Norway - Northern Norway
From the perspective of Northern Norway, tourism operators see the Barents Regions as one that has much to offer tourists seeking Northern experiences. However, the branding of the Barents Region as a tourism destination faces many challenges, not least of which is that the Barents Region seems to be known only among certain narrow circles in the Nordic countries and Russia. In other words, tourists from outside the region are not familiar with the term Barents and are more familiar with Arctic or North. Some of our respondents indicated that “Barents Region is a non-concept when it comes to tourism” and that “Barents Region” as a concept is not the term tourism operators readily use to attract tourists to the region. The respondents strongly asserted that “We do not use Barents Region in marketing”. More common are easily identifiable concepts such as “Northern lights”, “Arctic”, Northern pristine landscapes, dog-sledding, snow, ice, reindeer, etc. For traditional and new tourism customers coming from Asia, Europe, and other parts of the world, these are ideas that are easier to explain and to sell. Thus, tour operators see more potential in selling the region as a unique Northern land- and sea-scape, where it is possible to have adventurous experiences close to nature and “traditional” land use in all of the seasons, especially in Summer and Winter.
For tourism operators, market and customers are the main considerations. Many tour operators in Northern Norway are small, often family-run enterprises. For the most part, they only have the capacity to operate their small businesses. It would be a great challenge for them to also consider cooperating with other tour operators in the Barents Region in order to build tourism as an enterprise throughout the entire region. Even without the hurdles of a visa regime, as is the case with the Norwegian-Russian border, a common strategy for Barents Region tourism would be a great challenge. It may be worthwhile, however, to promote knowledge of what the Barents Region is and what it can offer as a starting point for advertising the region to interested consumers worldwide.