Dare to take the step towards interactive location-specific experiences

Lotta Braunerhielm, deputy head of department/senior lecturer in cultural geography, Karlstad University

What is the research project about?
“It involves learning more about digitalisation and the effects it has within the tourism industry. We want to demonstrate that there is a need to develop digital solutions that have a clear tie to the location and the actors that are there. We will be initiating a development and innovation process in which the tourism and ICT companies integrate with local actors and researchers, with the goal being to improve the industry’s competitiveness.”

Why is this important?
“The digitalisation of our society is progressing rapidly. The tourism and hospitality industry contains a large number of small companies that may find it difficult to keep pace with this and do not perhaps have sufficient knowledge to see the opportunities presented by the technology. In previous studies, we have seen that the development of a location often uses technology as its starting point; a pre-existing technological solution is taken and attempts are made to adapt it. We believe that the location and the actors there should instead be the starting point – what is unique about it, the location’s history and people’s stories from both the present and the past – and the experience developed on this basis. Digital solutions can be used to enhance the experience.”

What will you be doing?
“We are collaborating with two destinations: Vildmark i Värmland and Långbans Gruvby outside of Filipstad. Vildmark i Värmland organises rafting holidays on the river Klarälven which involve building your own raft. Långbans Gruvby is one of the world’s most mineral-rich places, where iron ore has been mined since the 16th century.”

“Over the course of summer 2017 we conducted both on-site interviews and surveys in order to find out what visitors knew about the destinations before they arrived, what information they looked for when there and whether they wanted to know more about the location. Both destinations have a long and exciting history and we wanted to capture visitors’ interest in this. We also want to understand what visitors think about digital aids and how they would like to use these.”

“We have supplemented this with an in-depth study that has involved interviewing former employees of the destinations, adult education associations, local heritage associations and others in order to capture a range of different views and stories.”

What will the result be used for?
“We will be linking the two interview parts with our research into digitalisation and will begin an innovation process. We will be developing a prototype over the course of several workshops involving the destinations, the municipality, the county administrative board, the county museum and others, as well as the local population. The idea is to produce a book containing general methods or a guide to show how small actors can implement a simple digitalisation process with the aim of increasing the location’s attractiveness. We will also be writing a number of academic papers within the field of geomedia.

How can companies in the tourism and hospitality industry benefit from this research?
“We hope to be able to inspire more companies within the tourism and hospitality to think innovatively about the opportunities digitalisation presents in terms of enhancing the experience of a location. We want to contribute to increasing the companies’ expertise so that both are able to attract more visitors and find new working methods and collaborations for the purpose of developing their destinations. In the long term, this can create more competitive and financially sustainable companies and more year-round job opportunities.”

Researchers involved
Lotta Braunerhielm, senior lecturer in cultural geography, project manager
Linda Ryan Bengtsson, senior lecturer in media and communication studies, Karlstad University
Laila Gibson, researcher, adjunct teacher, Karlstad University
André Jansson, professor of media and communication studies, Karlstad University

Publications from the project

Title Year Image
Våga ta steget mot interaktiva platsförankrade upplevelser 2018
Platsbaserade digitala upplevelser
Platsbaserade digitala upplevelser – metodhandbok för innovationer inom besöksnäring
2018

Project facts

Project:
Dare to take the step towards interactive location-specific experiences
Research organization:
Karlstad University
Project Manager:
Lotta Braunerhielm
Members:
Linda Ryan Bengtsson, Laila Gibson, André Jansson
Period:
Oct 2016 – Dec 2018
Amount:
SEK 530,000