Emma Björner on the Importance of Stakeholder Inclusion for Sustainable Tourism and Place Branding

Emma Björner, Researcher at Gothenburg Research Institute and Senior Lecturer at the Department of Strategic Communication, Lund University, in this interview shares insights into The Role of Tourism in Multicultural Societies (TiMS), a research project which explores multiple identities and the importance of including diverse stakeholders in tourism development and place branding, to be effective. She also discusses place branding practices in China and how the country is actively engaging scholars and practitioners in developing the country's soft power, and promoting cultural tourism. Emma further highlights how digital devices and social media play a central role in building smart cities in China.

Emma, when did you first come across place branding, in the context of cities and sustainability?

Place branding and sustainability first caught my interest in 2010, when I was working in the Swedish pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo, and finalizing my master thesis on nation branding at World Expos and Sweden’s brand architecture at Expo 2010. The theme for Expo 2010 was ‘Better City, Better Life’, with a focus on creating better living conditions in cities.

The overall aim with the Swedish participation was to strengthen a positive image of Sweden internationally and to promote the competitiveness and creativity of Swedish trade and industry. For the very first time, the World Expo also comprised an area with city pavilions, focusing largely on sustainability and place branding, an area that I found very interesting to visit and explore in my free time.

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