The SAINT project, co-financed by the Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme, drew together a range of partners – research centres, local government and SMEs – in Scotland, Ireland, Finland, Norway, Iceland, Northern Ireland and Sweden.
The project focus was primarily to work with micro-businesses to improve their promotion of slow adventure activities and extend their marketing reach to new overseas and domestic consumers, leading to positive direct impacts, in terms of more bed nights, extending visitors’ stays and potentially stretching the seasons. Trans-national branding will help to improve business connections across these diverse regions that nonetheless all offer suitable playgrounds for immersive and memorable outdoor experiences.
Aims of the Project
The principal objective was to make SMEs more aware of how to capitalise on business opportunities in guided slow adventure experiences, through extending marketing reach, in terms of:
- Making SMEs more aware of new, lucrative markets to which to promote slow adventure activities.
- To increase SME awareness of how to effectively target these markets, through the use of new, technology-oriented marketing models and clustering approaches, both local/regional and trans-national.
- Developing SMEs’ awareness of how to develop engaging, insightful and meaningful consumer experiences in a slow adventure context.
Slow adventure is defined as a form of tourism which avoids the quick-fix adrenalin-pumping hits of convenient adventure experiences, in favour of slow, immersive journeys, living in and travelling through wild places and natural spaces – experiencing nature in its timeframe, its seasons, its weathers and its variations. These journeys will typically include elements of the following:
- Wild food
- Comfort in the outdoors
- Creating and enhancing people’s understanding
- Human- or nature-powered travel
- An enhanced engagement with place
Slow adventure activities draw upon ideas framed around the partners’ cultures and histories, such as hunting, fishing and wild foods, love of and respect for nature and wildlife, and the relationship between food and the land/sea. These activities will also be infused with individualistic elements, from Norwegian ‘friluftsliv’, to Icelandic coastal and marine culture and Scottish traditions of adventure.
- Guidance on a) which new lucrative customer segments to target and b) how to target them.
- Pilot-tested marketing models to be adopted by companies, with the emphasis on more effective use of ICT.
- A set of clustering approaches for direct application by slow adventure SMEs – economies of scale and effort.
- Guidance on the application of new ICT to improve marketing, and how to improve marketing through the adoption of synthesised modern and Indigenous perspectives.
- The establishment of a new trans-national cluster of SMEs with joint branding/promotion.
Overcoming Key Challenges in the NPA Region
SAINT helped SMEs to embrace opportunities in the following ways:
- The project focussed on bringing more high-spend tourists into the area.
- Helped to make the adventure industry an attractive lifestyle choice.
- Slow adventure activities help to maintain fragile rural economies.
- Slow adventure activities are less seasonally-dependent.
- Storytelling and education helps to ensure these histories and legacies survive.
- Education of and engagement with wild environments is a further cornerstone of slow adventure.
- The development of slow adventure will also attract more tourists to partner areas, with beneficial economic multiplier effects.
Data Gathering and Applied Market Research (Led by The University of the Highlands & Islands, Scotland)
The aim of this activity was to conduct applied, relevant and targeted research, at the start of the project, to inform and influence the shape of the project. As the overall project aimed to develop greater market reach for SMEs operating in the slow adventure sector, it was vital that partners and the SMEs in their region were able to develop a deeper understanding of which consumers to target and how to market to them.
Using both desktop work and qualitative interviews within the sector, the research focused on trends, customer typologies, targeting consumers and extending the seasons.
Key tasks involved:
- An analysis of the principles of the slow movement, and spin-off initiatives.
- National/regional research to try to quantify and define the existing market and to determine and understand a) what the new related consumer trends are; b) which consumers to target and why; c) developing customer typologies.
- ‘Ethnographic’ research of slow adventure SMEs in their area and their clients using: a) structured questioning to explore how and why people buy ‘experiences’, what are the ingredients and the contexts; b) semi-structured questioning and participant observation to determine elements such as determining the ‘meanings’ sought by customers.
- Online or face-to-face interviews with ‘new’ or ‘potential’ consumers a) in appropriate locations, b) via appropriate events and c) via media such as e-mail panels.
- The desktop research was supplemented with face-to-face or telephone interviews, as appropriate, with SMEs, destination marketing organisations, national marketing bodies and projects/initiatives.
- The findings were included in a written report.
Development and Piloting of New Marketing Models (Led by ETOUR, Sweden)
The core of the project, this work package aimed to help SMEs in this sector to develop a) new marketing approaches and b) more effective businesses through ‘co-operative working’. The project developed and tested new marketing models to: create a new joint brand, target high-value customers and trans-nationally cluster SMEs together.
The aim was that partners in Ireland, Finland, Norway, Iceland, Northern Ireland and Sweden would take a variety of approaches: for example, the development of blueways in Northern Ireland, packaging and promoting slow adventures in the low season (summer, in Finland), and in Ireland looking at the use of our snail logo at a possible brand and the basis of an accreditation system. In Scotland, that area encompassing Ardnamurchan and along the Road to the Isles was the case study region.
The focus is on facilitating the clustering of like-minded businesses to create slow adventure ‘itineraries’, and working with the SMEs and the bodies responsible for regional destination marketing to build an effective marketing campaign. The aim of the campaign is to encourage consumers and businesses alike to buy into the ‘ethos’ of slow adventure, and to promote the region as ‘the place’ for slow adventure.
All partners will work to develop a transnational network of slow adventure tourism providers, who share common values and a joint brand and website which can be carried forward beyond the life of the project.
New Technology and the Slow Adventure Experience (Led by Naturpolis, Finland)
The objective of this work package was to explore the use of new, predominantly mobile, technologies in supporting the development of ‘greater market reach’ for SMEs in the slow adventure sector – in particular, how to effectively communicate with those consumer typologies identified in the data gathering work package, how to portray the essence of slow adventure to the customer, and how to connect with customers using mobile and web-based technologies.
Key tasks involved:
- Liaising with appropriate international tourism technology ‘think tanks’, projects and initiatives.
- A desktop review of new and forthcoming technology that pertains to slow adventure promotion.
- Telephone discussions with key businesses and other relevant organisations as required to gain further insight into the use of new technologies.
- A written report which details greater and better use of new technologies in supporting the development of the sector.
Two-eyed Seeing: Integrating Indigenous and Western Perspectives (Led by Wild Norway/HiNT, Norway)
In this context, ‘two-eyed seeing’ combined the strengths of both Western and Indigenous ways of packaging and marketing ‘slow adventure’ activities and understanding the cultural, health, linguistic, environmental and psychological benefits of such experiences. A report synthesising an exercise to understand and combine the best elements of both Indigenous and Western perspectives was produced which considers how these elements can be relevant to SMEs across the NPA area, drawing upon lessons from Indigenous traditions of storytelling for example.