Sharing Economy in Peripheral Tourism Destinations The Case of Finnish Lapland

Petra Paloniemi, Salla Jutila, and Maria Hakkarainen

1. Introduction

Tourism is one of the biggest economic forces in Finnish Lapland. Lap- land represents an example of a peripheral destination, where the growth numbers of international tourism have been remarkable for years. Also, the relative share of the sharing economy is significant both on a national and a global level—for example, rhe number of Airbnb listings per capita is higher in the capital of Lapland, Rovaniemi, compared with Helsinki or even Barcelona. The sharing economy has radically changed the concept of the hospitality and tourism ecosystem. As a relatively new and unpredictable phenomenon, it is crucial to try to understand the impacts of the sharing economy on tourism destinations for the sake of sustainable development and balanced growth. This case study introduces the scope and the implications of the sharing economy for sustainable destination management in Finnish Lapland. The study enhances the balanced growth of tourism in peripheral regions and supports the holistic well-being of local people, tourism businesses, and tourists. The study was implemented within the project Possibilities and Challenges in Peer- to-Peer Accommodation (ERDF).

Tourism has long roots in Lapland. At the beginning of the twentieth century, summertime was the most popular season to travel to Lapland, and the typical tourists were people from southern Finland traveling to Lapland to see the midnight sun and landscape. International tourism started in the 1980s when the first Concorde plane landed in Rovaniemi. From 1984 to 1999, Concorde planes brought more than 9,000 tourists, mostly British, to Lapland and created the base for the current charter flights and tourism (Hakulinen, Komppula & Saraniemi, 2007, pp. 10-12). International tourism was, and still is, highly focused in wintertime and especially at Christmas time. In relation to its population, Lapland gets the largest relative share of tourists in Finland (Business Finland, 2019), and the number of registered international stays has tripled in the 2000s. Today, there are only approximately 181,000 people living in Lapland, but about 2.9 million registered overnights annually. The annual growth rate of overnights is about 9% (House of Lapland, 2019).

Today’s tourists seek emotional experiences (Frochot Sc Batat, 2013), alternative destinations, and accommodation which engage them on a personal level, to indulge in the experiential aspects of consumption (Camilleri Sc Neuhofer, 2017; Chandler Sc Lusch, 2015; Holbrook Sc Hirschman, 1982). In Lapland, the heritage and culture of the people of the north, unspoiled nature and the skill needed to survive in the Arctic environment are attractive dimensions for tourists. The sharing economy offers opportunities to respond to travelers’ need to become acquainted with the local way of life, as it enables temporary access to local, everyday life at the destination (Paloniemi, Jutila Sc Hakkarainen, 2018).

The growth of tourism has also created a need for more and new kinds of services in Lapland, especially in the accommodation sector. Many local people and companies have seen business potential in organizing and offering accommodation and other services (e.g. everyday life experiences with locals and mobility services) for tourists. Online platforms like Airbnb have made it easy for local people to offer peer-to-peer accommodation and experiences to visitors. Along with business potential and many positive opportunities, the changing ecosystem with sharing economy-related services has also caused many legal, social, and economic challenges. The traditional hospitality sector, destination management organizations, and local inhabitants are facing an unprecedented situation as the so-called disruptive force of the sharing economy seems able to create value for tourists and also for locals.

In the twenty-first century, awareness and sensitivity concerning global economic, socio-cultural, and environmental issues have 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 recognize and handle change (Dredge, 2016; Hall, 2013; Ritchie Sc Crouch, 2003). To enhance common well-being at the destination and avoid conflicts among the different stakeholders—traditional business, local residents, investors, and sharing-economy actors—the changing ecosystem has to be defined and taken into consideration when planning sustainable destination management strategies.

  • 2. Theoretical Framework
  • 2.1 Sharing Economy in Peripheries

The sharing economy can be defined as a marketing practice that links consumers, business and society through virtual networks (Bardhi Sc Eck- hardt, 2012; Belk, 2014; Botsman, 2013; Hakkarainen Sc Jutila, 2017).

Similar terms include ‘collaborative economy’, ‘peer economy’, ‘peer-to- peer consumption’, and ‘access-based economy’. Sharing economy is, however, the most common term to describe a business model based on sharing, even if there has been considerable discussion of the paradox of the sharing economy: how sharing can be considered as economy and how commercial action can be sharing (Arnould & Rose, 2016; Belk, 2014; Hakkarainen & Jutila, 2017). Commercialization of the sharing economy has brought different kinds of challenges in many destinations, especially related to peer-to-peer accommodation. Property prices and rents have risen in popular tourist cities, and local inhabitants face difficulties in finding apartments near the city center (Lambea Llop, 2017). The share of Airbnb capacity is also considered an indicator of overtourism (Peeters et al., 2018).

Despite the high density of peer-to-peer accommodation, the sharing economy is often considered a positive phenomenon, especially in the peripheral regions. The situation is very different compared with the situation in big European cities where there are heated debates concerning regulations, for instance, related to taxation, safety, and disturbance in the neighborhood around the sharing economy. Also, many traditional tourism businesses and local inhabitants feel threatened by the rise of sharing-economy services. Finland operates in a national regulatory environment; regions and cities follow the national framework. As previously stated, Finland, and especially Finnish Lapland, are examples of peripheral regions, where the sharing economy can be expected to sustain livelihood in the rural surroundings (Battino &t Lampreu, 2019). Sometimes, from the individual perspective, the notion of dignity represents a missing link to the quest for social welfare (Pirson, 2017).

In tourism, the sharing economy, on the one hand, emphasizes individual experiences, along with a sense of communality and belonging (Bock, 2015; Hakkarainen &c Jutila, 2017). It offers various opportunities to bring the features of local lifestyles to tourists as it enables temporary access to local services, products and everyday life (Belk, 2014, p. 1595). Many studies have shown that sharing-economy users are driven by a willingness to have local-like experiences at the destination (Gansky, 2010; Guttentag, 2015; Sigala, 2017; Tussyadiah &C Pesonen, 2018; Volg- ger, Pforr, Stawinoga, Taplin 8c Matthews, 2018). According to Camilleri and Neuhofer (2017), a number of guests pointed out that the need to seek a quiet place for relaxation, and to avoid ‘tourist locations’ for the enjoyment of a more authentic experience of the setting, was a reason for choosing accommodation via the sharing-economy platform (Airbnb in this case). The quest for real-life experiences has also been noted in various national and regional strategic guidelines, for instance, in Lapland, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Amsterdam, and Iceland. On the other hand, the sharing economy is considered in tourism as a commercial activity and as a business opportunity. Through the sharing economy, individuals living, for example, in peripheral regions can rake part in the market economy and even employ themselves (Huefner, 2015). The sharing economy enables an active role for local people, who often are positioned as objects of tourism development, not as active subjects participating in tourism. This supports the perspective of humanistic management emphasizing the need to understand human beings throughout the economic system as active subjects instead of being treated merely as passive objects (Dierksmeire, 2016, p. 25).

There is only limited research regarding the sharing economy in peripheral destinations. The term ‘peripheral’ is often used to refer to a region that is remote and sparsely populated, and that is characterized by a lack of public and private services, and limited in accessibility (Brown Sc Hall, 2000). Over the years, tourism has become a development catalyst for promoting social and economic welfare in peripheral areas and their communities (Brown Sc Hall, 2000; Saarinen, 2010; Sharpley, 2015). As Battino and Lampreu (2019, p. 3) argue, in rural areas, sharing-economy practices offer solutions and alternatives to the classic models of hospitality that are often absent in peripheral areas. Finnish Lapland as a whole can be seen as a peripheral region. Within the region, there are different kinds of peripheries, where the impacts of the sharing economy are also different. Rovaniemi, the largest town in Lapland with around 62,000 inhabitants, represents an urban city in the periphery, facing similar challenges related to the sharing economy to those faced by the big cities of central Europe. Remote villages and skiing resorts in Lapland can be considered as peripheries within the periphery. For these districts, the sharing economy enables easy and cheap business and marketing possibilities, as well as new kinds of income opportunities. As the sharing economy does not require large investments, it can cause rapid and impressive changes to the structures of tourism ecosystems, especially in peripheral destinations. It is possible to assume that many tourists are willing to spend their holidays in peaceful and authentic peripheral regions (Camilleri Sc Neuhofer, 2017), like small villages in Lapland, in which sometimes they can only find accommodation and activities through peer-to-peer services. Thus, the sharing economy might widen the tourism spectrum and spread the impacts of tourism to more peripheral areas.

2.2 Sustainable Destination Management

Sustainability is an important principle in the management and competitiveness of tourism destinations (D’Angella Sc De Carlo, 2016; Middle- ton Sc Hawkins, 1998; Mihalic, 2000; Ritchie Sc Crouch, 2003; Volgger, Pforr, Stawinoga, Taplin Sc Matthews, 2018) and is a very topical issue at the moment. In October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report was launched, attracting worldwide attention. The IPCC reported on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emissions pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to lessen poverty (IPCC, 2018). The report has provoked discussion widely in many tourism-related forums. The report, and the ensuing discussions, will probably cause changes in actions both at the individual and national levels, which might lead to impacts on tourism and tourism behavior. It is reasonable to assume that in the future, sustainability issues will become even more and more important to the success of destinations.

Sustainable development can be defined as ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the possibilities of the future generations’ (WCED, 1987, p. 43). In tourism research, management of the impacts and governance of tourism development toward sustainability has already been an important issue for years (Saarinen, 2014; Tervo-Kankare, Kajan &c Saarinen, 2018). Tourism is affected by, and also a reason for, changes taking place in physical, environmental, sociocultural, or economic environments. This creates the need for sustainability management (Bramwell &c Lane, 2011; Hall, 2013).

‘Destination’ here may refer to a relatively coherent spatial unit that includes tourism and tourism-related businesses and other actors collaborating in co-production, in local value chains, and often also in marketing (Saarinen, 2004). Tourism destinations compete against one another for potential visitors. According to Ritchie and Crouch, ‘a tourism destination is competitive when it has got an ability to increase tourism expenditure, to attract the visitors while providing them with satisfying, memorable experiences in profitable way while simultaneously enhancing the wellbeing of the destination residents and preserving the natural capital of the destination for future generations’ (2003). This definition emphasizes the well-being and recovery of the everyday lives of local people at the destination, which also creates better opportunities for positive visitor experiences. The definition also relates to the conception of humanistic management, that according to Dierksmeire (2016, p. 28) encompasses moral, social, and ecological sustainability criteria as it considers individual autonomy as an obligation for self-commitment: individual liberty and common responsibility belong together and strengthen each other. Thus, humanistic management aims to use business as a way to improve every individual’s conditions in the interest of their dignity (Dierksmeire, 2016, p. 28).

At many destinations, the tourism destination strategies are planned by DMOs. DMO may refer either to ‘destination marketing organization’ or ‘destination management organization’, depending on the organization’s activities. Both of them are policy tools to stimulate tourism growth (Dredge, 2016). Some researchers doubt that DMOs even fit in an increasingly liquid and mobile world (Bauman, 2000; Dredge, 2016). Dianne Dredge calls for DMOs to take social responsibility, stewardship, and sustainability into account, as she sees these as important values, especially in future destinations. Dredge assumes that in the future there will be more demanding challenges as tourism moves from a formal, industrial structure to a post-structural organization in which increased mobilities, and the increasing use of social media and collaborative economy, is common (Dredge, 2016).

2.3 Sustainability in Sharing Economy-Based Tourism Management

In their literature review, Nuottila, Jurila and Hakkarainen (2017) noticed that, despite the common interest in a sharing economy, there are only a limited number of studies regarding the increasing diversity of the sharing economy and its implications for sustainability. The sustainable idea beneath sharing economy is that it is better to ‘share rather than own’, as this leads to a sustainable decrease in personal consumption, ownership, and waste (Sheth, Sethia &c Srinivas, 2011). The sharing economy holds the promise for a more sustainable world by giving access to underutilized resources at a small cost to those who cannot or do not want to buy new products or facilities, and for those who already own such resources, there is also a chance of making extra income. Airbnb’s mission is ‘to create a world where people can belong through healthy travel that is local, authentic, diverse, inclusive and sustainable’ (Airbnb, 2018a). The sharing economy also enables services to be offered in remote destinations where conventional businesses might not be profitable.

Nevertheless, there are debates concerning regulations (e.g. taxation, gray market, safety, disturbance in the neighborhood) around the sharing economy in tourism. At the same time of having plenty of sharing economy start-ups, new entrepreneurs, and investors, there also exists fear among many other stakeholders who feel threatened by the sharing economy, for example, traditional tourism businesses and local inhabitants. According to Williams and Horodnic (2017), businesses in the hotel and restaurant sector see the sharing economy, considered an informal sector in business, as an obstacle or even a threat to their own business. Often, the sharing economy is also seen as instrumental in facing problems such as overconsumption and income inequality. Sharing economy-based businesses have evolved from simple peer-to-peer lending initiatives to complex platforms and networks of people and companies interacting for the collective use of new or extant resources. According to Munoz and Cohen (2017), most of the current sharing-economy brands have been supported by mainstream investors, moving business models away from the still-predominant view of sharing businesses as driven by social-oriented goals. It is expected that regulations of some kind will see daylight in different countries and maybe also at the EU level in the years ahead. Although regulations may reduce the sharing economy, it is unlikely that it would be prohibited, its growth reversed, or that its business logic would vanish totally.

Social responsibility is one key issue that must be taken into consideration when developing tourism experiences based on the sharing economy. In some European cities, sharing economy-based tourism services have grown explosively without sustainable planning, causing problems in local communities. It is thus essential to note that sharing economy- based services have to be developed on locals’ terms, from the local perspective (Jutila, Paloniemi & Hakkarainen, 2017).

Dredge and Gyimothy (2015) state that traditional DMOs are being challenged by the rise of the sharing economy. Peer-to-peer exchange of tourist goods and services (e.g. Airbnb, Doerz, Blablacar, etc.) are not only challenging the traditional incomes of DMOs but also making tourism information services redundant. As a result, the traditional business models of DMOs are under pressure (Dredge &c Gyimothy, 2015). Also, social media is challenging traditional destination management structures. In the analysis of social media initiatives in Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden, and the Scandinavian Tourist Board, Munar found that the fluid, decentralized, and user-generated characteristics of social media make it challenging for DMOs to control and manage marketing and branding efforts (Dredge, 2016; Munar, 2011, 2012). Trunfio and Della Lucia (2019a, 2019b) call for the potential of stakeholder engagement for value co-creation in destination strategy. According to the authors, digitalization may itself drive this kind of development, for instance, by facilitating interactive communication (Trunfio & Della Lucia, 2019a, p. 202).

Sharing economy services can, however, facilitate access to insider explanations about the destination, which is particularly precious in cases of low destination familiarity (Volgger, Pforr, Stawinoga, Taplin & Matthews, 2018). In addition, sharing economy services are often cheaper, and they may boost first visits to destinations by reducing cost barriers that previously hindered the willingness to visit the place. The existence of a sharing economy may thus create competitive advantage for certain destinations. According to Airbnb statistics, 42% of guest spending happens in the neighborhoods where guests stay (Airbnb, 2018b), so sharing economy services may create benefits to neighborhood areas in other sectors as well and spread positive economic impacts. Toni, Renzi and Mattia (2018) found out that collaborative consumption stimulates sustainable behavior in travelers. Their study investigated the relationship between collaborative consumption and the adoption of sustainable practices from the users’ angle. They found that it is necessary to emphasize the importance of defining a new business paradigm that considers collaborative consumption as a way of supporting environmental policy and encouraging sustainable behavior.

The growing controversy around the adverse impacts of sharing economy platforms has led to calls for more democratic models of platform governance. This could help to create a more sustainable sharing economy by ensuring that platforms promote social and environmental values alongside the instrumental values of the capitalist economy. There are already existing platforms that, for example, enable people to gift unwanted consumer goods locally (Martin, Upham Sc Klapper,

  • 2017). Noirbnb and Fairbnb are examples of platforms which promote community-centered alternatives, prioritize people over profit and create travel experiences. For example, Fairbnb ‘aims at putting the “share” back into the sharing economy’ and has got collective ownership and democratic governance, and they promote ‘social sustainability, transparency and accountability’ (Fairbnb, 2019; Noirbnb, 2019.) It can be easily assumed that multiple similar platforms will come to light soon, as many stakeholders are interested in more sustainable and democratic values.
  • 3. Case Study Method

In this study, we have used a case study approach. That approach was chosen to gain a deep understanding of the phenomenon in a local context with global frames (Yin, 2014). This case can provide important new insights into the relatively new but recently actively researched tourism trend of sharing economies. The strong growth of the phenomenon is undoubtedly attached to urbanization and has also required a sufficient number of both users and suppliers to grow to the current scale. However, as already mentioned, the phenomenon not only exists in big cities and large population centers but also affects more peripheral and sparsely populated areas. In our research, we have brought the periphery into focus.

Based on 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 & Jurila, 2017). Previous studies of peer-to-peer accommodation have focused primarily on explanations and descriptions of the phenomenon on a general level (Bardhi & Eckhardt, 2012; Belk, 2014; Botsman, 2013); on the platforms, especially Airbnb’s role in accommodation business (Guttentag, 2015); on the drivers to choose peer-to-peer accommodation (Tussyadiah & Pesonen, 2018); on trust and hospitality (German- Molz, 2013); and on the social and legal challenges the phenomenon has caused, especially in popular tourism destinations and big cities (Dredge,

2016). Thus, our attempt is to broaden the discussion to include a topic which has gotten little attention.

In the data collection, we have used data triangulation (Laine, Bamberg &c Jokinen, 2007): our data consist of both statistical information and qualitative data. We have collected statistical data from Finnish national statistics (Statistics Finland), regional statistics from Lapland

(Council of Lapland; House of Lapland) and statistics from Airbnb (, including tourism and regional development indicators: volumes, utilization rate, prices, seasons, map-based data of the region, and the number of citizens. Qualitative data are gathered from several sources (interviews, newspapers, websites, focus groups, and project workshop observations), websites of sharing economy platforms (e.g. Airbnb, Doerz, and BloxCar), and other accommodation platforms used in commercial peer-to-peer accommodation, for example,

Interviews and focus group discussions with different stakeholders were conducted in Shareable Tourism (ERDF) and Possibilities and Challenges in Peer-to-Peer Accommodation (ERDF) projects. One special source of data is a free distribution pamphlet, which was delivered to almost every household in Rovaniemi in May 2019 (eight color pages in the form of a local newspaper). In our analysis, we have used content analysis as a method and combined qualitative and descriptive quantitative methods (Elo Sc Kyngiis, 2008). Through statistical information, we have illustrated and mapped both absolute and relative volumes and scale of the sharing economy in tourism in Lapland and in Rovaniemi. Thus, through our case study, we could provide a novel means for understanding different aspects of the sharing economy, which can then be applied to practice.

  • 4. The Sharing Economy in Lapland and Rovaniemi
  • 4.1 Sharing Economy-Based Services in Lapland

As part of our study, we have mapped the most important sharing economy-based services in Lapland. The growth of sharing economy services has been in line with the growth and seasonality of tourism in general in Rovaniemi. A good example is the development of Airbnb listings in Rovaniemi (Figure 4.1).

In March 2016, there were only 136 Airbnb listings in Rovaniemi (Hakkarainen Sc Honkanen, 2017, p. 31). In June 2017, nearly 400 listings were available. A year later, the number was about 550, and in December 2019, already more than 1,000 (Airdna, 2019). The growth is remarkable, and the 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, Spain, one of the cities struggling with Airbnb and trying to find ways to regulate it, had fewer properties per capita compared with Rovaniemi (Table 4.1).

Almost half (43% in January 2019) of the hosts in Rovaniemi were multi-listing hosts, meaning that they had more than one location listed on Airbnb. Most locations in the center are apartments with one

Supply and utilization rate of Airbnb listings in Rovaniemi

Figure 4.1 Supply and utilization rate of Airbnb listings in Rovaniemi

Table 4.1 Number of Airbnb listings per capita in different cities (January 2019)














Source: Authors’ own elaboration

bedroom, and in most cases, the owner does not live in the apartment. In January 2019, the monthly revenue average per listing in Rovaniemi was more than in many big European cities (Table 4.2). Annual revenues by top properties, more than 70,000 € (Airdna, 2019), show that peer- to-peer accommodation is a business for many, not just an occasional action. According to this data, we can assume that peer-to-peer accommodation in Rovaniemi follows the same trend as with large tourist cities in Europe: it is changing to be a more business-oriented activity, where the experience is not that personal and authentic anymore but is nevertheless happening among local inhabitants.

In Lapland, the sharing economy phenomenon is, at the moment, strongly centered in Rovaniemi, but the number of different sharing

Table 4.2 Monthly revenue average from Airbnb accommodation in different cities (January 2019)





1,541 €


1,519 €


1,424 €


1,332 €


900 €

Source: Authors’ own elaboration

economy services is growing also elsewhere in Lapland. For instance, in Levi, a popular skiing destination in Finnish Lapland, 189 flats were registered on Airbnb and more than 300 homes were registered on the Home Away platform in spring 2019. However, the situation is different in many other remote areas, where the number of properties on Airbnb and other platforms is much smaller, and while the most popular rental size in Rovaniemi is a one-bedroom apartment, listings in remote areas are mostly cottages or private rooms in a house. Because private cottages (second homes) have already been rented through Finnish cottage intermediator companies for decades, the change caused by peer-to-peer platforms is not as remarkable in remote areas as it is in Rovaniemi. However, the selling channels are more versatile nowadays.

Even though accommodation is clearly the biggest sharing economy sector in Lapland, there is also a growing interest in experiences offered by locals. Platforms such as 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 are 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 travelers in Rovaniemi. In spring 2019, Doerz offered 26 activities in Rovaniemi provided by nine hosts; the selection of experiences is more varied compared with Airbnb Experiences. The most common activities are husky safaris, canoeing, aurora hunting, fell hikes, sauna experiences, gastronomy tastings, and reindeer farm visits. The services are 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. Doerz is also one of the partner companies of Visit Rovaniemi, the DMO of Rovaniemi.

Sharing economy transportation has also emerged in Lapland but is still quite marginal. BloxCar is a peer-to-peer platform in which car owners can rent their vehicles to other people. In spring 2019, only four cars were registered on the platform in Rovaniemi and single cars elsewhere in Lapland. However, the need for different kinds of sharing practices in transportation is evident, as distances are long and public transportation is poor in Lapland compared with more densely populated areas. Peripheral context has to be taken into account to create successful peer- to-peer transportation. Some housing cooperatives of new blockhouses in Rovaniemi are currently developing such good practices, as houses are planned with car-sharing possibilities.

It can be assumed that the supply of sharing economy-based services will be more diverse in the future. There are plenty of peer-to-peer platforms that are popular globally 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, many new innovations and business ideas have been 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 the time or ability to manage everything by themselves. If the number of listings continues to grow in the future, the demand for this kind of ancillary service may also grow.

5. Possibilities and Challenges of a Sharing Economy in a Peripheral Context

As described earlier, the sharing economy in Lapland is a remarkable and versatile phenomenon combining many different stakeholders and fields. Thus, the impacts of the phenomenon are also diverse. Lapland as a whole can be seen as a peripheral region. Within the region, there are different kinds of peripheries, where the impacts of the sharing economy are also different. Rovaniemi represents an urban city on the periphery, facing similar sharing economy-related challenges to those faced by big cities in central Europe. Remote villages and ski resorts in Lapland can, for their part, be considered as peripheries on the periphery. In these districts, the sharing economy largely acts as an enabler of tourism marketing and businesses (see also Huefner, 2015) as sharing economy platforms literally bring villages to the world map. In Rovaniemi, area

Airbnb listings are mostly located in the city center; however, there are several spots all over the periphery of Rovaniemi. Before the appearance of this kind of accommodation possibilities, these places had been outsiders in tourism development and benefits. As large and dominant tourism companies have mainly taken responsibility for tourism development and tourism business in Lapland in places relevant for them, sharing economy platforms enable participation for small actors and individual people anywhere in the periphery.

Even if most Airbnb locations are in the center, accommodation is also available in the suburban areas. Thus, sharing economy-based services might benefit the destination by balancing the pressure and crowding of tourism in the city centers. Because tourists want to ‘live like locals’ in the neighborhoods (see e.g. Chandler & Lusch, 2015), visit local shops, use the playgrounds in the suburbs, meet ordinary people, and use public transport, this also balances the economic impacts of tourism among different districts. Another goal in Lapland’s tourism strategy has been to lengthen the stays of visitors as it is beneficial for the destination in many ways (e.g. for economic, environmental, social, and cultural reasons). In many destinations, tourists who use peer-to-peer accommodation stay longer compared with hotel guests (Airbnb, 2018b). Longer stays also offer better possibilities for a more authentic tourism experience and more contact with the local people, culture, and environment.

Moreover, greater distribution of tourism may prevent some of the negative aspects of growing tourism. Especially during the high season in December, the growing number of tourists in the city center of Rovaniemi causes problems such as crowding, taxi queues, queues in grocery stores, and excessive carrying capacity of public services (e.g. hospitals and police). Also, when tourists are the dominant group in the street view, it might adversely affect the destination’s image. There are already some tour operators who do not want to bring their customers to Rovaniemi, but to more ‘authentic’ and remote destinations in Lapland.

Along with business potential, innovations, and many opportunities, sharing economies inevitably bring different kinds of challenges. The essential challenges in Lapland relate to social disturbance, taxation, gray market, and safety. The central question in all of these is: who is the responsible stakeholder? Even though the challenges are somewhat universal, peripheral regions have particular challenges. The nature of the challenges also differs according to the stakeholder in question and the type of sharing economy service.

Our case study uncovered that many housing cooperatives in Lapland, especially in Rovaniemi, are facing challenges different than ever before, because of peer-to-peer accommodation. Some houses host up to a quarter of the rentals on Airbnb and in other peer-to-peer accommodation use, even though the houses are planned for permanent living. Neighbors are not willing to act as tourist information officers in their own homes.

Continuously changing guests disturbs permanent inhabitants in many different ways: elevators become worn and seedy quickly because of continuous dragging of heavy luggage, house rules are not known and thus not followed by guests who do not speak Finnish and, in some cases, even English, and so on. Tourists who are not familiar with winter conditions also cause many risks when they stay in a house without reception or information. In some cases, tourists have left windows or doors open for hours, because of ventilation or to have a better chance to see the northern lights. In bitterly cold winter conditions, this means a frigid apartment after a while and may also cause frozen heaters. Many rental apartments also have saunas, which can cause their own risks.

Many hospitality entrepreneurs in Lapland see peer-to-peer accommodation providers as a significant threat to the growth of the legitimate hospitality industry. As Williams and Horodnic (2017) point out, the practices of competitors in the informal sector are seen as an obstacle among hotels and restaurants, making, for example, peer-to-peer accommodation in the hospitality industry an issue that needs to be addressed. The contradiction is visible in Lapland in various ways. This has especially become an issue in the Rovaniemi area, as Airbnb has more or less turned the meaning of ownership upside down from the initial principles of the sharing economy: the more apartments you own, the more you can share. The free distribution pamphlet against peer-to-peer accommodation was paid for by local hospitality entrepreneurs, who want to remain anonymous. Traditional accommodation businesses state that they need to apply for several licenses and permissions from different authorities before being able to start an accommodation business in Finland. They view the situation as unfair, because the regulatory environment is not clear regarding peer-to-peer accommodation. There is also concern about taxation; a notable share of income through peer-to-peer accommodation is not declared. The pamphlet, that was implemented in a very provocative style, is a specific example of the pressure the sharing economy has placed on the local tourism ecosystem.

Interestingly, both the traditional accommodation sector and housing co-operatives often blame public authorities and decision-makers for irresponsibility and lack of capability to intervene when problems arise in peer-to-peer accommodation. According to our case study, building supervision in particular faces many requirements to monitor, intervene, and even stop disturbing or somehow unfair peer-to-peer accommodation. Responsibility on the part of hosts has drawn much less attention.

6. Discussion

Sustainability issues are essential in order to develop tourism that promotes well-being. As the national tourism board, Visit Finland, states, sustainable tourism is committed to having a positive impact on nature, society, and the economy, leaving a small ecological footprint and honoring local cultures; to keeping nature clean by choosing environmentally friendly options in modes of travel; and recycle, reuse, and reduce overall consumption and waste. Visit Finland has also set an ambitious goal for Finland to become the most sustainable destination in the world (Visit Finland, 2019).

Dianne Dredge (2016) argues that calls for destination management organizations (DMOs) to embrace social responsibility and sustainability tend to fail often, as, despite societal and political changes, DMOs remain locked within an industrial policy paradigm. Dredge presents a holistic networked approach as a solution to adopt. According to this idea, destination management could be a network of actions, a co-created product of social life and a citizen service, rather than being directed first and foremost at industry interests. This opens up the possibility of redemocratizing tourism management, moving it beyond the confines of an industry-coordination problem (Dredge, 2016). According to Mele (2003), a humanistic management approach fosters both the human growth of people and, as a consequence, their sense of service and cooperation which indubitably are crucial for long-term outcomes. Pirson (2017) emphasized the role of human dignity and the notion of social welfare as either wealth or well-being.

Our case study has shown, that sharing economy-based tourism services create the potential to advance developments for their part. It seems that the sharing economy offers possibilities for individual people to participate in tourism, employ themselves, meet new people from the other side of the world and gain trust in business. The sharing economy also has the potential to enhance dignity through tourism; there is something so valuable and interesting in one’s everyday life, that tourists are willing to pay to for the possibility to see and participate in it. Thus, it could be argued, that sharing economy has potential to bring humanism to business (see Dierksmeire, 2016, p. 26).

To enhance common well-being at the destination and avoid conflicts among the different stakeholders, the changing ecosystem has to be defined and taken into consideration when planning sustainable destination management strategies. We have scanned the sharing economy- based services in Lapland, but as a result of statistical restrictions and rapid changes in sharing economy services, we have managed to give only a descriptive estimation of the scale of the phenomenon. To produce more specific and reliable data regarding the volume and the impact of the sharing economy, more reliable statistics should be collected by national or regional administrations. Also, to maximize the benefits and to avoid the challenges caused by the sharing economy, holistic cocreation and stakeholder engagement are needed. Based on our study, it is possible to claim that to avoid extreme reactions (such as the pamphlet against Airbnb), neutral actors who actively advance interaction among different stakeholders, and understand and promote diverse viewpoints, are needed.

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 the accommodation sector equal for different stakeholders, how to avoid disturbing local inhabitants, and how to make different responsibilities clear to all stakeholders. The case study from Finnish Lapland presents the current situation of tourism and the sharing economy in a peripheral region and contributes to sustainable destination management supporting the holistic well-being and dignity of local people, tourism businesses and tourists. The project Possibilities and Challenges in Peer-to-Peer Accommodation (ERDF) is one example of sustainable and responsible discussion forums bringing different viewpoints and stakeholders together.


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