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4. Developing domestic tourism in the Nordics

The following chapter aims to identify needs for the development of domestic tourism and the solutions found thus far. First, the development needs are examined based on the results of the survey and the useful practices created during the pandemic are presented.
After this, the focus shifts to another sub-group of useful practices, namely those brought forth by the country reports. Two cases from each country were presented in the reports as examples of the best practices of developing domestic tourism during the pandemic. Common patterns of these ten cases are first analysed, after which a short summary of each of the cases is presented. The chapter ends with a short treatment of two special themes: the development of domestic tourism in the autonomous areas and the regions on the border of two or more Nordic countries, where the concept of ‘domestic’ tourism somewhat blurs.
Main findings in this chapter are:
  • Increased marketing to domestic tourists (both by companies themselves and by the supporting organisations) is seen as the most important method in increasing domestic tourism.  
  • Coordination of domestic tourism development is considered important. However, views differ on which level it should be done.
  • Useful practices of developing domestic tourism created during the pandemic share many of the lessons learned, such as importance of utilizing data, quick and agile actions, and the significance of active communication.
  • The border regions where cross-border travel is common are a somewhat special case regarding domestic tourism. The pandemic created specific types of problems for domestic tourism in the border regions and the nationally earmarked support for tourism industry causes challenges.       

4.1. The needs of tourism enterprises

According to the country reports, there are various factors speaking for the growing potential of the domestic tourism in the Nordics. These include increasing interest in the ecological aspects of tourism and emerging consciousness of the potential hazards of travel abroad, such as its environmental footprint and the risks of travel in volatile times. However, knowledge of how to best support the domestic tourism companies in actualising that potential is a lot scarcer, and some of the stakeholders interviewed for the country reports pointed out that there are various segments in the domestic markets that are unknown. Also, initiatives on the development of domestic tourism have not been very frequent. Several interviewees agreed that more and better domestic tourism products (e.g. in the cultural sector) are needed in order to develop the domestic tourism sector.
In the survey, there were three questions either directly or indirectly handling the theme of the development of domestic tourism. In the first of them, the respondents representing private companies were given a list of alternatives and asked to choose the best ways of developing their companies’ offering in order for it to better meet the needs of domestic tourists. In the second question, all the respondents were given a list of different developmental measures and asked to choose those that they deemed to most benefit domestic tourism in their region. The last question asked if the domestic tourism development between different organisations should be coordinated and, if so, on what levels this should be done.    
According to the respondents representing the private companies, the best way to enhance their offering to domestic tourists is by increased marketing. This option was chosen by 50 per cent of all the respondents, and it was the most-commonly chosen option (or in the shared first place) in the responses of all the countries. In the second and third places for the options, were ‘the development of current services and products offered’ and ‘innovating entirely new kinds of services and products’ (accounting for 34% and 32% respectively); the sum of the answers is more than 100 per cent as the respondents were able to choose more than one option. (Figure 34).   
Figure 34. Measures to develop the offering of the company for domestic market, percentage of respondents choosing an alternative.
Likewise, when all the respondents of the survey were asked which measures most benefit domestic tourism in their region, the option getting the most support concerned marketing (the option ‘marketing campaigns to increase domestic tourism’ was chosen by 44% of the respondents). Almost as many respondents also chose ‘opportunities to collaborate and network with other businesses and organisations’ and ‘developing the local infrastructure, transportation and accessibility’, which were both chosen by 40 per cent of the respondents. In the interviews, development infrastructure (especially concerning traffic and transportation) was also a theme mentioned by various interviewees. Another theme that came across in many interviews was continuous development of digital services.  
When examining the answers by type of respondent, some differences can be observed. The majority of private enterprises and business support organisations consider marketing campaigns to benefit domestic tourism, while this factor is less important for DMOs. On the other hand, DMOs place a higher value on the option ‘Collaborating and networking with other businesses and organisations’ than the other types of organisations, especially when compared with business support organisations.
The development of local infrastructure, transportation and accessibility is seen as important by all types of organisations, but the proportion of respondents who consider it important varies somewhat between the different types of organisations. The importance of the development of alternative tourism products for domestic markets is notably higher among business support organisations, especially when compared with DMOs. However, DMOs and business support organisations place a higher importance on opportunities for training and skills development for the local enterprises when compared with private enterprises and other organisations. (Figure 35). In general, these differences can be seen to represent the different functions of organisations. Private enterprises are more interested in direct actions to increase number of domestic tourists whereas DMOs and business support organisations have higher inclination towards skills development and information gathering that support the long-term growth.
Figure 35. Measures to enhance domestic tourism in the region, percentage of respondents choosing an alternative by organisation type.
A noteworthy aspect about the answers to both of these questions is that a majority of the most popular options (‘Marketing campaigns’, ‘The development and innovation of products and services’ and ‘Collaboration and networking opportunities’) were all well represented in the case studies of best practices developed during the pandemic (cf. Subsection 4.3). Thus, the results of the survey are supported here by the measures already executed during the pandemic and vice versa.
The need for the coordination of domestic tourism development was widely recognised both in the survey and in the interviews. In the survey, only five per cent of the respondents saw no need to coordinate domestic tourism development between different organisations. The most preferred level for the coordination of the development activities was the regional level (it was chosen by 55% of the respondents), although both national- and local-level coordination (i.e. one level lower or higher than the regional level) also gained quite a lot of support. (Figure 36).
Figure 36. Preferred level of domestic tourism development coordination, share of respondents choosing an alternative.
Regional-level coordination was the most-often mentioned in the interviews and workshops as well. It was seen as the most natural level at which to coordinate domestic tourism since, for the domestic tourists, the regional differences often matter more than they do for inbound tourists. Developing inbound tourism was more often seen as a national effort due to the nature of the international market, where countries compete against other countries to make themselves interesting travel destinations. Yet, the national level was still seen as important, especially in efforts to promote domestic traveling as an alternative to outbound trips for national audiences. In all the Nordic countries, there are national-level structures in place for international tourism development. These could also be utilised in domestic-level development – as has been the case during the Covid-19 pandemic in Norway and Sweden.
Nordic-level coordination and cooperation concerning domestic tourism development did gain support in the survey as well as in the workshop and interview. The similarities in the tourist preferences in the Nordic countries – especially the common interest in nature and outdoor activities – were seen as a great base on which to build cooperation. Hence, sharing information and developing new ideas on a Nordic level could help develop domestic tourism in all countries. Still, as many workshop participants noted, before the information can be shared, it must be created. There is a severe lack of information – especially comparable information – about the trends and preferences of domestic tourists in the Nordic countries and autonomous areas.
In the workshop the idea of creating ‘Nordic domestic tourism’ was also presented, since tourists from other Nordic countries are a potential target group in all countries. This wider view of domestic tourism that includes traveling both within and across the Nordic countries also gained support in the survey (see chapter 5.1.). It is not domestic tourism in traditional sense and falls outside the scope of this study, but the tourism industry actors in the workshop and in the survey saw the possibilities of wider Nordic approach to concept of domestic tourism.
The Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated that, during unforeseen crisis that restrict international tourism, it might still be easier to keep borders between Nordic countries open for traveling. The workshop participants saw this as a great opportunity to build Nordic cooperation since in the post-pandemic situation, the feeling of safety is more important than before. This could lead to heightened interest in domestic tourism in each country internally as well as to more interest in traveling to other Nordic countries instead of more distant destinations. Travelling within and across the Nordic countries could be promoted as the tourism for a sustainable future that is easy, accessible, and safe. Nordic countries have common cultural heritage on the one hand and the unique nature of each country on the other. New concepts, such as ‘Nordic accommodation’, could be created to support existing ones, such as ‘Nordic cuisine’. This would also enhance the resilience of the tourism sector in the Nordic countries. Travelers from other Nordic countries could help the tourism industry to counterbalance the negative effects of possible future crises.

4.2. Practices created during the Covid-19 pandemic

The soaring numbers of domestic tourists during the pandemic have also helped to create new practices that enhance domestic tourism. According to the survey, 43 per cent of the respondents had ‘created, developed or received useful practices to enhance domestic tourism’ in their enterprise or organisation during the pandemic. As there is no comparable data on the issue for the same period of years before the pandemic, it is hard to estimate if these numbers indicate a higher or lower level of development in comparison with usual, although the country reports seem to suggest the former. Also noteworthy is that when comparing different segments of respondents, of those respondents with a background in DMOs, 66 per cent responded that they had created, developed or received useful practices, while the equivalent proportion of those respondents with a background in private enterprises was only 41 per cent. This seems to imply that some of the developmental practices have not trickled down to the enterprise-level from the DMOs. (Table 2).
Table 2. Share of organisations that have created, developed or received practices to enhance domestic tourism by organisation type.
By organisation type:
Private enterprise
(n = 347)
(n = 54)
(n = 53)
Business support organisation
(n = 26)
The respondents were also asked to give examples of these useful practices. According to the open-ended answers, many have developed various digital practices in marketing and communication. Digitalisation has grown the networks around domestic tourism and increased collaboration between local businesses. Also, there was a shift in the marketing focus towards domestic tourism, and different campaigns, product development and content creation have been especially targeted at domestic markets. In the accommodation sector, the most evident new practice developed is adopting online booking and payment platforms. Some respondents reported having adopted more analytical and research-based approach to the tourism market. The development of outdoor and nature-based tourism products also increased. (Table 3).

Table 3. Examples of practices created, developed or received during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Type of respondent
Business support organisation
“Targeted marketing on the Danish market and product development aimed at Danish target groups”
“Partnerships and company agreements with large companies in Denmark”
Business support organisation
“Various projects have been started especially for the development of tourism in the Saimaa region, e.g. the development of tourism products and tourist routes, the promotion of nature tourism and the development of tourism-related food products”
Private enterprise
“New productised travel packages”
Private enterprise
“Different tours were designed that would interest Icelandic tourists”
Private enterprise
“Special discounts for domestic tourists, gift cards, dinner and drink offers”
Private enterprise
“We have a new website, carried out a thorough survey where we have analysed customer segments, we believe we should focus on.”
“More digital [services] and larger networks via the digital [platforms]”
Private enterprise
“Booking platforms, increased activity on social media, some profile-oriented marketing.”
“An increased and improved marketing effort aimed at domestic tourists as others were prevented from traveling to us and a clearer message about the destination and how it is “like being abroad, but domestic””
Private enterprise
“We have achieved a setup so that it is easy to market domestic products. On the other hand, the earnings on domestic products are quite a bit lower so, purely measured in terms of working time, it does not make much sense.”

4.3. Case examples of the practices for developing domestic tourism in the Nordics

The country reports done as part of this project include two case studies of best practices that have been successfully used in developing domestic tourism in the country in answer to the Covid-19 crisis. They were chosen from a list of cases identified with the help of interviewees to represent good practices in each Nordic country. The full description of the case studies within the country reports include descriptions of activities, ways of organising, stakeholders and project funding, as well as a review of lessons learned. The comparison of relevant findings from the cases is presented below, followed by summaries of the cases in country-specific sub-chapters. More detailed descriptions of the cases can be found in the annexed country reports.
The ten case studies presented in the country reports form a diverse group that can be further classified into smaller groups in various ways. The first way to do this is by scope: the cases vary from enterprise-specific cases (e.g. Álfheimar Country Hotel’s product development in Iceland) to local or regional cases (the Destination Sápmi campaign in Norway and the Ruka-Kuusamo Tourist Association’s ‘Dirty Placenames’ marketing campaign in Finland) and further onto national-level programmes (Kickstart Danish Tourism,  Svemester in Sweden).
Another method of grouping them is to use the field of the project: some of them are centred around marketing (Destination Sápmi, the Dirty Placenames campaign), others on product development (Kurbts Omställning in Sweden, Álfheimar Country Hotel in Iceland) and some on governmental support of the domestic tourism industry (travel gifts for residents in Iceland from the government). These groups are not mutually exclusive as one project could simultaneously develop both a product and its marketing, and governmental support could also ease marketing and/or product development (e.g. cooperation between Parks & Wildlife Finland and tourism enterprises in Finland or the Svemester campaign in Sweden).
The third way to group the cases concentrates on their relation to the Covid-19 pandemic. Some of the projects (especially many of those centring on governmental support) were directly developed as a temporary response to the worst phase of the pandemic and travel restrictions (the summer package in Denmark, the travel gift to residents in Iceland). Other projects were created during the pandemic but have been identified as also being useful in post-pandemic times (Destination Sápmi, Kurbits Omställning). There are also projects that were designed before the pandemic but gained remarkably more weight during the pandemic (the Dirty Placenames campaign in Finland).
Even though the cases presented were diverse in scope, field, and their relation to the pandemic, they share many of the lessons learned. We identified four key lessons that were shared in several best practice cases:
  1. Importance of the data utilised. The data can be either already gathered before the start of the project (e.g. in the Parks & Wildlife Finland cooperation in Finland) or gathered in a pre-study phase of the project (Svemester in Sweden).
  2. Importance of active communication. Clear communication with affiliates and stakeholders and the utilisation of networks is key to success. They can give valuable information that helps in terms of foresight and planning (Kickstart Danish Tourism, the Parks & Wildlife Finland case) and in the marketing and product development identifying new target groups and redirecting businesses (Kurbits Omställning).
  3. Quick and agile actions. Agile development as well as speeding up the project processes, were an important factor in several best practice cases (e.g. Kurbits Omställning).
  4. Tailoring products to fit the needs and interests of the domestic tourists. It is possible to retailor various products or services originally planned with the inbound tourists in mind to fit the needs and interests of the domestic tourists (cf. Álfheimar Country Hotel, Destination Sápmi). With innovation and good knowledge of local peculiarities, it is also possible to compose wholly new approaches with a domestic market in mind (e.g. the Dirty placenames campaign).

According to the case reports, the projects have also produced new information on domestic tourism in the Nordics. The national-level projects (e.g. Innovation Norway’s transition campaign, the Danish summer package) were reported to point out that the potential for domestic tourism is greater than anticipated, both in the absolute volume and in the number of different target groups. By altering the pre-existing views on domestic tourism, the projects have created more interest in developing domestic tourism, which is in turn expected to be valuable in the near future due to various pull factors towards domestic tourism (e.g. increased interest in sustainability, the uncertain economic and international situation etc). Also, the more local cases (e.g. the Álfheimar Country Hotel) can generate new information on domestic tourism (e.g. by pointing out new niche-market groups among the domestic tourists for whom there have not been products on the domestic market and who had thus remained undetected earlier). The last thing to be pointed out is that the pandemic-related projects in many (though not in all) of the countries have given the main national tourism promotion organisations (especially Visit Sweden) more of a role in the development of domestic tourism. 

4.3.1. Denmark

The Kickstart Danish Tourism 2020 project was a national-level programme, executed by various Danish tourism organisations from May 2020 until January 2022. It focused both on solving challenges during Covid-19 and on strengthening the long-time competitiveness of the tourism industry by preparing Danish tourism for the new needs of domestic tourists in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and possible future crises.
Within the programme, businesses and products were developed to be attractive to domestic tourists and to generate knowledge that can help companies and tourist organisations to understand domestic travel and behaviour patterns, such as holiday preferences, trends, visitor spending and visitor behaviour. In addition, decentralised business promotion funds were used to kickstart and stimulate Danish tourism during the Covid-19 pandemic, with a focus on managing changing visitor behaviour and the need for extra safety and security. The project also produced and delivered new knowledge on tools for managing travel and behaviour patterns, tools and concepts for business development and product adaptation, market testing new concepts and products and marketing efforts. It also contributed to effects such as the growth in the number of domestic overnight stays, growth in tourism turnover and the creation and retention of jobs. Tight and focused project management, knowledge-sharing between different parts of the country and collaborations on digital platforms played important roles in the implementation of the project. The Kickstart Danish Tourism project continued after its original programme, and the next phase of the project started in 2022.
A summer package project was launched nationally in the summer of 2020 as a recovery package for different areas of the culture sector, an initiative of the government and the majority of the parties in the Danish Parliament. The package successfully boosted the Danish economy after the pandemic by nudging domestic tourism consumption through, for example, reduced prices for museums and free ferry rides. The project used tools – such as subsidisation, infrastructure development and expanding the opening hours of centres – in order to reach their aim.
The summer package practice included multiple initiatives that were divided into three main categories: (i) summer in the countryside and islands, (ii) cultural experiences in the Danish summer and (iii) summer activities for elderly and vulnerable groups. The first summer package was planned and implemented during the summer of 2020 and a new one was planned and implemented the next summer. The second summer package was based on the success of the first one, although it included larger funds, more focus areas and a broader target group. More Danes took part in the initiative’s outputs than expected: for example, there was a steep increase in domestic museum visits and domestic small-island travelling. There also seem to be long-term effects of the summer packages, and certain activities (e.g. summer transport tickets) that are still being implemented outside of the package.

4.3.2. Finland

Cooperation between Parks & Wildlife Finland
Parks & Wildlife Finland is a unit within Metsähallitus, comprising of National Parks Finland and Wildlife Service Finland. Metsähallitus is a Finnish state-owned enterprise that produces environmental services.
and tourism enterprises has a more than 20-year-old history, but during the pandemic, the number of partner enterprises in the cooperation more than doubled. The pandemic also gave an impulse for developing new methods of cooperation. After the beginning of the pandemic, it was soon realised that the situation would lead to a rush of domestic tourists to various nature tourism destinations. In order to guarantee the functioning of the destinations, extra resources were directed to infrastructure and to renovation of the facilities in the most popular destinations. In addition, various kinds of support material were created for the local tourist enterprises. Another important part of the development of the cooperation during the pandemic centred on easing and smoothing the bureaucracy around the cooperation. These activities supported both those enterprises receiving an unexpected surge of domestic tourists and those suffering from the lack of foreign tourists.
One reason why the activities were so successful was that the number of visitors to the national parks had been well monitored for a long time, giving data from a long time back that supports forecasts and gives some historical perspective. Because of this, the estimates for the coming events were quite right from the beginning, which eased the planning of the actions. Another thing that eased forecasting was active communication to colleagues abroad. Also, the partner enterprises valued Parks & Wildlife Finland’s ability to see the big picture and both successfully forecast the upcoming developments and base their activities on that.
The Dirty Placenames campaign is a marketing project by the Ruka-Kuusamo Tourism Association. The campaign originally already started in 2019 but gained more value during the pandemic-activated boom of domestic tourism. In the Kuusamo region, there are more ‘dirty’ (i.e. expletive and/or sexual-themed) toponyms than anywhere else in Finland, and the idea of a marketing campaign focused on the ‘dirty’ placenames, on one hand, and on the beautiful nature and landscapes of the region, on the other. The campaign in social media and on the radio was a remarkable success: the tourism in the Kuusamo region in summertime reached all-time record levels in 2020 and 2021, and in 2021, the campaign also won an award at the Finnish annual gala of radio advertisements.
Behind the success of the campaign were the humorous message of the campaign, the well-executed advertisements and the fact that during the pandemic people spent much more time than usual on social media and in other online environments. Because of this, the advertisements on the web gained lots of popularity and were widely shared by social media users. Another reason was that the nature destinations that were the object of the campaign were among those tourism destinations whose popularity grew in the pandemic years. In addition, the theme of the campaign also stems from actual peculiarities of the region, instead of being superimposed by some external operative. Thus, it has showed that the specific local characteristics and a hearty dose of humour can be mixed together in a successful way to reach the domestic tourists.

4.3.3. Iceland

The government gave a travel gift to residents in Iceland as part of the March 2020 Icelandic government action plan to mitigate the economic effects of the pandemic. The government provided gift certificates to the residents of Iceland aged 18 or older. The gift was delivered in the form of a barcode via a smart device application that was displayed by the customer when paying for services, such as accommodation, transportation, dining and activities within the tourism industry. The digital solution was considered innovative and in line with the government’s aims for digital services. As the pandemic progressed, the government decided to renew the travel gift for the year 2021.
The goal was to boost domestic consumption by encouraging residents in Iceland to travel domestically and experience new things all around Iceland and thus support the tourism industry (which had been drastically affected by the pandemic). By creating an incentive for consumption, the tourism industry received a vital injection. Surveys among Icelandic tourists indicate that approximately 48 per cent of recipients used their travel gift during their travels in Iceland.
Álfheimar Country Hotel’s luxurious guided hiking tours stem from providing guided hiking and walking tours to inbound tourists in deserted coves and the surrounding mountains around a remote fishing village of 130 inhabitants in North-East Iceland. Due to the sharp decline in inbound tourist during the pandemic, the owners of the hotel decided to offer it on the domestic market with Icelandic-speaking guides. A supporting factor for the decision was that in the spring of 2020, a few friends and acquaintances of the owners had inquired about tours in the area because they were not able to go on tours abroad. The tours were first available in the summer of 2020 and were continued in the subsequent summers. Álfheimar plans to continue with the tours on the domestic market for the coming seasons.
Bringing the tour to the domestic market was considered a success. Over the course of the summer 2020, Álfheimar provided approximately 20 tours for more than 200 domestic tourists, some of whom had never been to East Iceland. In the summer of 2020, the owners of Álfheimar discovered that many of their customers, both groups and individuals, had previously booked full-service outdoor and/or activity tours abroad that were cancelled because of the pandemic. Pre-planned full-package tours with all the amenities had long been available for inbound tourists in Iceland, but they had not been easily available on the domestic market before the pandemic. Álfheimar discovered a niche domestic market in great need of such products since Icelanders could not travel abroad during the pandemic as they normally did. They also realised that after the pandemic, Icelanders, as tourists, can choose to go anywhere in their world. In that sense, Álfheimar are now competing against other possible destinations in the world for Icelanders as tourists and their products must be put together in such a way that it stands up to the comparison.

4.3.4. Norway

Innovation Norway’s transition package UT-OMS-REISELIV, introduced in 2020, aimed at helping companies in the Norwegian tourism industry to change their markets from inbound tourist markets to domestic tourist markets. The aims of the initiative were to keep the tourism industry afloat and the workforce in pay, help companies transition to the domestic market and support companies in increasing their sustainability practices.
The packages were successful as they changed the mindset on market segments and sustainability of both companies and the regional offices of Visit Norway, and they are perceived as crucial for helping Norwegian tourism companies survive the Covid-19 pandemic. The companies that received support from the package are believed to continue to benefit from the activities related to the transition to domestic market segments in the coming years. Also, the regional offices of Visit Norway are seen to have become more interested in developing domestic tourism in contrast to focusing their marketing activities on international markets.
Destination Sápmi is a Sámi tourism platform launched in 2020 by the Business Centre of Sápmi with the aim to provide digital Norwegian tourist information for five municipalities in the Troms and Finnmark region. It was initially thought that is would apply to the inbound tourism market as well as to the domestic tourism market, however, during the Covid-19 pandemic and its travel restrictions it functioned as a tool for marketing Sápmi, the municipality of Kautokeino in particular, to domestic tourists. In addition to the website, Destination Sápmi implemented marketing campaigns targeting domestic tourists and supported Sámi entrepreneurs in adapting and developing products and services, such as rebranding products to fit the preferences of domestic tourists. This included making products more authentic – as domestic tourists have a higher prior knowledge of Sápmi. The aim of the activities was long term.
Destination Sápmi’s website presents an oversight of all the tourism opportunities in the five municipalities, including ‘hidden treasures’, such as local shops and boutiques and places where the local population resides. The ’hidden treasures’ offer is targeted at tourists who enjoy experiencing local life while travelling. The feature corresponds to domestic tourists’ higher demands for authenticity. Destination Sápmi is seen to be crucial for the survival of tourist companies in the municipalities in general and for Kautokeino in particular. The domestic tourism market is expected to remain important for the tourism industry in Sápmi in the future, and the platform will continue to function online. There are plans to turn the platform into an independent organisation – as well as thoughts on collaborations with Sápmi areas across national borders.

4.3.5. Sweden

Svemester is a marketing campaign which aims to inspire Swedes about parts of Sweden that are new to them and to create a desire to travel within the country. The campaign was the result of Visit Sweden (the official marketing company of Sweden) receiving (at the beginning of 2021) an expanded mission from the Swedish government to market Sweden as a visitor destination not only for foreign target groups but also for domestic target groups. The campaign used material generated from foreign tourists in Sweden who got stuck in the country when the borders closed in 2020 and showcased their experiences of Sweden through a foreign lens under the slogan: ‘The involuntary tourists’ guide to Sweden’.
Before the campaign, a pre-study investigating Swedes as a target group (investigating their preferences, habits and likings) was carried out, following a webinar series on knowledge, information, inspiration and dialogue regarding Swedes as a tourism target group. This was followed by the marketing campaign itself. The mission as a whole had two target groups: the potential domestic tourists (Swedes) and the stakeholders in the sector (such as the regions and DMOs) to whom the webinars were targeted. The webinar series continued to run throughout 2022 and have been important in establishing a knowledge base on which to build marketing campaigns. The marketing campaign ran through 2021 and was followed up in 2022 by a new campaign with the same aim of getting Swedes to look at Sweden in a new way. The campaign was called Cover Sweden and focuses on music. It included a digital ‘tour’ of Sweden based on album covers. The mission has been seen as a success considering the short time it had for preparation, and it won the Swedish National Marketing Competition.
Kurbits Omställning is a programme aiming to helping tourism-related businesses adapt to the domestic market, originating from Region Dalarna and planned out by business development company Kurbits. The programme was set up as an entirely online-based programme – planned to be ‘Business development in instant format’ – and helping the participants to refocus and target the domestic market. The programme is 2–4 weeks long (quicker than the regular six-week length of these type of programmes) and includes product and concept development, smart communication and the development of an action plan. During implementation, good examples of companies that have transformed and/or adapted their business are used. The programme started as an initiative from one region but has since spread across the nation and also received international interest from Switzerland (however, the restrictions to tourism were lifted before the material was translated).
The target groups were tourism-related businesses (foremost, SMEs), and the beneficiaries were domestic tourists. As a short-term intervention, the programme supported tourism-related businesses in transitioning towards the domestic tourism market. In addition, it offered the tourism companies an opportunity to meet with one another, which has in some instances resulted in joint package deals, developed in cooperation amongst the participants with a focus on domestic target groups and proving that discussions and cooperation between tourism-related businesses can be valuable for identifying new target groups and redirecting businesses. The programme has also strengthened the knowledge and adaptability of SMEs and business support actors, providing better preparedness for future crises. The programme is still ongoing, and the idea is to bring parts of it into other programmes run by Kurbits.

4.3.6. The autonomous areas

In the autonomous areas, the public sector also took steps to enhance domestic tourism during the Covid-19 pandemic. In the Faroe Islands, the government took measures to increase domestic tourism during the pandemic. One example was that the development department launched a new website where they created holiday packages for domestic tourists. There were around 30 packages, and they aimed to be an eye-opener for Faroe Islanders about what is available in the Faroe Islands.
In Greenland, the government supported domestic tourism during the pandemic by implemented tourism packages and mobility initiatives. A tourism aid package introduced in June included the possibility for hotels and tour operators to offer discounts to domestic tourists that could be reclaimed from the government. The aid for hotels was for sums up to DKK 500 (EUR 67) and the discount for one tour experience per day was up to DKK 300 (EUR 40). The package was quickly expanded to include compensation for more than one trip and to also allow those temporarily residing in Greenland for work to offer and then claim the Covid-19 discounts. Additional expansion of the package allowed tourism operators to offer discounts on internal routes within Greenland.
Quinn, 2020.
In Åland, the successful efforts to promote domestic tourism had four main focal points according to the interview. First, there was centralised but flexible public governance of the efforts to answer the crisis by increasing domestic tourism. This ensured that there were the resources and quick decision-making required to run campaigns to raise and create awareness within the domestic market. Secondly, Visit Åland was given free rein to do what it could with the additional budget to increase domestic tourism. It created the ‘Tillsammans för Åland’ campaign
See more on campaign’s website: https://campaign.visitaland.com/tillsammans/
that aimed to spread the word about experiencing Åland first hand, built a promotion page and created hygiene information in order to create a feeling that it is safe for Ålanders to use tourism services in Åland. Thirdly, information about how to get around was gathered, translated into Swedish in collaboration between tourism companies, other stakeholders and authorities. Fourthly, there were efforts made towards destination development. Since domestic tourists in Ålands prefer to be outdoors a lot, hiking trails were updated. Additionally, new digital channels with which to market and spread information were created. This all made Ålanders travel more locally during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.

4.4. Border area cases

The border regions between Nordic countries represent a special case in the field of Nordic domestic tourism as cross-border traffic is common, thus making the ‘domesticity’ of the travels in the region a somewhat ambiguous concept. This is especially the case in those border regions where the cross-border cooperation has been formalised, such as the Öresund region in Denmark and Sweden, consisting of the Zealand Region and Capital Region of Denmark, and Scania in Sweden, or the Tornedalen Region, which consists of six Finnish, four Swedish and four Norwegian municipalities in the Torne Valley on the Finnish–Swedish border and the Norwegian area lying north of the valley.
As the cross-border traffic in the region is constant, the difference between inbound and domestic tourism is somewhat indistinct. It is quite common for the inhabitants of the regions to make short-term tourist trips to another country to visit some local tourist attraction which is geographically close but in another country. Thus, for example, in the Tornedalen Region the Swedes might come to Finland in order to enjoy the quality cross-country biking routes or ski resorts there, whereas the Finnish locals go to Sweden to, e.g. visit the Jukkasjärvi ice hotel. Likewise, the Norwegians might go shopping in the Haparanda IKEA in Sweden or have an all-inclusive hotel holiday in Levi or Ylläs in Finland, whereas the Finns go to Northern Norway as the slopes there are better for freeriding than anywhere in Finland. Also, the changing exchange rates of currencies play a role in the cross-border tourist trips in these regions: as an example, one interviewee told that the amount of Danish tourists in Malmö has increased remarkably in 2022 due to the exceptionally low exchange rate of Swedish krona.
On the other hand, the closing of borders due to Covid-19 was very significant for the people living in these regions and the tourism there as it contained not only the inbound tourists in the traditional sense of the word but also the cross-border traffic of the local people. The effects of border closure and later restrictions were diverse, including creating problems for those used to fly to Scania via Kastrup Airport in Copenhagen or the prohibition of ice fishing on the Torne river in spring 2020.
The special position of the border regions has also caused some troubles for the local tourism sector regardless of the pandemic. An example of this is that national support of the tourism industry is often earmarked for national targets, rendering cross-border co-operation in such cases practically impossible. As an example, Swedish participants could not participate in a training session for cultural tourism funded by Visit Finland and held in the Tornedalen region, even though the local organisations were willing to pay the costs of interpretation. There are certain programmes designed for funding the international cooperation (e.g. cross-border marketing projects), but they cannot wholly offset the challenges brought by the strictly nationally designated funding. This is problematic especially for the Tornedalen region, as it has a distinct brand of its own regardless of the country, whereas in the Öresund region both the Danish and Swedish side of the region have their own strong brands making joint marketing project less feasible.