Use of Green and Water Areas in the Process of City Image Creation on the Example of Szczecin
Purpose: The purpose of the study is to identify the importance of green and water areas among other factors creating the image of a city, such as Szczecin. The image of a city can be an element creating its competitive advantage over similar units, which in the long term results in certain economic and social benefits. Contemporary trends emphasizing sustainable development promote units indicating that such solutions are important to them. Emphasizing the use of natural elements in the process of shaping the image of a city can contribute to its perception as modern and moving in the direction of sustainable development. Design/Methodology/Approach: The study used the CAWI method, and the survey was a pilot study. The questionnaire (containing 19 questions) was posted online, and the sampling was random. The questionnaire was properly completed by 125 people. The subject of the study was the broadly defined image of Szczecin present in the respondents' consciousness, their awareness of and opinion on the factors determining the image of the city. Findings: the survey showed that in the opinion of respondents, the image of Szczecin is formed by green and water areas (81.6%), but architectural elements (Chrobry Embankment, Philharmonic Hall) are most associated with the image of the city, while green and water areas received only 15.2%. Additional responses mentioned the football club Pogoń Szczecin, but also elements of green areas such as crocuses, plane trees and Jasne Błonia. Only 22.4% of respondents believe that the city's greatest assets are well used, while almost twice as many hold the opposite view. However, green areas and the city's riverside location are cited among the city's well-used assets, while the city's history and local traditions are among the poorly used ones. Green areas and water areas represent great potential for image creation in Szczecin, and respondents consider it necessary to build a brand based on local culture (urban legends, regional dishes) (39.5%) and to run campaigns emphasizing the city's natural assets (greenery, water areas) (38.7%), which underlines the importance of this aspect for the city's image. Practical Implications: The results of the study can provide important material for local authorities responsible for creating the city's image. Placing more emphasis on the dissemination and promotion of the city's image based on natural elements can further contribute to deepening the vision of a modern and nature-friendly city. Originality/Value: The use of green and water areas in cities is a relatively new area of research, especially in the context of image formation. Most often, green and water areas are seen as factors that significantly affect the quality of life of residents or the basis for creating tourist attractions. Their use in the context of building a competitive advantage through the image of an environmentally friendly and sustainable city is rarely found in the literature.