Of seabirds and tourists in Lofoten and Vesterålen
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- Institutt for geografi 
Wildlife in its various forms, presents an opportunity for tourism and recreation such as birdwatching and whale-watching. The global interest for experiencing and interacting with nature is increasing. Seabirds are amongst the most visible components of the marine environment. They have provided humans with a number of benefits, ranging from food to inspiration for arts and scientific knowledge. The islands of Lofoten and Vesterålen contain fragile marine ecosystems that are inhabited by a diversity of seabirds and marine mammals. The local community has benefited from the scenic landscape and wildlife by utilising these resources for tourism purposes. One method of marketing, improving services and managing wildlife resources is to understand the relationship between humans and nature. My thesis presents a broad outlook on seabird tourism in Lofoten and Vesterålen and the cultural ecosystem services that stem from tourist’s interactions with the natural environment. To understand wildlife encounters in Lofoten, I begin with basic questions in tourism research, which are the who, what, when and why, to create a tourist profile. I ask tourists about their motivations to visit Lofoten, their experience of the seabird tour, and their level of environmental concern. I also present an overview of the tourism product itself. My results indicate that seabird tourism addresses more than one type of tourist, from the casual birder to the general naturalist. Seabird tourists are highly motivated to visit Lofoten to be close to nature and to strengthen their kinship relations, and learn about nature. The experience of seabird tourism is regarded as educational and well organised, fulfilling their desires to view different species. The tourists are aware of environmental issues and consider the aesthetic, bequest and existence values of seabirds. Most of the bird islands would be inaccessible without tour operators, and thus they represent an important mediator for capturing nature’s benefits.