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Geopark and Geotorism Development at Siljan Lake
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Siljan Lake in Sweden is a place where creation of the geopark is planned and there are certain expectations in terms of the development of geotourism, which, as a rule, helps socio-economic development of rural areas. According to Dowling & Newsome (2010), geotourism is a form of tourism in natural areas that is specifically focused on the geology and landscapes. "The geo part in geotourism means geology and geomorphology", while "the tourism part means visiting geosites, learning, appreciating and engaging" (Dowling & Newsome, 2010, p. 1).
The following discussion represents the thinking of the author, prompted by a visit to the site within excursion with Dalarna University, as well as by review of the literature. However, it should be emphasized that the author lacks right research and serious observations in relation to the site, and that the existing literature on the development of geotourism is quite limited, especially when it comes to geotourism promotion and the formation of an attractive geotouristic products.
A potential problem in the Siljan Lake Geopark ('Meteorum') could be that the local population does not have sufficient awareness of the importance of the site and the support of the local population is stressed in many discussions of geotourism (Farsan et al., 2011; Dowling & Newsome, 2010). First, local people should be well informed and have a certain awareness of the geological values. This can be achieved through workshops, flyers, via the media (e.g. local newspapers and local television), the education of children in schools, organization of special educational tours for local residents. Local people should feel the need to protect the site and promote it because they are the ones who should run supporting businesses and benefit most from the development of geotourism. Acording to Dowling & Newsome (2010), it is extremely important that all stakeholders support the development - local residents, the private sector and the government. According to Farsana et al. (2011), geoparks have cooperation with universities and schools, museums, local artists, local producers, NGOs, rural hotels.
Another important aspect of the geotourism development in this area is a branding and creating awareness about the place as a destination of geotourism. These promotional activities should relate to the potential tourists, as well as existing, since the lake region is already developed tourist destination. Development planners must decide whether their goal is to create a distinctive destination as geotourist destination and attract geotourists or their aim is the overall development of tourism where the Geopark only contributes to the general development with a variety of tourist attractions. The second scenario, it seems, can bring greater influx of tourists with varied interests. Geopark in this case may be an additional tourist offer for visitors to the lake and can be used to shape the image and brand the destination, while the tourism product itself consistes of a variety of activities that can be associated with the main theme of the Geopark but not necessarily represent geotourist activities. E.g. destination can be branded as Meteorum, place of a strong meteor impact of European and world interest, where tourists can engage in various activities, such as educational tours in connection with geology, but also swimming and recreation on the lake, visit to the site of Viking culture and activities related with the Vikings, old farms, exploring the nature, cycling, etc. Planners need to be vigilant and to decide whether they want that Geopark is a major tourist product, and the other products are secondary and additional, or they will only use the story of meteors and geological history as a recognizable brand and image shaper of the destination and general development of tourism. Events can contribute to branding the region as a geotourist destination, accompanied by the animation, a high level of creativity and innovation, multimedia content, especially movies that reconstruct the event of the meteor falling and consequences. Interpretation is, therefore, crucial to the successful delivery of such products, and travel guides are very important. In order to popularize geo component of the place, it is advantageous to maintain a specific conferences and meetings on the subject of geology, geotourism, and the like. It could be done with the help of the European Geoparks Network (EGN), which is active in the field of meetings and transfer of knowledge and experience (Farsan et al., 2014).
Promoting geological values of the place could be risky because of the two reasons: it does not take much time to visit all the sites, all it can be visited in a one day; and geological values may be attractive only for a certain group of people. According to Rocha & Ferreira da Silva (2014), tourists are usually with minimal or no knowledge about geology, attracted by the beauty of the landscape or because they have heard that it was something interesting to see. The author of this essay believes that geotourist sites that are sufficiently attractive to attract tourists from distant places are rare, but in most of the cases those sites are additional facilities for tourists. Exceptions include the Grand Canyon in the US or Uluru in Australia, a world famous destinations, whose unusual aesthetic and other characteristics make them unique and attractive for a wider market, unlike sites like Meteorum which inevitably requires some knowledge and understanding to do the sightseeing and make experience. Meteorum as a physical site probably is not attractive enough for visitors who are not experts or lovers of geology, but what can constitute the backbone of its tourist presentation is the story. This means that the product is still to be created in order to become attractive to masses of people.
Given that the main potential of Meteorum as a geosite is the story, one must work to build attractions that would visually and experientially approach the geological value of the site to a wider audience. There are numerous successful examples in the world of geotouristic product design associated with the main geo theme. That is Geococktail in Vulkaneifel Geopark, Germany, trilobite clock and glasses in Arouca Geopark, Portugal, or geobakery and georestaurants with geomenus in Italy or Portugal (Farsan et al., 2011). Also, the interior of this and similar facilities shall be in accordance with the theme, in order to strengthen the brand of the tourism product. Thus, each room of Casa do Forno, for example, is decorated with pictures of geological landscapes while in the backyard there is a collection of stones and handicrafts (ibid.)
Developed domestic tourism on the lake can be a stimulus for destination development, as the demand already exists, as well as some awareness of the destination. It should be used primarily to existing tourists to promote geological values of the destination so that their image of the place transforms. Thus, the success of such geoproduct can depend on integration with other tourism products and existing infrastructure, because it is difficult for Geosite to become a major attraction for tourists, and this opinion is also shared by some stakeholders in the case of geotrail in Perth, Australia (Norrish et al., 2014).
Geotourist potentials in Siljan Lake have been identified, but it is now necessary to design the product. According to Rocha & Ferreira da Silva (2014), both geologists and managers must develop products that create an attractive geology for all types of tourists. According to Moreira et al. (2008, cited in Rocha & Ferreira da Silva, 2014), the design of the product is more often associated with research and explaining geology to school teachers, students, and sometimes tourists, and there is rarely the creation of geology attractive for tourists, which is probably the biggest challenge for the development of Geopark as a tourist destination.
Dowling, R. & Newsome, D. (2010) Geotourism: a Global Activity. In Dowling, R. & Newsome, D. (eds.) Global Geotourism Perspectives, Oxford: Goodfellow Publishers Limied, 1-17.
Farsani, N., Coelho, C.& Costa, C. (2014) Analysis of Network Activities in Geoparks as Geotourism Destinations. International Journal of Tourism Research, 16, 1–10.
Farsani, N., Coelho, C. & Costa, C. (2011) Geotourism and Geoparks as Novel Strategies for Socio-economic Development in Rural Areas. International Journal of Tourism Research. 13, 68–81.
Norrish, L., Sanders, D. & Dowling, R. (2014) Geotourism product development and stakeholder perceptions: a case study of a proposed geotrail in Perth, Western Australia. Journal of Ecotourism, 13 (1), 52-63.
Rocha, F. & Ferreira da Silva, E. (2014) Geotourism, Medical Geology and local development: Cape Verde case study. Journal of African Earth Sciences, 99, 735–742.
Author: Vladimir Sustersic
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