Published on Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Simply what Christmas is all about


Christmas markets now abound worldwide how can a tiny destination compete - and win authentically

Community tourism just doesn't get any more natural than in Roros Norway.

Norway's Destination Roros swept the board with big time awards last year getting both the Responsible Travel award and the Tourism for Tomorrow award in quick succession and against strong competition - see video HERE

But does it live up to these accolades in practice?

Our Sustainable Tourism Editor Valere Tjolle went to have s look at what this snowy destination has to offer.

A lot has been said about Roros, and certainly the destination is doing all the right things. Roros is one of the 5 sustainable tourism pilot destinations, backed by Innovation Norway  and the destination is now engaged in both the European Union and the Global Sustainable Tourism Council's Sustainable Tourism Indicators programmes. They have a clearly stated aim of pursuing sustainable tourism culturally, socially, environmentally and economically so certainly they know how it works in principle, on paper. How does this pan out locally and in practice?

First of all when you get to Roros - you notice what there isn't! There are no chain hotels, no chain coffee shops, and no chain brand retail outlets. There are no high-density theme parks and no massive downhill ski installations. No hordes of foreign tourists. Why not capitalize on their massive tourism opportunity above and beyond the million - mainly day trip - visitors they get each year?

The answer is thoughtful - they - that is the local community- simply don't want the detritus of tourism at any cost - whatever the perceived benefits.

What they do want is first and foremost a good place in which to live and a cohesive community which respects its heritage and takes pride in its hometown. Only secondly are they very willing to offer their own brand of committed hospitality to visitors who wish to share these aims.

So no concessions are made to the mass tourism industry, no tacky shops, hotels, cafes. Pretty much everything is locally-owned and run - and authentic.

What this means is that not only do the local community feel much more in control of their destiny and therefore much more willing to participate but also tourists get a really wholesome and fulfilling take of the destination.

Roros is a world heritage site, created to take the place of an original gold-rush copper mine  and an iconic Norwegian destination. Hence the little copper badges on the hundreds of local host's lapels to show that they have completed a local knowledge and hospitality course.

Authentic local food and local hospitality is at the very heart of the Roros offer. The food from milk products through fruit and vegetables to meat is absolutely amazing. Lots of sunlight and a very slow growth cycle work natural magical alchemy on the vegetables, wild meat, and fish particularly reindeer and char are totally delicious. See video: HERE

No wonder the destination now offers food safaris by bike and foot (very sustainable!) and 4wd.

And authentic pursuits form the cornerstone of the winter leisure offer from award-winning husky sledding Alaskan Husky Tours run by a totally committed cross-North Pole partnership Ketil and Evelyn Anguyak Reitan  (at Roros and in Alaska) 

…through ski trekking and hunting to fishing the crystal waters. In the summer months walking trails also come into season.

Christmas time is really special when Roros really comes into its prime - why would you have a Christmas market if it wasn't principally for the benefit of the local population?

So unlike many other Christmas markets it is almost 100% local stallholders, the rents are low and the community involvement is high - almost everything on sale from reindeer skins to smoked salmon and jam is produced by locals from very local, often hunted or foraged local ingredients.

And the wonderful, heart-warming facet of Roros is not that it is an evolved community tourism destination - it is a evolving one, growing sustainably to fulfil the needs of the communities.

As an example - a new guest house just opened in time for the Christmas Market. The building was originally created in 1939 as a B&B and is being restored to its original retro glory by five local girls who got funding from the local bank because they thought that it was a really good idea for them and for the community. They will showcase everything that is good about Roros, local beauty, local hard work, local goods, local food, local design - and above all warm local hospitality.

Even the two local hotels are run by a chef/hotelier who is becoming a legend in the foraging world. Mikael Forsellus is a true evangelist for really local food and is delivering it daily to his guests - 80% of all his produce is local.

Roros seems all so relaxed and friendly that the effect on any visitor is that he or she has become truly  a temporary member of the local extended family - and you can't get more authentic than that!

Isn't it what hospitality at Christmas is all about?

Further information or Roros HERE

Missed Christmas? Take it later and be a member of the extended local community for the magnificent Roros Winter Market in February next year:

Valere Tjolle

New offers on sustainable tourism information HERE



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