SKELLEFTEÅ’S TITANIC EXHIBITION SUCCESS PROVED HOTTER THAN THE SUMMER

2018’s hot summer was tough for museums, amusement parks, and exhibitions across the country, leading to a decline in visitor numbers. But there were exceptions to the rule. In Skellefteå, the international exhibition ‘Titanic – The Exhibition’ exceeded its visitor targets by a wide margin during its four months in the city. A total of 53,000 people visited the exhibition and learned about the fate of the famous ship and its passengers.

“I’m absolutely delighted with how things turned out,” says Maria Broman, Chief Executive of Visit Skellefteå, who was responsible for inviting the touring international exhibition to the city. “It was so good to see residents and people here in the north making the most of the opportunity to experience this fantastic exhibition. Our target was 50,000 visitors, but then the heatwave arrived which worried us a bit.”

Nordic Exhibitions & Events were behind the exhibition, and they too were pleased with the outcome.

“This is the first time we’ve done anything in Skellefteå, and it just feels amazing to have attracted 53,000 people in a municipality with a population of 75,000,” says Stefan Papangelis, the company’s Chief Executive. “And, of course the summer’s sunny weather was a major challenge for exhibitions in Sweden.”

LOCATION CRUCIAL

Figures complied by the Swedish Radio program Kulturnytt [Cultural News] from around twenty of the country’s museums, confirm that summer 2018 was a difficult time for Swedish exhibitions. For the vast majority of them, visitor figures in July last year were down substantially in comparison with the same period the previous year. Two explanations for this came up repeatedly – the weather, and the football World Cup.

Papangelis, like Broman, thinks that it is Skellefteå’s strategic location – forming a hub between Umeå, Piteå and Luleå – that was the key to success and made Skellefteå the statistical exception. Alongside that, visitors found it a powerful experience and spread the word.

“We estimate that half of the visitors came from outside the city,” said Papangelis, adding: “Maybe people got tired of lying on the beach, because there was a real snowball effect in the second half of July. I also wonder whether a lot of people missed the exhibition because they didn’t book in time, which is a shame.”

But the visitors weren’t just from northern Sweden. A considerable number of them travelled from the Ostrobothnia region in Finland and Norway – in fact, a Norwegian version of the exhibition audio guide had to be made to meet the demand.

BUSY TIME FOR HOTELS

The success of the exhibition did not go unnoticed by the Skellefteå tourism industry.

“The Titanic effect was very noticeable,” says Patrik Nordkvist, General Manager of the Scandic Hotel in Skellefteå. “Firstly, we developed packages that linked to it, and secondly, it was noticeable in the questions our guests asked and what they said on social media. It’s important for us that there are things happening in town; a lively Skellefteå helps to boost tourism.”

Gudrun Berggren agrees. As manager of the Rum För Resande hotel, she had little space to spare in the summer.

“We had lots of families coming just for one night to see the exhibition,” she says. “There was a strong influx from Umeå, for example. Normally people just do day trips, but this time they clearly wanted to come and have a family weekend here.”

The question is whether Skellefteå can repeat the Titanic success.

“Skellefteå is in an excellent location and there will doubtless be something else in the future,” says Papangelis. “We’re always looking out for suitable exhibitions.”

At Visit Skellefteå, Broman is thinking on the same lines.

“Titanic’s success has certainly not harmed our chances of attracting other similar projects to Skellefteå.”

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