How much do you know about Lapland reindeer?

Lapland reindeer and local culture

The life of the Lapland reindeer is shaped by reindeer herding, which is based on the reindeer’s natural instincts to search for food. As a traditional livelihood, reindeer herding is associated with Sámi culture, the only truly indigenous culture in Europe. Nevertheless, in contrast to Norway and Sweden where the right of reindeer ownership is reserved to members of the Sámi community, in Finland non-Sámi can also own reindeer. Indeed, less than 20% of reindeer owners in Finland are Sámi. Although reindeer is a semi-wild animal that roam freely in the forests and fells of Lapland, every reindeer has an owner. If you look carefully, you will see that all reindeer have an earmark.

The Christmas magic

Reindeer are also integral to the magic of Christmas and the winter season. For many visitors just seeing these animals along the road or while walking through the forest in the snow is part of the Christmas experience. Indeed, meeting a reindeer can thus become a magical and unique experience.  In a similar way, reindeer sledging and farm visits are also highly popular with tourists of all ages throughout the Christmas and winter season, especially if it’s part of a visit to see Santa himself. All in all, the reindeer is one of the icons of Lapland tourism – a place they certainly deserve.

Test your reindeer knowledge!

Now you have the possibility to test how much you know about the Lapland reindeer by playing the quiz card game below. Even if you don’t know much about reindeer, you may learn a lot by play the game. Just give a try and see what is your level. To see the answer just click on the picture and scroll down to the second page. You may probably have the potential to become reindeer herder. You never know!

 

 

For more information about Lapland reindeer:

Reindeer Herder’s Association

L. Heikkilä (2006) Reindeer talk: Sámi reindeer herding and nature management. Rovaniemi: University of Lapland.

M. Nieminen (2014) Poro-Reindeer.

 

Text: José-Carlos García-Rosell

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Communicating animal welfare in tourism

 How important is animal welfare communication in tourism?

Communicating about the welfare of animals working in tourism has become highly relevant at a time when consumers values are pushing towards more responsible consumption. A recent study that we conducted at the University of Lapland shows that 83% of tourists are concerned about the rights and treatment of animals in today’s society.  At the same time, many tourists considered animal-based activities as an important reason for traveling to places like Lapland. Indeed, although many tourists feel that interaction with animals is an exciting experience, they are also concern about the treatment of animals in tourism. As a result, animal welfare is becoming a critical criterion used by tour operators to select their suppliers.

Photo by J.C. García-Rosell

A guide for communicating animal welfare in tourism

Responsibility emphasizes the important role of communication in creating and maintaining transparent and open dialogues with customers and other stakeholders. We need such dialogues to foster ethical and socially responsible tourism practices. Therefore, we created a guide focusing on the ways of communicating and educating on animal welfare in tourism. The guide aims to help animal-based tourism companies evaluate and develop more comprehensive animal welfare communication strategies. It is also suitable for tour operators, DMOs and other business partners selling or promoting animal-based tourism services.

Although animal welfare communication is company-specific, there are questions that most companies struggle with. For instance, Which communication tools to use? What content to share in social media? Which information to put on the website? What information is relevant for the customers? Rather than being exhaustive, the guide offers some guidance on some of these crucial issues related to animal welfare communication. Furthermore, it helps companies increase the transparency of their operations and the visibility of the values shaping their animal welfare policies.

At its best, it provides a good starting point for an animal-based tourism company to reflect on their way of communicating their business philosophy and how they make it happen in practice. The guide is the outcome of our work in the project “Animals and responsible tourism: promoting business competitiveness through animal welfare”. The guide was written and assembled by Meike Witt from Exploring Iceland, Tarja Salmela and José-Carlos García-Rosell from the University of Lapland.

To access the guide click HERE

 

Text: J.C. García-Rosell

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Social media and animals in tourism

The power of social media

Millions of travelers share their experiences trough social media. Data generated online can take various forms (e.g. comments, reviews, blog posts, tweets, pictures, videos and vlogs). This type of data is usually referred to as user-generated content or traveller-generated content.

If we consider the amount of user-generated content, social media becomes a valuable source of information for understanding consumer values. As a growing public discussion, animal welfare in tourism is well-represented in social media.

Photo: J.C. García-Rosell

Studying animal-based tourism in social media

Here, we aim to understand consumer values by looking into user-generated content related to animal-based tourism services in Lapland. To that end, we rely on visual (video, pictures) and textual (comments, reviews) content. We use data created in 2016-2018 and collected from Facebook, Instagram, TripAdvisor and YouTube. We use content analysis to analyze the data. The study was conducted by Dominika Klos, one of our students from the Master’s Degree Programme “Tourism, Culture and International Management” (TourCIM), PhD José-Carlos García-Rosell and PhD Minni Haanpää.

Photo: J.C. García-Rosell

TripAdvisor: a key discussion channel

We identified 208 reviews in TripAdvisor and 113 pictures and 30 videos in other social media channels. As a result, we can position TripAdvisor as one of the leading social media channels for discussions about animal-based tourism in Lapland. Tourists write the reviews to share their experience and often comment on the quality of life of working animals in Lapland.

Figure: Types of content

Animal welfare in the spotlight

Animal welfare was the largest topic of discussion identified in the study. We identified a total of 331 comments related to the welfare of animals such as sled dogs and reindeer. Nevertheless, we should stress that most comments focused on sled dogs. We found out that discussions on animal welfare focused on a wide range of issues related to the life and treatment of animals. For example, we identified discussions revolving around issues such as care, health, work, chains, animal facilities, ethics and the retirement of animals.

Figure: Animal welfare related issues

With our study, we show that tourists using animal-based tourism services pay a lot of attention to different aspects of animal welfare. Although we can see a general interest in how animals are treated, tourists were also concerned about their working conditions and their future retirement. Tourists, who were more concerned about animal welfare, contacted the companies directly. Indeed, they did careful online research before booking the service.

If you want to know more about the study, you are warmly welcome to read the full report HERE.

 

Text: José-Carlos García-Rosell

 

 

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Animal-based tourism in Lapland

The role of animals in Nordic tourism

Animals have become a very important part of tourism and leisure experiences of tourist visiting the Nordic countries. Animals play different roles in tourism. They can be in captivity ( zoos), in the wild (bear watching) or as as part of tourism activities (horseback riding). The picture of animals or human-animal encounters have become common in the marketing and promotion material of Nordic destinations.

For example, the marketing campaigns of Finland, Norway and Sweden include animals to a greater extent. By taking a glance at Visit Finland, Visit Norway and Visiting Sweden travel portals, one will soon notice the images of wildlife animals, horses, huskies and reindeer among other. These images become stronger and more prevalent as soon as we look for further northern destinations such as Northern Norway, Swedish Lapland and Finnish Lapland. Reindeer and huskies are not only represented as one of the main attractions, but they have also become an important branding element of these places. Indeed, it’s difficult to imagine a visit to Lapland without huskies or reindeer.

 

Photo: J.C. García-Rosell

Huskies, reindeer and horses in Lapland

Although the tourism industry in Lapland is aware of the significance of animals, there was a lack of knowledge about the current situation of animal-based tourism services. How many animal-based tourism companies are operating in Lapland? Which and how many animals are used in the creation of tourism experiences? Where are these animals situated? What is the economic impact of animal-based tourism services? In the project, Animal Welfare in Tourism Services, we conducted a study to find out answers to these questions.

This study identified a total of 158 animal-based tourism service firms in Lapland. A total of 53 firms offered services such as hunting, fishing and wildlife watching. We were able to locate 42 husky, 34 reindeer and 11 equestrian farms. These companies are well-distributed across Lapland.

Although the turnover of animal-based tourism services represents 2,4 % of the total turnover of  the Lapland tourism industry, these services play still an major role in the economy of Lapland.  Indeed, they bring value to local tourism brands and attract hundreds of thousands of tourists to Lapland. From this perspective, we clearly see that animals have an impact on the turnover of tourism programme service companies, restaurants and hotels. For example, we identified 42 destination management organizations (DMO) in Lapland, which do not own animals, but the sales of animal-based tourism services represent a significant share of their annual turnover.  Indeed, we can argued that animal-based tourism services have a considerably direct and indirect impact on Lapland’s economy.

A more detailed report of the study is available HERE.

Text: J.C. García-Rosell

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Lapland tourists’ views on animal welfare

Studying the views of Lapland tourists on animal welfare

During June 2016 and February 2017, we conducted a study aiming to explore the attitudes of Lapland tourists towards animals and animal-based tourism. To that end , we use a semi-structured survey based on cluster sampling. Data collection took place in Rovaniemi and mostly in the premises of the Rovaniemi Airport. We focused mainly on the departures of charter flights. In that way, we were able to get a representative sample of the tourists coming from the most important target markets of Lapland. We selected the respondents randomly. We conducted the survey in six different languages: Finnish, English, German, Russian and Mandarin. A total of 601 tourists from more than 20 different countries participated in the survey. The study was part of the project “Animal welfare in tourism services”.

Photo: J.C. García-Rosell

How important animals are to Lapland tourists?

We found out that animals play an important role in attracting people to Lapland. Indeed, 68% of the tourists surveyed said that animal-based tourism activities were an important reason for visiting Lapland. We also found out that 83% of the tourists were concerned about the rights and treatment of animals in today’s society. This finding is consistent with the results of the Eurobarometer on animal welfare 2016. According to it, 89% of European citizens believe that there should be an EU-legislation that obliges people to care for animals used for commercial purposes. The majority of tourism considered that animals should not be maltreated under any circumstances. Only few respondents saw animals as tourism objects that should be always visible and easy to photograph.

 

In addition, we found out that the staff and marketing channels of animal-based tourism companies play a important role in providing information about animal welfare. Also the respondents stressed the role of local tourism information offices in communicating about animal welfare. If you are interested in reading more about the study, you can access the full report HERE. Although we can say that the majority of Lapland tourists are concern about the welfare of animals working in tourism, we could identify a group of customers that are particularly concerned about the issue. We call this group “ethical consumers”. We have conducted interviews with them to study their values and how they influence their tourism consumption. In addition, we have conducted a social media analysis focusing on animal welfare in Lapland tourism. We will publish these studies in the coming months.

 

Text: J.C. García-Rosell

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Monitoring animal welfare in tourism

Insights into quality certifications including animal welfare criteria

One of the objectives of the project “Animals and Responsible Tourism” was to examine quality standards including animal welfare criteria. To that end, we conducted an evaluation of a wide range of both national and international certifications and quality labels. Furthermore, we interviewed five certified animal-based tourism service providers. The service providers interviewed operate in Canada, Iceland, Finland and Sweden. They offer services such as whale watching, dog sledding and horseback riding. The study helps understand how animal welfare is considered in existing tourism quality standards. It also offers insights into the benefits of these standards for the operation of animal-based tourism companies. The results of the study can be found in the report “Quality monitoring practices in animal-based tourism” (see below).

 

 

Click on the picture to access the report.

 

In the video below, Tarja Salmela-Leppänen offers an overview of the content and main highlights of the report. The video is meant to serve as an introduction to the report.

 

 

Tarja Salmela-Leppänen, Mikko Äijälä and J.C. García-Rosell will present the results of this study in the conference “The Visitor Economy: Strategies and Innovation”. The conference takes place at Bournemouth University, U.K. on 4-6 September, 2017. The presentation is part of the track “Animals and Tourism” . The track has been organized by Doctor Susanna Curtin and Professor David Fennell.

 

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