From a regional development perspective North Jutland has gone through important transformations since the 1970s. The region experienced a severe decline in traditional heavy industries and the rise of a host of new industries, especially in telecommunications, strong in R&D and linked in a variety of ways to the presence of an innovative university with leading-edge competences in engineering (see e.g. Halkier 2008).This change has meant that the regional capital Aalborg, with nearly 200,000 inhabitants indisputably the centre of North Jutland, has experienced healthy growth rates for several decades and hence was de-designated for Objective 2 support already in the previous programming period. In contrast, especially the nothern- and western-most parts of the region are still eligible for support due to relatively weak performances with regard to low growth in wealth and population, and remains dominated by agriculture, traditional industries and tourism. Average income within the region is therefore only 92% of the national average (which in turn is 122% of the EU25 average). This text reports three associated FKDs, all related to the North Jutland tourism TKD, chosen because tourism is a major area of economic activity in the region. According to VisitNordjylland, tourism receipts reached 6.5 billion DKR in the region in 2004, and the sector employs the equivalent of approximately 10,900 full-time workers – 4.4% of the overall employment in the region.
Although in many respects the bundling together of Denmark as one region instead of the usual five regional entities could be problematic, the fact that the regional case study is situated in the region of North Jutland may appear to make this less of a problem because the region contains both an urban core and rural areas/peripheries, and thus it could be expected that e.g. the high levels of economic welfare, growth, and education that characterise Denmark as a ‘North Scientific Region’ would also be relevant for the tourism FKDs reported in this text. In practice, however, the sectoral characteristics of tourism – highly fragmented, incremental product development, and low levels of training – not only make this particular sector differ from most export-oriented manufacturing activities in Denmark, but it also implies that the statistical indicators would appear to have limited relevance in relation to this particular area of economic activity, as argued in more detail in the North Jutland WP5 report.
1.3. The sector
This text reports three associated FKDs, all related to the North Jutland tourism TKD, chosen because tourism is a major area of economic activity in the region. According to VisitNordjylland, tourism receipts reached 6.5 billion DKR in the region in 2004, and the sector employs the equivalent of approximately 10,900 full-time workers – 4.4% of the overall employment in the region. The largest markets for North Jutland are – in ranked order – Denmark (domestic tourism), Norway, Germany, and Sweden. Thus the most important markets are from the near vicinity of Denmark. While there has been a positive development in the number of domestic tourists and a moderate increase of Norwegian tourists within the last ten years, the number of overnight stays has fallen approximately 10% in the same period. This is primarily due to a serious decline within the German and Swedish markets (VisitNordjylland.dk 2007). As tourism is considered an important contributor to the economic and rural development of North Jutland, the general decline in overnight stays in the region poses a problem. Accordingly, the public tourism organisations continuously try to develop and improve the tourism products and marketing efforts in collaboration with the other tourism stakeholders in the region.
Seaside leisure tourism is the most popular form of tourism in North Jutland, but especially the city of Aalborg (the largest city in the region) has strengthened its position as a MICE-destination in recent years (VisitNordjylland.dk 2007; Berg Schmidt and Halkier 2008; Halkier et al. 2008). The region is first and foremost considered to be a tourism destination which offers nature- and culture-related experiences for all family members and good opportunities for relaxation. The seaside with wide beaches, cosy towns, and numerous art galleries and restaurants constitute an important part of the tourism product of North Jutland. Furthermore, Aalborg offers good shopping opportunities, a renowned nightlife, a number of cultural events throughout the year, and facilities for business tourism (VisitNordjylland.dk 2007). The region has a well-developed infrastructure and accommodation capacities in both the coastal areas and in the larger cities. The vast majority of tourists visiting North Jutland travel in small self-organised groups of families and friends, and the role of incoming group travel is limited. There are ferries operating daily between Norway, Sweden, and Denmark; the highway network and the trains secure easy accessibility over land; and daily the airport of Aalborg receives many domestic and some international flights (Hjalager and Jensen 2001).
North Jutland’s image as a leisure tourism destination is often associated with ocean, beach, natural surroundings, and therefore also with summer holidays as the weather is most allowing during that time. Thus a key challenge for the tourism sector of North Jutland is to expand the season, in order to limit problems concerning bottleneck issues during the high season, and low capacity exploitation, low profitability, and a drastic decrease in tourism employment in the low season. These are some of the reasons why focusing on season expansion – and recently all-year tourism – receives wide-spread support among stakeholders, while at the same time maintaining the popularity of the region among tourists in the summer months, as it cannot be denied that these months provide the foundation of tourism in North Jutland. Like many other tourist destinations dominated by individual visitors making use of a host of different, mainly small and local, providers of services to create their holiday experience, an important role is played by collective destination management organisations (DMOs) and public policies in both the promotion of the destination and the development of new products. Like in other parts of the world, in Denmark these organisations have a strong territorial dimension, with nested layers of local, inter-local, regional, and national organisations with varying degrees of cooperation and/or competition along horizontal and vertical lines (Hall 2008; Halkier in print).