Copenhagen Wants Its Tourists To Become Locals

Wonderful Copenhagen, the official tourism organization for the capital region of Denmark, has released its new tourism strategy. They set course towards a future beyond tourism, with something much more interesting and personal — a future of hosts and guests and the shared experience of so-called localhood.

As more and more popular cities are struggling with rising levels of mass tourism, Copenhagen is taking a fresh approach. Instead of counter-acting tourism by banning hotels or strict regulations, the Danish capital is looking for opportunities that add value for both tourists ánd locals. Tourism is no longer seen as an isolated industry bubble. The city government even goes as far as seeing the future tourist no longer as a visitor, but as a local: “The travellers seek out a sense of localhood, looking to experience the true and authentic destination — that which makes a destination unique.”

Localhood is an essential part of the strategy, as Copenhagen’s city officials believe tourists don’t visit a city for a fake and picture-perfect trip, but to connect to the local way of life. Locals are not a ‘side-show’ but rather one of the major attractions of a city: “The human connection to a destination goes through the local people and the experience of being part — even if only temporarily — of a shared sense of localhood.”

Tourists at Copenhagen’s most cliché attraction, The Little Mermaid

Rest assured, the End of Tourism doesn’t mean a total reset. It’s rather a shift in mindset, a reframing of tourism. Success will not be measured in the amount of hotel bookings, for instance, as there will be a focus on an increase in the average length of stays and especially repeat visits (“Once attracted, twice valued”). Nevertheless, the strategy sets ambitious goals for the growth in the number travellers for Copenhagen — an interesting development compared to other European cities like Barcelona or Amsterdam. An important success factor of the strategy is local citizen support of the increase in visitors. Wonderful Copenhagen will introduce frequent studies to measure the sentiments of locals towards visitors, identifying friction points and directing efforts at mitigating them. The strategy places people at the centre of its vision and imagines that Copenhagen’s future will be co-created by residents, industry, and visitors.

The strategy’s tagline “Localhood for Everyone” fits in well with current trends in tourism and an increasingly flexible and nomadic urban class. Some are questioning the so-called “local experience” offered by Airbnb and similar concepts, referring to it as “role-playing being a local”. If Copenhagen manages to keep its localhood authentic, rather than presenting an Airspace-type of localness, this strategy could prove to be a huge succes.