Tourism is one of the fastest growing economic sectors. Indeed, growing tourism is often discussed in economic terms. The impacts of this growth should be examined critically, from ethical and ecological viewpoints as well.

In the Cold Rush research project, we are looking at the growing economic sectors in the Arctic area, including tourism. The so-called cold rush is bringing tourists to Lapland in ever greater numbers and across ever greater distances. As tourism is increasing there is also a growing demand for workers, who are recruited to Lapland from abroad. Because tourism is concentrated on the winter season, part of the labour force moves elsewhere for the summer. When tourists and workers leave, the resort towns empty out. Hotels and restaurants close, cottages stand empty – resources are wasted.

The sustainability of tourism is regarded as an important development target in Lapland, because the popularity of the resorts is based on the local nature, snow and clean air. The aim is therefore to extend the tourism season year round and make the stays longer. In an interview a manager promoting the local tourism industry brought up a clear contradiction, however: Advertising tourism as a sustainable is unethical if the tourists come to the resorts by plane. For example, tourists from the UK have been flown to Lapland to admire snow for just a day, but fortunately the number of such one-day visitors has recently decreased.

Work-related travel also contributes to travel emissions. So next, I turn my critical gaze on myself and my own work community.

The academic world is international. The Academy of Finland calls for mobility. Merits for one’s professional career can be obtained by research visits and invited lectures. Intercontinental flights are commonplace for many.

Cognitive dissonance is common: We know that work trips multiply our carbon footprint, but the structures do not support more ecological choices.

I am not claiming that we should give up work trips altogether. Digital conferences are a good response to this dilemma, but we also need face-to-face meetings. Instead, travel guidelines and expectations should be made more reasonable and more ecological choices enabled. Domestic flights should be avoided and longer trips could be made by train as well. The number of work trips could be decreased and the stays lengthened: it should be possible to combine vacations with work trips and a research visit with conference travel. Fees to compensate for emissions should be accepted as travel costs. Ideally, such compensation fees would be made an integral part of mobility funding.

In academic work, ethical aspects need to be considered in all matters. Universities and financers should reconsider the expectations for mobility from the ethical point of view. Does mobility make a researcher more competent? Is traveling an inherent value? Internationalisation is possible in many ways at one’s home university as well, and sometimes the most useful networks can be found nearby.

Many colleagues have said that they work best while traveling by train. Here we have a new innovation: Let’s start to organise writing retreats on train en route back home from a European conference. There would be ample time to digest what the conference offered while looking at the changing scenery.

Maiju Strömmer
postdoctoral researcher, Department of Language and Communication Studies

Cold Rush project https://coldrushresearch.com/

This writing was created on the basis of discussions held at a seminar on changing work culture and new expectations as well as of a lecture by Professor Soile Veijola (University of Lapland), who is specialised in the cultural research of tourism. 

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