Southern Öland Heritage Tourism Strategy

Here you will find a summary of the Southern Öland heritage tourism strategy. You will find the document as a whole by clicking on the link below.

Sustainable heritage tourism could definitely help to continually re-discover and maintain the dynamic balance between the natural and human environments on Southern Öland.

Yet, it is a very intricate issue. Each new phase, each period, and each new socio-economic trend create a new challenge to maintain that dynamic balance and, at the same time, to preserve the values for which this landscape was UNESCO-listed. On the other hand, the landscape is appreciated not only for its cultural, but also for its natural heritage values. The Great Alvar is essential for the conservation of plant biodiversity, especially for orchids. These values also need to be actively protected.

Participation in Heritage Tourism

Sustainable tourism planning and management occur in the changing society, characterised by different individuals and groups, differing value systems, erratic and often conflicting interests. The heritage wardens typically cherish and promote 'scripted themes'. These themes concentrate on upholding the authentic Outstanding Universal Value regardless of its tourist appeal or interest.

Meanwhile, many visitors and local tourism businesses prefer 'enterprise themes.' These themes focus on place-related myths and on the commodified tourist appeal, which is not necessarily associated with the authentic Outstanding Universal Value. Therefore, participation in heritage tourism is a means of demonstrating and upholding a commitment to the social and symbolic values associated with the heritage.

Cater the Needs of the Guests

Agriculture and tourism are significantly different and require different skills. Providing hospitality
and guiding services and experiences requires empathy and the ability to see what tourists need. It
requires specialised training to provide visitors with good service and make both hosts and guests
feel comfortable.

The fact that tourists are placing ever-higher demands on the housing standard entails higher renovation costs to make the building suitable for rent, which in turn, makes it less profitable to rent out accommodation. There must be a sincere and profound willingness to cater to the needs of the guests.

Enterprises Offering Unique Experiences

For the economic welfare and tourist attractiveness of a heritage tourism destination like the Agricultural Landscape of Southern Öland, it is necessary to have agritourism farms and rural cafés along with a broad spectrum of creative industries, like galleries of antiquities or ceramics shops.

All these enterprises must be owned locally and open for most of the year and find their place in the value chain offering unique experiences to visitors. A robust heritage destination also needs committed people to maintain such a heritage added value chain. Luckily, there are ever more entrepreneurs specialising in local specialities and creative industries who are committed to do something original and unique on Southern Öland.

World Heritage Adds Value to Local Food

One of the main strategic priorities to ensure the continued agricultural sustainability on Southern Öland is to position its products and experiences as a Unique Selling Proposal and to use them for prolongation of the tourist season.

Another issue is locally produced food: it is an agricultural heritage landscape where farmers can market the local produce quite successfully. Local farmers consider themselves as landscape custodians: the primary role of farmers is no longer to produce food without caring for a landscape. They use the concept of World Heritage to add value to their locally produced food products.

Reducing Seasonality

On the other hand, the average annual occupancy rate of agritourism farms and other accommodation facilities on Southern Öland is just above 50%, according to official statistics. As mentioned, staying at hotels is pricey, and ever more people tend to stay at their motorhomes or summer houses.

As the World Heritage managers invest many efforts in making the World Heritage Week more popular among summer visitors, they would like to see more of them coming in July (sic!). This intention radically contradicts with common reasoning about reducing tourism seasonality and therefore should be reconsidered.

Sustainable Heritage Tourism Strategy for the Agricultural Landscape of Southern Öland