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  • Writer's pictureJosé-Carlos García-Rosell

Animal-based tourism in Finnish Lapland

Updated: Feb 24

The role of animals in Nordic tourism

Animals have become a very important part of tourism and leisure experiences of tourists visiting the Nordic countries. Animals play different roles in tourism. They can be in captivity (zoos), in the wild (bear watching), or as part of tourism activities (horseback riding). The pictures of animals or human-animal encounters have become common in the marketing and promotion material of Nordic destinations. For example, the marketing campaigns of Finland, Norway, and Sweden include animals to a greater extent. By taking a glance at Visit Finland, Visit Norway, and Visit Sweden travel portals, one will soon notice the images of wildlife animals, horses, huskies, and reindeer among others. This visual narrative gains even more prominence when exploring further northward destinations like Northern Norway, Swedish Lapland, and Finnish Lapland.

Photo by Marko Junttila.

Reindeer and huskies are not only represented as one of the main attractions, but they have also become an important branding element of these Nordic destinations. Indeed, it’s difficult to imagine a visit to Lapland without huskies or reindeer.

Huskies, reindeer and horses in Lapland

Although the tourism industry in Lapland has been aware of the significance of animals, there was a lack of knowledge about the current situation of animal-based tourism services. How many animal-based tourism companies are operating in Lapland? Which and how many animals are used in the creation of tourism experiences? Where are these animals situated? What is the economic impact of animal-based tourism services? In the project, Animal Welfare in Tourism Services, we conducted a study to find out answers to these questions. This study identified a total of 158 animal-based tourism service firms in Lapland. A total of 53 firms offered services such as hunting, fishing, and wildlife watching. We were able to locate 42 husky kennels, 34 reindeer farms, and 11 equestrian farms. These companies are well-distributed across Lapland.

Although the turnover of animal-based tourism services represents 2,4 % of the total turnover of the Lapland tourism industry, these services play still a major role in the economy of Lapland. Indeed, they bring value to local tourism brands and attract hundreds of thousands of tourists to Lapland. From this perspective, one can see that animals have an impact on the turnover of tourism programme service companies, restaurants, and hotels. For example, we identified 42 destination management organizations (DMOs) in Lapland, that do not own animals, but the sales of animal-based tourism services represent a significant share of their annual turnover. Indeed, it can be argued that animal-based tourism services have a considerably direct and indirect impact on Lapland’s economy. A more detailed report of the study is available HERE.


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