First newsletter is released 28.2.2017. It contains:
Highlighting the archipelago defence history
Defence History and Sustainable Tourism Development
Behind the Scenes

Highlighting the archipelago defence history

Following four pilot destinations with colorful defence history and unbelievable stories will create a new thematic tourist attraction in the Baltic Sea archipelago:

The beautiful nature and the history of the outer Archipelago of Turku are united in Örö. The fort has been closed for a century, but is now revealing the secrets of its southern part. Historical structures will be renovated and a new trail, observation tower and a small suspension bridge will attract visitors. Mobile guidance and a new exhibition introduce the old battery area and its defence historical structures and events. It will be even possible to spend the night in an old concrete bunker!

The top-secret Operation Palmen on the Isle of Gålö in the Stockholm Archipelago comes to life. In the early 1940s, i.e. during World War II, seals were trained to spot foreign submarines as part of the Swedish coastal defence. Gålö seal farm in Sweden will be opened in summer 2018. A mobile guide allows visitors to join in this fantastic history.

The Bomarsund fortress on the Åland Islands was destroyed in August 1854 during the Crimean War, in the Battle of Bomarsund. Bomarsund will become a historical sight with a pinch of modern twist. In Bomarsund emphasis will be put on digital outputs like videos and Wi-Fi connection. A mobile app allows visitors to experience everyday life at the Bomarsund fortress and the surrounding area, as well as the battle itself. You can find up to five different themes of history in the app – so Bomarsund really has something for everyone!

Situated at a key position along an old sailing route in the Archipelago SeaKorpoström has for centuries provided a safe harbour for travellers. Korpoström meets the needs of travellers by elevating the visitor experience to a new level. A new great exhibition will reveal the secrets and mysteries of the battle in Korpoström in 1743. Additionally the mobile guide will bring the dramatic history of the area to life where the road ends and the sea starts.

Experience the stories of the coastal past!

Defence History and Sustainable Tourism Development

Sustainable development is one of the core horizontal objectives of the DefenceArch project. The four almost untapped historical sites are to be developed into appealing attractions with a focus on the sustainability of both the developing process and later use. Aspects of sustainability – cultural, ecological, economic and social – in insular tourism are analysed and will be embedded in the actions and outputs of the project.

Sustainable travel should aim to recognize the negative impacts of tourism and find ways to prevent environmental harm. Tourism should also strive to be sustainable in all its four areas to be considered “sustainable tourism”. Planning for sustainable tourism, however, is by no means an easy feat as sustainable tourism may entail necessary trade-offs. It may happen, for example, that favouring local produce may increase the number of trips made to retrieve the needed foodstuff instead of wholesale procurement. In such a case, there is a trade-off between economic and ecological sustainability.

So, which aspects of sustainability should be valued most at the DefenceArch sites, all with their own unique historical value? There is no clear-cut answer for this as each site is currently at a different stage of tourism development. When planning for sustainability issues at the site, first of all, one should consider what the sites have to offer for tourists. Second, whether these needs can be supported without compromising local environment and culture should be considered. Third, with these aspects in mind, one should evaluate what each site’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities are regarding sustainable development.

At Örö, for example, sustainability issues have already been well taken into account. There is a well-functioning infrastructure in place and the staff are competent in sustainability issues. Ecologically sound practices are already applied when restoring the sites and building new infrastructure. The southern cape of the island is not yet very developed, however it benefits from the infrastructure in the rest of the island. Örö has already become a rather popular travel destination, hence the risk of erosion needs to be considered when planning new infrastructure. At Örö perhaps the greatest risk of tourism development therefore lies within the delicate balance of attracting streams of visitors and on the other hand preserving the diverse natural and cultural values at the site.

The Gålö seal station in Stockholm with its unique defence history shares some similar strengths with Örö but faces some rather different challenges regarding sustainable tourism development. Like Örö, Gålö seal station is owned by a party – the Stockholm Archipelago Foundation – that is already well-established in sustainability issues. Gålö Island natural values are already well-known and there is pre-visit information available. The state of the seal station infrastructure, however, is in part somewhat poor and there is a risk that some of the existing, historically valuable constructions might not be safe enough to be preserved as such. The pristine nature of the site presents some great opportunities. Promoting social sustainability at the site is also possible if the price of the planned accommodation at the site is kept affordable.

At Korpoström, the issue of sustainability is mostly centred on the cultural facet as there will be no infrastructural developments within the scope of the project. On one hand, there is ample potential of promoting cultural sustainability and a strong local involvement in project output development. Social equality and gender issues are considered as well when planning the outputs. Most of these planned project outputs will be in intangible form so there will be little impact on natural values at the site. On the other hand, however, there is not a lot of pre-visit information available on the defence history in the area and the site will need marketing to attract an audience. Thus at Korpostöm heavy emphasis needs to be placed on pre-visit information development to promote cultural sustainability.

The Bomarsund fortress in Åland differs from the other sites especially by its geographical characteristics. The area is quite large and the visitor can enter it from several directions, making it difficult to manage the visitors’ impact on the environment. The natural values and biodiversity at the site have not yet been taken into account in pre-visit or on-site information. However, Bomarsund is a protected area and there is an abundance of well-preserved cultural and military history heritage with lots of interesting stories. Local involvement in site development promotes social sustainability and sustainable energy solutions have already been planned. The Åland museum has also committed to maintaining the site after the project has ended – hence a strong local involvement also ensures the sustainability of project results.

Annika Kunnasvirta

Sustainable development expert

Behind the scenes

There are five partners participating in this project: Turku University of Applied Sciences, Parks & Wildlife Finland, Visit Åland, The Stockholm Archipelago Foundation and The Åboland Archipelago Foundation. TUAS as the lead partner is responsible for coordinating the project implementation and for reaching the overall objectives. All the other partners have an own pilot destination, which they’re mainly responsible for. However, joint multidisciplinary planning and exchange of best practises between the partners characterise the development work.

From the contact page of our homepage, you can find every partner’s contact information. Don’t hesitate to ask if anything comes to your mind!