Eco Luminaries™: Anna-Lenna Wallin, Destination Järvsö, Sweden

Local labels that have built-in systems to suit the local context but that also meet international criteria such as GSTC, represent a good combination and opportunity to achieve what we all want, to be part of the transition and contribute to a sustainable tourism industry

Anna-Lenna WallinAnna-Lenna WallinAnna-Lenna Wallin is a Destination Developer and Sustainability Strategist for Järvsö, the first destination in Sweden to achieve silver status in Earthcheck's certification program. Ms Wallin has worked since 2012 with the hospitality industry and is responsible for the ongoing certification work via Earthcheck at Järvsö. She is also a board member of The Swedish Society for Nature and Ecotourism and has worked with the Nature’s Best® label, Sweden’s only sustainability label for nature-based experiences, for over 20 years. Ms Wallin was a speaker at the GSTC2023 Sustainable Tourism Conference in Antalya, Türkiye (9-12 May, 2023), an event had the great pleasure of supporting as Media Partners. 

Antonis Petropoulos - Sweden is the first, or one of the first, countries to pass serious environmental legislation since the 1960s, and famously hosted the first UN Conference on the Environment in 1972 that led to the creation of UNEP. DId this general environmental-awareness of Sweden influence you in choosing a sustainability-related career in Tourism, or were you mostly fond of Tourism & Travel?

Anna-Lenna Wallin: My driving force is, and has been, to develop the place where I can thrive, live and work. The hospitality industry is an interesting and fun branch, and, precisely for our location, it is also part of our development.

Antonis Petropoulos - So we understand that hospitality is important for Järvsö. But why did such a rural destination working with domestic tourism, primarily active families with young children, choose to get certified and how (and by whom) was the decision taken? 

Anna-Lenna Wallin: The industry, through the destination company, already formulated in 2012 that we want to become Sweden's first sustainability-certified destination. It was later presented to the Municipality and adopted by the Political authorities. Crucial to our certification and our ongoing work is the collaboration between the municipality, industry and civil society. We want to drive the development of this place in the best possible way and we found now and then that a certification helps us keep that line and monitor all aspects of sustainability

Activities Map of JärvsöActivities Map of Järvsö

Antonis Petropoulos - Has Järvsö realised any concrete, economic or social benefits that can be attributed to the certification itself? 

Anna-Lenna Wallin: The process contributes to creativity and initiative and the cooperation that strengthens our whole district. We also hope that it will contribute to the attractiveness of the area, which in the long run can contribute to new citizens. The certification has built pride and also inspired both companies and residents to sustainability initiatives. 

Järvsö Bird's-eye ViewJärvsö Bird's-eye View

Antonis Petropoulos - And what happens next, what is the next goal after certification, simply maintaining the high standards or something else, is a higher goal perhaps necessary?

Certification Process Organizational ChartCertification Process Organizational ChartAnna-Lenna Wallin: Having achieved certification does not in any way mean that you are ready or finished. On the contrary, it rather means that systematic work can be started and that you can measure and follow your progress. the certification thus becomes the start of a long-term project and not an end in itself Continue to develop our place in a long-term and sustainable way. Be at the forefront and driving in matters concerning the sustainable hospitality industry. Among other things, we are currently planning a conference specifically for these issues (More details at We hope that it will be able to be established and annually recurring and that Järvsö will be an obvious place where these issues are raised. 

Antonis Petropoulos - You recently presented Järvsö as a model at the recent Global Sustainable Tourism Conference in Antalya (GSTC2023). Would you like to tell us any valuable feedback or ideas you received for use in Järvsö? 

Anna-Lenna Wallin: It was very much confirmed by what we discuss about our site development and about how it is important that the local population is involved and also initiators of the development and the processes connected to it. Every time you get into this tangle of connections, you also expand your image or knowledge of the concept of sustainability and its complexity. I feel humbled by the fact that the issues globally are becoming even more complex as we all deal with different things and of different nature based on different contexts.

Antonis Petropoulos - To an outsider your job appears enviably pleasant and straight-forward: in a peaceful corner of an affluent, organised and environmentally-aware country, globally admired for its "Swedish (sociopolitical) model", getting a destination certified should be child's play, compared to destinations in the global south in any country that has not even met basic needs of its citizens, or where human and labour rights are being constantly violated. Is this an accurate assessment or did you meet any difficult challenges?

Anna-Lenna Wallin: I believe that sustainability issues are never easy or simple. They are complex and apparently contextual. As you mention, we have the advantage in Sweden of having come a long way on a national level with certain issues. Here the adaptation to global criteria becomes the challenge, how do you then describe these frameworks and prove that all this is in place. But every place has its own challenges. The process is also about continuous improvement and there are always things to work on.

Many of Järvsö's visitors are familiesMany of Järvsö's visitors are families

Antonis Petropoulos - How important is sustainable and affordable, quality public transport infrastructure such as trains for a destination such as Järvsö? And why, as we read in your website, the majority of our visitors still choose to bring their cars?

Anna-Lenna Wallin: We have a super potential in that we have the train that goes straight into the heart of our destination, it also provides a huge opportunity for us who live here to easily get to other exciting places for work or recreation. Here we work continuously with dialogues to maintain train stops, that the infrastructure is maintained and expanded. We need to work to improve the infrastructure on site in the destination so that guests can easily get between attractions, accommodation, shopping etc. since, just as you mention, we have families with children as the main target group, it usually generates a lot of packing and this may be a reason why it can be perceived as "easier" to take the car from door to door. We also have a lot of cyclists during the bare ground season, and then there is a delay in whether it is allowed to transport the bicycle on the train, which limits the traveler from bringing his own bicycle on the trip. In this matter lies our biggest challenge as the trips to our destination have the biggest impact on the environment, so we need to invest a lot of thought and initiative in order to change travel patterns and inspire guests to make other decisions.

Antonis Petropoulos - A destination can be too successful, leading to Overtourism, namely  congestion, waste management problems, huge energy demands, and social friction due to the displacement of residents from gentrified areas. Did you have to set up limits in Järvsö? 

Anna-Lenna Wallin: We have begun to outline some form of border. We have discussed that the relationship between commercial guest beds and residents should be a maximum of 1:1.

Antonis Petropoulos - Artificial Intelligence (AI) is constantly in the news these days, could AI be a useful tool in calculating the limits?

Anna-Lenna Wallin:  I'm not well versed in the progress with AI, but surely one can find methods where AI can be helpful provided one can provide it with correct data and input of values ​​of different character. As I said, sustainability and development of a place is complex and multifaceted.

Antonis Petropoulos - As a highly-involved board Member of Sweden's leading tourism ecolabel, "Nature's Best Sweden", please let us know how that project is progressing? In what key ways is certifying companies rather than destinations different and is Nature's Best planning to also get involved into destination certification?

Anna-Lenna Wallin: Labels and certifications at company level provide a more detailed and close management. Nature's Best handles issues such as product safety law but also safety and quality of the experience. The labeling also includes making a destination analysis and having roots in one's local community, so a branded company gives impact also on the location and the whole. Currently, Nature's Best is aimed at companies and their development and contribution to sustainable products that contribute to better places.

Local labels, local traditions, local bondsLocal labels, local traditions, local bondsAntonis Petropoulos - Are local labels in your view better than international ones, or is a mixture the best choice especially in countries where political pressures can guarantee certificates? 

Anna-Lenna Wallin: Different places have different needs and challenges. The most important thing is to involve the grassroots and get involved locally where the hospitality industry takes place. Local labels that have built-in systems to suit the local context but that also meet international criteria such as GSTC represent a good combination and opportunity to achieve what we all want, to be part of the transition and contribute to a sustainable tourism industry.

Antonis Petropoulos - Many destinations suffer from seasonality and a brief tourism season. Does expanding the tourism season solve congestion problems or does it increase the environmental footprint? Is there a downside in all-season destinations, such as overdependence on tourism & hospitality?

Anna-Lenna Wallin: Being able to be a year-round destination probably has its advantages, especially if you simultaneously want to be a lively and attractive place to live and spend time. in this way, the supply can be spread out over a longer period of time and even out peaks. and it gives completely different prerequisites in terms of employment of staff. this also means that more people can, for example, get a mortgage to buy a home and be able to live their lives in this place.

Antonis Petropoulos - Thank you very much for your time and for letting us know about all the nice and sustainable things that are happening in Järvsö!

GSTC2023, AntalyaGSTC2023, Antalya