Crafting consciousness and connections for truly meaningful visitor experiences in Norway’s regional parks
Norwegian Parks Association/Norske Parker
Region & country
Norway has a long-standing international reputation for its pristine landscapes and its regional parks are no exception, attracting thousands of visitors each year to enjoy unspoilt nature. Nature, however, must never become a backdrop for a disparate range of outdoor activities. So, the Norwegian Parks Association collaborated with Interpret Europe, the European Association for Heritage Interpretation, to use interpretive principles to promote values and deeper meanings, thereby providing truly immersive visitor experiences that also aid park management and conserve natural and cultural heritage.
Interpretive training in Norway with Sandy Colvine from Interpret Europe
Norske Parker/Hans Ola Østby
Background of the project
With a few exceptions, Norway’s regional parks are its best kept secret to international visitors. Popular with domestic audiences for outdoor pursuits, they lacked the leverage bringing them added value as a destination in their own right for broader, ‘softer’, off-the-beaten track natural and cultural experiences and a means to forge a reciprocal connection with between visitors and nature, culture and local ‘heritage communities’.
– Foster greater visitor consciousness and connection concerning the sites and places they visit before and during their stay.
– Give parks tools to promote themselves using a thematic approach that appeals to visitors’ head, hands and hearts.
– Give park guides, rangers and local businesses interpretive tools to provide hands-on, meaningful visitor experiences.
– Enable DMOs and local tourism providers to create new interpretive products and become ambassadors for their local heritage.
Solution and actions taken
Capacity building for park stakeholders to adopt interpretive principles whereby sites and objects become experiences, visitors active participants in their experiences and park guides and rangers able to reveal deeper meanings. Underpinned by sustainable development messages the aim is to broaden their horizons, solicit their values and bring a sense of fulfilment from discovery.
By soliciting heads, hands and hearts, visitors care more deeply for the parks and local communities.
Norske Parker formed a partnership with Interpret Europe to provide:
Certified Interpretive guide training for park guides and rangers
Interpretive writing workshops for park communication and marketing officers and partner destination management companies
Certified Interpretive Host training tourism businesses and destination management company clusters.
Taster workshops at national and regional conferences and seminars.
Other institutions or parties involved
The process involved all Norwegian regional parks, Visit Norway, DMOs (e.g. Visit Varanger), local enterprise companies, tourism businesses, regional and national decision-makers in public administration.
Norske Parker is developing a website promoting immersive park experiences using interpretive techniques designed to appeal to international visitors and provide a high-quality, coherent sustainable tourism offer. This together with the training programme has forged stronger bonds with institutional partners, with a view to creating a competence centre as a Norwegian centre of interpretive excellence. The DMO, Visit Varanger, now uses interpretive techniques in its promotion campaigns.
Heritage interpretation is a new concept to Norway so it was necessary to take a gradual approach beginning with presentations and tasters to build interest and trust among stakeholders, followed by hands-on training courses with tangible outcomes (new guiding, writing skills, etc.), especially for hard-working small businesses to then use to improve and diversify their offer.
Patience! It takes time for partners to adopt a new concept, so much time and effort must be invested in convincing the parks and park partners to take a new quality approach based on heritage interpretation.
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