By Marco Eimmermann
My paper, Promoting Swedish Countryside in the Netherlands is published in European Urban and Regional Studies (DOI: 10.1177/0969776413481370). Its aim is to examine international rural place marketing efforts by Swedish municipalities in Dalarna and Bergslagen, toward affluent West-European migrants, exemplified by campaigns in the Netherlands. Four research questions are addressed in this study; ‘what are the locations and socio-demographic conditions of Swedish places engaging in international rural place marketing?’ ‘What communication strategies are most commonly used for the promotion of Swedish countryside in order to attract new residents abroad?’ ‘What are the objectives and target groups of the rural place marketing campaigns?’ And ‘to what extent can the effectiveness of such campaigns be measured?’ This paper focuses on place marketing to attract new residents (as opposed to attracting tourists or businesses), specifically in a rural Nordic context.
This focus is mirrored in the paper’s conceptual framework. On the one hand, there are a small number of texts concerning the promotion of rural places in order to attract new residents in Northern Europe (Heldt Cassel, 2008; Niedomysl & Amcoff, 2010). On the other hand, lifestyle migration literature considering motivations of counterurban migrants offers relevant insights into aspirations and expectations of the prospective target groups for place promotional activities (Hall & Williams, 2002; Benson & O’Reilly, 2009).
The research design for this study includes a questionnaire survey, interviews with both stakeholders and migrants, and observations and analysis of promotional material, at the 2008 and 2011 Dutch Emigration Expos and Nordic information meetings for prospective migrants in the Netherlands in 2008, 2009 (twice) and 2011.
Addressing the first question, the analysis suggests that municipalities engaging in international rural place marketing efforts are coping with less favourable or unfavourable conditions, such as a peripheral location, population decline and economic stagnation. Over time however, trends are observed where regional cooperation (e.g. Region Dalarna) is preferred over campaigning as a separate municipality (e.g. Hällefors). Larger and rather urban areas (e.g. Malmö) are increasingly involved in such regional cooperation.
Addressing the second question, findings suggest that Swedish municipalities’ strategies for rural place marketing to attract new residents from abroad focus on internet and migration information meetings. Results further indicate that natural amenities such as forests and lakes are most commonly mediated.
Findings related to the third research question suggest that Region Dalarna is looking for new entrepreneurs and employees to maintain the region’s economic prospects. The region’s campaigns target basically anyone from Europe. On the other hand, the objectives of Hällefors are more specifically to attract in-migration, ideally families with young children and adults willing to start or acquire a small enterprise.
Considering how the effectiveness of such campaigns can be measured, a more in-depth approach is proposed in addition to existing suggestions: interviews with migrants after migration. These interviews suggest that information meetings and the internet are subordinate to the myriad possibilities for migrants to gather information about potential destinations.
Finally, the paper concludes that regional policy makers may consider shifting focus from migration information meetings and internet to actively receiving potential migrants in the final stage of their decision process. Although communication strategies would continue including internet and migration information meetings, regional policy makers would shift focus from attracting potential migrants to assisting those who decided to move.