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Sustainability in conflict: A study of cruise tourism to Gotland
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Technology, Department of Engineering Sciences, Industrial Engineering & Management.
2019 (English)Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Sustainability in conflict – a study of cruise tourism to Gotland

Ulrika Persson-Fischier, Uppsala University

Keywords: Cruise tourism, Gotland, Sustainability, economic, ecological, social challenges, mixed methods, collaboration

Introduction

Cruise tourism is fraught with sustainability challenges related to a mismatch of scales in time and space: a large number of people to small places for a short period of time. This is also the case at Gotland, a Swedish island in the Baltic Sea. Gotland is a long established tourism destination, mainly for Swedish tourists, but has also hosted smaller scale cruise tourism for many years. The main attraction is the cultural heritage of the medieval town of Visby. This year saw a significant rise in number of visitors. The reason is a new cruising quay. Used for the first season, this infrastructural investment resulted in a rise in number of ships, as well as in larger ships.

This situation also resulted in new sustainability challenges. Seeing as many as 5000 tourists a day, a tourist attraction like the town Dome faced new kinds of problems. Due to the door to the church being opened frequently, the climate in the building changed with mold on the wooden details as a consequence. Another consequence was that the sewage system of the toilets collapsed. The intensity of visitors at some hours made the negotiation between using the dome as a tourist attraction and as a site of religious contemplation difficult. As the church does not charge an entrance fee, the need for more attendants had no funding.

How can mixed methods research including ICT and tracking of tourists with GPS be used to shed light on this situation? The purpose of this paper is to discuss how methods including qualitative fieldwork at the destination, a survey of cruise visitors ́ perceptions, GPS loggers distributed to the cruise tourists to capture movements in the destination and to click on when seeing a point of interest, be used to understand sustainability challenges at this destination? Can they, possibly, in collaboration with the actors at the destination, and the Dome in particular, be used to deal with sustainability challenges?

As it turns out, yes, they can help us understand sustainability challenges, but no, they have not enabled us to deal with these challenges. Why? There is nothing wrong with the data, they give sufficient ground for understanding the challenges, and indicating ways of dealing with them. The key here is neither the data gained from mixed methods, nor how to deal with sustainability challenges, but collaboration. As we were unable to achieve collaboration – making the Church wanting to do this together with us – we could not achieve anything, despite our data. What can we learn from this regarding sustainable cruise tourism? What can we learn from this regarding the role of research for sustainability in general?

Cruise tourism to Gotland

Gotland, a Swedish island in the Baltic sea, has a long tradition as a tourist destination. Its economy has for a long time been dependent on the tourism industry, not least since other parts of its economy, like the lime stoned industry and the Swedish armed forces, have dismantled over the last

decade. Gotland has mainly been a destination for Swedish tourists, as a beach and sun destination, marketed as “not like Sweden”, exotic and with more sun than the rest of Sweden.

In the 1990 ́s the town of Visby received status as a UNESCO heritage site, with a Medieval and Hanseatic town surrounded by a wall, and many churches and ruins. The heritage status is the basis of Gotland and Visby now also is a tourist destination of culture, history and heritage. The town Dome is the main tourist attraction in Visby, after the Gotland Museum and the Botanical garden.

Gotland and Visby have received cruise tourists for more than two decades. The peak was in 2005, with 166 calls, and 127 000 passengers. After this, there was a long decline in number. 2009-2017 saw only 40-50 calls per season.

As the economy in general became weaker on Gotland as other industries declined, more and more hope was put in tourism in general, and cruise tourism in particular. The decline in calls was therefore seen as worrisome, and as the result of a combination of ships becoming larger and larger, unpredictable weather in the Baltic sea, and a small and old port in Visby. The ships could simply not come ashore; some anchored out in the sea but the weather did not always allow the tourists to come ashore in smaller boats, and many ships simply did not bother to come to Gotland at all. A bigger harbor would change this, the idea was. With new environmental regulations demanding that ships travel more slowly, Gotland would also be a suitable half-way stop in the Baltic on the way to St Petersburg from Stockholm of Copenhagen.

The regional authorities of Gotland made a deal with Copenhagen Malmö Port, a company running ports in several destinations, to finance the building of a new quay, which was inaugurated in April 2018. The summer of 2018 was thus the first season with the new port and saw 90 calls and 90 000 tourists. The next season 2019 will have at least 100 calls and 220 000 passengers, 2020 already now 100 ships have booked a stay, with 240 000 passengers. In terms of rise in numbers of calls and passengers, the new quay seems to be a success.

This big and sudden rise in calls and tourists has though led to sustainability challenges. In terms of infrastructure and logistics, not everything is yet in order, like shuttle buses and walking routes for tourists. The guides complain that there are not enough public toilets and no system for parking buses, resulting in both dangerous traffic situations, and crowdedness at tourist sites. There is an increase in the feeling that the rural parts of Gotland are left out of this new opportunity, as most tourists stay in the town of Visby. All this has accentuated the conflict between regional authorities and local businesses and small stakeholders, who feel that the authorities do not take responsibility for the situation, and do not provide SMEs with possibilities to do their part. Also the Regional authorities ́ contract with the multinational company Copenhagen Malmö Port, who rent and run the quay, is being questioned as very disadvantageous for Gotland, with most of the revenue going to Copenhagen Malmö port rather than companies on Gotland.

The dome in Visby is the number one visitor site in Visby and on Gotland. In the summer of 2018 they saw an enormous increase in number of visitors. Some days they had as many as 5000 visitors. They were not prepared for this situation, and had neither infrastructure nor staff for dealing with it. As there are not enough public toilets in Visby, many visitors use the toilets in the Dome, which are also free of charge. Like all churches in Sweden, the Dome should be “open” i.e. free of charge for visiting. There are places to put a voluntary monetary contribution, but this does not work very well. The

increase in number of visitors require more staff, for example for cleaning toilets, but the Dome has no extra funding for this. The great number of visitors even resulted in mold in the Dome; the many visitors meant the door was constantly being opened, with changed climate in the Dome. At some occasions there were conflicts between contradictory uses of the Dome; as cultural site and as a place of worship, when cruise tourists entered the Dome during service. As the coming seasons will bring even more visitors, dealing with these challenges is of some urgency.

Research on cruise tourism to Gotland

As Gotland has a long tradition as a tourist destination, it is an ideal site for tourism research. In 1998 a state college was started in Visby, with a research focus on tourism and heritage. Five years ago the college became part of Uppsala university. When Region Gotland decided to invest in the new infrastructural project of the cruise quay, researchers at Uppsala university decided to take this as the point of departure for an interdisciplinary research programme, “Sustainable Visits”, focusing on sustainability and visits, in a broad sense, including cruise tourism but not limited to that. Some 20 researchers from 9 departments and 3 faculties joined the programme, and started to study the process of building the new quay and adjacent issues from perspective of, for example, history, ethnology, anthropology, quality management, engineering and business. Archival studies of the decision-making process were made, studies of bed and breakfasts, interview studies of citizens ́ perceptions, infrastructural studies, and so on, have been conducted. I have made qualitative fieldwork for four years on Gotland, following the CEO of the local DMO and the initiation of a network specifically aimed for preparing the local tourism business for the new situation, and relate to the public authorities. Together with colleagues I have conducted interviews with all members of the network regarding their perceptions of its function and the situation for tourism on Gotland in general.

I am also part of a project studying the cruise tourists. In the summer of 2018 cruise tourists ́ perceptions of and movements in Visby were studied. Tourists were given GPS trackers, which show their exact movements, speed and times. Based on this we can see exactly where tourists were at what time and for how long. We can see where there was crowdedness and where there were only few tourists. On the basis of this we can see where there would be potential to try to spread tourist to avoid crowdedness and to give tourists access to more shops, restaurants and cafes, to spread the economic potential more evenly among businesses. It turns out that many tourists are out and about early morning, before shops are open, and therefore visit the few places that are open, like the Dome and the Botanical Garden. Extended opening hours could thus both give shops more revenue and release the pressure of the Dome.

Tourists could also “click” on the GPS at any point they found interesting, so we can see what tourists are interested in. There seems to be two groups of tourists, those who want to enjoy nice sceneries, natural and cultural, and those who are interested in shopping and visiting cafes and restaurants. Possibly two different offers to these two groups of tourists could be made, to maximize satisfaction and to spread tourists to where they actually want to be. We also asked tourists to answer surveys on their visits. The survey for example indicates that tourists would like to do more shopping than they currently do, which spreading around in Visby possibly could allow. The survey also indicates that more prior knowledge on Gotland makes tourists more satisfied with their visit. One prioritized field could therefore be to intensify the collaboration with the cruise companies, to provide tourists

with more information before they embark on Gotland. The kind of information provided could be adjusted to the needs of the local community on Gotland.

All this mixed method data has potential to understand and be a basis for dealing with the sustainability challenges Visby and the Dome face. We researchers have had the ambition to use our material in collaboration with local actors for dealing with sustainable challenges, and we chose the Dome as a case, based on it being the number one tourist attraction in Visby and since it experiences severe challenges. How has this ambition unfolded?

Mixed methods data for dealing with sustainability challenges?

In the fall of 2018 I started a new masters ́ programme at Uppsala university, Campus Gotland, in Sustainable destination development. As this programme is situated in the middle of an interesting destination, Gotland is used as a case of study for the students. The programme is thus carried out in close collaboration with local actors. In their studies, students are able to work with real cases, together with local actors. Thanks to one enthusiastic staff at the Dome, some of the students have worked with the sustainability challenges the Dome face. Together with the enthusiast the students have come up with ideas for how to solve the toilet problem, how to make tourists want to contribute monetarily to the Dome and how to deal with the conflicting uses of the Dome, as a historical heritage site on the one hand, and as a site of religious worship on the other.

It would seem as if the circumstances for collaboration using our research data for dealing with the sustainability challenges at the Dome would be optimal. However, this did not turn out to be the case, and no such collaboration has yet happened. This is not because the quality of the data is bad, nor that the data does not indicate spheres of action for dealing with the challenges. The reason lies solely in the dimension of collaboration.

The enthusiast working at the Dome, with whom I already had close collaboration with in the masters ́ programme, invited me to a meeting with the management of the Dome. They all recognized the quality if the data and the potential of the research. Still, when i tried to come back for more meetings to start a dialogue, no one was interested. The enthusiast had left her position for another job, and could no longer serve as a bridge, and it turned out that a few influential clergy of the management do not want to deal with questions of tourism. They do not think the Dome should engage in tourist issues at all, but rather religious issues. The fact that the Dome indeed already is a major tourist attraction does not seem to be given any weight at all.

Although we have data that potentially could help dealing with the sustainability issues the Dome faces, as long as they are not interested in collaborate on this, nothing will come out of it.

What can we learn? The importance of collaboration

So, it turns out that the key here is neither the quality of our data of our mixed method, nor how we could actually deal with sustainability challenges. The crucial point for achieving anything at all is collaboration. What can we learn from this? It is not only what we find out in our research, but how we communicate and collaborate and understand the local actors that we need to pay attention to.

If researchers want to enhance sustainable cruise tourism, it is apparently not enough that we engage in business as usual, generating data. We must pay equal attention to the collaborative part,

building long-term relationships, trust and communication. What we need to focus on to be able to move forward in our attempts at collaborating with the Dome is to try to honestly understand why they do not want to deal with tourism, to build trustful relationships. The result of our study so far is thus that usual research practices are insufficient, and indicate that we might want to explore new ways of setting up research agendas together with the actors involved in cruise tourism, based also on what is relevant from their horizon. We might want to explore new ways of how we engage in research.

This in turn may give us clues about how research may engage in sustainability in general. Referring to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of Agenda 2030 we can conclude that for sustainable cruise tourism neither for example Goal 8.9, explicitly mentioning sustainable tourism, nor Goal 6, for clean water, nor Goal 12 for responsible production and consumption, seem sufficient, but that we must also focus on Goal 17 on partnerships, for achieving sustainability. According to Goal 17: “A successful sustainable development agenda requires partnerships between governments, the private sector and civil society. These inclusive partnerships built upon principles and values, a shared vision, and shared goals that place people and the planet at the centre, are needed at the global, regional, national and local level.” Exploring how this may become possible may constitute a new role for research on sustainability. Our work on sustainable cruise tourism on Gotland indicates that exploring new ways of working together for sustainability is something research need to engage in.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019.
Keywords [en]
Cruise tourism, Gotland, Sustainability, economic, ecological and social challenges, mixed method, collaboration
National Category
Civil Engineering
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-387787OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-387787DiVA, id: diva2:1330479
Conference
MARE People and the Sea X, June 2019, Amsterdam
Available from: 2019-06-25 Created: 2019-06-25 Last updated: 2019-06-25

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