About the project

Tourism in multicultural societies

Tourism has received harsh critique (e.g. Bruner, 2005; Urry, 2002) for contributing to the “commoditization of a uni-dimensional culture” (Salazar, 2012, p 877). Tourism and place branding risk (re)producing “stereotypic images, discredited histories, and romantic fantasies” (Bruner, 2005, p 76) and tend to reduce places to monocultures, which disregard the complexity that makes them interesting (Jernsand & Kraff, 2017; Kalandides, 2006). Such perspective does not correspond with reality, since no contemporary society has only one culture, language or identity (Sam & Berry, 2006). Intercultural exchanges brought in by globalisation and migration signal a change in pre-existing ideas of places and cultures and give rise to questions such as: What groups are represented? How can cultural heritage be maintained whilst at the same time reflecting demographic changes? What types of narratives are necessary to avoid exotifying certain groups or creating stereotypes? Concepts such as transnationality and transculturalism emerge as a result of people’s increased mobility and openness (although there are reactions against it). Sweden is a destination for visitors from within and outside Europe, as well as a country of immigration and diversity. It is a place where the specific tensions between tourism, ethnic diversity, multiculturalism, integration and migration are recognised and experienced.

Opportunities and challenges

There are opportunities, but also challenges, in tourism’s ability to foster diversity and genuine intercultural exchanges and to “actively create and operationalize new images and discourses that contest and replace tenacious imaginaries” (Salazar, 2012). Failing to include the multiple, different and possibly diverging voices of a place may even result in disaffection, apathy or unmanageable antagonistic clashes (Mouffe, 2013). There are examples of tourism that lose the support of residents, as people feel that their community is taken away from them. Efforts from public and private organisations are needed to support working life, human rights, integration, diversity and trust, and to include local communities and the non-profit sector in tourism development to make it sustainable in a long-term perspective (Tillväxtverket, 2018).

Inclusiveness and participation

Inclusiveness and participation are gaining momentum in the academic tourism and place branding discourse (e.g. Kavaratzis, Giovanardi & Lichrou, 2017; Scheyvens & Biddulph, 2017). However, tourism and place branding have seldom been considered in relation to notions of integration, migration and multiculturalism. How can tourism enhance sustainable development by being a facilitator for inclusive, participatory, diverse and attractive societies?

Reaction, action and change

TiMS takes stance from the democratic theme and notions of diversity, equality and inclusiveness as stated in Agenda 2030, regarding place development in general and sustainable tourism in particular. The central objective is to explore the role of tourism in multicultural societies, in Sweden and beyond, and to act towards the embracement and representation of diversity in tourism development and place branding. TiMS will evoke reaction, take actions and bring about change. The desired reaction is created through generating insights and shared understanding on e.g. who is represented in communicative imagery and who is included in participatory development processes. Action is taken through transdisciplinary co-creation between researchers and their partners regarding how inclusiveness and diversity can become a central point from which sustainable tourism is developed. Change is the result of the co-creative process, in forms of e.g. policy briefs, models, prototypes, and handbooks that aims to directly impact and change strategies of Swedish authorities, state-owned companies, municipalities, private organizations and NGOs. Residents, newly arrived and future visitors will in turn be able to experience more diverse and authentic places.

Four work packages

Following Bramwell et al. (2017), TiMS embraces a broad conceptualisation of sustainability that includes social, cultural, economic, political and environmental issues. We focus especially on social issues, however, regard all sustainability perspectives as interrelated. TiMS consists of four work packages that will untangle the role of tourism in multicultural societies.

WP1: Project coordination
WP2: Multiple identities in place branding and sustainable tourism destinations
WP3: Multiculturalism and participation in sustainable tourism and place development
WP4: Tourism as facilitator of integration and plurality in sustainable societies


  • To ensure successful execution and coordination of the project.
  • To understand how the plurality of places and destinations is communicated, represented and experienced.
  • To understand participatory processes and its results, e.g. who governs, who is included, whose views are considered legitimate, and how conflicts are handled.
  • To explore the potential of tourism to strengthen relationships, contribute to intercultural exchanges between people, and create multidimensional destinations.

Transdisciplinary approach

Sustainable tourism operates on various levels of society, which calls for a multiple angle and mixed-methods approach if it is to change societies in a deeper way. As Bramwell et al. (2017, p 7) emphasize, sustainable tourism needs to be approached “in new ways, which demand a new order of collaborations that transcend disciplines and methodologies”. Responding to these calls (e.g. Jernsand & Kraff, 2017; Kavaratzis, Giovanardi & Lichrou, 2017), the uniqueness and originality of TiMS lies firstly in the transdisciplinary approach to tourism studies, which include design studies, social work, migration studies, marketing studies, and human interaction studies. The use of design methods, such as prototyping, and human interaction technology, such as VR and eye- tracking, makes TiMS cutting-edge and place it in the forefront of technical and methodological development. Secondly, the cases feature cross-sector and transformative research, which boosts relationships between research and practice through the creation of shared understanding, joint actions and co-creation of knowledge, leading to practical implementations, prototypes, models, policy briefs, and societal transformation. Thirdly, the comparative studies involving Sweden and four non-European countries (Kenya, China, Japan and the US), broadens and deepens the understanding and conceptualisation of sustainable and inclusive forms of tourism and place branding. TiMS considers that sustainable tourism is a global challenge with national responsibilities, and provides valuable international perspectives to Sweden’s communication and development as a sustainable tourist destination.