Neolocalism is a movement that aims to help local businesses retain and deepen the identities of specific destinations.
Neolocalism examples include microbreweries, harvest festivals, and local art festivals that aim to promote and celebrate local customs, traditions, artisans, and histories.
It is a response to globalization and the homogenization of the urban landscape. It is an active, conscious attempt to create a new sense of place (Schnell & Reese, 2014; Eberts, 2014; Holtkamp et al., 2016).
Neolocalism can be defined as:
“A deliberate seeking out of regional lore and local attachment by residents (new and old) as a delayed reaction to the destruction […] of traditional bonds to community and family” (Shortridge, 1996, p. 10).
Other researchers define it as “a conscious effort by businesses to foster a sense of place based on attributes of their community” (Cavaliere, 2021 & Holtkamp et al., 2016).
It is an attempt to reassert the distinctively local and the unique in response to a homogenized and universal landscape (Flack, 1997).
- involves the intentional use of localism for the development of tourism,
- engages with the locals to communicate a sense of place, and
- embraces the interconnectivity of all localities in shaping human understanding, interactions, and diplomacy (Ingram et al., 2020).
When applied to tourism, neolocalism refers to the tendency of tourists to seek more local and authentic experiences that enable a deeper engagement with a destination and its locals.
Neolocalism and Tourism Marketing
Neolocalism is often beneficial for local tourism because it promotes the distinctive and unique characteristics of a region.
It helps create a sense of place, uniqueness, and community.
Place identity, place branding, localized experiences, and sustainable tourism are becoming more and more important. The diversity and uniqueness of places are under the pressure of inadequate planning, corporate control, market forces, hegemony, and the unequal distribution of power (Ingram et al., 2020).
Such tourism, in principle, rejects the kind of tourism that is pursued by most tourists. It involves participation in and resistance to the dominant culture. It has the potential to combat top-down governance and corporate interests.
This in turn raises the importance of neolocalism: an antidote to placelessness and the homogenization of places brought by globalization (Kladou, 2022).
Neolocal tourism affects aspects of festivals, arts, transportation, governance, migration, identity, food, agritourism, and heritage (Cavaliere, 2021).
Examples of neolocal approaches include:
- A strategy for addressing tourism issues in rural Iceland in terms of place-making, cultural revitalization, and conservation of local wildlife;
- Transportation as a conduit for biocultural conservation in Bangkok;
- The use of geography and place in the branding American microbreweries.
- Craft Brewing (Microbreweries): Craft breweries highlight place, story, history, rootedness, and authenticity in their marketing (Honkaniemi et al., 2021).
- Local Harvest Festivals: The local harvest festival of Öland, Sweden revives old farming traditions and supports local cuisine, innovative culinary products, and rural culture. Such festivals can create and strengthen interactional communities and boost community belonging through participation (Kladou, 2022).
- Revival of Traditional Practices: The revival of social institutions and associational practices in Saen Saeb Khlong in Bangkok, Thailand, to counteract the effects of modernization and emphasize the importance of sustainable future developments (Ingram et al., 2020).
- Revival of Local Names: The use of local names and images in marketing, especially in colonized cultures where Indigenous names are re-used, can help promote authentic tourism experiences.
- Localized Product Marketing: The use of local names and images in the labeling of local products. For example, “Missouri’s own…” or “Wines of the region…”
- Homestay Marketing: The “Don’t Go There, Live There” campaign by Airbnb is an example of advertising which tried to cater to the tendency of rejecting mass tourism in favor of deeper engagement with a different culture (Mody & Koslowsky, 2019).
- BnB Guidebooks: These guidebooks offer collections of the best places in every city is marketed as a way to help tourists discover a city according to the standards of the locals. This type of marketing caters to the neolocalist tendency to seek a deeper connection with an unfamiliar place (Mody & Koslowsky, 2019).
- Local Travel Blogs: Articles with titles such as “40 Paris Hidden Gems You’ll Love to Discover,” aim to revive the unique and distinctive characteristics of a place that have been lost due to homogenization.
Neolocalism Case Studies
1. The Saw Mill River Brewery in New York
The brewers of Saw Mill River Brewery in New York wanted to come up with beer names. Instead of looking at common associations, they delved into their local history to come up with names.
A public relations firm the brewery hired suggested “limber-related names” which was not what the company was looking for.
Instead, they came up with names that reflected local stories: stories unknown to outsiders but familiar to locals.
The sense of belonging was thereby conveyed through the marketing of beer. Rooted names and images produce a sense of belonging for the tourist and a sense of place for the insider (Watson, 2016, p. 24).
2. The Lismore Friendship Festival in Australia
The Lismore Friendship Festival in Australia was first devised when the need to hold an event on the day after the Lismore Lantern Parade to attract visitors to stay overnight in the city was acknowledged.
It seeks to strengthen Lismore’s relationship with Conegliano & Vittorio Veneto cities in Italy.
The event emphasizes a sense of place and the cultural life of the community.
It is, therefore, an example of a neolocal festival that encourages participation, reciprocity, and generosity through a process of intergenerational engagement in a celebration of multiculturalism (Kladou, 2022).
3. The Farm-Based Design Company Myssyfarmi
The Finnish, farm-based design company Myssyfarmi (“Wooly Cap Farm”) employs rural imagery and meanings in its marketing.
Using ironic and stereotypically negative marketing, the products are called “not cool but warm” (Honkaniemi et al., 2021).
Marketing that emphasizes rural history and imagery can be seen as influenced by neolocalism.
4. Öland’s Harvest Festival (Ölands Skördefest)
Öland’s Harvest Festival (Ölands Skördefest) is a popular autumn festival in Sweden.
It has been celebrated since 1997 and revives the ancient farmer’s tradition of celebrating the end of the growing season.
The festival aims to increase interest in Öland for tourists and emphasizes a sense of place and local identity. It exhibits Sweden’s cuisine and introduces innovative food products.
5. Canadian Microbreweries
Beginning in the 1980s, microbreweries oriented towards local markets have become more and more common in Canada.
These microbreweries, in contrast to national breweries, use strategies of neolocalism: they emphasize geography, a sense of place, and local traditions in their branding and marketing (Eberts, 2014).
Local breweries embrace the “cool” and “hipster” aesthetic and ensure their tap rooms feel unique and anti-corporate in order to appeal to potential clientele. If a brewery grows too big or begins selling to too broad an audience, it will often lose its appeal to locals.
Related concept: Glocalization
Neolocalism is “a conscious effort by businesses to foster a sense of place based on attributes of their community” (Cavaliere, 2021 & Holtkamp et al., 2016).
It is an active and conscious response to the homogenization of places and loss of uniqueness.
As a movement, it seeks to help local businesses retain and deepen local identities.
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Eberts, D. (2014). Neolocalism and the branding and marketing of place by Canadian microbreweries. In The geography of beer: Regions, environment, and societies, ed. M. Patterson and N. Hoalst-Pullen, 189–99. New York: Springer Verlag.
Flack, W. (1997). American Microbreweries and Neolocalism: “Ale-ing” for a Sense of Place. Journal of Cultural Geography, 16(2), 37–53. https://doi.org/10.1080/08873639709478336
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