Young adults’ perceptions of and affective bonds to a rural tourism community
Many rural areas, in Sweden and worldwide, experience population decline where the young leave for education and work in urban areas. Employment has declined in several rural industries, such as agriculture, forestry, and fishing, while growing in other industries are often located in urban areas. Politicians and organizations have put much hope in tourism as a tool of rural development, but can tourism help reverse the rural out-migration trend among young adults? This paper explores how tourism affects young inhabitants’ perceptions of and affective bonds to a rural area in Sweden, the ski resort of Sälen. Students from the 1993–1995 elementary school graduating classes were interviewed about their migration history, childhood, and view of and ties to Sälen. The respondents experience that tourism contributes to a more vital community incorporating influences from elsewhere, but without eliminating the positive aspects of rural life. The regular flow of people – tourists, seasonal workers, and entrepreneurs – passing through Sälen presents opportunities to extend one’s social network that are widely appreciated by respondents. The high in and out mobility constitutes a key part of Sälen’s character. Contributions from tourism – such as employment, entertainment, leisure, and opportunities to forge new social relationships – are available during the adult transition, the life phase when rural areas are often perceived as least attractive. Even though out-migration occurs in Sälen, and some respondents still find Sälen too small, tourism has clearly increased the available opportunities and contributed significantly to making Sälen more attractive to young adults.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.