Lake Vänern Archipelago – Sustainable tourism

In Lake Vänern Archipelago Biosphere Reserve, the province’s decision to increase tourism evoked a question: Given that this is an area designated by UNESCO as a model for sustainable development, are there possibilities for being a “sustainable tourist” in the biosphere reserve? To answer this question, the biosphere reserve applied a cross-sectoral way of thinking. They identified stakeholders involved in tourism development, both beneficiaries (private enterprises) and those in public sector who are responsible for strategic development of the tourism infrastructure and who have the power and the resources to make systematic changes on a strategic level. Together they discussed the question raised and developed a common vision where everyone could identify their individual role.

The biosphere reserve office calls it a “potluck”-concept, where the involved actors all contribute to the bigger picture. This initiative was the starting point of a continuous strategic sustainable tourism development with a holistic approach, which has raised more than 1 million Euro in project funding to this day. The result of the initiative can be seen in different types of infrastructure, such as more than 200 km trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding, trained local guides, maps, and a web-based portal guiding visitors to choose sustainable experiences, contributing to several of the SDGs.

A network for green ecotourism entrepreneurs was established. The network continuously improves its sustainability profile by, for example, packaging and marketing sustainable tourism activities. The method of “potluck” has since been successfully applied to other sectors, such as the fishing industry, social entrepreneurship, education for sustainable development, increased influence of inhabitants in spatial planning, and much more.