starvation of the reindeer forced Nils and Carina to move their reindeer to corrals and feed them there. The high costs of feeding the reindeer caused Nils and Carina to come up with an additional source of income. So, in the winter of 1996 they invited visitors to the corrals; these guests paid for their unique experience, and also helped with caring for the reindeer.

This creative idea of combining reindeer husbandry with tourism led to the foundation of Nils and Carina’s tourism enterprise in 1997. Their new tourism venture worked together closely with the famous Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi from the very beginning, and is still today the Icehotel’s main supplier of Sámi tourism activities. All products offered by Nutti Sámi Siida are based on nature and the Sámi culture, and especially on activities with the reindeer. Opportunities and activities with Nutti Sámi Siida are diverse. Among other things they include reindeer sledding, visits to a reindeer corral, lasso throwing, tasting Sámi food, touring the area, opportunities to see and purchase traditional handicrafts, and education about Sámi culture and livelihoods.

Nutti Sámi Siida’s Contributions to Swedish Ecotourism

Nutti Sámi Siida is a member of the Ecotourism Society of Sweden and an approved operator of
Nature’s Best Sweden. All of our reindeer sledding tours have met the Nature’s Best criteria and have been certified. Moreover, Nutti Sámi Siida received the Grand Travel Ecotourism Award for Swedish ecotourism in 2011. The following accolade was given by the judges of the award program:

“Nutti Sámi Siida wins the award for its long-term and patient work in uniting the Sámi culture with the global traveller’s quest for genuine and modern experiences. The concept has not just been a successful ambassador for Sweden’s Sámi population, but has also created attraction value and promoted one of our biggest tourism icons, the Ice Hotel.”

Nutti Sámi Siida has also been awarded the jury declared Indigenous Tourism and Biodiversity Website Award 2010. Nutti Sámi Siida is the only company offering reindeer sledding tours through woods, across frozen lakes and rivers, and even over the tundra. On these tours guests get to handle their own reindeer, while driving the sled in a standing position. These tours, featuring the traditional way of life and transportation in Swedish Sápmi, are truly unique experiences that visitors cannot get anywhere else.

Sámi Ecotourism at Its Best

Since returning to Jukkasjärvi in 2010 to work at Nutti Sámi Siida as the sales and booking manager, it has felt like a long time dream has come true. I now get to work in Sámi ecotourism, which I care strongly about, and every day I work hard to contribute to the development of Sámi ecotourism in a responsible way. I am truly grateful to work for Nutti Sámi Siida.

One of the challenges we face is that many people are not really aware of what Sámi tourism means. To address this problem, in January 2011 our team from Nutti Sámi Siida traveled to London together with VisitSápmi to participate in a travel fair, and to speak about new developments in Sámi tourism. We at Nutti Sámi Siida, together with our friends at VisitSápmi aim to spread its true meaning to people around the world. We also cooperate with other Sámi entrepreneurs in the region in order to make Sámi tourism products more accessible, and able to portray the magnificent land of Sápmi in a sustainable way.

We aim to stop the improper use of Sámi culture and to get rid of harmful stereotypes. We want visitors to experience and encounter true, pure Sápmi in both the winter and summer seasons, guided by real outdoor experts: the Sámi people. This is Sámi ecotourism at its best. Sámi hosts and ecotourism operators, together with mindful visitors, can contribute to the benefit of local communities. By participating in responsible ecotourism activities in Sápmi, visitors can help to conserve the natural and cultural environment within which local enterprises operate and on which Sámi ecotourism is all about.

About the Author: Katja Bechtloff

Katja BechtloffI was born in Germany, and studied at the University of Greifswald, and completed Scandinavian studies and geography with tourism as the main orientation. During the semester breaks, I traveled to Sweden in order to learn the language and to gain work experience in tourism. In 2006, I went to Östersund and Vålådalen in Sweden, working as an intern at ETOUR (European Tourism Research Institute) in Östersund and at Vålådalens Fjällstation. I then decided to write my Master of Arts paper on Sámi Ecotourism in Swedish Lapland. As part of my research, I spent 4 month at Nutti Sámi Siida and were taken out to the work with the reindeer – experiences that I will never forget and I will always be grateful for.

I am now working at Nutti Sámi Siida, the most inspiring workplace, as the sales and booking manager. I am very proud to work for Nutti Sámi Siida and hope to contribute to an ethical development of Sámi ecotourism in Sápmi – Sámi eco adventures. I live in the town of Kiruna, 17 km west of Jukkasjärvi, together with my boyfriend.

Go Local Iceland: Grassroots Efforts to Promote Responsible Rural Tourism

Local Travel Movement in Iceland

In July 2010, I published an article on the Local Travel Movement website about how I saw tourism in Iceland at the time. I’ve always been particularly interested in regions off the beaten tourist track, which in the past would often be overlooked and overshadowed by the more commonly promoted highlights and ‘must-sees’ of Iceland.

In this context, I’ve been thinking about the different types of experiences tourists can gain while traveling, based on what kind of travel they choose. Over the years I’ve come to find that there are many people all over the world who are ready to travel mindfully and give themselves enough time to explore local culture and nature in a respectful manner. In light of this, I felt empowered and inspired to dedicate my time and efforts to promoting this type of travel in Iceland.

Initially, I had many questions about how to move forward with this. After a year of working on the Go Local Iceland initiative and exploring Icelandic tourism even further, I have arrived at some answers to these questions. In my quest for answers, I have also come up with some new questions and concerns.

Uniting Tourism Providers in Iceland

Tourism in Iceland is a young industry, and therefore is relatively uncoordinated. For example, in Eyjafjordur (the longest fjord in Iceland), there is not one institution that is responsible for promoting the fjord as a whole. There are seven municipalities included in the area of Eyjafjordur, although each municipality finds it more important to focus on their own designated area rather than on the fjord as a whole.

While Eyjafjordur represents great potential for local travel, it is not promoted as a destination in a cohesive manner and is every year losing thousands of potential visitors, who visit the touristic magnet of Grimsey Island, which is located in Eyjafjordur but don’t take the time to also explore the whole fjord with all of its beauty.

The Go Local Iceland initiative focuses on solid cooperation with local tourism providers who are interested in improving ethical standards of tourism. By uniting these people and organizations under one common platform we will be able to connect them directly to mindful travelers all over the world.

There are many rural destinations in Iceland that don’t get as much attention from mainstream tourists as do the typical Icelandic highlights. However, these relatively untouched places are dream destinations for the mindful traveler. It is important that such travelers find their way to these rural places. With some local assistance and guidance, you can find ways to reach any hidden fjord in any part of Iceland, whether you choose a destination in nature that is near or far from populated towns and settlements.

As of May 2011, I’ve carried out a total of 28 interviews with local tourism providers in Eyjafjordur. This research was a very important step for me, and has helped me to understand how local tourism providers see themselves and others, as well as what their visions for the future are. The results of the interviews varied quite a bit. However, a unifying concept was the desire to be advertised under one common image. These interviews, based on appreciative inquiry, contained some great material; the results of the study have been borrowed for use in further research within the tourism department of one of the universities here in Iceland.

Go Local Iceland continues to support local tourism providers, such as Iceland Hiking Tours, and our team continues to write about current offers in tourism in Eyjafjordur and the Troll Peninsula, regardless of municipal borders. You can view these Iceland Travel Tips here.

About the Author: Lenka Uhrova

Lenka was born in Slovakia, but has since spent many years in Iceland volunteering, working in the tourism industry, and forging sustainable tourism initiatives across the country. She has an educational background in tourism, although upon attaining her degree she was rather unmotivated to work in the tourism industry due to issues and controversies of the time. Something did not feel right. It was at this time that she discovered a deep passion for volunteering and community development, and a wish to work for an NGO. This passion for volunteering has been a constant over the years, and so as soon as she had the opportunity, she set off for a year-long volunteer project in Iceland. Having been working as a freelance trainer in non-formal education and facilitating various projects, she was lucky enough to return to Iceland a few years later, where she met the man of her life and settled in a small fishing village in North Iceland. At this point, she began to recognize both the potentials and threats of tourism in Iceland. She set to work conducting research on the subject, and volunteering in the field. Before long she started her own initiative, GO LOCAL ICELAND, with the aim of improving ethical standards in tourism.

ecoDestinations Scandinavia

From unique traditional foods to cutting-edge green technologies, to amazing natural wonders from across the region, Scandinavia offers a Smörgåsbord of eco-travel and adventure opportunities! Check out the ecoDestinations Scandinavia feature, and Explore various opportunities available for travelers and destinations from around the world, and support our efforts to protect and promote amazing travel experiences. Share your photos, stories and tips, and spread the word!

Volunteer Tourism: Interview with Dr. Stephen Wearing

Volunteer Tourism: Seeking Experiences that Make a Difference by Dr. Wearing, Senior Lecturer, University of Technology, and Dr Lyons, University of Newcastle, will be published by CABI in 2012. Concentrating on the experience of the volunteer tourist and the host community, this new edition builds on the view of volunteer tourism as a positive and sustainable form of tourism to examine a broader spectrum of behaviors and experiences and consider critically where the volunteer tourist experience both compliments and collides with host communities. Learn more.

*Through TIES partnership with CABI, special discounts (20~% off) are available to TIES members on all online purchases of CABI publications. Please go to Member Center to access the discount codes, or contact for information on this and other TIES member benefits.

Interview with Dr. Wearing

TIES: You’ve contributed to the research and development of the TIES Voluntourism Guidelines project – how do you think that these guidelines, once completed, will impact volunteer tourism?

Dr. Wearing: I feel that the value of the volunteer tourism guidelines is largely that they will provide a yardstick for all stakeholders to operate from. This is especially important given the diversity of stakeholders, and the different interests of each. Stakeholders range from those in remote rural communities in developing nations, to large tour operators in developed countries who see volunteer tourism as simply another profit revenue stream, to not-for-profit organisations trying to provide assistance within a development context. This diversity means we can find conflict between stakeholders, particularly when examining outcomes. I feel that these guidelines will enable a dialogue to occur based on an acceptable common measure. This should reduce conflict and improve outcomes for host communities. I see the Voluntourism Guidelines having a similar role to the Ecotourism Society’s Ecotourism Guidelines for Nature Tour Operators (1993), a project which I believe was successful in achieving its goals.

TIES: Volunteer tourism is now a part of the mainstream tourism industry and a common tourism experience. To what do you attribute the rise of volunteer tourism in recent years?

Dr. Wearing: I think that international volunteering has existed for a number of years: the industry report, ‘Volunteer Travel Insights 2009’ (GeckoGo 2009) notes that ‘it was not until after the September 11th incident and the Indonesian Tsunami that travelers started to think about this type of travel and the market came to realize that they could volunteer on their vacation.’ I would suggest that the rise is then a mixture of three things: the success of ecotourism (aligning the altruism for nature which has now moved to communities), the entry to the tourism market place of NGO’s offering these types of volunteer trips, and finally to the industry seeing this – leading to bigger providers also offering this option. This seems to have created a serendipitous alignment. Now these trips abroad have become easier to make, and people are beginning to seek a sense of community which seems to be lacking in neo-liberal societies. People have begun to seek out this sense of community through travel experiences.

TIES: How can volunteer tourism be used as a strategy to increase the sustainability of a destination?

Dr. Wearing: Communities that are living an existence that is marginal often will take assistance in the form of projects directed to assist them, without any critical evaluation of these projects. It is important that these communities are encouraged to take a more critical look at what they are allowing to happen within their communities so that they are able to use this input in an advantageous way. Initially, one of the ways this can be achieved is by finding assistance through organizations that offer volunteer programs to work on such projects. This focus on projects that are not solely economically driven and have input and control from the local communities provides a mixture of elements that are likely to ensure the sustainability of the destination that these activities occur in. I believe this will ensure the sustainability of the destination more than anything else, for example through the empowerment of the communities within the volunteer tourism framework rather than other destination’s frameworks.

As an additional note, I have changed the title from the first book on this topic that I published in 2001 from ‘Volunteer Tourism: Seeking Experiences That Make A Difference’, CABI, Oxon. The new book will now be called ‘International Volunteer Tourism: Integrating Travelers and Communities’. The title of the book reflects my belief that the focus of research needs to be more orientated toward the context of the experience – the host community and their role in the creation of this experience. I hope in this new book to address some of the criticism and to reinforce some of the main points I have made in my earlier work.

TIES: What are some of the greatest benefits – for example cultural, economic, political, or social – of responsible volunteer tourism operations?

Dr. Wearing: Voluntary tourism with community involvement can support a wide range of benefits, for example site and species surveys, practical conservation projects, and longer term care and management which contributes to improving biodiversity. People can gain social and economic benefits including understanding, knowledge and skills. Volunteer tourism can take place in varied locations such as rainforests and cloud forests, biological reserves and conservation areas. Activities can vary across many areas, such as scientific research (wildlife, land and water), conservation projects, medical assistance, economic and social development (including agriculture, construction and education), and cultural restoration. Indeed, volunteers can find themselves anywhere and working on a multitude of projects including assisting with mass eye surgery operations, tree planting, conducting a health campaign, teaching English, improving village sanitation, constructing a rainforest reserve, and assisting physicians and nurses with a mobile clinic.

There is usually always, however, the opportunity for volunteers to take part in local activities and interact further with the community. Hence the volunteer tourist contribution is bilateral, in that the most important development that may occur in the volunteer tourist experience is that of a personal nature – that of a greater awareness of the self as a global citizen. Also of interest, however, is that volunteer tourists will almost always pay in some way to participate in these activities. Furthermore, the amount is usually more than an average tourist would expect to pay on a ‘normal’ holiday to a similar location. While there are some sponsorship programs and alternative contribution arrangements provided by some organizations, the financial contribution required of the volunteer tourist is illustrative of the wider nature of the experience; of greater benefits for host and tourist alike.

TIES: What are some of the greatest risks and/or challenges associated with volunteer tourism worldwide?

Dr. Wearing: I think that getting a set of guidelines in place to ensure we are able to examine the success of volunteer tourism or otherwise of its contribution is critical. Development agencies are suggesting that it interferes with what they call proper development. This criticism is based on the projects volunteer tourists work on which they say are often short term. In these cases the voluntary work is often low skilled, and risks displacing locals who need the employment. My experience is entirely at odds with those criticisms, and often projects only occur because of the volunteers being available and the additional labour they provide. Much of the work required is labouring and the often young and unskilled volunteers can provide this.

Additionally, many volunteer tourism organisations work over the long term with communities, where they do a variety of projects and are not present all the time in the communities. This gives these communities time to assess and reflect on the presence of volunteers – this maybe being an improvement on having more established, older, skilled development workers in these communities for long periods of time that then can reemphasise the colonial issues inherent in this, and give communities little change to reflect independently on their value. These conflicting views of volunteer tourism highlight a need to avoid a generalised assumption that volunteer tourism is automatically good, just, and altruistic. It is a layered phenomenon, with multiple stakeholders who have multiple needs and agendas, and requires a more critical analysis and untangling of its components. Thus a set of guidelines will help, I believe, in overcoming these risks and to provide the basis for a way forward.

More about CABI

CABI is a not-for-profit science-based development and information organization that applies scientific expertise to solve problems in agriculture and the environment, to address the challenges of food security, and to improve access to agricultural and environmental scientific knowledge. CABI’s mission and direction is influenced by member countries who help guide activities undertaken. These include scientific publishing, development projects and research, and microbial services. CABI has published numerous books on the subject of tourism and ecotourism. For a complete list of these publications, visit the CABI bookstore here.

About Dr. Stephen Wearing

Dr. Stephen Wearing specializes in the social sciences in natural resource management and has degrees in environmental and town planning. His PhD is focused on community development within the context of leisure and tourism. His research and publications range across the areas of the sociology of leisure and tourism. He has been project director for a range of social sciences in natural resource management projects and research and a team leader for a variety of ecotourism, volunteer tourism and outdoor education activities internationally. His latest book, Tourism Cultures: Identity, Place and Traveler, contributes to the growing area of ‘critical tourism studies’ – a movement that seeks to bring an alternative commentary and new theoretical thinking to the understanding of tourism in contemporary society.

About Lindsay Milich

Lindsay is a graduate of Cal Poly University in San Luis Obispo, where she studied Recreation and Tourism Administration with an emphasis in Sustainable Tourism. She has developed an interest in tourism-related research on topics such as poverty reduction through tourism, the cultural implications of tourism, and culinary tourism. She has studied abroad in Heidelberg, Germany, and traveled to Eastern Europe and Spain. Her lifelong passions for travel, culture, and cuisine have led to her to recently venture into the world of blogging. On her site, Coffee Cup Travels, Lindsay explores the vibrant food and lifestyle of the Mediterranean and shares original recipes with readers. She believes that educated and responsible travel can bridge gaps and promote cross-cultural understanding. She is thrilled to have joined the TIES team as Research and Communications intern.

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TREK (Trails to Empower Kids) Expeditions Support Local Children in Need

Mountaineering Takes on New Meaning
When I was first introduced to mountaineering as a sport, I knew I had to experience it for myself. Since then, years ago, trekking has become a hobby and a passion. It wasn’t until recently though, that with the help of friends this hobby was elevated to a new level – through it my friends and I have embarked on an important mission.

Our ascents to the summits helped us to see and feel the difficulties and realities of life among mountain dwellers. Inspired by our treks and visits to mountain communities, in 2007 we formed a group based on a shared common love for nature and compassion for the kids living in these mountains. We decided to hike on a new trail, and called our group TREK, or Trails to Empower Kids.

The First TREK Outreach Program: Benguet, Itogon, Philippines
Our first outreach program was held in the mountainous province of Benguet, in the municipality of Itogon, Philippines. Here we visited a primary school, where a group of 30 young students shared a common classroom and teacher. Before our trip, with the help of friends we were able to gather donations of school supplies, backpacks, raincoats and toys to share with these students.

This experience was an eye-opener for our group. We met kids who don’t know of chocolate or spaghetti, who have never heard of music besides country beats, and who have never attended a children’s party. We felt tremendous joy in providing supplies to this community, and were immediately motivated to do more. We began to spread the word through social networking sites, and invited people to help us with future projects. From an initial group of seven who planned the first outreach project, our family began to grow, and the magnitude of the tasks and challenges that we took on increased.

Unique Adventures Bring Inspiring Outcomes

During one trek, we encountered a large community nestled in beautiful rice terraces. We noticed that the community had less than ten “comfort rooms”. We couldn’t imagine the local youth, students in their puberty stage who would be leaving home in just a few years to enter college, not having access to adequate comfort rooms. So we partnered with a local mountaineering club who helped us to coordinate the construction of the necessary facilities with assistance from the parents of these students.

On another trip, we met young Agtas. Here we met a teacher who wanted her students to better understand other cultures; our group followed up with this, with the help of various media agencies, by collecting donations of audio-visual material containing videos of different tribes. We distributed these videos to the teacher so that she could share them with her students. On another occasion, the truck we rented was damaged, leaving our group with no choice but to walk an extra eight hours on a very muddy road.

In spite of the many challenges that we encounter though, we are always reminded that the rewards of our efforts are well worth it. There are simply no words strong enough to describe the joy we receive when we see kids faces lighting up, mothers expressing their gratitude, and teachers affirming the goodness that we’ve done. It also comes as a great bonus to our group that all the places we’ve visited so far have been truly amazing.

In Pudtol, Apayao, we cruised along the historic and scenic Apayao River on bancas (local boats). In Aurora, we frolicked on white sand beaches and took a dip in pools that had been naturally created by reef formations. In Itogon, Benguet, we crossed three hanging bridges, which afforded magnificent views of the Agno River.

Some of our trails may be difficult, but they are all guaranteed to be uplifting. The TREK team now has our eyes are set on our next mission, which will be held this July in Nueva Vizcaya. Preparations for the trip are underway, and we are once again inviting everyone to donate supplies and to join us on our treks.

VisitSápmi: Promoting an Authentic Sámi Experience Through Sustainable Tourism

VisitSápmi: Dispelling Stereotypes and Empowering Sámi Communities

VisitSápmi is the Sámi initiative to create and develop sustainable tourism in the land of Sápmi, in northern Scandinavia. Meeting the Sámi people and experiencing their traditional lifestyle is often considered by foreign visitors to be one of the most interesting and things to do in Scandinavia. As such, Scandinavia is frequently promoted with images of Sápmi – Sámi people in traditional clothes, reindeer, lávvu, and traditional food, for example.

Sápmi (or Lapland) has long attracted visitors from all over the world, and today it is visited by millions of tourists every year. In spite of this bustling tourist activity, and even though Sámi traditions are frequently portrayed through various media, today we can see very few successful Sámi tourism companies. This means that the images of the Sámi people are being put on display in the worldwide market, but the revenue from tourism ends up in other people’s pockets. The Sámi community wants to change this, and wants to be more involved with decision making in the Swedish tourism industry.

From a Sámi perspective, we want to share our knowledge. We want people to visit us, learn from us, and to become ambassadors to the rest of the world. We want to develop an efficient and responsible tourism model that will ensure that revenue from tourism is channeled back into Sámi communities. We want to shape tourism into a more respectful, more sustainable industry than what it is today. We’d also like to coordinate partnership with organizations and networks which share our belief that sustainability is the right path for the future.

Sápmi Experience Quality Mark: Ensuring a Genuine Experience

Quality, sustainability, safety and credibility are the guiding principles for companies awarded the Sápmi Experience Quality Mark. Companies that have been awarded with this mark demonstrate a holistic approach to the Sápmi living environment, are knowledgeable about this region and its residents, and can offer professional arrangements to people visiting Sápmi. Visitors can be sure that companies bearing the Sápmi Experience Quality Mark offer genuine Sámi experiences and coordinate activities with local hosts.

Tourism activities recognized by the Sápmi Experience Quality Mark are based on the common heritage of the Sámi living environment. Sámi tourism must be conducted in a way that is sustainable in the long term. This means that tourism must be accepted and established, culturally and socially, in Sámi society. Furthermore, hosts must be able to communicate Sámi values and their way of life to visitors. Sápmi Experience approved operators strive for social, cultural, ecological and commercial sustainability.

They are companies that respect the integrity of the Sámi culture and work to prevent its objectification. These companies also work constructively with other businesses, public agencies and organizations that respect the values of the Sámi tourism sector in developing Sápmi as a successful destination.

Sápmi Tourism Past and Present: Creating a Sustainable Future

From a Sámi reindeer herding perspective, tourism is mainly another intrusion and problem. Activities such as forestry, mining, hydro-power damming, wind mill plants, carnivores, and tourism have created substantial problems which today threaten the very survival of reindeer herding.

Since reindeer herding in Sápmi is based on the natural migration of the reindeer, the Sámi people don’t occupy all of the land all the time. Generally we are in the mountains of western Sápmi during the summer season, and are in the forest areas of the east during the winter. If tourism is planned and performed in cooperation with and respect for Sámi needs and requirements, tourism can be a non-threatening industry to Sámi culture and land.

Therefore, one objective of VisitSápmi is to help reindeer herding communities to create a tourism management plan, which will help these communities understand how best to use their land, and how to decide what types of developments might help or harm the Sámi land and culture. This way, they will know what prospective tourism activities to accept, and what to protest against.

The Sámi people recognize that we cannot stop the tourism industry, and that therefore we must get proactively involved with its development to ensure that benefits are received by the Sámi. We must demonstrate that Sámi tourism can be a positive thing for the community; it can help to spread knowledge about Sápmi – the land and its people – and can generate income which will help preserve traditional know-how and values.

Latest News from VisitSápmi

While VisitSápmi is currently launching the Sápmi Experience program, the first companies in Sápmi have already been approved! Within 5 years, we hope this will be a well-known brand within Sámi tourism, with at least 75 service providers expected to be approved from across the Sápmi region.

We will soon launch our website for visitors, which will highlight approved Sámi service providers, share Sámi knowledge, and inspire people to choose sustainable tourism options during their visit. We will also provide helpful information about travel in Sápmi, and suggestions on what to do when visiting the region.

We are also in the process of creating marketing partnerships with both national and regional tourism partners. The Sápmi Experience will be an important part of the Scandinavian brand, but in a more credible way, avoiding portrayal of Sámi tourism with stereotypes. Our common goal is to promote Sápmi with a focus on quality, sustainability, safety and credibility.


About the Author: Lennart Pittja

Lennart Pittja grew up in a reindeer herding family in the Unna Tjerusj Sámi community. At 25 years old, Lennart founded his tourism company, Vägvisaren/Pathfinder-Lapland. The idea was to offer genuine Sámi experiences to visitors, and also to attract guests who wanted more than just a two-hour visit to a Sámi camp. After interviewing elderly Sámi people, Lennart learned more on how the Sámi traditionally used reindeer as pack-animals during both winter and summer. Four years later, the first reindeer supported trek took place – this is still to this day one of Lennart’s greatest and proudest moments in his career. More trips followed, and over the years guests from all over the world have experienced the springtime migration, reindeer sled expeditions or reindeer treks. Pathfinder-Lapland was one of the first 12 companies approved with the Nature’s Best quality label, and in 2004 was awarded the best eco-tourism company in Sweden. The Pathfinder-Lapland trip has been chosen among National Geographic Traveler’s “50 Tours of a Lifetime”, and BBC Books’ “Journeys To Take Before You Die”, as well as being featured in Lonely Planet among many other publications. Lennart currently works for VisitSápmi, and still strongly believes that sustainable tourism is an important way to spread knowledge, create local development, and to preserve traditional Sámi knowledge for future generations. Lennart lives in Gällivare – a small town in the north part of Sweden with his 3 daughters.

ecoDestinations Scandinavia

From unique traditional foods to cutting-edge green technologies, to amazing natural wonders from across the region, Scandinavia offers a Smörgåsbord of eco-travel and adventure opportunities! Check out the ecoDestinations Scandinavia feature, and Explore various opportunities available for travelers and destinations from around the world, and support our efforts to protect and promote amazing travel experiences. Share your photos, stories and tips, and spread the word!

Gothenburg Natural Scene: 300 Square Feet of Green for Every Resident

One of the more memorable moments during our family tour of Northern Europe last year was during our stay in Gothenburg (Göteborg). While Gothenburg is the second largest city in Sweden, it certainly has not taken on a diminutive status to Stockholm. Instead, the city has a standing of its own including having largest seaport of all the Nordic countries, a sizable student population, a diverse music community and beautiful open spaces of forests, meadows, lakes, parks and gardens peppered throughout the area.

Gothenburg City Center

According to the Gothenburg city council, each resident enjoys 300 square feet of green space, which explains how one can readily reach these open spaces. With an extensive tram network that is the largest in Scandinavia and bus line system that covers the rest, there is no reason, frankly, to use a car at all. And, one of the more popular ways to get an informative introduction to this city is by taking a Paddan boat tour.

The tour offers morsels of the city’s history, sites, neighborhoods and bridges. Some bridges are so low you need to duck to avoid injury and one, aptly named the Cheese Slicer, necessitates that everyone prostrate themselves on the floor of the boat to pass underneath. It was at this point that the dumbfounded group including my parents, my 5 year old son, my husband and I along with approximately 60 other people all laid as flat as possible all the while wondering, do I hear the locals laughing at us?

Biking around Gothenburg

Gothenburg Nature Activities
Perhaps it’s the idea of a city that doesn’t take itself too seriously or one that doesn’t want to dispose of historical treasures for the sake of convenience (or safety). I would prefer to think that preservation and conservation of culture, heritage and space is more important to Gothenburg as evidenced by other nature activities found throughout the city.

Slottsskogen is a vast park southwest of the city that is covered in forest and offers sweeping views of the city from its three high vantage points. Have a picnic or enjoy a concert while you spot diverse wildlife such as elk, deer, seals, penguins, or flamingos alongside other tropical birds. Another fun activity for children is the zoo where they are allowed to play with some of the animals.
Delsjon Nature Reserve in the east of the city has two adjoining lakes (one named “Big Lake” and the other “Small Lake”) with tree-lined rocky cliffs and plenty of forest to enjoy as you hike or jog along the path. Other activities include sunbathing on the beach, fishing, canoeing and golf. If you up to it, you can even go camping within the nature reserve.

Botanical Garden in Gothenburg
Gothenburg Botanical Garden in the south of the city is one of Europe’s largest and best. It features 20,000 species of plants, flowers and trees and unlike most other gardens where all are instructed to see but not touch, guests are encouraged to picnic and enjoy. The two most popular attractions include the topiary garden and the Ulf Nordfjell’s Linnaeus Garden, which won a gold medal at the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show in 2007.
Horticulture Society Park is one of the best preserved 19th century parks in Europe with the rose garden having been awarded two stars by the Michelin Green Guide. Throughout the summer, concerts and children’s theater shows can also be experienced.
Finally, you can purchase a City Guide at the local Tourist Office and use it to walk, bike or even sail along the canals that run throughout the city.