Sunday, 23 January, 2022

Grow through Activating Local Potential


4. Trusil

Mountain biking in Trysilfelet. Photo: Ola Matson

Main challenges: Depopulation combined with seasonal tourism and seasonal jobs
Main objectives: Development of Trusil as a sustainable year-round destination, creation of more year-round employment, increased migration and increased emphasis on value creation at the local level
Local resources: Nature, unused facilities and human resources
Main explanations for the success: Long-term strategic cooperation between the municipality, local stakeholders and the business community. Close cooperation and dialogue with landowners.

4.1 Local context and challenges

Figure 6 Coat of arms and location

Trysil is a municipality with 7000 inhabitants, located near the Swedish border (Inlandet District) in Eastern Norway. There are a total of six settlements in the municipality. In three of them there are primary schools, and the primary and secondary schools are common. The administrative center of the municipality is the village of Inbigda. Trysil is the municipality with the largest share of forests, measured as useful area, in Norway.[10]

With its mountains and ideal climate for winter sports, Trysil is the largest ski destination in Norway and a popular destination for both alpine skiing and cross-country skiing in winter. Trysil Ski Resort is located in Mount Trysilfelet, about five kilometers west of Inbigda. The ski area around Trysilfelet consists of three mountains connected by over 40 lifts and 70 km of slopes in addition to 100 km of well-maintained cross-country ski trails around the mountain. Other popular winter activities in Trysil include dog sledding, sledding and ice fishing. In 2018, there were almost 800 overnight stays in Trysil during the winter season.[11] Therefore, Trusil is a very popular place to buy a house or a vacation home. There are a total of over 6 houses in Trysil, and more are sold every year. In 500, Trysil was the most popular place to buy a holiday home in Norway.[12]

Given the popularity of Trysil as a winter destination, tourism is essential for the development of the municipality. Winter sports, and alpine skiing in particular, have been a priority in the development of Trysil since the 70s. However, as tourism is seasonal, Trusil is also vulnerable. This is most evident from the high levels of seasonal employment, which have been a challenge for the development of the municipality in recent years. As tourism is limited to the winter season, there is great potential for better use of existing facilities.

In addition to underemployment and seasonal employment, depopulation and an aging population are also challenges to the development of Trusil. Until 2015, the municipality also registered a negative trend in the number of jobs in industry and trade. Figure 6 shows the demographic development and the development of the number of jobs in Trysil after 2000.

Figure 7: Demographic and job development in Trysil, 2000-2019

Number of jobs, Population

After 2015, the development trend is reversed. Since 2015, Trusil has registered not only population growth through internal migration, but also a positive development in the number of jobs, both in industry and trade. Since 2015, almost 200 new positions have been created in Trysil, many of them outside the tourism industry.

4.2 Activation of local potential - who and what

The unique attractiveness of Trysil as a winter destination means that the municipality is exposed to the effect of seasonal tourism and its negative side; large seasonal fluctuations in the number of visitors and a small number of year-round jobs in the tourism industry. Like many other ski destinations around the world, Trusill has taken action to overcome "seasonality"; that is, to attract tourists not only in winter but also during the rest of the year. The strategy is to develop more year-round sports complexes, activities and health tourism to turn the municipality into a tourism center in the region. In particular, Trysil has a clear priority to develop the area as a mountain biking destination. As part of this strategy, Destination Trusill and partners created Trusill Bicycle Arena in 2013. The goal is for Trusil to become the best cycling destination in Scandinavia and one of the leading mountain biking destinations in Europe.

In addition to its commitment to seasonality, the municipality of Trysil places a strong emphasis on business development and local production of goods and services for tourism.

Trusil's strategy is characterized by long-term commitment and cooperation between business, the municipality and the local community.

Alpine skiing in Trysil. Photo: Ola Matson

4.2.1 The role of the municipality

The municipal plan for the period 2009-2020 contains three main goals:

 

  • Trusil to become a leading year-round travel destination in the Scandinavian region
  • To contribute to the development of a competitive business sector based on local resources
  • To reverse the trend of depopulation

Our informant emphasized Trysil's commitment to business development in general. Traditionally, the forest has been and remains a very important natural resource in Trysil. The municipality of Trysil owns the forest and is one of the largest forest owners in Norway. Over time, the municipality had to cope with changing conditions for the forest industry[13]. This led to an important understanding and commitment to business by the municipal administration and politicians. The municipality allocates large resources for business development, and the business sector in the municipal administration is large compared to the size of the municipality.

The clear focus on business development is supported by the municipality's desire to invest in business development. Examples include an agricultural fund (NOK 3 million in 2014), which, among other things, supports the production and development of local food and the modernization of production facilities for farmers. This willingness to support the priorities with resources is also evident in the development of the cycling arena in Trysil, where the municipality's contribution is over NOK 5 million.

The business community responds well to the measures taken by the municipality, and our informant emphasizes the growing awareness at the local level that the local business community must provide products and services for tourism. This also applies to the recruitment of staff. Trysil Municipality now offers a guarantee for apprenticeships to skilled workers in more than 30 professions.[14]

Drawing on the model of attractiveness and the study of successful municipalities in rural areas, we can emphasize the importance of long-term, strategic and knowledge-based work to achieve a common goal. This is evident in Trysil. Regarding the development of Trusil as a cycling destination, the municipality has established a close dialogue and cooperation with local stakeholders, both in the provision of projects and in the processes that led to the tourism and business strategy. Study tours with a wide representation of different stakeholders were also important for the training. These trips were an important arena for dialogue and laid the foundation for the formation of a common perception of reality in Trysil.

Another important factor contributing to the success is the fact that Trysil is the first municipality with a clear strategy to focus on cycling as a family business. Being first is an important factor that explains why some municipalities are growing and others are not. Trusill knew his target group very well.

4.2.2 Projects related to the further development of Trysil as a tourist destination

In recent years, Trusill's strategy has been to participate in projects that support the main goal. All these projects have been developed through cooperation between the municipality and Destination Trusil. Throughout the duration of the projects, the building of competencies and learning took a central place in the strategies for achieving the goals, both in the plan for the municipality, the strategy for tourism, and in the plan for business and trade. Therefore, study trips were important in all projects.

  • Interreg projects - In 2008, Trusil joined the Interreg Green Building project for a common green future, which aims to develop sustainable destinations. Since 2012, Trysil has also participated in the Interreg project "SITE Destination" under the Interreg program, where the letters SITE mean the two Swedish municipalities of Selen and Idre and the two Norwegian municipalities of Trysil and Engerdal. The project is an innovative initiative for sustainable and internationally oriented tourism as a growing industry. The aim is to develop the region as a sustainable year-round destination with the necessary infrastructure, competence and service facilities.

  • Sustainable Tourism Business 2015, led by Innovation Norway in cooperation with the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprises (NHO).[15] As part of the project, Trusill took action to increase its competitiveness as a year-round destination and to use existing winter tourism infrastructure. See section 6.2.5 for a more detailed description of the stability labeling scheme.

  • Trysilfelet Arena - A group of local participants and investors with common interests in the tourism industry in the region collaborated on a project aimed at developing commercial products within sports tourism and construction entrepreneurship in the region. This collaboration was the basis for the creation of a network of companies called "Sports Experiences in Trysil". Later, the network played an important role in the development of Trusil as a destination for cycling tourism.

4.2.3 Development and construction of the Cycling Arena in Trysil

Two study trips were of particular importance for the development of Trysil. On a study trip to France in 2012, the participants met with the French company Bike Solutions. The contact between them led to an official invitation to develop a master plan for the Trusil Bicycle Arena. The plan, completed in 2013, served as a basis for planning initiatives and funding applications.

The commitment to develop Trusil as a cycling destination was formed only after all participants agreed that mountain biking is attractive to a wider target group, going beyond extreme sports enthusiasts and is therefore appropriate for Trusill's strategy as family destination. This understanding was formed after a visit to 7Stanes - a collaboration between different cycling centers in Scotland.

The long-term strategic cooperation between local authorities and the tourism industry led to the construction and development of the Trusil Bicycle Arena (TBA), which began in 2014.

Cycling at the Magic Moose, Trysil Bicycle Arena. Photo: Hans Martin Nisseter

4.2.4 Working with landowners

When Trysil started the large-scale development in Trysilfelet, a cooperative of landowners was established. This is often cited as one of the main reasons for success; landowners were given a central role in the development of the mountain. Today the situation is different. Landowners are not only positive about the current development strategy. There are two reasons for this. First, there are many landowners with small properties. Second, unlike the ski resort, there is no ticket revenue to be shared between landowners.

'Allemannsretten', or the right of free passage, is under pressure. The damage caused by cycling in nature will have consequences for both traffic and the regulation of these areas in the future. Development has happened rapidly and there are some indications that the tourism industry is not sufficiently prepared for how cyclists will spread across the terrain. Cyclists tend to find new trails that are not advertised or missing on the maps. It also means that landowners are witnessing the use of their land for which they are not prepared. According to them, this leads to unacceptable wear and tear in their terrains. Cyclists and the tourism industry are protected by the Norwegian law on outdoor recreation and the "right of free passage", which is the principle that one is free to camp and use the open spaces.[16]. Landowners maintain that the right of free movement also implies certain obligations: to be careful and tactful to other stakeholders and their interests in the areas. Owners of land outside of Trysilfelet may take this as all costs, while the other participants collect the profits.

These cases show the importance of working with landowners when developing natural resources. Landowners in Trysil want more dialogue with construction companies and the tourism industry. This is important to avoid possible conflicts.

4.3 Results

  • With regard to employment in recent years, there is a positive trend - most pronounced in the growth of employees during the summer season. In recent years, however, there has been a steady increase in the number of jobs outside tourism.
  • This also has a positive effect on the demographic trends in Trysil. Since 2015, Trusil has registered population growth through internal migration, as well as a positive development in the number of jobs in industry and trade.
  • From 2013-2018 there is an 80% increase in the number of commercial overnight stays. Compared to nine other popular winter destinations in Norway, the development in Trysil is the most successful.
  • There is also a significant increase in the number of houses in Trysil. Currently, the number of houses is almost equal to the number of inhabitants (6700).
  • However, the relative distribution of visitors between the summer and winter seasons remains unchanged. This is because the winter season has seen a significant increase in the number of visitors.
  • Trusil as a cycling destination has led to increased interest in cycling among the local community. Therefore, this strategic development had an unintended effect on local public health. Trysil already has a group of 30-40 cyclists who are active 2-3 times a week, and now the area is seen as a social arena and a meeting place for local families. Teenagers meet after school and on weekends to use the area.

However, care must be taken to attribute success to employment and population trends solely to the commitment to cycling. The positive development of Trusil has taken place in many sectors, not just cycling or tourism in general. There is reason to believe that growth in the tourism sector has a positive effect on other sectors, both in terms of employment and in terms of motivation and willingness of local entrepreneurs to take risks.

4.4 Plans for future development

  • The key is in the upgrade. Trysil must be able to offer new and exciting attractions in order to maintain its position as the number one cycling destination in Norway.
  • The future development of mountain biking areas will require permits from landowners for both facilities and use. The right of free passage will be under pressure in the event of such a conflict of interest. Landowners need to be informed about the plans, marking and mapping of trails and be part of the decision-making process when it comes to cycling rules in Trysil. This is important to reduce the wear and tear of natural and cultural monuments and to avoid conflicts between pedestrians, cyclists and hunters.