Exploring tourism futures – A phronetic approach

Chimirri, D. (Lecturer), Ren, C. B. (Lecturer)

Activity: Talks and presentationsConference presentations


In recent years, the tourism industry in Greenland has experienced growing political and societal interest as means for Greenland's future economic development. In order to attract more international tourists, several infrastructure and marketing strategies and initiatives have been set in place aiming above all to stimulate cruise tourism and establish transatlantic airports. Less activity is committed to understanding how actors on the ground see tourism and how they think tourism should be organized and developed in - and for – Greenland. This presentation explores a recent research project which engaged with tourism futures by mapping out the tourism landscape in Greenland from an practice perspective. The aim was to open up for new insights into where tourism development is going and how tourism actors are working to get there. By exploring the current landscape and possible tourism futures of Greenland, we draw upon Aristotelian notion of ‘phronesis’. As Aristotle terms it, ‘phronesis’ is the practical wisdom, practical judgement, common sense, or prudence “that comes from an intimate familiarity with the contingencies and uncertainties of any particular social practice” (Schram, 2012, p. 15). For Flyvbjerg (2001), phronetic research is a research approach which produces “experience in context as the most appropriate means of generating knowledge that matches social priorities and can contribute to public debate” (Thomas, 2012, p. 2). By communicating the results of the research to and incorporating feedback from the public, the derived understanding and knowledge build the ground for clarifying practice, sometimes intervening into it, sometimes generating new perspectives, but always serving as eyes and ears in an ongoing effort to understand the present and to deliberate about the future (Flyvbjerg, 2006). Accordingly, phronetic research focuses on practical activities and practical knowledge in everyday life situations and thereby aims to explore current practice as well as historic circumstances in order to find ways to understand practice (Dredge, 2011). Exploration through phronesis – the research of practice? In the case of Greenland, ‘phronesis’ is used as a lens for exploring, providing insights into and creating a better understanding of the current tourism landscape in Greenland by focusing on the specific challenges, needs and resources of tourism actors in their day-to-day work at the destination level. A phronetic approach generates situated knowledge that explores context-specific social priorities and contributes to public debate (Flyvbjerg, 2001). This is done through case narratives which provide and act as examples of ongoing tourism development in Greenland. The case narratives are not only helpful to clarify the complexity of tourism and its development, but also to show how tourism takes place on the ground and how tourism unfolds in collaboration between diverse actors. In the present project entitled ‘Tourism Development in Greenland – Identification and Inspiration’ (Ren & Chimirri, 2017), we aimed to get a more thorough understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the tourism sector and to gain a knowledge-based appreciation of its composition, its organization and existing collaborations. The project ran from November 2016 until March 2017 and provided insights into the tourism landscape in Greenland based on extensive fieldwork. In the initial phase of the project, we explored the tourism landscape in Greenland through a review of the existing research literature, reports and material from the public sector, such as Greenland's Statistics, Naalakkersuisut/Government of Greenland, VisitGreenland, and online research of tourism stakeholders. This first step offered insights and an overall understanding of the current status of the tourism landscape in Greenland. Based on this desk research, relevant actors were identified, contacted via email and asked to participate in this project by sharing their knowledge with us. On the basis of the answers to our inquiry, we decided to focus on the four largest destinations on the west coast of Greenland: Kangerlussuaq, Sisimiut, Ilulissat and Nuuk. The resulting data collection includes a total of 23 interviews with tourism actors in Denmark and Emerging topics and discussions Following a mainly qualitative approach, the tourism landscape was explored by a practitioner’s perspective. Based on the conducted interviews it provided hands-on knowledge that can be used to further successfully develop Greenland as tourism destination. Through the use of ‘phronesis’ and narratives we were able to frame issues other than the “usual” discussions on infrastructure and policy in Greenlandic tourism development, such as education, entrepreneurship and collaboration. The research findings were communicated first in form of the report and subsequently during a symposium, taking place at the end of the project in March 2017. Apart from presenting the narratives of education, entrepreneurship and collaboration, workshop sessions were conducted where participants of the symposium discussed these core insights. By communicating the results and fostering a frame for discussion, the generated and emerging knowledge enabled actors in the field to reengage with the issues which they are confronted with and discuss tourism futures for Greenland. In spite of the limited time of the initial project, the results of the project were fed back into public discussion through the written report as well as the final symposium. In the spirit of Flyvbjerg (2004), it was able to redirect attention from often locked discussions on infrastructure to on-the- ground challenges and helped instigate discussions of (other possible) visions for the future of tourism development by focusing on the potential of existing collaboration as resource for developing tourism.
Period21 Aug 2017
Event typeConference