Tourism has become a development catalyst for promoting social and economic welfare in many regions. The phenomenon of the sharing economy has radically changed the tourism and hospitality business even in peripheral tourism destinations. Finnish Lapland at the Arctic Circle is an example of a peripheral destination, where the growth of tourism has been significant, and the relative share of the sharing economy also remarkable. Our case study describes the situation of tourism and the sharing economy in Lapland in 2016-2019. The article was published in the book “Humanistic Management and Sustainable Tourism: Human, Social and Environmental Challenges” in February 2021.
In the twenty-first century, awareness and sensitivity concerning global economic, sociocultural and environmental issues has risen, leading to discussion of more sustainable tourism development (Aronsson, 2000; Hall, 2000; Tasci, 2017). The sharing economy can be described as a disruptive force (Guttentag, 2015) which has changed and will probably continue to change the tourism ecosystem in many destinations. It is crucial for tourism destinations to be able to recognise and handle change (Dredge, 2016; Hall, 2013; Ritchie & Crouch, 2003). Sharing economy is one example of new phenomenon; the case study provides new insights into the relatively new but recently actively researched tourism trend of sharing economies.
By a case study approach we gained a deep understanding of the phenomenon in a local context with global frames (Yin, 2014). The strong growth of the phenomenon is undoubtedly attached to urbanisation and has also required a sufficient number of users and suppliers, to grow to the current scale. However, the phenomenon not only exists in big cities and in large population centres, but also has an impact on more peripheral and sparsely populated areas. In our research, we have brought the periphery into focus.
Sharing Economy-Based Services in Lapland
In our previous studies and development projects, we have noticed that the main field of the sharing economy in Lapland and in Rovaniemi is peer-to-peer accommodation (Hakkarainen & Jutila, 2017).
In March 2016, there were only 136 Airbnb listings in Rovaniemi (Hakkarainen & Honkanen, 2017, p. 31). In June 2017, there were nearly 400 listings available. A year later, the number was around 550, and in January 2019, already almost 900 (Airdna, 2019). The growth is remarkable, and number is significant, especially in relation to the number of inhabitants in Rovaniemi, which is around 62,000. In January 2019, there were 14.4 Airbnb listings per 1,000 inhabitants in Rovaniemi, whereas in Helsinki, the capital of Finland, the number was only 4.2. Even Barcelona, one of the cities which has been struggling with Airbnb and trying to find ways to regulate it, had fewer properties per capita compared to Rovaniemi.
In Lapland, the sharing economy phenomenon has been strongly centred in Rovaniemi, but the number of different sharing economy services is growing also elsewhere in Lapland.
Even though accommodation is clearly the biggest sharing economy sector in Lapland, there is also a growing interest in experiences offered by locals. Platforms like Airbnb Experiences and Doerz have made it easy for locals to offer experiences for tourists. In 2017, there were no experiences existing in sharing economy platforms, but in January 2019, Rovaniemi hosts offered 16 different kinds of activities. The most typical experiences were searching for the northern lights, snowshoeing, road trips to national parks, ice fishing or Lappish gastronomy experiences. Doerz’s platform offers very similar experiences to travellers in Rovaniemi. In spring 2019 Doerz offered 26 activities in Rovaniemi provided by nine hosts; the selection of experiences was more varied compared to Airbnb Experiences. The most common activities in 2019 were husky safaris, canoeing, aurora hunting, fell hikes, sauna experiences, gastronomy tastings and reindeer farm visits. The services were provided by both individual local people and small tourism companies. It is obvious that those small tourism companies use the platforms as marketing and selling channels.
After 2019 the supply of sharing economy-based services has become more diverse. One trend growing in popularity during the pandemic has been the online experiences which refer to the act of visiting places and consuming tourism services through a webcam, also via sharing economy platforms (see the previous blog post). There are also plenty of peer-to-peer platforms that are globally popular but are not currently available in Rovaniemi: for example, BlaBlaCar, Glovo, Delivery, Eat With, Uber, Cabify and Good Timing. The case of Rovaniemi also underlines that the scale of different stakeholders in a sharing economy is versatile. Service providers, users and platforms are directly related to the phenomenon. In addition to that, there are several stakeholders who are indirectly affected by and influential to different sectors of the sharing economy. Housing cooperatives, steward offices, insurance companies, traditional accommodation businesses and building supervision are all examples of relevant stakeholders in peer-to-peer accommodation.
Based on our case study, Rovaniemi seems to be a living lab in tourism with sharing economy services and platforms in a national but also in a global context. Furthermore, there are many new innovations and business ideas developed around peer-to-peer accommodation. Different kinds of host, key, cleaning and concierge services are nowadays sold for apartment owners, who do not have time or possibility to manage everything by themselves. If the number of listings keeps growing in future, the demand for this kind of ancillary service may also grow.
Possibilities and Challenges of a Sharing Economy in a Peripheral Context
According to our research, central challenges to be pondered in further studies of the sharing economy should consider the definition of professional and occasional actors, as well as the difference between accommodation and renting. It is also essential to ask how to make accommodation sector equal for different stakeholders, how to avoid disturbance for local inhabitants and how to make different responsibilities clear to all stakeholders. The case study from Finnish Lapland presents the situation of tourism and the sharing economy in a peripheral region and contributes to sustainable destination management supporting the holistic wellbeing and dignity of local people, tourism businesses and tourists. The projects Possibilities and Challenges in Peer-to-Peer Accommodation and Responsibility and Value Creation in Sharing Economy in Tourism (ERDF) are examples of sustainable and responsible discussion forums bringing different viewpoints and stakeholders together.
Keywords: sharing economy, destination, sustainability, peripheral, Lapland
Petra Paloniemi, Salla Jutila, Maria Hakkarainen
Paloniemi, P, Jutila, S. and Hakkarainen, M. (2021). Sharing Economy in Peripheral Tourism Destinations: The Case of Finnish Lapland. In Della Lucia, M. & Giudici, E. (eds). Humanistic Management and Sustainable Tourism: Human, Social and Environmental Challenges. Routledge.