sustainable tourism

Cultural sensitivity as a tool for sustainable tourism

Until lately, cultural sensitivity has been a little-used concept in tourism research and development although it is highly relevant in tourism settings where different cultures meet, collaborate and live together. It is needed for both hosts and guests and enhances the well-being of both. Here it is discussed from the point of view of tourism entrepreneurs who want to actively incorporate respect for local cultures in their business activities.

The basic premise of cultural sensitivity is that there are differences between cultures. In its simplest form, cultural sensitivity is one’s ability to sense cultural differences. Cultural sensitivity can also be understood as a way of relating to cultural differences, meaning a way of thinking and talking about cultural differences and of behaving towards them.

A culturally sensitive person recognizes that cultures are different and respects these differences. For example, in Finland, there are three indigenous Sámi cultures, North Sámi, Inari Sámi and Skolt Sámi, and in Sweden, Norway and Russia, there are even more Sámi cultures. A culturally sensitive person understands that there are differences between these cultural groups and takes them into account in everything she or he does concerning the Sámi.

Stereotypes are an example of not recognizing and respecting cultural differences, making them an example of cultural insensitivity. For example, indigenous peoples are often marketed to tourists as primitive peoples living outside modernity and wearing colourful costumes – and tourists often expect to see this. On the other hand, there are tourists who do not want to see stereotypical images of local cultures. They want to have their stereotypes challenged and get to know the local cultures in other ways. They are an ideal target group for culturally sensitive tourism companies who want to break down stereotypical images of local cultures in their products and marketing communication.

Recognition of and respect for local worldviews, cultural values, beliefs and traditions are a vital aspect of culturally sensitive tourism. Local livelihoods and the use of local land and water are examples of issues that are often important to local people. They are part of the local culture. Cultural sensitivity means that, in tourism product development, the local culture and nature are not only resources but also something to which the products have to be adjusted. A culturally sensitive person cares about local people, their lives and their cultures. To respect local cultures is also to be interested in them and willing to learn more about them.

Culturally sensitive tourism should result in mutual understanding and cultural exchange, which help to promote equity within partnerships or relationships as well as to create shared values and benefits for all parties. It is an important constituent of culturally sustainable tourism.

Interested to learn more? Check the free self-study online course on cultural sensitivity in Arctic tourism and the website of the ARCTISEN project (Culturally sensitive tourism in the Arctic). You are also welcome to join the free webinar ‘Exploring the meanings and practices of cultural sensitivity in tourism’ which will take place next 29 April at 14-16 UTC (15-17 CET). Registration here: Meeting Registration – Zoom

Lapland Living Lab inception meeting

The inception meeting of the Lapland Living Lab was held on 12 February in Holiday Village Valle in Utsjoki with 8 on-site participants and 4 online participants. The meeting started with an introduction to the SmartCulTour project. Followed by this, UNESCO gave a presentation about their role in the project, which is to provide their own expertise in the development of sustainable cultural tourism to fit local needs in Utsjoki and other living labs of the project.

The participants wished to hear from UNESCO about how they have developed sustainable cultural tourism in the rest of the world, for example in tourism companies in other countries. These will be discussed in the future meetings.

Taking a participatory approach, we engaged the participants in discussing the development of sustainable cultural tourism using a number of design activities. A SWOT matrix was used to present the identified strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the tourism development in the Utsjoki living lab. We were able to identify the main needs for developing cultural tourism in Utsjoki.

The participants shared some existing good practices around the development of sustainable cultural tourism. A tree tool was used to evoke creative thinking on the opportunities and imagination of sustainable cultural tourism for the future of Utsjoki.

The participants saw the need to develop cultural tourism in Utsjoki, as it would bring new content to the municipality’s tourism and would not be as seasonal as nature-based tourism. We were able to discover the main needs and problems, for example, tourists don’t have enough information about existing services in Utsjoki, how to act in natural surroundings, how to dress appropriately, etc. The participants highlighted that one of the possible solutions would be an App that can gather all the necessary information about Utsjoki in the same place. That would make it easier for tourists to access the information.

A digital response system to mitigate overtourism. The case of Dubrovnik

A research article has just been published in the Journal of Travel and Tourism Marketing, authored by Nicola Camatti, Dario Bertocchi, Hrvoje Carić and Jan van der Borg, partner of SmartCulTour Project.

The article titled “A digital response system to mitigate overtourism. The case of Dubrovnik” provides an in-depth analysis of this correlation through the case study of Dubrovnik. The study applies a TCC calculation model that is able to quantitatively include the main effects of overtourism. The paper illustrates how these results can be used to automate specific decongestion policies by conceptualising a digital response system for real-time intervention to mitigate the undesirable effects of overtourism.

The article can be accessed here