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“By the sea. Exotic. Finn-Swedish” – A survey exploring Vaasa’s image shows that changing people’s impressions can be slow

Published: 14.3.2023

The city of Vaasa explores its image with a survey every three years. The second round of these results shows that changing people’s impressions takes time. Compared to the previous study, Vaasa is as well-known as in the previous study, having 12 % of the respondents estimating that they know the city well. Among the Swedish-speaking population, Vaasa is known better (34 %). When asked to spontaneously name elements they connect with Vaasa, the respondents repeated many elements from the previous study: the sea, bilingualism, the Swedish language, Wasalandia, Tropiclandia, and sun and idyllic quality.

The city of Vaasa repeated the survey study on its image conducted in 2019. The objective of the study was to find out how familiar the rest of Finland is with Vaasa, what kind of image Vaasa has among them now, and how attractive a place to live it seems to be for them. Vaasa’s attraction as a holiday destination was also examined.

– We know that changing people’s impressions is not a sprint but a marathon, or perhaps even an ultrarun. A tell-tale sign of this is, for example, that the marketing flagship of the bygone days, Wasalandia, is still quite prevalent in people’s minds. On the other hand, when asked to spontaneously name things that the respondents connect with Vaasa, they listed also elements that apply to today’s Vaasa, such as the sea, the sun, beauty and idyllic qualities, explains the Head of Vaasa’s Communications and Marketing, Leena Forsén.

Compared to the previous study, Vaasa is quite equally well known than before, having 12 % (the number being 11 % in 2019) of the respondents estimating that they know the city well.

-As the Swedish-speaking population knows Vaasa better than the Finnish-speaking one, our national marketing strategy has prioritised the latter group. It is delightful to notice, that especially among the people under 25 years of age, Vaasa is better known than before. The results of the study show that Vaasa is considered a good place to study in, Forsén says.

Bilingualism is stressed, happiness knows equally well to energy

The results of the study show that Vaasa is strongly considered a bilingual or a Swedish city. Most of the respondents, that is, 71 %, see Vaasa first and foremost as a bilingual city. 14 % of the respondents consider Vaasa primarily a Swedish city. In this group, 40 % consider the language situation a positive or a neutral thing, whereas 60 % responded that it negatively affects their willingness to relocate in the area.

– We want to be known as the international and multilingual city that we, in fact, are. Vaasa’s citizens represent 120 nationalities, and we speak almost a hundred different languages. A positive result of the study was that the respondents who either had recently visited the city or had Swedish as their first language had a stronger impression of Vaasa as a multilingual city, says Forsén.

– Noteworthy is also that in connection the spontaneous elements that Vaasa evoked in the respondents, both bilingualism and the Swedish language were considered predominantly a neutral element. Only 2 % had something negative to say.

The sea was the most familiar of Vaasa’s marketing themes. Energy and happiness were also fairly well connected with Vaasa.

– The theme of happiness had increased in familiarity, being neck to neck with energy, and this is a fantastic result. Happiness became a marketing spearhead as recently as 2020, when The happiest residents in Finland was introduced as one of the main objectives in the city’s strategy.

Willingness to relocate in Vaasa has increased

One of every ten employed respondents was willing to consider moving to Vaasa for work, increasing the willingness by 2 %. The young people, below 25 years of age, considered Vaasa more attractive than the other cohorts. This cohort also had the biggest increase in this category, compared to the study conducted in 2019 (8 % → 17 %).

– Across the categories, the results of the study showed positive signals in young population, the primary target group of the millennials as well as to some extent among families with children, summarises the Research and Insight Manager, the primary investigator of the study, Irina Suomi from Miltton.

– The image and recruiting campaigns conducted over the course of the recent years have targeted the millennials, so it is delightful to notice some positive results in this study, Forsén adds.

Vaasa seems to be an equally attractive holiday destination at large – some growth among the families

Vaasa is the most attractive holiday destination among the 35 – 44-year-olds, families with children, and people living in the eastern Finland. Within the last two years, there is some growth in the number of people coming to Vaasa for vacation, too, and this increase can be seen in families with children.

– We have focused on families with children in our tourism marketing, so it is great to see that those efforts bear fruit, rejoices Max Jansson, the manager of Visit Vaasa.

– From the perspective of image building and attraction boosting, the experiences that these tourists have had are of key importance. If the family’s vacation in Vaasa is a success, it might evoke their interest in the city on a larger scale, too, adds Jansson.

The Kvarken Archipelago World Heritage Area arises interest across the respondent groups. Cultural experiences attract mostly under 35-year-olds, women, and active travellers. Events and festivals attract especially active travellers and people under 35 years.

Improving the attraction requires cooperation

Work to build Vaasa’s image continues and the results of this study are adapted to this work. The regional communications of city of Vaasa, Visit Vaasa, and VASEK are an important area of cooperation, as their goals are the same: Increasing the region’s conspicuousness and its ability to attract and retain residents.

–  It is also important to bear in mind that each corporation, organisation, community, and finally, the locals, participate in creating the image of this region. We all have the power to influence the image of Vaasa formed by people outside the region, Forsén reminds at the end.

Background and information about the research

In autumn 2022, and before that, autumn 2019, Miltton conducted surveys in which a thousand adult people were asked to share their opinions concerning Vaasa. Statistically, the sample corresponds to the Finnish non-residents of Vaasa concerning their age, registered sex, location, and language by the error margin +/- 3,1 %. 6 % of the respondents had Swedish as their primary language. The study was ordered by the city of Vaasa.