The granted funding involves an extensive collaboration between three Swedish and four Finnish organisations where they collaborate as project partners in a three-year long Interreg Aurora project starting in January 2023.
– With a strong partnership and a chain of nearby destinations in both countries, we are committed to developing tourism along the coastal route around the Bothnian Bay and over the Kvarken strait, says Marianne Sjöström, Project Manager at the Kvarken Council.
The project will promote our coastal area as an attractive destination year-round and show how to do so sustainably. The tourism businesses along the Bothnian Coastal Route, as the project is called, will gain visibility through the project’s marketing, targeting the European travel market. Business development is also included in the project, focusing on the industry’s ability to adapt to potential future crises like the pandemic it has just experienced.
– This new project constellation along the Bothnian Coast will complement our existing regional collaborations well. The project is current; the destinations visitors are asking for today should ideally have a sustainability profile with high natural and cultural values – and all this preferably without crowds, says Rickard Lundmark, CEO of Luleå Business Region.
– With the help of the project, we will increase awareness of the magnificent nature, culture, and lifestyle in the area, and together put our unique coastal environments on the map. All this with the aim of attracting future visitors year-round, says Maria Broman, CEO of Visit Skellefteå.
Common denominator, unique experiences, and a strong partnership
Several partners in the partnership have collaborated in similar projects in the past and have seen the strength in profiling themselves together, making them more attractive to international visitors. In addition, the expanded partnership has many common denominators and values for international visitors.
– Through this project we will be able to use all learnings and processed knowledge from our former project Kvarken Destinations. We will now deepen cross-border collaboration between Sweden and Finland and continue to move the tourism industry in the Bothnian Bay area in a more sustainable direction. We look forward to working across borders, with an attractive product range around the entire Bothnian Bay, says Gabriella Hed Vall, CEO of Visit Umeå.
– With this excellent cross-border collaboration, we are building a strong maritime tourism ecosystem in the Bothnian Bay and increasing awareness of our unique Arctic coast in the international market. Together, we form a sufficiently large and competitive whole that enables growth for tourist companies, new business relationships, and partnerships, Janne Anttila, CEO of Kalajoen Hiekkasärkät, added.
– The collaboration brings together the strengths of the Bothnia Bay and the Kvarken region and offers fascinating opportunities all year round. For example, the frozen Bothnian Bays white expanses, fantastic beaches, bright summer nights, nature attractions, and rich cultural heritage are unique experiences whose productization into services and visitor routes make them accessible experiences, says Jyrki Kemppainen, key account director, BusinessOulu.
– In addition, companies can make new contacts, collaborate, and learn from each other. Developing local destinations is important to us in the northern parts of the Nordics, Peter Källberg, project manager at Vaasa Region Development Company VASEK, added.
Environmentally friendly transport concludes the tour
Wasaline (NLC Ferry Ab) participates in the project as a co-financer and with its environmentally friendly ferry, Aurora Botnia, functions as the connecting link to the sea and concludes the tour.
– It will be exciting that we can increasingly promote ourselves in Europe as a sustainable travel destination. We already have a top product with the ferry Aurora Botnia that guarantees the world’s most environmentally friendly transport across the Kvarken strait. Connecting the destinations and cities to a functioning route including two countries with coastline, water, and sustainability as the overarching theme, we see as a concrete and achievable goal, says Catarina Fant, Director of Brand and Communications at Wasaline.
The project, which runs from 2023 to 2025, is expected to involve, in addition to the destinations, around 150 companies in the project area.
The following destinations are participating as implementation partners in this tourism project that the Interreg Aurora program has now granted funding for; on the Swedish side: Luleå, Skellefteå, and Umeå. On the Finnish side: Oulu, Kalajoki, and Vaasa. The project also includes the following destinations: Piteå, Haparanda, Tornio, Kemi, Kokkola, and Pietarsaari, as well as Wasaline as the connecting link to the sea.
This is Bothnian Coastal Route (BCR) – A tourism project aiming to increase the attractiveness of the coastal route across the Kvarken and around the Bothnian Bay:
Budget and funding: The total budget of this project is 2 712 677,00 EUR, whereof 1 763 241,00 EUR EU-funding via the Interreg Aurora programme. The rest of the funding comes from Finnish national and Swedish regional co-funding, from the Nordic Council of Ministers, and from municipal and private co-funding.
Project partners: The partnership consists of the Kvarken Council EGTC (lead part and coordinating beneficiary), the city of Kalajoki, Luleå Business Region AB, the city of Oulu/ Business Oulu, Vaasa Region Development Company VASEK, Visit Skellefteå AB and Visit Umeå AB.
Financiers: Interreg Aurora, Regional Council of Lapland, Region Västerbotten, the Kvarken Council EGTC, Umeå Municipality, Vaasa Region Development Company VASEK, City of Kalajoki, Luleå Business Region AB, City of Oulu/ BusinessOulu, Visit Skellefteå AB, City of Vaasa, Kokkola Tourism Ltd, Haparanda municipality/ Haparanda/Tornio, Bothnian Arc ry, City of Pietarsaari, Piteå municipality, Kemi Tourism Ltd, NLC Ferry Ab Oy
Project timetable: The runtime of this project is three years, from the beginning of 2023 until the end of 2025.
The new Interreg Aurora Programme has approved the first projects in the funding period 2021–2027. The two Steering Committees, for sub-area Sápmi and sub-area Aurora have met on 22nd–23rd of November in Luleå to decide on new cross-border cooperation projects in the northernmost part of Europe and Sápmi. The Steering Committees approved 27 projects in the first call, more than 21 million euro was allocated. The Kvarken Council with its partners received funding for three new projects: Bothnian Coastal Route (BCR), Bothnia Green Energy, and Nordic Battery Belt – Feasibility study.
Photo: Roadtrip in Kvarken. Photo Lola Akinmade Akerstrom. Kvarken Destinations Contentbank.