This research examines social change related to tourism development in the Finnmark region of Norway. The proposed study site is one of the most visited Arctic destinations in Europe, as well as one of the most popular and established. Data will be gathered on the perspectives of local residents, business managers, and tourists. The inclusion of these three key stakeholders in the project will provide the researcher with a more representative sample from which to examine the impacts of tourism than is typical of studies of this kind, which focus primarily on the tourism experience. It is the PI's contention that new theories about tourism and new analytical frameworks may emerge from this more holistic approach to sampling.

The research methodology is both qualitative and quantitative data gathering among residents, business managers, and tourists in Alta, Kirkenes, Karasjok, North Cape (the most visited destination in Finnmark), Hammerfest, Honningsvag, and BÃ¥tsfjord. In the first stage of the research in-depth interviews and focus groups will be conducted in different locations to derive impact-related attributes. Those attributes will be integrated into a close-ended questionnaire for survey research. In addition, mail and on-site surveys will be deployed to measure opinions of tourism development from a large sample of tourism stakeholders in Finnmark. From the collected data, the PI will develop a tourism impact scale that moves beyond the traditional studies of tourism that focus on tourists' experiences and local concerns and will tease out the impacts among local residents, businesses, and policy makers, as well as tourists. One of the results of the research will be a tool for assessing social impacts and to measure social change due to tourism on a regional scale.

As a growing industry in the Arctic, tourism is a fertile subject for social scientific inquiry. This project brings a well established field of tourism research into the Arctic and works to solidify a growing international research network in this field. Through the practical collaboration with tourism scholars and practitioners from the study region, the project will facilitate the growth of an education and research collaboration between US and Norwegian tourism scholars. Also, the host communities where the research will commence will have a more holistic understanding of the impacts of tourism development through the planned outreach and public informational activities planned by the PI and associates. The PI envisions that this project will provide northern stakeholders with the necessary tools to assess the impacts, both positive and negative, of tourism on their communities and that these tools will be shared among Arctic communities who seek information about tourism business development as a viable alternative for both sustaining the natural environment and escalating living standards.

Project Report

In the imagination of tourists, the Arctic regions are often viewed as exotic locations furnishing monumental nature settings, such as breathtaking scenic views, unusual climatic conditions, and singularly dramatic geographic formations. Furthermore, the indigenous culture and the traces of human movement over time have also been brought to the awareness of Arctic adventurists. In theory, the influx of tourist is likely to affect the host community’s quality of life. Thus, this study attempts to assess how tourism impacts the host community’s quality of life in both positive and negative fashions and selects Finnmark, the most visited Arctic region worldwide, as the study site. Using both qualitative and quantitative research methods, this study reveals that tourism engenders a host of social benefits entailing monetary contribution, community vitality, cultural proliferation and personal enchantment while causing environmental concerns. As the key outcome of this research, a measurement scale of social impact of tourist is developed that could be utilized in future studies of social impact of tourism at other Arctic destinations. This study involves Norwegian researchers and major tourism businesses in the Norwegian Arctic region. Though the collaboration, a trustworthy relationship is established between an US University and its international collaborators. Furthermore, graduate students from an US university have the opportunity to participate into the study. It enhances their practical knowledge in scientific research and international tourism in which the States is considered as the major tourist-generating county in the world.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Polar Programs (PLR)
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Anna Kerttula de Echave
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Indiana University
United States
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