Tourism researcher Manuela Kronen found reference to ”uniqueness” in the marketing of completely diverse Swedish destinations. She wanted to investigate how the concept could be used to develop a touristic offer.
For her thesis, Manuela studied a rural tourism development project in Skåne, Southern Sweden, which claimed having identified the unique cultural values of the area. The concrete results were ten biking trails, targeted towards tourists. Manuela's work consisted of a reconstruction of the development process of the biking trails, with a focus on uniqueness.
– I've spoken to everyone involved, and asked them: ”How did you go about in order to identify the uniqueness? Why did you select the biking trails in just that way?" The people I've interviewed pointed out flora and fauna, and especially the silence, as being unique, and also claimed the whole composition is what makes their offer unique.
In the thesis, she retraces the steps of the project group and describes their efforts in producing the biking trails.
– I go further in the analysis and try to establish how the selection was made. They ran into dead ends, for example in the beginning they also imagined walking trails, but some land owners were against it. The selection appears having been made by simply exploring the landscape and then picking out what they liked the most themselves.
One interesting aspect of the project is how it affected relations between people in the area.
– They had got ten biking trails, but so much more happened to the people involved. They learnt to know one another and spent time together. And some who were critical in the beginning got much more friendly towards the end.
What can be learnt from your study?
– A rural development project like this one can be a start, but for long-term results to be had takes continuous efforts even after the project has ended. You have to continue to involve new actors, make alliances and co-operate with similar projects in the same area.
In some way, the project is still current. Parts of it were integrated in other structures and in relation to other current activities.
The area where the project took place is called Silenceville.
– The situation became sensitive when I started to analyse, and I wanted to avoid people feeling accused, explains Manuela Kronen. The simplest solution was to remove the names and use the material as a story.