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Arctic geographies in the making: understanding political economy, institutional strategic selectivity, and agency in tourism pathway development
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Geography. Umeå University, Arctic Research Centre at Umeå University.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9939-2048
2024 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)Alternative title
Skapandet av arktiska geografier : politisk ekonomi, institutionell strategisk selektivitet och aktörskap i turismutvecklingen (Swedish)
Abstract [en]

Tourism has long been promoted as a catalyst for socio-economic development in sparsely populated areas based on the commodification of culture and natural environments. This thesis examines the case of Arctic tourism in the two neighbouring northern counties of Finnish Lapland and Norrbotten (Sweden). Although characterised by similar resource endowments for tourism, these two regions have historically pursued divergent pathways, leading to different industry characteristics and spatial development outcomes. More recently, Lapland and Norrbotten have witnessed a remarkable increase in Arctic-themed tourism featuring soft nature-based winter activities and resort accommodation for export markets.

To better understand the complex factors facilitating the emergence and consolidation of this pathway, a theoretical framework combining perspectives drawn from evolutionary economic geography, geographical political economy, and the strategic relational approach to structure and agency was selected. Through this theoretical lens, the thesis studies how wider politico-economic trajectories, institutional priorities and strategic selectivity, and entrepreneurial agency are intertwined in tourism path creation that takes place in path-dependent regional opportunity spaces. Empirically, the thesis rests upon a case study methodology that integrates expert interviews, document analysis, and spatial mapping of regional development funding for tourism projects and firms.

The findings show that the geographical reimagination of Lapland and Norrbotten as Arctic tourism regions is part of wider socio-economic transformations. Export-oriented Arctic tourism is linked to a global political economy promoting economic growth and entrepreneurship, governed by multiscalar public-private networks, as the foundation of sustainable development and social wellbeing. For local places, the alignment with the Arctic represents an upscaling strategy to gain visibility and competitiveness within globalised politico-economic environments. At the regional level, public organisations mediate Arctic tourism pathways inter alia by granting funding and financing for firms and public-private development projects. The institutional strategic selectivity entailed therein privileges commonly established actors and business ideas over new ones, fostering pathway reproduction and the (unintended) continuation of uneven development structures. These opportunity spaces also conditioned the rise of Arctic-themed resort enclave as a distinct tourism product in Lapland and Norrbotten. Although these venues offer potential for new tourism development in previously underdeveloped locations as well as local business cooperation and spinoffs, there remain challenges, not least in relation to their limitations regarding year-round employment and a homogenous market focus implying a boom-and-bust vulnerability.

To summarise, the findings of the four papers included in the thesis provide a nuanced picture of the processes that have shaped Arctic tourism in the two case study regions, raising attention to the limits and opportunities of export-oriented tourism for regional development and local communities in sparsely populated areas.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå University, 2024. , p. 166
Series
GERUM, ISSN 1402-5205 ; 2024:2
Keywords [en]
Arctic tourism, political economy, institutional strategic selectivity, agency, tourism pathways, uneven development, metagovernance, regional development funding, resort enclave, firm financing
National Category
Human Geography Economic Geography
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-222478ISBN: 9789180703192 (print)ISBN: 9789180703208 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-222478DiVA, id: diva2:1845505
Public defence
2024-04-12, Hörsal SAM.A.280, Samhällsvetarhuset, Umeå, 13:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2024-03-22 Created: 2024-03-19 Last updated: 2024-03-21Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Unpacking the multispatial configurations of metagoverning tourism development: a longitudinal application of the TSPNE framework
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Unpacking the multispatial configurations of metagoverning tourism development: a longitudinal application of the TSPNE framework
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Keywords
tourism metagovernance, multispatial metagovernance, tourism development, Arctic
National Category
Human Geography
Research subject
political science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-222474 (URN)
Available from: 2024-03-19 Created: 2024-03-19 Last updated: 2024-03-19
2. A geopolitical outlook on Arctification in northern Europe: Insights from tourism, regional branding and higher education and research institutions
Open this publication in new window or tab >>A geopolitical outlook on Arctification in northern Europe: Insights from tourism, regional branding and higher education and research institutions
2021 (English)In: Arctic Yearbook 2021: Defining and Mapping the Arctic: Sovereignties, Policies and Perceptions / [ed] Lassi Heininen, Heather Exner-Pirot & Justin Barnes, Akureyri: Arctic Portal , 2021Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

This paper discusses the everyday bordering practices of non- and sub-state actors in the European Arctic through a geopolitical lens. Specifically, we analyse the mechanisms, aims, and effects of how regional development and higher education and research institutions (HER), as well as the tourism sector, in climatically subarctic Fennoscandia, actively reposition themselves as centrally located in the Arctic. We depart from a critical and economic reading of geopolitics, which enquires into the production of territories of wealth, power, security, and belonging. Given the global publicity of the Arctic in media, research, and politics, the region has become an economic opportunity for sparsely populated areas in the European High North. This rescaling towards the global Arctic, also termed Arctification, offers non- and sub-state bodies the possibility to turn a historically deprived peripheral location into a competitive advantage. Hence, the Arctic moves southwards into Fennoscandian provinces that until recently had shown little identification with the region. The soft borders of the Arctic render the region a relational space that can be adapted and reinterpreted according to the interests of different actors. As such, Arctification appears to be a geopolitical process that alters representations of both the Arctic and the Nordic countries, which is nonetheless rooted in the global circuits of contemporary capitalism.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Akureyri: Arctic Portal, 2021
Series
Arctic Yearbook, ISSN 2298-2418
Keywords
Arctic, tourism, critical geopolitics
National Category
Human Geography Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-190020 (URN)
Funder
Swedish Research Council Formas, 2018-02228
Note

Section IV: The Economics of Geography

Available from: 2021-11-30 Created: 2021-11-30 Last updated: 2024-03-19Bibliographically approved
3. Public funding and destination evolution in sparsely populated Arctic regions
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Public funding and destination evolution in sparsely populated Arctic regions
2023 (English)In: Tourism Geographies, ISSN 1461-6688, E-ISSN 1470-1340, Vol. 25, no 8, p. 1833-1855Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper examines the role of public funding in transforming tourism pathways in sparsely populated Arctic destinations, comparing Northern Sweden and Finnish Lapland. Our theoretical framework considers destination path plasticity and moments of change through the lens of geographical political economy to understand patterns of uneven development. This perspective helps explain how regional development funding driven by multi-scalar political priorities and global markets set structural conditions for tourism. We present a spatial analysis of public funding between 2007 and 2021 for private firms and public projects, complemented by document analysis and expert interviews. We find that public funding in Finnish Lapland has largely reinforced ‘Arctification’ and export-driven tourism in a few locations. In Northern Sweden, it has focused more on redistributing resources to micro-businesses and broader socio-economic development in lagging regions, yet with limited impacts on changing dominant tourism pathways. Public projects improved knowledge creation and networking among public and private actors but were largely unable to consolidate emerging pathways in the long run. Overall, regional development funding supported incremental change around existing pathways and had limited transformative effects in response to shocks or disruptive moments due to the rigid nature of funding programmes.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge, 2023
Keywords
Arctic tourism, geographical political economy, Path plasticity, regional development funding, trigger events, uneven development
National Category
Human Geography Economic Geography
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-206754 (URN)10.1080/14616688.2023.2193947 (DOI)000968064100001 ()2-s2.0-85152028194 (Scopus ID)
Projects
Climate Change and the Double Amplification of Arctic Tourism: Challenges and Potential Solutions for Tourism and Sustainable Development in an Arctic Context
Funder
Swedish Research Council Formas, 2018-02228Swedish Research Council Formas, 2016-00352
Available from: 2023-05-02 Created: 2023-05-02 Last updated: 2024-03-19Bibliographically approved
4. Agency and strategic selectivity in regional opportunity spaces: understanding the case of arctic-themed resort enclave development
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Agency and strategic selectivity in regional opportunity spaces: understanding the case of arctic-themed resort enclave development
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Keywords
tourism development, evolutionary economic geography, regional opportunity spaces, Arctic tourism, finance, structure-agency relations
National Category
Human Geography
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-222477 (URN)
Available from: 2024-03-19 Created: 2024-03-19 Last updated: 2024-03-19

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