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June 2015, Melting Tourism Structures, Jukkasjärvi, Sweden

June 2015, Melting Tourism Structures, Jukkasjärvi, Sweden

1I took this photograph in June 2015 during my fieldwork in northern Sweden. I still recall well the imagery and texture of this moment as I stood there alone in the mud under the bright shining sun. The scene evoked something strong and humorous within me, and I laughed all by myself.

2As a beginning tourism researcher, I had heard and even written about this place, without having visited it before that day. The place is renowned beyond the borders of Sweden and it is visited by tourists from faraway places. It serves as one of the flagships of Swedish tourism, representing a magical and artistic Arctic place. That day, I stood in front of the world-famous (and claiming to be the first) IceHotel. Only it was summer, and it was melting.

3Since the initial idea in 1990, the IceHotel is rebuilt every year from ice taken from the Torne River flowing beside it. From December to April, the site attracts ten thousands of tourists to a small village called Jukkasjärvi, near the town of Kiruna that connects to the airport. Not all tourists come to stay overnight at the hotel, they also come as day visitors to just peek at the ways different artists designed the rooms, halls, bar and even a church that is part of the spectacle. The hotel and its success also illustrate an ongoing seasonal shift in tourism in northern Sweden, where the winter season is becoming increasingly important and attractive. Attributes that previously seemed to hinder tourism, such as the darkness, cold and relative remoteness, are now being romanticized and used for tourism marketing.

4The images I had previously seen of the IceHotel were enchanting: shiny, clear blue ice where sunlight shimmers at daytime and falls on carefully made decorations, as well as the surrounding darkness at night, the lure of apparent silence and the dancing northern lights above. To me it had long embodied a point of attraction on my northern map: for one, I was genuinely curious, and then, visiting-the-IceHotel represented some kind of rite de passage in my becoming a northern tourism researcher and being able to say that now I too have seen and touched it.

5Hence, doing fieldwork on handicrafts and tourism in the Kiruna area that summer, passing by the IceHotel had been on my schedule. Yet, amidst my fieldwork busyness, I had not taken much time to imagine what the place would look like in early summer. So, I just drove out there and found the IceHotel in the state you can see. I was overwhelmed with amusement. I think, it was the contrast that amazed me, between its polished perfection in high season in the images I knew and the pitiable condition I found it in. I nearly wanted to call out to it: “There is only a lot of mud left of your splendour!”, and possibly the edifice might have shared the humorous state of its being!

6No one was there to guard its remains or to keep me from wandering amidst its naked structures. I walked through the mud and water and across heavy wet piles of snow. While I was walking, it felt like the edifice talked back to me and we shared a moment of clarity. Our conversation was about tourism of course, and more concretely about representations. While tourism on the surface has a light, seemingly apolitical character (Shanks, 2009), where beautiful and polished images prevail, under the surface one can find much more messiness and there are power struggles over these representations. And that day, standing within the disarmed left-overs of the IceHotel, it felt like I could indeed see and sense the chaotic, bare structures beneath. I could nearly hear the dispute of the wooden planks and the last breath of clumps of snow.

7I left the scene with a feeling of joy, because it is these messy and muddy aspects I am thinking of when I say that I am interested in tourism research. For me, that pleasure and understanding is captured in this photograph, which to me is spectacular in its own way.

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Bibliographie

Shanks, C. (2009), “The global compact: The conservative politics of international tourism”, Futures, 41(6), 360–366. DOI: 10.1016/j.futures.2008.11.004

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Titre June 2015, Melting Tourism Structures, Jukkasjärvi, Sweden
URL http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/docannexe/image/6356/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,6M
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Référence électronique

Hannelene Schilar, « In conversation with a tourism edifice », Via [En ligne], 18 | 2020, mis en ligne le 27 décembre 2020, consulté le 24 juin 2021. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/6356 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/viatourism.6356

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Auteur

Hannelene Schilar

Hannelene Schilar is a tourism researcher interested in studying tourism with its complex and critical interrelations. She has completed her master studies in Human Geography at Umea University in northern Sweden. In this geographical context, she has carried out extensive fieldwork on (1) Solo-hikers in northern Fennoscandia and (2) Tourism, souvenirs and ethnicity in these areas. In 2020, she defended her Ph.D. thesis on ‘Arctic tourism representations and the Voices within’ at the University of Freiburg. She continues to be interested in critical tourism studies, through qualitative work as well as methodological questions. hannelene.schilar@geographie.uni-freiburg.de

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Licence Creative Commons
Via Tourism Review est mis à disposition selon les termes de la Licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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