Norway – more than fjords and salmon

The Norwegian tourism and hospitality industry consists of many small players that lack their own resources for research. The Research Council offers assistance by bringing together companies and researchers in the field. Together they plan to heighten Norway’s appeal as a travel destination.

“Researchers can help the Norwegian tourism and hospitality industry to think in new directions and develop more programs and activities for tourists,” says Kristin Danielsen, Director of the Department for Bioproduction, Internationalization and Commercialization at the Research Council. “Now we want to focus on research about, for and within the tourism and hospitality industry, especially related to activities. Here Norway has something to offer that is not easily found elsewhere,” says Ms. Danielsen.

Casting a wide net

Norwegian tourism research covers a wide range of areas from tourism in general to farm and rural tourism, outdoor activities, hunting and fishing, the cultural landscape and cultural monuments, and brand building. So far the most funding has been awarded to research on hunting and fishing, followed closely by research on farm and rural tourism.

“It is mainly families that take advantage of the activities offered by Norwegian nature-based tourism,” says Trond Værnes, Special Adviser at the Research Council. “The range of activities is quite large: They can choose between farms that offer close encounters with animals, self-produced food, activities in the mountains and other wilderness areas, and congenial overnight accommodation.”

Untapped resources

Ingun Grimstad Klepp, ethnologist and Head of Research at the National Institute for Consumer Research (SIFO), is interested in identifying new niches for the Norwegian tourism and hospitality industry.

“There is lots in the Norwegian landscape we don’t use at all in the context of tourism,” she states. Gathering mussels or picking berries and mushrooms is a typical example. Ms. Grimstad Klepp would also like to see new tourism activities that profile Norwegian culture, especially long-standing traditions such as Norwegian knitting.

“Knitting is perhaps one of the most unique traditions we have in Norway. When we have guests from abroad, we take great pride in bringing out our knitted products and giving away a pair of mittens or a sweater. But the tourist industry does not actively sing the praises of Norwegian knitting skills and there is little research on the role played by this tradition in our culture. There is a great deal of untapped potential here,” says Ms. Grimstad Klepp.

Gold in green forests

Øyvind Wang of the Norwegian Forest Owners’ Federation heads a project aimed at finding new ways of exploiting the potential of the Norwegian landscape.

“We have much to gain from using our natural resources to attract tourists, especially in a broader perspective than just hunting and fishing. Analyses conducted by the Norwegian Forest Owners’ Association show that activities which are not related to hunting and fishing could become very popular. There is clearly an international market for hiking, canoeing, kayaking, cycling, bird watching and animal safaris,” he says.

“We have launched a project to look at how we can develop this type of activity on a small scale. This will help to get the landowners involved and show them how to take advantage of the resources found on their own properties,” says Mr Wang. He also stresses the importance of tailoring and marketing the activities in order to succeed with nature-based tourism.

Research is a beacon

A recent conference on tourism and hospitality organized under the auspices of the Research Council put the spotlight on new ways of thinking, among both researchers in the field and industry players. In order to consolidate and coordinate forces, the Research Council is now establishing two new working groups that will examine the needs for research and how the research results can provide a basis for innovation in the tourism and hospitality industry.

“This represents new momentum for tourism research in Norway,” says Ms Danielsen.

The Research Program on Nature-based Industry (NATUROGNÆRING) accounts for roughly half of the research conducted on tourism and hospitality under the Research Council, while the other half is funded by other programmes or receives support under the SkatteFUNN tax deduction scheme.

Norwegian initiative on tourism research

Most of the tourism research conducted in Norway is funded via the Research Council with allocations from the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development, and the Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs. In addition, there are 90 projects receiving support under the SkatteFUNN tax deduction scheme.

In 2009, research funding was awarded to:

– General tourism research (five projects)

– Research on farm and rural tourism (10 projects)

– Research on outdoor activities (seven projects)

– Research on hunting and fishing (nine projects)

– Research on the cultural landscape and cultural monuments (seven projects)

– Research on brand building (six projects

Source: Research Council of Norway

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