Ethical Guidelines for Sámi Tourism

The Sámi Parliament in Finland adopted Principles for Responsible and Ethically Sustainable Sámi Tourism on the 24th of September in 2018. The primary purpose of these ethical guidelines is to terminate tourism exploiting Sámi culture and to eliminate incorrect information about the Sámi distributed through tourism. The second priority is to safeguard the cultural practices and traditions of Sámi population outside the travel industry.

Kuvituskuva saamelaismatkailun eettiset ohjeet

Who Are the Ethical Guidelines Meant for?

The ethical guidelines are primarily meant for tourism actors and operators outside the Sámi community who carry out touristic productisation, representation, marketing and communications of Sámi culture. Furthermore, the guidelines are for visitors arriving in Sámi Homeland.

Principles for Responsible and Ethically Sustainable Sámi Tourism

  1. Recognising and Respecting the Value and Richness of the Sámi Cultural Heritage
  2. Protecting and Maintaining the Vitality of Sámi Cultural Heritage for Future Generations
  3. Mutually Beneficial Understanding and Co-operation
  4. Issues Featured in Sámi Tourism – Their Recognition and Correction
  5. Positive Impact of Sámi Tourism on Sámi People, Their Culture and Environment
  6. Responsible and Ethically Sustainable Marketing and Communications of Sámi Tourism
  7. High-Quality Visitor Experiences – Quality Assurance

The illustrations supporting the message of the ethical guidelines for Sámi tourism are made by comic artist Sunna Kitti.


  • Sápmi, Säämi, Sääʹmm in Finland

    Sámi Homeland in Finland is situated in Northern parts of County of Lapland.

    The Sámi are the only indigenous people within the area of European Union. Sámiland, more commonly known by its North Sámi name Sápmi, is the core region inhabited by the Sámi, extending across vast areas in Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola Peninsula in Russia.

    In Finland, Sámiland covers the area of Sámi Homeland which includes the municipalities of Enontekiö, Inari and Utsjoki in their entirety and the northern part of the municipality of Sodankylä (the area around Vuotso village, that is, Lappi reindeer herding co-operative).

    Sámiland is Sápmi in North Sámi, Säämi In Inari Sámi and Sääʹmm in Skolt Sámi.

  • History of Sámi Tourism

    Symbols of Sámi culture have been productised and represented in tourism exploiting Sámi culture in Finland for decades. For a long time, the productisation of Sámi culture has been both defined and executed by outsiders.  In the worst cases, the incorrect, primitivised image of the Sámi, that is widespread in tourism exploiting Sámi culture, offends and/or objectifies the Sámi community. To correct the tourism landscape to be more truthful and equitable, the Sámi Parliament in Finland adopted Principles for Responsible and Ethically Sustainable Sámi Tourism on the 24th of September in 2018.


  • The Future We Want

    The Future We Want -illustration is based on the vision in the ethical guidelines. Following the vision, the traditional livelihoods of the Sámi are viable and profitable. Modern livelihoods such as responsible and ethically sustainable tourism based on Sámi culture support the profitability of traditional livelihoods and promote employment locally.

    In the vision, there is a Sámi tourism information centre distributing accurate information on the Sámi and Sámi culture to visitors and various interest groups in tourism industry. Furthermore, the centre has information about the responsibly and ethically sustainably operating Sámi tourism entrepreneurs. In the good vision, also the everyday lives and festivities of the Sámi community as well as land use in Sámi Homeland have been successfully co-ordinated with tourism while the rights of the Sámi and Sámi culture have been taken into consideration and respected.

  • The Challenges of Sámi Tourism and Tourism in Sámi Homeland

    The opposite of the good vision is The Future We Do Not Want. In this illustration, the vision in the ethical guidelines has not taken place. The uncontrolled and constantly increasing numbers of visitors arriving in Sámi Homeland have caused increasing amounts of challenges that have not been manageable or solved. The traditional livelihoods of the Sámi have been forced to retreat due to tourism. The safeguarding of the cultural practices and traditions of the Sámi not involved in tourism have failed. Instead, the everyday lives and festivities of local communities have ended up as tourist attractions against the wishes of the local people.

    • harassment of children
    • lack of co-ordination between traditional livelihoods and other competing forms of land use (for example tourism, gold panning, forestry)
    • uncontrolled tourism
    • lack of monitoring and enforcement of sanctions resulting from misconducts regardless of existing laws, international conventions, treaties, charters, declarations and outcome documents
    • unpredictability and extreme conditions in nature due to climate change
    • everyman’s rights and their marketing, including commercial dog sledding
    • unleashed, loose dogs and damage and harm caused by them
    • challenges connected to sustainability and carrying capacity of tourism
    • insufficiency of basic service infrastructure at the pressures of increasing tourism
    • the health threats posed by tourism and the resulting feelings of insecurity
    • long and sad history of exploiting Sámi culture in tourism in Finland – attitude changes take time
    • sensitivity due to tourism industry’s cyclical nature
  • Responsibility in Sámi Tourism

    The cornerstone of Sámi tourism is that the productisation and representation of Sámi culture is based on a strong connection with and responsibility towards the Sámi community, families and/or siida concerned whose culture and/or traditionally inhabited lands/usufructuary areas are being utilised and/or represented in a tourism product.

  • Sámi Tourism

    Sámi tourism is defined as tourism where the resources of Sámi culture are utilised to produce tourism services offered to the public on commercial basis.

    This may be tourism based on Sámi culture, where the tourism service providers come from within the Sámi community. Or tourism exploiting Sámi culture, where different tourism stakeholders from outside the Sámi community utilise and exploit elements connected and/or referential to Sámi culture in tourism services without actual connection to the Sámi community.

  • Sámi Culture

    Sámi culture includes, among others, the Sámi language, Sámi cultural heritage, cultural expressions, Sámi art, traditional knowledge of the Sámi, the relationship of the Sámi with nature, traditional Sámi livelihoods and the modern ways of practising them as well as other cultural customs and manifestations practised by the Sámi as an indigenous people.

    ​Therefore, for example, the Sámi language, stories, music and the most visible cultural symbols such as the Sámi dress and Sámi handicrafts are closely connected, among other things, with traditional Sámi livelihoods, forming an inseparable entity in which each element relies on the others in order to remain vital and, thus, enabling  the preservation, development and transmission of Sámi culture to future generations.

    For example, if one element of Sámi culture were to disappear, or if its area of activity were to be limited, this would have an immediate impact elsewhere.

  • The Living Cultural Landscape in Sámi Homeland vs. “Wilderness”

    What may be “wilderness” for a visitor, is home for the local Sámi people, and for many, also a source of livelihood and/or subsistence economy unconnected to tourism. While there may be no visible signs of human presence in nature, there is not a single place or area in Sámi Homeland that does not have a Sámi name and that has no cultural use and/or significance related to a season.

    The land use based on Sámi traditions, that is, for purposes other than tourism, must be taken into consideration and highlighted also in all tourism operations and activities. Untouched wilderness does not exist in Sámi Homeland, even if it may seem so to the outsider. The Sámi have traditionally utilised nature without leaving material traces on the fragile environment of the North. The concept of nature held by visitors from other cultures may differ significantly from that of the Sámi. Therefore, especially when marketing the Finnish customary law of ‘Everyman’s Rights’, responsible conduct in nature, the limitations to these rights, and the importance of leaving no traces behind must be emphasised. The absolute basis is that pure and healthy nature, which is one of the key attractions for Artic tourism, must be preserved for future generations. This aspect must be made known to all visitors and the whole travel industry.


  • Borrowed Traditions

    Borrowed traditions are largely overlapping with invented traditions in that they simply are not part of the culture which they are claimed to belong to. The difference between borrowed and invented traditions is that borrowed traditions exist as traditions in another culture and/or region. In other words, borrowed traditions are misappropriated from another culture and rooted in a foreign cultural landscape through, for example, the travel industry. A borrowed tradition is regarded as an invented tradition when it is misleadingly claimed to be part of the original culture of the area where it does not traditionally belong. Borrowed traditions are especially damaging when they are in conflict with a tradition that is an original and authentic part of the culture of the area.

    An example of a particularly damaging and culturally unsustainable borrowed tradition is touristic dog sledding. Especially in certain areas, this practice is in strong conflict with reindeer herding, one of the cornerstones of Sámi culture, causing direct and/or indirect damage to this traditional livelihood.

  • Visitor Guidance and Teaching Material for Travel Industry to Safeguard Sámi Culture

    • The main aim of the visitor guidance for Sámi tourism is to create instructions for responsible tourism with a wish to take into consideration and respect local communities and their living cultural landscape
    • The target group of the guidance includes visitors, non-local travel industry’s entrepreneurs and employees in Sámi Homeland
    • The visitor guidance is based on the ethical guidelines for Sámi tourism adopted by the Sámi Parliament in Finland and illustrations made by comic artist Sunna Kitti
    • The visual information is to clarify the ethical guidelines’ message and help their internalisation and implementation
    • The goal of the visitor guidance is to diminish the negative impacts of tourism on local communities
    • Another aim of the project is to produce study material for tourism education and training in Finland
    • The project is financed by the Ministry of Education and Culture

  • Previous Culturally Responsible Sámi Tourism -projects

    10.2.2017 – 31.12.2019, toteutettu opetus- ja kulttuuriministeriön avustuksilla.

    Implementation period: 10.2.2017 – 31.12.2019 (four projects varying in length and financing, see below); financed by the Ministry of Education and Culture (in total 177 000 €).

    1. 10.2. – 30.6.2017 (4,5 months); 25 000 €; survey for Sámi interest groups on current state of Sámi tourism
    2. 1.7.2017 – 7.5.2018 (10 months); 50 000 €; preparation of the ethical guidelines for Sámi tourism; 1st provisional version for President and I Vice President of Sámi Parliament in Finland to comment
    3. 8.5.2018 – 21.1.2019 (8,5 months); 42 000 €; Sámi interest groups’ round of comments → Livelihood and Legal Committee of Sámi Parliament → Executive Board of Sámi Parliament → Plenum of Sámi Parliament in Finland adopted Principles for Responsible and Ethically Sustainable Sámi Tourism on September 24th, 2018 → raising awareness of ethical guidelines for Sámi tourism in media and seminars within allocated resources
    4. 22.1. – 31.12.2019 (11 months); 60 000 €; illustrations by Sunna Kitti; Lapland Tourism Strategy 2020 – 2023 by Regional Council of Lapland; raising awareness of ethical guidelines for Sámi tourism in media and seminars within allocated resources

Sámi Tourism projects are financed by the Ministry of Education and Culture. The first project started on February 10, 2017.


More information

Kirsi Suomi

Sámi Tourism Visitor Guidance -project Coordinator