ÁSTA KRISTÍN SIGURJÓNSDÓTTIR
Ásta Kristín Sigurjónsdóttir, manager for the Iceland Tourism Cluster, authored this blog. Ásta Kristín has also overseen development of What Works Tourism, a global summit to advance social progress, being held 14 October 2021, in Keflavik, Iceland, in person and streaming live. We encourage all readers to explore the conference and follow its developments:
“You can take the girl away from the town, but you can never take the town away from the girl.” This is something I relate to when I think of Austurland (East Iceland) and if I would ever move from Iceland, it would be the same. I have very strong connections to my roots and I’m forever grateful for the peaceful circumstances and freedom I grew up in. Being close to nature is my ultimate choice and my source of energy comes directly from there.
I have been working with business owners in all kinds of industries since I graduated from university in 2004 and the focus has, in almost every case, been on innovation and business development. You could say that I thrive best when I feel I can make an impact and my work can be used to develop and help business owners to become better in what they do. It is not about helping them really; it is about showing them what tools they could use or what connections they could make to be able to strengthen their competitiveness and build up more sustainable business. My aim is always on the long term, so I would advise people to run slower and get further instead of running fast and short. I had to learn that myself…the hard way.
In my work for the Iceland Tourism Cluster, we have put out clear focus on what our core business should be and how we would like to contribute to our members and into the ecosystem of tourism. Our cluster members come from all over the value chain of tourism, so its not only tourism operators that sit at the table, but also other stakeholders that see tourism as the driving force for change. The projects of the cluster must involve innovation, sustainability, responsible tourism and the focus on digitalisation and ongoing development. There are many ways in how we communicate our projects. We do it with workshops, online meetings, curriculum, networking activities and conferences. Since June (2021), we have hosted three global hybrid conferences where we have connected people from all over the world into our local projects and future planning.
The Iceland Tourism Cluster was invited to join the What Works Summit that focuses on social progress all over the world. This week we are co-hosting a conference that is taking place in Iceland, but with a global hybrid connection allowing “outsiders” to join digitally. The topic will be about what works when it comes to tourism and travel and the focus is on social progress and humanity. Tourism has been hit hard during the past two years of the pandemic and we need to join forces in rebuilding and (re)shaping the ecosystem into its best possible form so it can work, not only for the business’ sake, but more for the communities and local development that could sculpt and shape their future by using tourism as their tool.
Travel between places can be the bridge we often desperately need to break down boundaries and overcome all kinds of prejudice that often consists only because we are lacking understanding and knowledge. I wrote this quote down somewhere and will not state that it is mine - unfortunately, I don’t know who originally said it, but it goes like this: “ Your ability to influence is not based on a skill or intelligence; it’s based on trust and requires integrity, which is the foundation of real and lasting influence.”
We will not stop traveling, but we can think more about how we travel, where we travel, what we do at the places we travel to. How we can see and learn about the transformation, what actions are going on in each place that we can learn from and then share that learning. We can see how glaciers in Iceland are melting down, how forests in the Amazon have burnt down, how climate temperature has changed, and so on. We can see this with our own eyes, and we can then take real actions to make our world a better world. We can for sure all, one by one make an impact to change, bit by bit, step by step in small groups or big, because in the end we will have so much more and deeper understanding of what we need to do and how we can do it… together.
By Ásta Kristín Sigurjónsdóttir, manager for the Iceland Tourism Cluster, 14 October 2021