Frontpage: Sustainable tourism in nordic harbour towns - written on a picture of a harbour in the nordic region.

Sustainable Tourism in Nordic Harbor Towns

Project Report and Handbook for Municipal Innovation.
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The project was initiated with the aim of engaging municipalities across the Nordic region to collaborate on finding and piloting solutions for a more sustainable harbor and cruise tourism.

The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 almost completely paralyzed all tourism activities in most regions of the world, including the Nordics. This meant that the pilots for Sustainable Tourism in Nordic Harbor Towns were executed as small scale demonstrations of technologies that can be scaled up at a later time when the Nordic tourism recovers.

The forced inactivity of the cruise tourism industry during the project period also provided a significant obstacle to the collaboration with cruise operators in the pilots. However, as the chosen pilots were selected due to their suitability to scale, this project and its findings build an important basis for further work.

Findings from the pilot

  • Seasonality and local events should be taken into consideration
  • Often the best setting for an innovation pilot is during events like concerts, conferences, etc. that attract lots of people, local and foreign. Some solutions are quite context specific, depending on the culture - e.g. crowd behavior, or climate - such as temperature or snow in the test sites. Be sure to map out potential translation issues early in the process.
  • Ensure an image of before and after
  • The main point of an innovation pilot is to learn what works and what doesn’t. No matter the type of solution you wish to test, e.g., physical or digital, it is important to establish a solid image of the before and after a pilot. A big quantifiable study is not necessary – an interview or two with key local stakeholders should provide the qualitative assessment needed. This provides the basis for gauging the effects of the pilot.
  • Something is better than nothing – ‘what is possible’ beats ‘what we had in mind’
  • In many professional settings your perfectionism is considered a blessing. In innovation processes it is often an obstacle. It is tempting to scrap a project if it doesn’t turn out like imagined –if we only manage to test five drones instead of 20, or the digital heatmap only covers two days, not 10. The test that happens is infinitely more valuable than all the ones that never made it into reality. There are valuable lessons to be learned from even the skimpiest implementation, and if nothing else it builds momentum towards a larger scale innovation process.
  • A narrow target group increases success chances
  • Targeting ‘every harbor tourist’ is much harder than targeting ‘50 visitors over 50 from this specific port call’. Whether for testing or for communication purposes, having a narrow target group increases the chance of success, and probably also the general relevance of your findings.