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View from Valbjør Gard farm

Sustainability and tourism in Innovation Norway

View from Valbjør Gard farm.
Photo: Tina Stafrèn/Visitnorway.com

Innovation Norway’s mandate

Innovation Norway will contribute with growth in Norwegian businesses and industry through capital and expertise within sustainable frameworks. We offers services within funding, advice, expertise, networking and promotion. Our offices can be found in all of the country’s counties as well as in 27 countries. In countries where we do not have our own office, we rely on Norwegian embassies.

Innovation Norway is allocated funds annually through the state budget. All grants will contribute to more entrepreneurs, expansive companies and innovative business communities. In 2018, the grant was NOK 3.8 billion. Innovation Norway contributed through various services a total of NOK 7.3 billion to Norwegian businesses, a figure that includes loans, grants, consulting, promotion and networking.

Innovation Norway is owned by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries (51%) and county councils (49%) and has just under 700 employees in total.

Innovation Norway’s sustainability strategy

Innovation Norway’s sustainability strategy was adopted by the executive board in 2015. It involves the following in brief:

Innovation Norway will trigger corporate and economically profitable business, and trigger regional economies, through more competent entrepreneurs, more expansive companies and more innovative business communities. The risk image associated with climate and society makes sustainability an important factor in fulfilling these goals. Innovation Norway believes that a transition to a more sustainable development is a crucial prerequisite for ensuring future growth and value creation.

In the tools of growth, Report No. 22 to the Storting (2011-2012), it states that: “The government argues that sustainability, whether economic, social and environmental, should be present in Innovation Norway’s business.”

Innovation Norway’s understanding of this is that we should help being a driving force for more sustainable solutions in all our work and that we prioritise sustainability in all projects. All projects are based on a holistic assessment and are given a sustainability score. Sustainability is not a prerequisite for financing the project, but high scores will be able to provide the basis for prioritising the project above other projects. 

In connection with the review of Innovation Norway’s overall strategy, the sustainability strategy will also be considered and possibly incorporated here.

Tourism and sustainability in Innovation Norway

Why does Innovation Norway work with tourism?

Tourism has for many decades been an important industry in Norway and an area of priority for Norwegian authorities. The tourism industry contributes to growth and value creation throughout the country. It helps to maintain and provide new employment and the industry is important for workplaces throughout the country. The industry is fragmented, has major seasonal fluctuations and is labour intensive.

Innovation Norway’s mission from the government is assigned and clarified through the annual letter of assignment from the Norwegian Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries (NFD). Our three-part mandate (promotion, development and competence) is to contribute to a profitable development of the tourism industry within the framework that also safeguards environmental and social values. This is to be done through the promotion of Norway as a travel destination to segments and markets that are believed to be most sustainable in the long term. We must also facilitate the development and sale of Norwegian tourism products and collect and compile statistics and analyses for the tourism industry.

Innovation Norway’s tourism initiative is a common good that should benefit all of tourism. We offer the tourism industry counselling, financing, competence and networking, as well as promotion of Norway as a travel destination in priority markets.

How is Innovation Norway’s tourism initiative financed?

In addition to the promotion funds, which we receive from the NFD (NOK 231.5 million in 2019), Innovation Norway contributes with approximately NOK 340 million per year to the tourism industry. Innovation Norway does not have its own funding schemes for innovation and development of tourism. Through agricultural funds and industry-neutral programmes, development of market-oriented, sustainable and quality-oriented tourism experiences is financed throughout the country. The funds are available through consulting, business networks, competence development and financing such as loans, grants and guarantees.

The instruments of the tourism industry are managed through a policy for the tourism industry that provides guidelines for the prioritisation for these funds. This policy is revised annually and receives priorities from the letter of assignment from the NFD.

What is meant by sustainable development within the context of tourism?
Sustainable development of the tourism industry is the basis for a development that takes into account both social, environmental and economic aspects. The aspect of climate is obviously a central part of the tourism industry, but by no means the only thing that must be taken into account. Other factors that also play a role:

  • The travel destination is not degraded so that future generations of habitants and guests get as much enjoyment of the experiences as today.
  • The value creation not only takes place around a few tourist attractions, but spread throughout Norway.
  • Several year-round jobs are created in the tourism industry.  Such a tourism development will contribute to increased value creation, employment and development throughout the country.

How does Innovation Norway emphasise the three elements of sustainability (economics, society and the environment) in applications for financing?

Innovation Norway will primarily contribute to value creation in Norway. Sustainable development is important for all industries in Norway and all applications for financing are assessed on sustainability.

Innovation Norway is working to get all guests to spend more money over a longer period of time in Norway and especially that they will visit outside of the main season. We are actively working for tour operators to offer activities outside of the main season. Therefore, the marketing funds are mainly used to show Norway in the autumn, winter, and spring and are aimed at individual travellers who wish to spend more time in Norway. They experience more of the destination and spend more money than those traveling in larger groups.

Within tourism, the 10 principles of sustainable tourism (see appendix) are also emphasised when assessing individual applications. As a result, we have opted out of financing individual projects such as ATV driving, cat-skiing, water scooters, etc.

How does Innovation Norway include the climate perspective in the development of sustainable tourism?

Transport is a major dilemma of tourism and constitutes a large proportion of the CO₂ emissions from this industry. The environmental aspects of international aviation are a challenge for the entire global tourism – therefore, within the aviation sector, several steps are taken in order to have more climate-friendly solutions in place. Air traffic is growing because more and more people can afford to go on holiday outside their own country and their own continent. Airplanes are an important means of transport for the business community and residents of our expansive country. It will also continue to be an important means of transport for tourists who want to experience Norway.

Innovation Norway does the following to promote a climate-friendly development in the tourism industry:

  • Promote the use of certifications that contain climate requirements.
  • Encourage soft mobility (local transport and activities without emissions).
  • Development and financing of climate-friendly buildings and transport solutions.
  • We are actively working with actors who can help increase their length of stay and value creation.
  • We prioritise work with short-haul tourists.
  • Gain more knowledge about the impacts of emissions of different travel methods and markets by developing a model for better climate calculation.

What impact does Innovation Norway have on which flight routes are set up to and from Norway?
Accessibility to the markets is critical for the tourism industry in Norway and Innovation Norway has a strategic cooperation with, among others, Avinor, airlines and regions. Most foreign consumers have little knowledge of Norway and we are perceived as a far away travel destination. If Norway is to succeed with a year-round visit from abroad, the tourism industry needs accessibility and predictability in the marketing work. Norway has many first-time visitors and we must constantly motivate new travellers about that Norway is the obvious choice for their next holiday.


The airlines make their commercial assessments of where it is profitable to establish flight routes. In these assessments, several market segments are included: Norwegian business and leisure traffic; incoming business and holiday and leisure traffic to Norway, and shipping of Norwegian seafood. The Norwegian market is of great importance for the companies’ assessments, as Norwegians have a high travel frequency and ability to pay.

We believe that Innovation Norway’s most important contribution is to ensure that those who come to Norway, regardless of means of transportation, are visitors who contribute to the strengthening of Norwegian business and social life, while leaving a Norway that is as varied, spectacular and unique as today.

The potential visitors we approach in markets in Asia and the US are those who have the opportunity to travel to Norway all year round, those seeking a wide range of different experiences and those who have a good ability to pay. Therefore, quality conscious people who also travel during off-peak and shoulder seasons and who spend most of their holidays here in Norway.

Innovation Norway’s job is to help take advantage of accessibility through market initiatives that create a desire to travel among prioritised target groups. t is important that the aircraft operating in Norway are filled as much as possible rather than being half empty. Both from a climate perspective, as well as from a business perspective. Therefore, it is important to help create a year-round demand for Norway, so that the level of filling of the aircraft increases and contribute to that they are predictable.

What is the responsibility of Innovation Norway for the tourists that visit?

The host function for tourists travelling in Norway is not part of Innovation Norway’s mission. Innovation Norway’s mission is to contribute to sustainable growth and development in the tourism industry in Norway and to enhance market opportunities for Norwegian tourism actors through long-term marketing in priority markets.

Local authorities, such as municipalities and county municipalities, possibly via destination companies and regional companies, are responsible for handling the tourists that visit, i.e. the hosting function. Nevertheless, Innovation Norway has taken on a role, among other things, by providing tools for destinations to create development strategies, management systems for a more sustainable destination and in security, where we have contributed to creating readily accessible information for tourists such as films about the safety of hiking, ski touring and fishing, in cooperation with other actors.

We are also actively working to ensure that both activities and messages conform to the principles of sustainability and responsible marketing.  The stories told about travel in Norway will help ensure that guests have good experiences, travel and return safely.  This is both planned and implemented in cooperation with the tourism industry throughout the country.

Why does Innovation Norway work to get more overseas tourists to Norway?

The Norwegian tourism industry and Innovation Norway have for many years prioritised some markets for joint efforts and investments where we have good conditions for a financially profitable development. An important part of the market assessment is that overseas markets are important for many tourism companies in Norway in order to run a year-round and profitable industry. 

The market portfolio consists of 15 markets in Europe, USA, Asia and Latin America. The segments are more central than the geographic market and the promotion of Norway has in recent years turned towards motivation across markets. This spreads risk, while reaching the target groups that we want and that fit the Norwegian tourism product.

The majority of Innovation Norway’s investments and use of resources in holiday and leisure and meeting and incentive markets are made in the neighbouring European markets. Nevertheless, the strongest growth has been in the US and Asia in recent years, and they now constitute a central part of foreign commercial overnight stays in several places in Norway - and they are increasingly coming outside of the summer season.

The aim of the work in all markets and segments is to develop products that increase the length of stay in Norway and thereby contribute to increased value creation.

The majority of the allocated funds are invested to further develop Norway’s position and contribute to more year-round traffic from our neighbouring European markets. Of NOK 231.5 million, Innovation Norway has spent six per cent of the total framework for tourism for developing traffic from target groups in large, overseas emerging markets such as the US, Asia and South America.

What is Innovation Norway doing to get more Norwegians to go on holiday in Norway?

Our mandate is to promote Norwegian tourism in selected international markets. Some of our activities are also aimed at Norwegians, in order to get more holidays at and use of tourism products in their own country.

Statistics from Statistics Norway show that Norwegians accounted for about 70 per cent of all commercial overnight stays in 2018, while Europe accounted for 23 per cent and the rest of the world for 7 per cent. The statistics do not capture all accommodation types, including accommodation in private homes/AirBnB, an accommodation form that especially Norwegians and guests from neighbouring markets use. The proportion of tourists from Norway and neighbouring markets is therefore greater than the statistics show.

How does Innovation Norway work with cruises?

Innovation Norway does not use funds for the promotion of cruises. Our cruise work focuses on development through land-based activities and experiences that provide value creation in the local area. This is part of our course portfolio.

In addition, Innovation Norway has conducted an annual survey, as part of the tourism survey; “Cruise Survey”, which provides knowledge of visitors, traffic and consumption in countries. Innovation Norway is not mandated to affect the local government’s prioritisation of cruise traffic on the individual travel destination.

What is Innovation Norway doing to avoid overtourism?

In a matter of weeks, especially during the summer season, there may be many tourists gathered at some of Norway’s most iconic tourist destinations. There are therefore travel destinations in Norway that have challenges in relation to too many visitors to a geographic area at the same time.

The tourism industry itself initiated and created a roadmap for the tourism industry in Norway: “Towards Sustainable Travel and Tourism In Norway: A Roadmap” (2017), where the 10 largest organisations in Norwegian tourism stand united and are clear on that they should work for the long-term perspective. Innovation Norway is among them.

One of the biggest challenges in the tourism industry is the large seasonal variation. Innovation Norway’s action plan for tourism “Norway all year round” aims to spread the tourist traffic across several locations and seasons to enable year-round operation. This will have great significance for profitability and employment in the industry.

Other measures to avoid overtourism are:

  • Innovation Norway does not market Norway as a cruise destination
  • The promotion of the regions is adapted to the needs of each region
  • The label for sustainable destinations contributes to the management of tourism locally
  • We offer various tools for destination development (strategy, competence, courses etc)

The label for sustainable destinations

What is the label for sustainable destinations?

The labelling scheme for sustainable destinations has been developed as a management system to systematise the work on sustainability at Norwegian destinations.

The certification of travel destinations is an increasingly relevant theme internationally. Norway was early in developing a separate national labelling system where a standard with criteria and indicators is central. These indicators must be answered and documented by the destinations in the scheme and you also need to continuously measure the development along the same indicators. The standard of the scheme is approved by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), which means that the requirements cover international certification requirements for destinations.

The name on the label signals destinations that they are engaged in long-term work for increased sustainability. 

  • By mapping criteria distributed across the three aspects of sustainability (environment, society and economy)
  • The labelling scheme for sustainable destination does not solve all challenges, but can provide a basis for prioritising, raising awareness and creating collaboration platforms.
  • Through the label for sustainable destination, clear requirements are set for the destination and development is measured over time.

The travel destinations must go through demanding processes and thorough mapping to get a good foundation for building future decisions on.  In addition, competence development and increasing awareness of the positive and negative sides of tourism are local. The experience shows that the work of the label greatly provides additional motivation to continue working on a more sustainable development of the travel destination.

Are the travel destinations that have the label more sustainable than others?
As of today, approximately 30 travel destinations are joined in the scheme. They are not necessarily more sustainable than others, but have an ambition to work for a more sustainable development.

Is the label something one gets ownership of?
No. The labelling scheme for sustainable destination creates a structure around long-term work for increased sustainability. The standard in the scheme specifies the areas you need to work on with indicators that will measure the work continuously. Destinations that enter into the labelling scheme for sustainable destination are working on a long-term improvement process for the entire scope of the label’s standard consisting of over 100 criteria, and where the travel destination is measured on all these criteria.

To retain the label over time, improvements must be documented every three years. The labelling scheme for sustainable destination is intended as a start for what must be a very long-term process to contribute to sustainable experiences, businesses and solutions locally.

Les også

Merket for bærekraftig reisemål

Bærekraft og reiseliv i Innovasjon Norge

Sustainability and tourism in Innovation Norway

Mot et bærekraftig reiseliv
Veikart fra reiselivsnæringen i Norge (Rapport av Innovasjon Norge m.fl.., 2017)

Evaluering Merket for bærekraftig reisemål
Vista Analyse utførte i 2016 en evaluering av Merkeordningen for Bærekraftig Reisemål.

10 principles of sustainable tourism

Conserving of nature, the environment and culture

  1. Cultural wealth
    To respect, develop and highlight the historical heritage of the community, authentic culture, traditions and character.
  2. The physical and visual integrity of the landscape
    To preserve and develop the landscape quality, both for cities and villages, so that the physical and visual integrity of the landscape is not degraded.
  3. Biological diversity
    To support the preservation of natural areas, wildlife and habitats, and minimise the devastation of these.
  4. Clean environment and resource efficiency
    Minimising the pollution by tourism businesses and tourists of air, water and land (including noise), as well as minimising the generation of their waste and consumption of scarce and non-renewable resources.
     

Strengthening of social values

  1. Local quality of life and social values
    Preserving and enhancing the quality of life in the community, including social structures, access to resources, facilities and public goods for all, as well as avoiding any form of social degradation and exploitation.
  2. Local control and commitment
    Engaging and providing power to the local community and local stakeholders with regard to planning, decision-making and the development of local tourism.
  3. Job quality for tourism employees
    To enhance the quality of tourism jobs (direct and indirect), including wage levels and working conditions without discrimination based on gender, race, disabilities or other factors.
  4. Guest satisfaction and security; Quality of experience
    To provide safe, satisfying and enriching experiences for all tourists regardless of gender, race, disabilities or other factors.
     

Economic sustainability

  1. Economic sustainability and competitive tourist destinations through local value creation
    To ensure the sustainability and competitiveness of tourist destinations in a long-term perspective, by maximising the value creation of the tourism in the local community, including what tourists leave behind of value locally.
  2. Economic sustainability and competitive tourism businesses
    To ensure the sustainability and competitiveness of the tourism industry in a long-term perspective.