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Developing the Meteorum geopark in the Siljan region
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Developing the Meteorum geopark in the Siljan region
According to the European Geoparks Network, a geopark is defined as a “territory, which combines the protection and promotion of geological heritage with sustainable local development” (Zouros, 2004). Next to this, it should include a certain amount of geological sites and the local community of the rural area (ibid). Geotourism is an “emerging tourism” niche market in the tourism industry, which has many potential for an area/destination (Farsani, Coehlho and Costa, 2011). Furthermore, job opportunities and other economic advantages can occur due to a geopark (ibid).
In the case of the Siljan area, a geological site arose due to a meteorite impact, which is also known as the Siljan Ring. This impact happened millions of years ago and offers nowadays an interesting track with a great variety of sites (Arnesson, 2014). Due to this, a visitor track is formed, called Meteorum, which is supposed to attract visitors from all over the world, whether they are specialists in this field or not (ibid). However, even though the product offers many opportunities, a lot of work has to be done, to make it to a successful tourism product.
Challenges and possible solutions
Meteorum faces several challenges, as it is a natural outdoor product. Seasonality affects every tourism business (Cuccia and Rizzo, 2010). Nevertheless, a product, such as the geopark is facing a big challenge when it comes to seasonality, as it depends on the stability of the weather. Situated in Sweden, it is assure, that not all sites can easily be accessed or visited at all during the winter. Besides this, many important sites might not be clear visible even though they are accessible, which can harm the experience of the visit. Therefore, it is important that the sites are proper accessible by improving the walking paths according to every weather condition.
Next to this, the geopark could offer seasonal attractions, which are situated next to the visitor sites. In winter this could include an ice rink on which the visitors can go ice-skating. This kind of attraction attracts domestic and international tourists and it is also a great promotion possibility for the product Meteorum.
Cooperation between already existing attractions within the area is good possibility for Meteorum to promote itself and to get attention. In summer season, open-air attractions, such as the Dalhalla opera are a great opportunity to attract visitors and to inform them about the geopark and its possibilities. This can be a “win-win” situation as they both promote each other and therefore get the attention of different markets. The celebration of midsummer is also a possible event, which can be held at one of the geopark sites. Besides visiting the park, especially international tourists, are also able to celebrate one of Sweden’s most famous annually events since this is also, one of the main reasons for tourists from all over the world to visit the country in summer.
However, a geopark should also educate its visitors, especially when they are not professionals in this field. Therefore, it should offer a variety of geo-scientific activities and information for the visitors (Farsari et al, 2011). Meteorum has the advantage to promote it within schools and universities around the Siljan area. No matter, whether the students are in primary school or in universities, if different tours are invented, this is an interesting offer for every student in every age.
In the case of the Siljan Ring, the geopark offers, for example, the Naturum, which is the geoparks visitor centre. It offers a great range of information about the nature and its wildlife in many languages. Additionally, a view tower is build, which allows visitors to get an overview about the entire Meteorum area. However, this centre is only one of several visit points within the Meteorum area and clearly the only one, which offers that many visuals to the visitor. At many visit points, new information signs are set up, which are attractive and visitor friendly structured, however the only used language is Swedish. This is a big disadvantage for international visitors, who visit the site without a guide, as they will be unable to understand what they visit. Therefore, the management of Meteorum should invent new information signs, which offer the information in several languages besides Swedish. English must be included in every information sign.
Due to the fact that nowadays, the tourism industry is as competitive as never before, a tourism product/attraction has to be well developed and managed. This development needs to include, besides professionals, also the local community (Albrecht, 2013). However, the local community of the Meteorum is hardly aware of its existence. Therefore, a main (first) step is to inform the local community about the region they live in, as it is a big historic incident within the area. As stated before, it is useful to offer tours to schools of the area.
Once the awareness of the local community is given, it is necessary to involve (local) stakeholders. Cooperation with other natural resorts or even European geoparks can bring many advantages when it comes to promotion. Furthermore, the tourist offices within the Siljan Ring have to be informed and included in the tourism planning.
Nevertheless, none of this is possible without a financial plan. Besides private funding, the (local) government should help to generate financial support.
All in all it can be said that the geopark Meteorum in the Siljan region has a great potential. It is historically from great value for the area and offers next to this, amazing natural and man-made attractions. However, to be a successful, profitable tourism product, a lot of work has to be done. It is a long process, which includes many obstacles and compromises. However, taking all the strengths the geopark can offer, it will be a successful tourism product.
Written by Amelie Rüther
Albrecht, J.N. (2013) Micro-mobility patterns and service blueprints as foundations for visitor management planning. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, Vol. 22 No.7 pp. 1052–1070.
Arnesson, A. (2014) Geopark-excursion in Siljanringen paper. Westerdahl/Lännstyrelsen Dalarna.
Cuccia, T. and Rizzo, I. (2011) Tourism seasonality in cultural destinations: Empirical evidence from Sicily. Tourism management. Vol. 32, No. 3, pp. 589-595
Farsani, N.T., Coelho, C. & Costa, C. (2011) Geotourism and geoparks as novel strategies for socio‐economic development in rural areas, International Journal of Tourism Research, 13(1), pp. 68-81.
Zouros, N. (2004) The European Geoparks Network, Journal of International Geoscience, Vol. 27 No.3.
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