A newly published Opportunity Catalogue outlines the biggest X-Nordic challenges for improvement and innovation! This is the result of phase one of the X-Nordic Travel Contest, which took place late 2022 to end of June 2023. The Opportunity Catalogue summarises insights from 6 Nordic workshops – gathering 152 tourism stakeholders, a cross-Nordic survey of 140 tourism businesses and 18 in-depth qualitative interviews. This data has been contextualised and qualified by insights from six esteemed Academic Panel members.
Below you can explore five key challenges within the Nordic Tourism Industry. Are you to curious to know more? Then dive into the world of challenges in the Opportunity Catalogue.
#1 SEASONALITY IS THE REAL CULPRIT!
Seasonality stands out as one of the most notable challenges across the Nordics and was brought up as a key concern in 5 out of 6 workshops countries.
The findings show the most central issues concerning seasonality include economic unsustainability due to the large fluctuations in visitor numbers across different seasons. There are also challenges in retaining workers during the low season, specifically skilled workers. Lack of tourism products or activities that could encourage year-round tourism was also highlighted as part of this challenge. A survey respondent explains it in the following:
“Summer and winter represent two completely different environmental realities in the high arctics. You have to invent something completely new because the weather conditions are so remarkably different.”
#2 FINDING WALLY IS EASIER THAN FINDING WORKERS
Workforce emerged as a significant challenge across the Nordics. It was highlighted in the majority of the workshops and almost 50% of survey respondents underscored its significance. .
There was reported to be a shortage of qualified workers and limited training opportunities, especially in areas like sustainability and digitalisation. Several survey respondents agreed that the sector suffers from low wages, poor working conditions, and an inadequate work-life balance, leading to a reduced appeal for potential employees.
Businesses believe that the interest in the tourism job market has also declined, further exacerbating the scarcity of workers, especially in smaller destinations. The managing director of a destination organisation emphasised the severity of this explaining “Labour is everything! We have 2 schools and there are not enough students – and then we don’t have a workforce. It’s bad now – and it will be worse in the future.”
#3 SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS MODELS: WILL THEY BREAK THE BANK?
Shifting to sustainable business models was identified by 39% of survey respondents as one of their key challenges.
The main concerns for sustainable business models highlighted across workshops, survey and interviews are the considerable costs associated with transitioning to sustainable practices. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) grapple with operational hurdles, such as allocating additional time and securing a trained workforce to facilitate the adoption of these models. One of the survey participants explains “We would like to be a sustainable hostel, but it is very hard to figure out which solutions will actually help us become that…” The scarcity of applicable examples to learn from and the lack of tailored guidance for SMEs worsen the problem further according to the survey respondents and workshop participants.
Communication and storytelling present their own set of challenges, as findings show that businesses find it difficult to communicate sustainability practices. In fact, businesses expressed concerns about potential accusations of greenwashing due to mishandled communication that discourages them from showcasing their initiatives.
#4 CONNECTING THE MOBILITY DOTS
Mobility was highlighted as a key challenge in 4 out of 6 workshops across the Nordics and by almost 1/3 of survey respondents.
Remote destinations and disparities in the geographical distribution of transportation networks, particularly railways, were reported as creating hurdles and meant a lack of comprehensive and seamless coverage throughout the region.
Among other things, workshop participants subsequently suggested improving transportation services across borders and fostering the development of cross-border tourism products. The inadequate availability of charging points for electric vehicles was also highlighted across the Nordics, hindering green ambitions.
#5 GROUNDS FOR GOING GREEN
Environmental concerns were highlighted as a major challenge amongst 20% of survey respondents.
Participants in the workshops, particularly from the Faroe Islands, highlighted the importance of nature-based tourist destinations to improve management and regulations to protect the nature and prevent the overuse and exploitation of marine resources. Numerous survey respondents from the Faroe Islands also highlighted this challenge, with one noting – “Popular attractions and pristine areas are becoming overcrowded, leading to erosion, pollution, and disturbance to local flora and fauna..”
The workshops also drew attention to difficulties related to promoting local food sourcing and tackling food waste in establishments like hotels, restaurants, and cruise ships.