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Development of Ecotourism in Norway

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Ecotourism

Individual Case Study

Development of Ecotourism in Norway

Word count excluding references: 3,410

Introduction

This case study will evaluate the extent to which ecotourism has been undertaken in Norway, although it must be noted here that ecotourism is a new concept in Norway and only limited research has been done on this topic.

First, introduction to ecotourism, Norway and ecotourism initiatives in Norway will be given. Then, development of ecotourism in Norway will be assessed and the rationale behind Norway as an eco destination will be given.

Three types of tourism present in Norway (traditional mountain tourism, idigenous tourism and arctic tourism in Svalbard) will be evaluated from ecotourism's key principles based on an ecotourism definition by Ceballos-Lascurain (2006) and the development of ecotourism within these types of tourism will also be dealt with.

A conclusion will be available at the end of this case study.

Introduction to Ecotourism

Hector Ceballos-Lascurain is the founder of ecotourism which emerged in 1983 (Ecoclub, 2006). Since then, many definitions of ecotourism have been published. At the beginning, ecotourism was simply a visit to a natural environment without causing damage to it:

„(Ecotourism is) travelling to relatively undisturbed or uncontaminated natural areas with the specific objective of studying, admiring, and enjoying the scenery and its wild plants and animals, as well as any existing cultural manifestations (both past and present) found in these areas."

(Ceballos-Lascurain, 1987 in Weaver, 2001)

The UN declared The International Year of Ecotourism in 2002 which lead to a large expansion of ecotourism businesses around the world (Weaver, 2005). Currently, ecoutourism is growing at the rate of 10% - 30% pa (Kallen, 1999 and Vickland, 1989 in Wearing and Neil, 1999) which is faster than tourism as a whole (Mehmetoglu, 2005).

Subsequently, sustainable development has been mentioned in ecotourism definitions lately (Weaver, 2005) - this means that a ‚good' ecotourism business must also be „economically viable, environmentally appropriate and socio-culturaly acceptable," (Wall, 1997) in addition to offering ecotourism activities in a natural area.

Also Ceballos-Lascurain updated his definition in 1996 to correspond with the contemporary needs of sustainability:

„Ecotourism is environmentally responsible travel and visitation to relatively undisturbed natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature (and any cultural features) that promotes conservation, has low negative visitor impact, and provides for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local populations."

(Ceballos-Lascurain, 1996 in Buckley, 2004)

For the reason of suitableness for today's understanding of ecotourism, this definition will be used to appropriately evaluate ecotourism in Norway in this case study.

Importantly, ecotourism has been further devided into "hard" and "soft" forms (FIG.1; Weaver and Lawton, 2002 in Gössling and Hultman, 2006) in order to differentiate the large amount of ecotourism activities.

Fig.1

In addition, it must be noted that if ecotourism destinations are not sustainably managed, they might turn into unsustainable mass tourism (Weaver, 2006). For this reason, it is important to introduce ecotourism regulations and guidance for emerging as well as existing ecotourism businesses and destinations.

Introduction to Norway

Norway is a Scandinavian country. It covers an area of 385,155 square kilometers and has a population of approximately 4.8 million. It is a popular tourist destination mainly for its natural beauty, culture and sport opportunities (Visit Norway, 2011a). The main tourist season is between May and August (Anon, 2008) when tourists come to admire Norwegian fjords (two of which, Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord, are on the UNESCO World Heritage list), midnight sun and local culture and heritage (the Sami, the trolls, the Vikings). The Scandinavian mountain region gives excellent opportunities for nature-based tourism and hiking is a very popular activity among the tourists as well as the locals (Svarstad, 2010). It is also a home to a major ecosystem type: arctic/alpine tundra, which is situated in the Spitsbergen National Park (Newsome et al., 2001) in Svalbard. In addition, there are 36 national parks in Norway (Haaland and Aas, 2007). In addition, a study by Odden (2005) proved that the Norwegians are passionate about outdoor activities by revealing that 95% of the adult population (age 16-74) undertook at least one outdoor activity in 2004. Furthermore, 34% of Norwegians consider outdoor activites as their main freetime activity. In fact, the Norwegians have a very close relationship with nature, and they learn how to survive in the mountains from a very young age. In addition, anyone can access Norwegian nature by law.

Tourists are attracted to Norway in winter as well, which is when they come to see the northern lights. It is also a popular ski destination and the 1994 Winter Olympic Games that took place in Lillehammer brought many winter tourists. Tourists can choose from many Norwegian ski resorts, such as Hemsedal or Voss, and the main ski season is from February until April (Anon, 2008).

Ecotourism Initiatives in Norway

Ecotourism is a new concept in Norway. It was introduced in 2002 during The International Year of Ecotourism and was funded by the Ministries for Environment, Trade and industry and Food and agriculture, therefore it is fully supported by governmental bodies (Lamark, 2010).

Only four years ago, ecotourism along with ecology and sustainable tourism were nearly non-existent (Viken, 2006a), however according to Lamark (2010) from Norsk Økoturisme [Norwegian Ecotourism], there is a growing interest among the Norwegians and Norwegian tourism businesses in ecotourism.

Ecotourism in the country is overseen by Norsk Økoturisme which has an individual page on the Norwegian official tourism website - VisitNorway.com. In addition to this, a Green Travel page was launched very recently (7th January 2011). The website offers 248 Norwegian

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