In an era of overtourism, many destinations are suffering from selfie-taking crowds waiting in line for that one insta-worthy shot. Even though these destinations cannot bear any more visitors, the posts on social media keep on drawing more crowds. At the same time, there are many places on earth that remain relatively unvisited and are desperately seeking to develop tourism (in a sustainable way) as part of their economic model. One of them is Swedish Lapland, a rather sparsely populated area with little job opportunities. If you want to be a responsible traveller and discover something new, instead of visiting the best known-destinations, this time visit… Swedish Lapland. Read here why!
Why Swedish Lapland?
During winter, quite some people already know to find their way to Swedish Lapland to admire the Northern lights and enjoy a husky sledding ride. However, what many people do not know, is how enchanting Swedish Lapland can be in other seasons. I was lucky enough to be invited (via We Are Travellers) to enjoy an amazing summer in the most northern part of Sweden. Think of: endless midsummer nights in which the sun only goes down for a few minutes, great outdoor activities such as hiking, supping, kayaking and mountain biking, lush green areas, crystal clear lakes, waterfalls and Fika (coffee with a snack) all day long!
How is their tourism model sustainable?
Big parts of the northernmost areas of Sweden are very scarcely populated because many (young) people left to find jobs in the city. The people that remain struggle to find employment and to make a living. Ecotourism is seen as a tool for regional development here and is promoted and coordinated by the destination brand Swedish Lapland. What is relatively unique is that the development is done in cooperation with both private and public stakeholders working all together on defining and promoting the image of Swedish Lapland, showing its attractiveness to outsiders. It is very much based on sustainable practices and it involves mostly small, local entrepreneurs. In addition, there is a focus on attracting tourists not only in winter but year-round as Swedish Lapland has plenty of opportunities to be enjoyed in other seasons as well.
One of the most striking examples of how tourism could strengthen the regional is economy can be found in Kalvträsk, where currently only 35 people are living. In the past, this number used to be a lot higher so an attempt is being made to restore the appreciation for the area. To bring employment opportunities back to the village Björn Bergstrom started with offering tourism accommodation at White Mountain Lodges. He specifically focusses on relaxing in nature and digital detox to attract visitors. Furthermore, the cabins are all made from natural materials and he aims for the lodges to be plastic-free as well making it attractive for conscious-minded travellers.
What is more, is that the tourism model is Swedish Lapland is inclusive to the indigenous community that is living in this area, the Sami. For a long time, they have been excluded from society and subject to intense discrimination but for the rest of Europe (and maybe even the rest of the world), this is quite an unknown story. Visiting Swedish Lapland is thus a great opportunity to learn about the history of Sami culture and also helps to preserve the Sami way of life. If you want to learn more about how tourism can help sustain Sami traditions, have a look at this insightful blog from Soul Travel. The traditions of the Sami community are largely based on sustainable practices and respect for nature, which I learned a lot about at Geunja Sami Eco Lodge, a beautiful and serene place hidden between the mountains of Vindelfjällen. Geunja is a place without electricity and cell phone connection, a place where you can enjoy nature, experience traditional Sami lifestyle and above all, find peace of mind.
How can you contribute as a responsible traveller?
As a traveller you can easily contribute to sustainable tourism development in Swedish Lapland and it all comes down to spending your money on local products and experiences. When it comes to souvenirs, you won’t find any of those cheesy ‘Made in China’ magnets or key chains. Instead, you can bring home some arctic delicacies such as lingonberry jam, Swedish bread and local syrups. Not to forget the famous Vasterbötten cheese, which is considered to be the ‘king of cheeses’ in all Sweden. You find those treats for example in mini-market Saluhall and in the Vasterbötten factory in Burträsk. As for non-food gifts you can have a look at the small shop that is connected to the house of Sami woman Margareta in Ammernäs, who is making lovely handcrafted items such as purses, necklaces and baskets with traditional Sami embroidery.
For sleeping there are many local and personal options such as staying at the previously mentioned White Mountain Lodges in Kalvträsk or Geunja Sami Eco Lodge. If you’d like to experience a Swedish farm stay, Stormyrberget is the place for you. Here you can learn all about Swedish farm life and nature while being warmly welcomed by owners Maria and Rikard.
Margareta in her shopStormyrberget
A stay in Swedish Lapland is all about getting in touch with, and learning about nature, ecological food cultivation and embracing seasonality. A visit during the summer will reveal all the natural beauty of the region, hidden under a thick layer of snow during winter. Local entrepreneurs are happy to welcome you and tell you all about it. With your visit to Swedish Lapland you contribute to regional development, preservation of culture and nature and inclusive tourism development. Moreover, it provides you the opportunity to truly relax and come back home rejuvenated. So, be a responsible traveller and enjoy all that Swedish Lapland has got to offer you!
Oh, and by the way, still plenty of opportunities to take those insta-worthy shots ;).