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Ola Thufvesson.

Ola Thufvesson

Senior lecturer

Ola Thufvesson.

Geographies of fear – visitors’ perceptions of safety in urban destinations


  • Cecilia Cassinger
  • Jörgen Eksell
  • Maria Månsson
  • Ola Thufvesson

Summary, in English

Countering fear and promoting experiences of security and safety among visitors are key issues in creating socially sustainable urban destinations. Security branding is a growing place branding paradigm through which to enhance experiences and perceptions of safety in cities, nations and regions (Coaffee and Van Ham, 2008; Coaffee and Rogers, 2008; Avraham and Ketter, 2008). This paper discusses how brand communication can be incorporated in urban policy and planning to
accomplish socially sustainable city centres. Our focus is on relation between the mediatisation of cities and perceptions and experiences of safety among domestic and international visitors. Recent terror attacks, political unrest, and violent conflicts in many European countries are highly mediatised events (Couldry and Hepp, 2018) that influence images of urban destinations, which are particularly vulnerable to rumours and images circulating in media (Avraham, 2009; Avraham and Ketter, 2008).

The study focuses on 10 Swedish urban destinations. Sweden is an interesting case in point due to high levels of media coverage, which is characterised by polarised narratives concerning the country as a utopia respectively dystopia (see e.g. Rapacioli, 2018). The research questions we seek to answer concern 1) how perceptions of safety are influenced by the image of Sweden conveyed on online news and social media (Instagram and Twitter) platforms, and 2) the relation between visitors’ overall image of the destinations and their experiences of safety. The research questions are addressed by a mixed methods approach using survey methods and media analysis to capture the role of place image for visitors’ perceptions and experiences of safety.
The findings demonstrate that the mediatisation of the country of Sweden follows narratives of safety respectively unsafety, which influence the way Swedish cities are perceived. Furthermore, findings indicate a correlation between positive city image and high levels of perceived safety among visitors. The paper discusses these findings in relation to social sustainability and proposes communicative strategies to handle and counter fears in urban destinations.

Keywords: place image, urban destinations, branding security, social sustainability, mediatisation

Avraham, E. and Ketter, E. (2008), “Will we be safe there? Analysing strategies for altering unsafe place images”, Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, Vol. 4 No. 3, pp. 196-204.
Avraham, E. (2009), “Marketing and managing nation branding during prolonged crisis: The case of Israel”, Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, Vol. 5 No. 3, pp. 202-212.
Coaffee, J., & Rogers, P. (2008). “Reputational risk and resiliency: The branding of security in placemaking”, Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, Vol. 4 No. 3, pp. 205-217.
Coaffee, J., & Van Ham, P. (2008). “‘Security branding’: The role of security in marketing the city, region or state”, Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, Vol. 4 No. 3, pp. 191-195.
Couldry, N. and Hepp, A. (2018), “The continuing lure of the mediated centre in times of deep mediatization: Media Events and its enduring legacy”, Media, Culture & Society, Vol. 40 No. 1, pp. 114–117.
Rapacioli, P. (2018), Good Sweden, Bad Sweden: The use and abuse of Swedish values in a posttruth world. Stockholm: Volante.


  • Department of Strategic Communication
  • Department of Service Studies

Publishing year




Document type

Conference paper: abstract


  • Economic Geography


  • safety
  • image
  • mediatization
  • terror
  • urban tourism
  • Sweden

Conference name

28th Nordic Symposium on Tourism and Hospitality Research

Conference date

2019-10-23 - 2019-10-25

Conference place

Roskilde, Denmark




  • The geography of fear: the tourist destination in the shadow of conceptions of terror