Conference paper

Commercializing the unpredictable : Perspectives from wildlife watching tourism entrepreneurs in Sweden


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Publication Details

Author list: Wall-Reinius, Sandra

Place: Umeå

Publication year: 2017



While wildlife watching has primarily been associated with the ‘charismatic megafauna’ of the Global South, the attention to Europe’s own biodiversity and its tourist potential has been on the rise. Tourism companies, offering wildlife watching experiences and attracting tourists with glossy animal images, share a unique property: they build their business on a promise they have no guarantee of fulfilling. The factor of luck becomes important, as evident in the advertisement texts of wildlife watching tours, which are replete with ‘luck’, ‘hopefully’, ‘chance’, ‘occasionally’, ‘no guarantee’ and similar verbiage emphasizing uncertainty and unpredictability. Understanding commercialization of relatively uncontrollable natural phenomena (wild animals) in a similarly uncertain natural setting (wilderness) is the aim of our paper. In our study we look at the case of wildlife watching companies in Sweden. The species used in these wildlife watching arrangements include inter alia free ranging bear, Eurasian elk, wolf, roe-deer, beaver and seal. Through a series of interviews and participant observations we distill and elaborate on the following major themes, shedding more light into the specifics of this type of nature commercialization through tourism: lack of control as an inherent property of wildlife watching tourism; agency and continuous negotiation of the uncertainties within the operational setting (both naturogenic and anthropogenic); importance of guide performances and ‘secondary’ experiences; presentation of unpredictability as authenticity (authentic wilderness).


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