Action Area: Place Identity



The perceptions and feelings held by people about  a place have become an essential issue that needs to be considered in the marketing strategy of tourism destinations. The ability to make a place special and unique for both local inhabitants and travelers is a key precondition for succesfully positioning a destination within a globally competitive tourism market. Outstanding accommodation, attractions, services, facilities and accessibility are no longer differentiators in today's global marketplace, unless they are connected to the socio-cultural context of the place. Critical to the creation of a transnational destination such as the Barents Region is the identification of the place values and meanings, the translation of those into a suitably emotionally appealing personality and the targeted and efficient delivery of that message to people living in it and visiting it. That does not mean, however, that it is easy to build a robust common place identity for a region like Barents.

Current Circumstance

  • A strong  sense of national (Finnish, Norwegian, Russian and Swedish) and numerous regional identities within the national border of the countries comprising the Barents.
  • Rich heritage of indigenous peoples, including the Sámi, the Nenets and the Vepsians, and the minority group of the Komi people.
  • Similar place images prevail among the member areas of the Barents Region (e.g. polar nights, midnight sun, Sámi culture, northern lights, untouched nature, remoteness).
  • Traditional livelihoods such as agriculture, fishing, hunting and reindeer husbandry are existent and to some extent protected across the different municipalities of the Barents.
  • Sámi Council and Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish Sámi Parliaments dealing with Sámi affairs. Ongoing attempts to create a similar political institution in Russia.
  • Existing indigineous people associations in the Russian municipalities of the Barents.
  • Annual Sámi Parliamentary Conference gathering all national Sámi parliaments, representatives from the the Sámi Council and the Russian Sámi associations.
  • Interregional cooperation in border region upper secondary schools (e.g. Tornio-Haparanda and Salla-Kandalaksha).
  • A wide range of museums preserving and disseminating information on cultural heritage at the local and national level as well as the Barents Euro-Arctic Region in general.
  • Strong tourism destination brands in northern Finland (Lapland), Sewden (Swedish Lapland) and Norway (Northern Norway), which to some degree make use of the culture and heritage of the place.


Challenges and Development Needs

  •  Unawareness of the Barents as a socio-cultural geographical area amond local inhabitants and visitors.
  • Different understandings of of the Barents tend to prevail among the inhabitants of and visitors to this northern European region.
  • The word Barents has negative connotations as far as the general public is concerned. It is associated not within tourism and cultural heritage but with  an image of post-Sovies politics, exploitation of natural resources and nuclear contamination.
  • Lack of a common regional identity and a sense of belonging to the Barents Region.
  • Cultural differences and prejudices about neighboring countries still represent an obstacleto mutual understandinf and working  towards shared values.
  • Geopolitical borderlines (e.g. the EU and non-EU countries, Euro zone and non-Euro zone, Scandinavia and Russia and NATO and non-NATO countries, the Nordic common weatlh and Russia, the Sámi region) contribute to creating subdivisions within the Barents Region.
  • Increased competition among the tourism industry of the Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish and Russian municipalitiesof the Barents contribute to emphasizing differences - at the expenses if commonalities - in order to make their places unique and more attractive to the visitors.
  • Resistance to positioning existing regional brands under a Barents brand.