Røros is a mining village of eastern Norway founded in 1646 for the copper extraction. The mines remained active until 1977, when they closed for bankruptcy after 333 years of thriving business.
In 1922 an inspector from the Ministry of the Environment understood the potential of the industrial heritage site and, despite the majority of stakeholders did not share his vision, he proposed to get eight buildings protected through the listing system.
Many people were pushing for a modern development of the area and even when Røros was declared World Heritage Site (1980), all the historical buildings continued to be threatened, neglected and vandalised.
With the end of the mining business era, Røros had to understand how to survive and how to reinvent its future. The local community made an assessment of what was left, which was in some ways something unique: an unusual history, an enchanting land blessed by the northern lights and an extremely interesting site for industrial archaeology.
Focusing on the uniqueness is one of the winning weapons of a successful territory’s promotion and Røros was definitely good at it.
In order to preserve the local heritage and develop a sustainable TOURISM MODEL, Røros put different strategies in place. The first step was to involve the young: those who were normally responsible for the many acts of vandalism were led to become guardians of the heritage.
Other interventions involved entrepreneurs and tour operators
- A school program was designed to raise awareness on the importance of the listed buildings. The Headmaster of the primary school, in collaboration with the Røros Museum, launched the program "Adopt a House", through which each kid was assigned a building to protect. In this way they learned the history of each building and developed a sense of ownership and responsibility.
- With UNESCO funds, four international workshops were organized for secondary schools. The students were joined by some artisans who taught them restoration techniques to make them understand the importance, the cost and the effort of conservation.
- The "How to be a good host" initiative introduced a certification system for all the hospitality and tourism businesses. Each operator was trained on local history, cultural heritage and tourist offer.
- In order to obtain the certification it was necessary to get the "Copper card" by participating in five mandatory tours. These tours aimed to let the stakeholders learn more about tourist routes but also to give them an opportunity to network.
Upon obtaining the certification, every stakeholder was rewarded with a horseshoe pin, symbol of the local culture, source of pride and sense of belonging.
The rural community, which went through a long downturn, was also involved in the process. In 2009 there were only 21 small farms in the region, almost all of them in dire straits. The following actions were taken:
- Operational and financial support, thanks to the combination of national and local measures implemented to overcome the crisis. The success of this strategy was largely due to the dynamism, enthusiasm and strong cooperative spirit of local agricultural entrepreneurs, who were able to make good use of the resources provided.
- Tourism became a key component of these improvements, thanks to experiential tourism programs offered to ‘live like a local’ the rural mountain life.
- Farmers were able to develop high-quality food products, especially in the dairy market, which added an extremely important element to the project’s profitability: the gastronomic segment.
- Supermarkets and hotels began to distribute these products nationally and internationally, supporting and strengthening further the rural economy of the Røros region.
Røros has been able to develop a sustainable TOURISM MODEL, which respects and enhances the local culture, preserving resources and assets.
In 2011 this village and the surrounding area (Femundshytta and the Winter Transport Route) were named "Best Destination for Responsible Tourism". A success obtained through many failed attempts, mistakes, difficulties: the school programs did not immediately work, the farmers made a great effort to market and distribute their products with the limited resources available, the limitations imposed by the heritage protection rules gave entrepreneurs a hard time.
The goals achieved are however extraordinary.
Røros has shown the world an excellent destination development model: a great source of inspiration for all those who work in sustainable tourism.