Article – Digital Rovaniemi: contemporary and future arctic tourist experiences
The purpose of this paper is to investigate tourists’ representations of the Arctic through the lens of the photo-sharing social network Instagram. The study focuses on the particular tourist experience of crossing the Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi, Finland, as in tourism, it represents the “official” entry to the Arctic. The study also aims at drawing assumptions about the future experiences of crossing the Arctic Circle, with the development of new technologies such as augmented and virtual realities.
Data were gathered with netnography methodologies on the Instagram social network. The first stage was the observational part and consisted of “lurking” at specific hashtags and locations, both referring to the Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi. Data were gathered in December 2018 and consisted of images and descriptions of Instagram posts published by users between June 1, 2018 and December 31, 2018, so data collection encompassed both summer and winter seasons. The second stage was the analysis part and involved interpretive understanding, and especially phenomenological sociology.
Results show that three dominant representations of the Arctic emerge when tourists cross the Arctic Circle. The region is either seen as a frozen fairytale wonderland due to the close proximity of the Christmas industry, as a far and northern destination participating in the realization of the self, and as a territory where summer weather conditions are not necessarily synonymous with the Arctic. In addition, the study acknowledges the future challenges of conceptualizing “Arctic tourism” due to the development of virtual reality technologies that could provide immersive Arctic experiences outside the region.
The paper investigates connections between social media studies and tourist experiences in the Arctic context. It also questions the future of Arctic tourist experiences with the development of new technologies enhancing experiences and, thus, potentially threatening the exceptionalism of the Arctic and what makes the region a unique tourism destination.
Varnajot, A. (2019). Digital Rovaniemi: contemporary and future arctic tourist experiences. Journal of Tourism Futures, 6(1). DOI: 10.1108/jtf-01-2019-0009
Photo: Vincent Guth / Unsplash