Academic journal article Rural Society

Two Sides of the Same Coin: Dutch Rural Tourism Entrepreneurs and Countryside Capital in Sweden

Academic journal article Rural Society

Two Sides of the Same Coin: Dutch Rural Tourism Entrepreneurs and Countryside Capital in Sweden

Article excerpt

Introduction

This article studies Dutch rural tourism entrepreneurs' post-migration assessments of possibilities to develop their small enterprises in the Swedish county of Värmland. Specifically, the entrepreneurs operate in Hagfors and Munkfors municipalities located in Sweden's "manufacturing periphery" (Hedlund, 2014, p. 9). As for many rural parts of developed nations, this periphery is experiencing a troublesome socio-economic transformation from relying on primary sectors to a "new rural economy" (Andersson, Eklund, & Lehtola, 2009, p. 30). These struggles are evidenced by "population declines and a cascading effect of dwindling services" (Halseth, Markey, Reimer, & Manson, 2010, p. 6) and various policy responses to "problems" of ageing populations as in many remote areas of developed countries (Martel, Carson, Lundholm, & Müller, 2011).

It can be argued the main function of countrysides is changing from production to consumption (Argent, Walmsley, & Sorensen, 2010; Slee, 2005), driven by rural tourism and similar processes. In Sweden, as elsewhere, policy aims are formulated to develop and stimulate the tourism sector as a tool for regional development. Major national organizations in this respect are Visit Sweden and the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth (Tillväxtverket) who formulated a national strategy (Strategi2020) closely related to the aim of the Swedish government's tourism policy, "that Sweden shall be a highly attractive tourist destination with competitive long-term tourism, contributing to sustainable growth and increased employment throughout the country" (Tillväxtverket, 2013, p. 8).

These Swedish national policy aims constitute the context within which individual tourism entrepreneurs operate. This "macro" context represents one side of the coin mentioned in this article's title. The "micro" perspective of Dutch rural tourism entrepreneurs represents the other side of the coin. Their stories are here collected and analysed as a critical appraisal of the implementation of the Swedish government's tourism policy on local levels. This study is part of a human geographic research project investigating various Swedish rural areas in a challenging period of diversification within wider discussions of problems faced by sparsely populated nations like Sweden (Lundmark, 2010). Within this framework, the aim of the article is to explore post-migration experiences of Dutch rural tourism entrepreneurs in Swedish Värmland. The research question is: "What effects do post-migration experiences with Swedish national tourism policy aims and local population have on Dutch rural tourism entrepreneurs in Swedish Värmland?". This aim and question will be addressed in relation to possibilities for developing local and regional tourism entrepreneurship within the context of Strategi2020.

Following this Introduction, the conceptual framework discusses countryside capital in relation to ex-urban migrants' flexible attitudes towards mobility. Next, the methodology and study area are presented before the stories of the migrants are described and analysed. The article concludes with a discussion of the implications of the migrants' post-migration experiences for local development, questioning the alleged transition from countrysides of production to countrysides of consumption.

Literature review and theory

The metaphor of a coin refers to the various concepts of economic, social (CasadoDíaz, Casado-Díaz, & Casado-Díaz, 2014), cultural and symbolic (Benson, 2014) capital used in studies of rural change and mobility. This conceptual framework adds the concept of countryside capital to this set, before it turns to issues of mobility and entrepreneurship.

Countryside capital

Garrod, Wornell, and Youell (2006) proposed the concept of countryside capital to frame economic benefits for rural communities generated through sustainable uses of the rural environment. …

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