Nina Smedseng Title : From essentializing and stereotyping to a quest for new stories and a deeper understanding of the complexities of Sámi tourism experiences
We are in the Norwegian part of Sápmi, where Indigenous tourism and Sámi tourism as such, is an important part of a larger tourism picture where an ever-increasing number of tourists were finding their way to the North.Covid-19 has proven to be challenging, and in many cases fatal, for the tourism industry. However, it has also forced the industry to think differently about the future, and for some of the Sámi tourism businesses, this has been a time for reflection and strategical thinking about what tourism can do for them (the locals), rather than what they can do for tourism.
In this paper I argue that local Sámi tourism businesses in Northern Norway are taking new and sustainable initiatives for product development that can contribute to new stories about Sámi cultures and how people live their lives in the contemporary Arctic. Further, through reclaiming lost history, practices, and traditional knowledge, and taking ownership to own stories, tourism can be a meaningful and sustainable way to make a living. Through providing attractive, local Indigenous experiences that “eager to learn-tourists” are seeking in the Arctic, and linking local and traditional knowledge to larger, global narratives, Sámi tourism is on a quest for just and responsible tourism.
In this co-creational research project, I am “walking with” five diverse Sámi tourism businesses and their tourism landscapes to get a deeper understanding of the complexities of Sámi tourism experiences. One of these landscapes is the village of Billávuotna/Indre Billefjord, appearing to be nothing else than a road sign in a beautiful landscape. However, when looking closely, a hidden Sea-Sámi “landscape” appears through stories revolving around the reclaimed knowledge to build and keep traditional pointed, wooden boat called “Spissa”. Again, “Spissa” has become an important tool in these areas – also as a means to tell the story of Sea-Sámi culture in a tourism context. Six boats, built by boat builder Hans Olav and apprentice Ove at the Sea-Sámi Centre Mearrasiida, will be available for tourist in different Sea Sámi villages in the area – the Sea-Sámi story is an important one to share!