A Bridge Too Far?
January 8, 2016 - Lorna
Earlier this week border controls were introduced on the bridge which links Denmark and Sweden (made famous by the eponymous Scandic noir TV series) to try and reduce the number of asylum applications. It reminded me that a few months back there was a really interesting piece in the Guardian about the Danish city of Copenhagen wanting to promote itself as a larger entity to make it more competitive on a Scandinavian and European stage. The particularly interesting thing about it was that the larger entity included part of a different country. ‘Greater Copenhagen’ includes Zealand in eastern Denmark and Skåne in southern Sweden including the city of Malmö, the two areas joined by the celebrated bridge.
The article makes clear there is much debate taking place about all this, it is hardly a done deal, but it strikes me as a bold and imaginative idea. In our work we encounter with depressing regularity the view that the competition is the town/local authority/region next door. A crippling fear of loss of identity and a resolve not to cooperate gets in the way of pragmatic partnership working, let alone anything creative.
The Greater Copenhagen concept is driven by inward investment and business development opportunities but the relevance to tourism is clear. Extend the offer and there is more chance that visitors will stay longer. We’ve seen this being put into action in Dublin, where Fáilte Ireland has championed a repositioning of the city to include the bay and mountains and villages to the north and south in the ‘Dublin Now’ brand proposition to refresh the offer and attract new audiences. But we’ve also seen countless examples of people saying, and nodding in agreement with each other, that ‘visitors are not interested in boundaries’ only for those same people to focus entirely on everything within that boundary sometimes wilfully ignoring the opportunity to make them just a little more pervious.
As an aside, there is something rather appealing about ‘bay’. The head of the Invest in Skåne business lobby has suggested that the area should be branded as ‘Scandinavia Bay Area’ (Copenhagen Bay is more obvious surely, but presumably is a step too far in terms of local identity politics). They were inspired by San Francisco Bay and it is a very neat and appealing way of extending the positioning.
I applaud the Greater Copenhagen initiative and wish them luck. It is highly refreshing at a time when borders and boundaries are being shored up to hear about a more open and creative approach. However they are obviously not there yet as the Greater Copenhagen website remains firmly on the Danish side and border controls only reinforce the separation.