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Developing a geopark, Meteorum
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Geopark can be defined as a place with specific geological heritage that is rare and has international importance (Jaafar et. al., 2014). The product in the case of Siljan is the geological phenomena formed by a meteorite impact. The track called Meteorum consists of various different sites with geological history and evidence from the meteorite impact millions of years ago (Arnesson, 2014). The track holds significantly important history of the area that can be used for educational purposes. The schools can use the area in teaching geography but also local history. (Norrish, Sanders and Dowling, 2014). The tourists nowadays look for more than the product, they want experiences. Customer behavior is related to needs, wants and motivations of travel of a certain segment. The service providers need to be aware of this change and offer quality services to ensure the customer satisfaction (Jaafar et. al., 2014). When developing geotourism new jobs can be created and income to the rural areas can be increased (Farsani, Coelho and Costa, 2011). This is also the case of Meteorum since the sites are located far away from each other and in fairly small villages. The service providers in this area need to collaborate to make things work and easy for the customers. Local guides must be trained and hired to interpret the sites (Farsani, Coelho and Costa, 2014).
Major challenges in the development
Seasonality is seen as a thread to the geopark Meteorum since it is based on nature. Winter time most of the sites would be covered with snow and evidence hidden. Also moving in the natural sites gets dangerous when it gets slippery and muddy. New ways should be invented to overcome this problem, maybe with virtual visits and raising awareness in the off season (Bohlin and Brandt, 2014; Cuccia and Rizzo, 2011). Visitor centers could introduce the idea and invite people to related exhibitions for example. Visitor management is also seen as an important factor since without supervision the sites could be damaged quite soon. Visitors like to take souvenirs such as rocks and other material from the site and this would cause a major problem (Albrecht, 2014).
The sites need to be taken care of in a sustainable way, to preserve them to the future generations as well, and it takes a lot of money (Darlow, Essex and Brayshay, 2012). A problem occurs when trying to make Meteorum as an product to market, since it is difficult to control. The sites are under so called open air museum brand and can be accessed even without the guide. This is one reason why it is very important to build up a story surrounding the meteorite impact, how it happened, when and so one. If the story is interesting enough the tourists are more willing to pay for that product. This does raise a question whether to put signs in the locations or not, since again with the signs tourists can have already some kind of guiding through the area.
Another concerns is that the market for this kind of geopark is small. The geological industry and researchers are very interested in this kind of geopark as Meteorum, especially since it is the largest Meteorite impact site in Europe (Arnesson, 2014). The problem is that these scientists and archeologists already know about the site and go there on their own. Also there is a problem to market the place in the Nordic countries since the all man's rights apply. People in the Nordic countries can have access to the nature 24/7 without any consent and their willingness to pay for this kind of product can be limited. Proper marketing campaigns and educating the locals can be ways of overcoming this problem. Also combining the geosites with cultural heritage could help to make it more appealing for a wider tourist segment. Positive word of mouth is one of the best marketing tools and this is why awareness needs to be raised among the local communities. It could be also good to try and brand this site for advertisement reasons, perhaps with a logo and a slogan to start with (Norrish, Sanders and Dowling, 2014).
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ARNESSON, A. (2014) Geopark-excursion in Siljanringen paper. Westerdahl/Lännstyrelsen Dalarna.
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NORRISH, L., SANDERS, D. and DOWLING, R. (2014) Geotourism product development and stakeholder perceptions: a case study of a proposed geotrail in Perth, Western Australia. Journal of Ecotourism. Vol. 13, No. 1, pp. 52-63.
Written by Marianne Mokkala
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