Responsible Sámi Tourism

This responsible visitors’ guidance is based on the ethical guidelines for Sámi tourism adopted by the Sámi Parliament in Finland in 2018. Sunna Kitti’s illustrations clarify and exemplify ethical guidelines’ message of how to behave and act in order to secure more responsible and ethically sustainable future in Sámi Homeland, and support the continuation of Sámi culture.

Kuvituskuva saamelaismatkailu hyvä tulevaisuus.
Kuvituskuva saamelaismatkailu huono tuolevaisuus.

Responsible Visitors’ Guide to World of Sámi Culture and Sámi Homeland in Finland

The primary target group of visitor guidance includes national and international visitors, non-local travel industry’s entrepreneurs and employees arriving in Sámi Homeland as well as tourism students interested in Sámi tourism. The guidance hopefully awakens the awareness of arriving as guests to an extraordinary place where visitors need to pay special attention to holistic sustainability of the destination, especially the wellbeing of local communities and their chance to live peacefully their everyday lives and private festivities without the negative impacts of tourism.

The Sámi Parliament’s Responsible Sámi Tourism projects have been  implemented with the assistance of the Ministry of Education and Culture.



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

    Vision: Tourism in Sámi Homeland is controlled. The challenges arising from constantly increasing number of visitors have been successfully addressed, tourism operations and activities are monitored, and sanctions for misconducts are enforced. Principles for Responsible and Ethically Sustainable Sámi Tourism are followed. Sámi tourism is responsible and ethically sustainable in all its aspects, paying specific attention to nature’s carrying capacity. Tourism plays a positive role in the distribution and increase of an accurate portrayal of the Sámi around the world.

    The Sámi Parliament in Finland adopted Principles for Responsible and Ethically Sustainable Sámi Tourism on the 24th of September in 2018. In the vision of these ethical guidelines (excerpt above), tourism increases local well-being affecting positively Sámi Homeland and the Sámi and their culture. There is still fair way to go before the vision is realised.

    The whole tourism industry needs to use every available means to safeguard the preservation of the sensitive and deeply culture-bound Arctic natural environment for future generations. The main tourism assets of Lapland may be at risk without a shared understanding of the priceless value of Sámi culture and nature inseparably connected to it, and of the richness of its intellectual heritage, and of the importance of preserving all this. Tourism based on Sámi culture and tourism taking place in Sámi Homeland should focus on authenticity, uniqueness and quality over quantity.

    National and international visitors arriving in Sámi Homeland as well as all parties involved in tourism exploiting Sámi culture must be aware that they are guests in the area that is rich in culture-bound customs, which must be recognised and respected. The regions, the local environment and Sámi culture include various tangible and intangible elements which all bear an impact on how natural resources in the given locality are utilised and, particularly, on the limits and restrictions of such utilisation. Visitors to the area must take into consideration these area-specific and seasonal practices and customs inherent to the culture.  Extensive collaboration benefitting various parties must extend at the local level outside the population who profits from the travel industry directly or indirectly. Co-ordination between traditional livelihoods and tourism regarding land use and other practices of the travel industry is vital for the Sámi both at the community and individual level.

    Applying the precautionary principle is necessary as the impacts of climate change on nature in Sámi Homeland and on traditional Sámi livelihoods are difficult to predict. Many visitors’ understanding and idea of nature and culture, and their survival strategies and conduct in Arctic conditions differ greatly from those of the Sámi. Therefore, the need of visitor information and guidance is of acute importance to prevent potentially irreversible damage that may occur not only to Sámi culture and the fragile Arctic environment but also to the visitors themselves, if they do not have the necessary background information and/or know-how of Arctic conditions and the living cultural environment of the Sámi.

    Increasing and distributing truthful information about the Sámi also through tourism industry is of utmost importance. Preserving the vitality of Sámi culture also promotes the development of tourism in Lapland. Combining these elements for mutual benefit is possible, but it requires collaboration, increasing knowledge and establishing new means of and channels for interaction between the tourism industry and the custodians of Sámi culture. The prerequisite for developing ethically sustainable Sámi tourism is broad collaboration based on multilateral understanding and respect. The primary basis is that the Sámi people, Sámi tourism entrepreneurs and other tourism industry professionals would share the definition and understanding of responsible and ethically sustainable Sámi tourism.

    The objective of the Sámi tourism visitor guidance project is to improve the equity and equality of the Sámi community, and advance Sámi culture’s maintenance, development, and enablement of its inter-generational transmission. The project aims at promoting equality between various ethnic groups by eradicating objectification of the Sámi in tourism, improving equality by strengthening positive portrayal of the Sámi by distributing accurate information, participation by highlighting the opinions of the Sámi, mutual respect by paying attention to different cultural customs and practices, and sustainable development that lies at the heart of Principles for Responsible and Ethically Sustainable Sámi Tourism – guidelines. The project supports particularly responsible conduct aiming at improving and/or ensuring the safeguarding of meaningful life on equal basis also to the part of the Sámi population who is not involved in tourism at pressures of constantly increasing tourism and the loss of the natural habitats and resources.

    Sámi Parliament in Finland has received financing from the Ministry of Education and Culture to implement Sámi tourism projects almost continuously since February 2017.

  • Culturally Responsible Sámi Tourism

    Tourism has grown fast, both globally as well as in Finnish Lapland. The growth of tourism has increased challenges to cultural sustainability, especially in the context of Sámi culture. The Sámi who are the only indigenous people in the E.U reside in four countries, that is, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Russia. The Sámi Parliament in Finland has received funding from the Ministry of Education and Culture to carry out Culturally Responsible Sámi Tourism project. One of the main objectives of the project is to develop ethical guidelines from the Sámi point of view for responsible socially, culturally, ecologically and economically sustainable Sámi tourism product development and presentation in Finland. The ethical guidelines are due in 2018.

    In this context, Sámi tourism is understood as tourism in which the resources of Sámi culture are utilised in order to produce tourism services that are offered on commercial basis.  In Finland, Sámi tourism may be tourism based on Sáminess, in which case tourism service providers come from within the Sámi community. Alternatively, there is tourism utilising Sáminess, that is, different stakeholders in tourism who come from outside the culture with no actual connection to the Sámi community but who nonetheless utilise different elements that are connected and/or referential to Sámi culture[1].

    In tourism utilising Sáminess in Finland, symbols of the Sámi culture have already been developed into tourism products for decades. In other words, the commodification of the Sámi culture in tourism has, for a long time, been defined as well as realised by outsiders. The commodified Sámi image in tourism utilising Sáminess rarely has much to do with the authentic Sáminess. The existing, primitivised and misleading widely-spread representation of the Sámi in tourism utilising Sáminess in Finland is, at its worst, insulting for and/or commodifying of the Sámi community. This repeatedly presented, public, misleading image negatively affects the vitality of the Sámi culture. It is hard for the Sámi community alone to provide correct and authentic Sámi presentation with limited resources.

    The presentation of the Sámi in tourism utilising Sáminess needs to happen in ethically sustainable way as well as in co-operation with the Sámi. The tourism services should be based on authenticity. It is crucial to increase knowledge and education about Sámi languages and culture. The preservation of the vitality of the Sámi culture also promotes the development of the tourism industry in Lapland. It is possible to join these matters into mutual benefit. However, this requires co-operation, increasing the distribution of correct information on the Sámi, as well as finding new means of and channels for reciprocal interaction between tourism and Sámi culture. The prerequisite to develop ethical Sámi tourism is extensive co-operation based on multilateral mutual understanding and respect. The aim is that the Sámi and the stakeholders in tourism industry would define and understand ethical Sámi tourism in the same way.

    The topicality of the ethical guidelines for Sámi tourism is supported by, among other things, the objectives of sustainable development, such as the aim of the global 2030 Agenda programme to promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products. For a long time, the Sámi community has brought up the issues of inappropriate uses of Sámi costume and other Sámi symbols in Finland, highlighting the importance and necessity of the ethical guidelines for Sámi tourism. Sámi costume carries a great significance in Sámi culture. There are unwritten norms regulating the Sámi costume usages that are adhered by the Sámi. According to the Sámi customary law, the right to use Sámi costume is related to wearer’s Sámi background. Moreover, a man does not use parts of a female costume and vice versa. Furthermore, one cannot mix costumes from different regions or different Sámi groups. Additionally, winter costumes are not used in summertime or vice versa. The culturally sustainable tourism respects and appreciates the distinct characteristics of different cultures, promotes the wellbeing of people and regions as well as enables the preservation and development of different cultures.

    [1] SÁMI CULTURE includes, among others, Sámi language, Sámi cultural heritage, cultural expressions, Sámi art, traditional knowledge of the Sámi, traditional Sámi livelihoods and the modern ways of practising them as well as other cultural traditions and manifestations practised by the Sámi as indigenous people.