Geographies of fear – visitors’ perceptions of safety in urban destinations
- Institutionen för strategisk kommunikation
- Institutionen för service management och tjänstevetenskap
accomplish socially sustainable city centres. Our focus is on relation between the mediatisation of cities and perceptions and experiences of safety among domestic and international visitors. Recent terror attacks, political unrest, and violent conflicts in many European countries are highly mediatised events (Couldry and Hepp, 2018) that influence images of urban destinations, which are particularly vulnerable to rumours and images circulating in media (Avraham, 2009; Avraham and Ketter, 2008).
The study focuses on 10 Swedish urban destinations. Sweden is an interesting case in point due to high levels of media coverage, which is characterised by polarised narratives concerning the country as a utopia respectively dystopia (see e.g. Rapacioli, 2018). The research questions we seek to answer concern 1) how perceptions of safety are influenced by the image of Sweden conveyed on online news and social media (Instagram and Twitter) platforms, and 2) the relation between visitors’ overall image of the destinations and their experiences of safety. The research questions are addressed by a mixed methods approach using survey methods and media analysis to capture the role of place image for visitors’ perceptions and experiences of safety.
The findings demonstrate that the mediatisation of the country of Sweden follows narratives of safety respectively unsafety, which influence the way Swedish cities are perceived. Furthermore, findings indicate a correlation between positive city image and high levels of perceived safety among visitors. The paper discusses these findings in relation to social sustainability and proposes communicative strategies to handle and counter fears in urban destinations.
Keywords: place image, urban destinations, branding security, social sustainability, mediatisation
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- Economic Geography
- urban tourism
- The geography of fear: the tourist destination in the shadow of conceptions of terror