Tourists’ perceptions of wind turbines: conceptualizations of rural space in sustainability transitions

Abstract

Concerns about the effects of climate change have led to an interest in identifying ways to foster sustainability transitions. In the Global North, a key approach is to eventually eliminate dependence on carbon emitting energy while moving towards renewable sources, including wind power. Since wind farms require vast amounts of land, inevitably this explains the presence of such installations in many rural regions. This situation has alarmed various stakeholders, including those involved in tourism, who see such developments as threats to idyllic notions of rurality and, by default, to the transformation of the countryside for visitor experiences. Through a series of case studies in rural Sweden, we explore the attitudes of tourists towards the presence of wind farms in the landscape. Overall, study respondents recognize the need for such installations since most accept the necessity to embark on sustainable energy transitions. In this way, they understand that many parts of rural Sweden are transforming into spaces where sustainable energy future must be negotiated. Ultimately, sustainability transitions lead to the rethinking of conventional perceptions around rural space and tourism. We suggest that geographical research on sustainability transitions in tourism should account for conceptions of rurality that involve assemblages of imagination, place framing, and power relations in sustainability transitions. This conceptualization is necessary for achieving just and sustainable energy futures.

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