Abstracts for Session 12

 Tourism and other land uses: Coexistence, potential conflicts, or opportunities for symbiotic relationships



Title: The tourism industry attitudes towards a proposed Central Highlands National Park

Authors: Anna Dóra Sæþórsdóttir

Affiliation: University of Iceland


The Icelandic Central Highlands are a unique area, with extremely vulnerable nature. In the past decades, the Highlands have become an important tourist destination, both for international as well as domestic travellers, and there are concerns that certain areas are under too much pressure from high visitation. In late 2020, the Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources proposed a bill to establish a Central Highlands National Park, which would cover 30% of the country, aiming to protect the Highlands’ nature while allowing people to enjoy the area. Since the tourism industry is an important stakeholder in the Highlands, it is important to know its attitude towards the area’s utilization, including its attitude towards establishing a national park. This study presents the findings from an online survey among tourism operators. The findings confirm that the Highlands’ attraction is mainly its diverse nature, wilderness, peace and quiet and that the area is of high importance for the industry. The opinions on how to best maintain the natural qualities of the Highlands are divergent and the participants do not agree on whether to establish a national park or not. More participants (44%) are negative towards the national park than positive (40%). The reasons for the tourism operators’ attitudes often contradict each other. Supporters of the national park believe that it will increase the attraction of the Highlands and that enhanced nature protection will be beneficial. Those who oppose the national park fear rules and regulations as well as limited access to the Highlands.  



Title: Public views on nature conservation and access in the Central Highland of Iceland

Authors: Michaël Bishop, Þorvarður Árnason, and Rannveig Ólafsdóttir

Affiliation: University of Iceland


Despite being in a remote, uninhabited setting, the Central Highland of Iceland has been the subject of substantial land-use conflicts. Over the past decades, hydropower and tourism development fueled passionate public debates and led to a grassroot campaign for the establishment of a national park in the Central Highland, consistently credited by a strong level of support. This study aims to provide a broader understanding of the public expectations, concerns, attitudes and opinions to nature conser-vation in the Central Highland, while shedding light on important tourism management issues, such as whether visitor numbers should be limited and whether roads in the area should be upbuilt. Participa-tory approaches were adopted to fulfill this aim, using an online quantitative nation-wide survey and a parallel open survey sent out to members of all environmental and recreational organizations in Ice-land. The results reveal that the ability of the proposed national park to manage tourism is seen as one of its main advantages, while the primary source of concerns relates to restrictions on recreational uses, funding and governance issues. Complementary findings from the open survey clearly suggest that road development is strongly opposed by members of environmental and recreational groups, calling for further consultation on the matter of access development. Overall, this study highlights the critical importance and sensitivity of access related matters when it comes to land-use planning in Central Highland, especially for tourism and recreational stakeholders.



Title: The being and becoming of Danish national and nature parks: A land use perspective

Authors: Janne Liburd, Kristof Tomej, and Birthe Menke

Affiliation: University of Southern Denmark


National parks in Denmark have only been introduced after the turn of the millennium. The contemporary political and economic realities thus shaped a distinct land ownership structure, where the parks do not own or govern land. Nature parks, which are enabled through a certification scheme of the Danish Outdoor Council since 2013, face a similar situation. Guided by an inductive approach, we visited four national parks and seven nature parks, where we engaged in situ with park employees and diverse stakeholders in April – May 2021 to explore histories, interdependencies and complexities of tourism and sustainability. In addition, workshops in each of these parks contribute to the overarching project aim of facilitating dialogue about socio-cultural values to initiate transformations for sustainable tourism development in Danish national and nature parks. 

The designation of a park offers ground for identifying latent values of a continuous landscape owned by multiple individuals and entities. Initially, the park landowners’ differing interests may complicate the development of this potential. Deliberating values generated by tourists and tourism, however, helps (re-)discover local natural and other resources as “valuable”. Working with these and other mutually shared values over time helps cultivate trust, which is necessary for leveraging the multiple landowners’ and users’ interpretations for developing alternate uses of the park area for its sustainable development. This process is driven by dynamic stakeholder alliances, which form upon interdependencies between the various land uses, business interests, personal wellbeing and shared values, whether as a result of crises or other urgencies. 



Title: Governance orientations of touristic wilderness

Author: Aapo Lunden

Affiliation: Oulu University


This contribution aims to provide a theoretical perspective regarding the governance of touristic wilderness and sustainable tourism. The proposal makes two claims: firstly, to get a hold on the slippery subjects of sustainability and governance of tourism, related to touristic wilderness, the premises of the “symbiotic” relationship between tourism and conservation need to be critically re-evaluated in the age of Anthropocene. Secondly, the presentation calls to put more emphasis on institutional perspectives and the role of institutions in nature-based tourism due to the hybrid nature of State agencies, their de-facto land ownership, and their multiple roles and logics related to touristic land use in protected areas. 

The presentation provides a theoretical categorization of governance orientations of touristic wilderness based on an analysis of Finnish protected area and tourism governance in the past two decades. By the categorization of “platform wilderness,” “service wilderness,” and “detached wilderness,” the presentation aims to touch traditional wilderness use dilemmas related to spatial imaginations, their use, and sustainability. Finally, through different governance orientations, the presentation aims to expand the discussion over the institutionalised envision of symbiotic tourism-conservation relationship (may they be mutual, commensal, or parasitic) and sustainable tourism claims based on “sustainability through negation” (through contrast with other sectors, e.g., mining and logging). By combining these perspectives, the presentation aims to bring together challenges related to touristic land use, wilderness use, and complex institutional logics and traditions of standard conceptualisations of sustainable tourism in the public sector.  



Title: Public participation - an interdisciplinary tool to engage ‘Glocal’ communities for sustainable futures?

Authors: Rannveig Ólafsdóttir, Michaël Bishop, and Anna Guðrún Edvardsdóttir

Affiliation: University of Iceland


In the past decades tourism has been seen as an important industry in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions, and this importance is likely to increase post Covid-19. Tourism has had a positive effect on many Arctic communities through diversification of economic activities and creation of new workplaces. Tourism impacts are, however, well known to exceed the ecological and social carrying capacity of many areas across the region, affecting residents’ livelihoods and triggering land use conflicts. Land use conflicts are the result of different views and perceptions about landscapes and their services. Involving the local communitiesin land use planning and decision-making is thus crucial. Local participation is likewise fundamental in determining sustainable tourism. This study seeks to find solutions to strengthen public participation in land use planning. Its specific aims are to identify conflict potential with regard to different land uses by evaluating residents’ perceptions in two municipalities in the Icelandic Westfjords towards tourism development, climate change and other factors that affect their communities’ livelihoods. A map-based online survey powered by Maptionnaire (PPGIS) was sent out to all residents in the two municipalities. The results will be introduced at the conference. This study is a part of a larger international project called ArcticHub, which focuses on strengthening the sustainability and resilience of communities in the Arctic by identifying and quantifying current environmental, socioeconomic, cultural and political salient impacts of various industrial activities, and by assessing how predicted changes in activity (new or increased activity, fewer local and more global actors) resulting from adaptive responses to climate change will affect these impacts.



Title: Living with tourism: tourism accomodations and spatial changes in rural Iceland

Author: Sigrún Birgisdóttir

Affiliation: Iceland University of the Arts, University of Iceland.


The tourism sector in Iceland relies on a network of accommodations and services across the country servicing up to 8,5 million overnight stays every year. With only 8800 hotel rooms the question arises as to where and how tourists are accommodated and how tourism affects the spatial development of the rural.

With globalized mass tourism the rural is subject to extensive changes. The investigation focuses on urban and spatial transformation in the rural due to tourism. The area of study transects the country from the city of Reykjavík to the east coast along the 64° capturing a range of geographical and spatial conditions. The focus is on the spaces of accommodation and the emerging spatial typologies and its architecture, how existing spaces are transformed and how new spaces integrate into different settings and environments.

The research is centred around a case study of a working farm that included a hotel and restaurant. The farm typology is chosen as the archetypical form of settlement in Iceland. The case study provides the context for a local investigation of the built environment and the social. By studying this one place in particular, questions can be asked about how they relate to the habitat and socio-economic relations within the larger built environment and will inform questions as to how other forms of accommodations perform across the field of study.




Title: Short-term vacation rentals in Sweden and Greece. Tourism vs housing in diverse housing, financial and tourist regimes.

Author: Myrto Dagkouli-Kyriakoglou

Affiliation: Malmo University


Short-term rentals (STRs), with Airbnb as the poster-child, constitute a disruptive financial activity that rose during the latest financial crisis in Greece and Sweden by commodifying housing. However, the two countries constitute two cases with many differences regarding housing regimes, financial status as well as the economic dependence on tourism. Accordingly, STRs as tourist accommodations are spread and impact housing in different ways, challenging the work of policymakers and planners.


Tourism through STRs is structuring the new housing scene and urban futures while a new crisis (COVID-19 induced) is unfolding and piling up to the previous ones (financial crisis of 1990s and 2008), challenging further the sustainable use of land and resources by taking over and transforming houses through platform-mediated STRs. This piece of work based on interviews with amateur hosts in Greece and Sweden during 2020 is seeking to address the growing or persistent conflicts between housing and ‘not-for-housing housing’ (Doling & Ronald, 2019) as well as to raise a discussion about tourism compatible with the land-use needs in the two contexts. The new crisis related to the COVID-19 pandemic could act as a portal to a sustainable tourism and housing.



Title: Coexistence of wind farms and tourism in Iceland: addressing the conflict from the tourism industry perspective

Authors: Margrét Wendt and Anna Dóra Sæþórsdóttir

Affiliation: University of Iceland


Renewable energy plays an important role in mitigating climate change. The interest in harnessing wind energy keeps increasing globally, particularly since wind power generation costs have decreased. Iceland is among the countries interested in taking its first steps towards harnessing wind energy. However, Iceland’s natural areas are not only important for renewable energy harnessing, they are also the main attraction for tourists. Studies have shown that visual impacts of wind turbines are among the main reasons for public opposition to their installation, since they affect how the landscape is perceived and experienced. Therefore, it is foreseeable that the construction of wind farms in Iceland will create land-use conflicts between the energy sector and the tourism industry. This study sheds light on what impacts five proposed wind farms would have on the tourism industry and what the tourism industry considers as the key factors that need to be taken into account when choosing a suitable location for wind farms. The study is based on 47 semi-structured interviews with representatives from tourism companies. The findings reveal that the tourism industry considers the impacts of wind turbines to be generally negative, since they decrease the natural quality and thus the attraction of areas in which they are placed. In addition, the participants find that wind farms are least suitable in areas which are characterised by a high number of tourists, many tourist attractions and unspoiled nature, where the need for more energy is low and where the visibility of the wind turbines would be high.  



Title: The interrelationships of renewable energy infrastructure and tourism: Findings of a systematic literature review

Authors: Edita Tverijonaite, Anna Dóra Sæþórsdóttir, and Rannveig Ólafsdóttir

Affiliation: University of Iceland


Increasing renewable energy developments point to the need for investigating how renewable energy infrastructure (REI) affects tourism. This systematic literature review aims to map the present knowledge on the interrelationships of REI and tourism and to identify research gaps in the field. Online databases Scopus and Web of Science were used for the search of relevant academic articles, which were selected based on predefined selection criteria and analysed. The findings of the review revealed that the topic receives increasing attention. The highest proportion of the reviewed studies investigate the attitudes, perceptions, and behaviour of tourism stakeholders, followed by economic valuation studies and landscape/environmental/land use planning studies. The reviewed articles point to the heterogeneity of the tourism stakeholder attitudes towards REI, and consequently to a wide range of positive and negative impacts on tourist experience, recreational opportunities, and tourism demand. REI and tourism not only rely on the same natural resources, but also on each other: tourism creates more demand for energy and needs REI for reducing its CO2 emissions, while power production from renewable sources in remote areas supports tourism development and thereby benefits local communities. High reliance on tourism has been shown to affect the economic benefits of REI in the area. In line with these wide-ranging results, impacts on tourism are used as a political argument both for and against REI construction. Further research on the factors affecting the character and severity of the impacts of REI on tourism is needed to facilitate sustainable REI and tourism development.