Ancestral tourism and amateur genealogy are popular phenomena driving members of diasporas to reconnect with their ancestral roots and discover family histories. Tourism researchers have not yet paid attention to Scandinavian countries as ancestral destinations. After waves of emigrations, there are now millions of individuals of Scandinavian origins in countries such as the USA. I present an exploration of the demand-side of American ancestral tourism to Sweden. The preliminary findings stem from nine interviews with Americans of Swedish descent who have been ancestral tourists in Sweden.
These findings show that ancestral tourists live highly emotional experiences dependent on factors occurring prior and during travels and involving many sites and stakeholders beyond the control of the destination. The study reveals the importance for ancestral tourists of establishing a network of allies through genealogy research for their experience in Sweden to be positive. The accumulation of family memories and of information gained through genealogy research makes ancestral travels to Sweden a highly personal endeavor, rather than an elusive reconnection to a distant heritage. Yet reconnecting with the ancestral homeland and establishing a sense of belonging to its society also matters to these tourists, though cultural stereotypes influence this experience.
I will conclude with a discussion of my plans for future research in ancestral tourism.
Solène Prince is a post-doctoral researcher in tourism at the Department of Organisation and Entrepreneurship at Linnaeus University, Kalmar. She obtained her PhD at Mid-Sweden University, Östersund in 2017 where she is still affiliated with the European Tourism Research Institute (ETOUR). Over the course of obtaining her PhD, she has worked in a number of research areas within tourism geography, including art and community development, and volunteer tourism and eco-living. Her post-doctoral project explores the experience of American tourists visiting Sweden to reconnect with their ancestral roots.
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