ATLAS Special Interest Group
Cultural Tourism Research Group
||NHTB Breda University of Applied Sciences
||Breda, The Netherlands
NHTV University of Applied Sciences, The Netherlands
The Cultural Tourism Research Group (CTRG) has over the past 20 years undertaken nearly 40,000 visitor surveys and produced a number of publications, most of which can be found in the ATLAS publication list. In previous years a lot of work has also been carried out on the analysis of the tourism impact of the European Cultural Capitals, past and present. Specific surveys were undertaken of the cultural capitals in Rotterdam and Porto (2001), Salamanca (2002) and Sibiu (2007). A report on the Rotterdam and Porto events has already been published by ATLAS, and a draft report on Salamanca was written by a team of researchers from the University of Valladolid. A report on the long-term impacts of the Sibiu event was published in 2010 and is available from the ATLAS bookshop.
The group held Expert Meetings in Barcelona in 2003 and in Chaves, Portugal, in 2006. Both of these meetings also resulted in publications.
Details of these and other CTRG activities from Greg Richards: (email@example.com)
The ATLAS Cultural Tourism Group continues to collect data on the motivations, behaviour and experiences of cultural tourists, as it has been doing since 1991. Regular surveys of cultural tourists have been carried out in destinations around the world, and a summary of some of the recent research was published last year by ATLAS (Richards, 2015).
More recent research was carried out by Aljoša Budović, Nikola Todorović, Jelena Apelić and Gorana Romić from the Faculty of Geography at the University of Belgrade. They studied young tourists in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia.
This research underlines the importance of culture for city tourism, as cultural attractions and events were motivations for the majority of visitors (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Travel purpose for visitors in Belgrade
Around 40% of visitors also indicated that their usual type of holiday was a cultural holiday, and a further 15% also indicated that they had engaged in creative tourism (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Usual type of holiday for visitors to Belgrade
Over a third of visitors had an occupation related to culture, underlining the strong link between work and leisure (Figure 3).
Figure 3: Is your occupation related to culture?
The results of the Serbian surveys and other ATLAS research underline the continuing importance of cultural tourism for destinations worldwide. This is also being recognised by the UNWTO, which has recently established a Tourism and Culture Department, and which has conducted a global survey of the cultural tourism market. The report, which is due to be published this autumn, reaffirms the large market share of cultural tourism, which accounts for just under 40% of all international trips, measured in terms of cultural activities. As established by earlier ATLAS research, the proportion of tourists traveling with a specific cultural motivation is much lower, around 11%.
The joint project initiated by the ATLAS Cultural Tourism Group and the Cities and National Capital Tourism Research Group in 2013 has resulted in the publication of a new book edited by Paolo Russo and Greg Richards. Reinventing the Local in Tourism: Producing, Consuming and Negotiating Place is published by Channel View, and brings together many of the papers presented in the Barcelona meeting as well as many other invited contributions. This book investigates the way localities are shaped and negotiated through tourism, and explores the emerging success of local peer-produced hospitality and tourism services which are transforming the tourist experience. Tourists are now being brought into much closer contact with locals and have new opportunities to experience the community at their destination. The book examines how these place experiences and travel-sharing arrangements have now spread globally through the mediation of ‘place experts’ who are redefining the tourism distribution system.
The ATLAS Cultural Tourism Research Project has been running since 1991, and is therefore the oldest SIG still operating in the network. The group has produced a wide range of publications, including Cultural Tourism in Europe (1996), Cultural Attractions and European Tourism (2001), Cultural Tourism: Global and local perspectives (2007) and Research Methods in Cultural Tourism (2010).
The most recent Expert Meeting of the group was held in Barcelona in June 2013. This joint meeting with the City and National Capital Tourism Special Interest Group concentrated on the theme of Alternative and Creative Tourism. Papers from this meeting and addition invited contributions from scholars around the world have now been assembled in a book edited by Paolo Russo and Greg Richards. This is due to be published by Channel View in the next few months.
The ATLAS Cultural Tourism Research Project was launched in 1991 with support from the European Commission. Since then over 200 researchers from 50 different countries have been involved in collecting data on the consumption of culture by tourists.
Work by Mieke Pelzer and her colleagues at Zuid University in the Netherlands has led to the compilation of a new ATLAS Cultural Tourism Report, covering the period 2008-2011. Data from eight countries are analysed in the report, which should be published later this year by ATLAS. In the meantime, research work continues, with data currently being collected by colleagues in a number of different countries.
One of the main locations in which data has been consistently collected in recent years has been the Romanian city of Sibiu, European Cultural Capital in 2007. Ilie Rotariu, together with his colleagues at the Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu, have over the years collected a vast amount of data that charts the development of cultural tourism in the city as well as monitoring the effects of the European Cultural capital event (see Richards and Rotariu, 2007, 2011).
An initial analysis of data collected in Sibiu in 2014, for example, indicate that about 20% of visitors interviewed were foreign tourists. This underlines the significant effect of the ECOC on the international image and drawing power of Sibiu as a cultural tourism destination. Almost 90% of visitors also agreed that Sibiu was a ‘cultural’ city, and over 70% indicated that the city had gained more coverage in the international media as a result of the ECOC. These initial results show that the effects of an event such as the ECOC can be long lasting, even in the face of adverse economic circumstances.
A joint meeting was held between the Cultural Tourism Group and the Capital Cities Group in Barcelona in 2013, which resulted in an e-book recently published by ATLAS. Edited by Greg Richards and Paolo Russo, the book Alternative and Creative Tourism includes 10 chapters on new directions in tourism development from a range of different countries. The production of ‘new tourism spaces’ that is evident in the case of Sibiu is also the subject of a workshop stream of the Budapest conference being organised by Paolo Russo and Greg Richards. This is a development of a discussion that emerged at the Expert Meeting organised by the group in Barcelona in 2013, where the effect of new accommodation systems such as Airbnb and Couchsurfing became evident. The workshop in Budapest will be one of the activities to lay the groundwork for a publication on New Localities in Tourism, due to be published by Channel View next year.
The Cultural Tourism Research Group is the longest standing Special Interest Group in the ATLAS network, and has now been running for over 20 years. The vast amount of research generated by the ATLAS research group and its members has recently been encapsulated in the publication of the Routledge Handbook of Cultural Tourism, edited by Melanie Smith and Greg Richards. This volume brings together 50 contributions from leading thinkers in the cultural tourism field, and reflects very clearly the major developments and issues that have emerged over the past 20 years.
The ATLAS Cultural Tourism and City and National Capital Tourism Research Groups held a joint expert meeting on the theme Alternative and Creative Tourism in Barcelona on June 13-14 2013. The meeting was attended by 19 delegates from Spain, Portugal, the UK, Italy, Thailand, Hungary and the Netherlands. The meeting generate lively discussion on a range of issues, including the role of the ‘local’ in alternative and creative tourism, ‘in-between’ experiences, the rise of pop-up formats in the tourism and creative industries, city branding strategies, the development of creative quarters and creative tourism development strategies.
At the end of the meeting there was discussion on the next steps for the research groups, and also the possible publications activity for the meeting. It was agreed that the developing fields and alternative and creative tourism required more research, particularly the way in which creativity has become a strategy for producing distinction in an increasingly crowded tourist market.
There was also discussion of a number of basic principles for creative tourism. This seems to be particularly important in the face of programmes that use creativity as a label rather than a truly creative experience.
The group aims to produce an e-book of the proceedings of the meeting, which will be edited by a small group who will meet at the ATLAS annual conference in November 2013 in Malta. Authors are therefore requested to submit their full papers for publication by October 15th 2013.
There is a further conference on creative tourism planned in Porto Alegre in Brazil from October 22-23, 2013, organised by Creative Tourism Brazil. The meeting will be attended by Creative Tourism Barcelona and other members of the Creative Tourism Network.
Marjan Melkert and Mieke Pelzer of Zuid University in the Netherlands are currently working on an updated review of the ATLAS Cultural Tourism Survey research. This report will analyse the data collected in the last few years by members of the ATLAS project, bringing the research more up to date. The previous report dates from 2004, so an update is long overdue. It is hoped to be able to distribute this to ATLAS members in the next few months.
Much of the work of the Cultural Tourism Group over the past year has been directed to producing the Routledge Handbook of Cultural Tourism, edited by Melanie Smith and Greg Richards. A number of the members of the group contributed pieces to this mammoth reference work, which contains 50 chapters on all aspects of cultural tourism research. The Handbook is due to be published later this year (http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415523516/)
The work reproduced in the Handbook clearly shows the development of cultural tourism research over the past 20 years, and underlines the contribution made by the ATLAS Cultural Tourism Research Project to advancing the research agenda. When the project was launched in 1990, cultural tourism was an emerging, but under-researched field. This changed rapidly during the 1990s as governments and researchers began to pay more attention to the rapid growth of cultural tourism demand and the development of new cultural resources directed at tourists. The emergence of cultural tourism as a form of ‘mass tourism’ during the ‘naughties’ was linked to increasing diversification as destinations increasingly tried to distinguish their cultural tourism products from the growing range of competitors. This in turn led to the ‘serial reproduction’ of culture for tourism, as the search for distinction often led to the adoption of similar strategies, particularly linked to iconic buildings and mega-events.
Recent years have therefore seen a critical turn in cultural tourism research which is widely reflected in the contributions to the Handbook. In many cases, however, this has led to a relative neglect of the empirical evidence necessary to underpin such critiques. There is a need to renew and revitalise the cultural tourism research programme to take account of the new realities of cultural tourism, as well as incorporating new research methods in cultural tourism. This is one of the challenges for the future work of the group.
In the meantime, attention is being paid to the treasure house of data in the ATLAS Cultural Tourism Project. Greg Richards and Andries van der Ark have been analysing the 45,000 surveys in the database to identify trends in cultural consumption. The initial findings of this work indicate that the ‘normal’ relationships between cultural capital and cultural consumption are inverted in the case of cultural tourism, with those individuals with high levels of cultural capital exhibiting more conservative consumption patterns than other tourists.
The ATLAS surveys are also being used as the basis for events research by members of the ATLAS Events Special Interest Group. One area of joint research that has been continuing for some time has been the analysis of cities hosting the European Capital of Culture (see separate report). One particular area in which event research and cultural tourism research have converged has been in the Romanian city of Sibiu. This city has been the focus of an ATLAS research project since 2001. Project leader Ilie Rotariu from the Lucian Blaga University has been surveying residents and tourists in the city with the ATLAS Cultural Tourism Questionnaire for over a decade. To date, almost 6000 surveys have been completed, providing a fascinating glimpse into the development of the cultural tourism market over time.
The research clearly shows that a major boost was provided to cultural tourism by the ECOC in 2007, when almost twice as many foreign tourists visited the city. But also following the ECOC there was a qualitative shift in tourism demand, with more international visitors, higher per capita spending and more visits to cultural attractions. The quality of visitor experience also increased as the product was upgraded for the ECOC, with renovation of cultural attractions and new hotels. The overall result was a shift towards ‘quality’ tourism, with a resulting growth in per capita spend. This trend is clearly visible in the quality ratings given by visitors, which have climbed by nearly 16% over the past decade. Interestingly the peak quality scores were given not in the ECOC year itself (2007), but immediately thereafter.
A number of reports have been published on the Sibiu study, and these are available from the ATLAS bookshop or from www.connectcp.org/gregrichards.
The ATLAS Cultural Tourism Project has now been running for 20 years, and it is still generating key insights into the development of the cultural tourism market worldwide. The main activities of the project have focussed on the collection of data on the motivations and behaviour of cultural tourists in destinations and cultural sites around the world. To date, almost 50,000 visitor surveys have been contributed to the ATLAS database.
In 2010 and 2011 ATLAS members continued to monitor a range of sites, mainly in Europe. Data were collected from the city of Sibiu (Romania) as part of a long-term monitoring project looking at culture-led regeneration in the city. A report was recently released covering the 10 year project, which was also launched by Professor Ilie Rotariu, the Rector of Lucian Blaga University and the Major of Sibiu. The report is now available to download (see below). Other areas in which datra has been collected recently include The Netherlands, Poland, Latvia, Serbia Hungary. The basic questionnaires for the ATLAS research can be downloaded from www.tram-research.com/atlas, where survey instructions and templates can also be found. The site also includes links to a wide range of ATLAS research publications.
Over the next few months Karolina Buczkowska of the University School of Physical Education in Poznan, Poland will be helping to prepare a review of the first 20 years of ATLAS research. This will include not just an analysis of major trends from the ATLAS data, but also a review of more qualitative developments in the field. This year the ATLAS data also helped to contribute to the Council of Europe review of the European Cultural Routes, the results of which they will publish shortly.
The ATLAS Cultural Tourism Research Group (CTRG) has now been running for 18 years, and was the first ATLAS SIG to be established. In that time the group has carried out a wide range of research and dissemination activities, mainly centered around the ATLAS Cultural Tourism Research Project.
Launched in 1992, the cultural tourism research has to date generated over 40,000 surveys of visitors to cultural sites around the world. The project utilizes a standard questionnaire form, which participants can download from the project website (www.tram-research.com/atlas) in a variety of languages. This research has generated a number of key publications on cultural tourism, most of which are available from the ATLAS bookshop.
Over the years, however, there has been increasing attention for the relative lack of qualitative research in this area, and this led the group to propose the publication of a research monograph reviewing the state of the art in cultural tourism research methods and presenting a number of new directions, particularly in qualitative and ethnographic research approaches. This volume: Cultural Tourism Research Methods, edited by Greg Richard sand Wil Munsters, has recently been published by CABI (http://bookshop.cabi.org/). The volume contains 17 chapters, covering methods such as surveys, mystery tourist visits, visitor tracking, grand tour narratives, collage, researcher-created video, photo-based interviews, ethnographic and actor-network approaches. It provides a practical guide on how to conduct research as well as a discussion and evaluation of the methods. The contributors include many authors who have collaborated with the ATLAS research programme over the years, and the case studies range from Europe to Asia, Australia and Latin America. The first chapter of the book can be downloaded from the CABI website.
The Cyprus conference in 2010 will provide the group with an important opportunity to review activities for the future. One proposal which will be considered is a project on the relationship between tourism and creativity, which is being developed in partnership with the European Cultural Tourism Network. A number of CTRG members have already expressed an interest in this project, and an ECTN representative has been invited to Cyprus to continue the discussions about further developments. The outcome of these discussions are likely to have an important impact on the future direction of the ATLAS survey programme, but in the meantime many ATLAS members are continuing to use the existing survey instrument to gather data on cultural tourism around the world. Participants in 2009 and 2010 have included partners from Cyprus, Latvia and India
The ATLAS Cultural Tourism Research Project is now in its 16th year, and to date has generated over 40,000 visitor surveys at cultural sites around the world. In 2007 the group continued to develop its research activities and publications. You can find more details on the project website: www.tram-research.com/atlas.
A number of changes have been made to the research programme for 2007. The latest version of the questionnaire has been modularised to make it easier for participants to adapt the basic questionnaire to their own research needs. This also makes it easier to use the questionnaire as a part of research assignments for students.
The 2007 questionnaire is currently available in English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Latvian, Portuguese, Serbian, Spanish and Turkish. Other languages will be added as these become available. As in previous years, different versions will also be produced for different world regions, including Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, North America and Latin America.
In previous years each round of surveys has been restricted to a single calendar year. However, we have now decided to extend the timescale of the research so that the current programme will run with the same survey format for at least three years. This will allow partners more flexibility in the timing of their surveys, and also give them more time to build the surveys in their own research and student assignments.
The group is also developing a qualitative research strand to run alongside the quantitative visitor surveys. There will be a special session on this at the group meeting during the Annual Conference in Viana.
The group had a very successful Expert Meeting at Chaves in Portugal in November 2006. The theme of the meeting was Cultural Tourism and Identity, which attracted papers from all corners of the world. The meeting was hosted by the Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, and was excellently organised by Xerado Pereiro and Veronika Nelly. The proceedings of the meeting will be published by UTAD and launched at the ATLAS Conference in Viana in September.
Other group publications have also appeared during the past year. The papers presented at the Barcelona group meeting In 2003 have now been published by Haworth Press in the volume 'Culture Tourism: Global and Local Perspectives'. A link to this volume can be found on the publications page of the ATLAS website. The report of the 2004 ATLAS Cultural Tourism Surveys has also now been published, and is available from ATLAS (www.atlas-euro.org).
Portuguese-speaking members of the group may also be interested in the publication from the Universidade do Algarve 'O Evento FCNC 2005 e o Turismo', which analyses the Portuguese Capital of Culture event held in Faro in 2005. This study was based on the ATLAS methodology which was also used to study previous Capitals of Culture, and therefore provides interesting comparative data.
ATLAS has also established a collaboration with European Cities Marketing, a network of 140 cities across 30 European countries. The aim of the collaboration is to partner cities and research institutions in the development of cultural tourism and other visitor-related research projects. A presentation on the ATLAS research was made at their Annual meeting in Barcelona in May.
The ATLAS Cultural Tourism is celebrating its 15th birthday in 2006 with its 6th round of cultural visitor surveys and an expert meeting in Chaves, Portugal. During the past 15 years, the group has conducted over 35,000 visitor surveys at cultural attractions around the world, and built up the most comprehensive global database on cultural tourism.
Following the visitor surveys carried out in 1992, 1997, 2000, 2001 and 2004, 30 group members from 20 countries in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australasia and America are undertaking new studies in 2006. Participation in the research is facilitated by a standard questionnaire which can be downloaded in different language versions from the website (www.tram-research.com/atlas). The 2006 questionnaire has a special focus on the visitor experience, testing out some of the dimensions put forward by Pine and Gilmore in their book 'The Experience Economy'.
The 2006 team has many new participants, including researchers from Mongolia, Latvia, Kenya and South Africa, as well as many Cultural Tourism Research addicts who are now participating in their fourth or even fifth round of surveys. Particular thanks should go to our local coordinators who help to organise networks of universities to collect data on a national basis. Carlos Fernandes has done a particularly good job in Portugal, where thousands of surveys collected over the past 10 years have helped to create a detailed picture of cultural tourism consumption across the country.
Our research partners are also very resourceful when it comes to adapting the basic surveys to their specific needs, and also in finding applications for the research which can generate funding. In the Netherlands, Wil Munsters has used the surveys as the basis for a 'Cultural Destination Experience Audit', which is proving very popular with Dutch cities. Esther Binkhorst is hoping to develop a similar tool using the surveys in her home town of Sitges (Catalunya).
The ATLAS data is rapidly establishing itself as a leading source of cultural tourism information for academics and practitioners alike. The data were used to provide information for the recent UNWTO/European Tourism Commission report on 'City Tourism and Culture', as well as the European Commission evaluation of the European Cultural Capitals programme.
Members of the group have also been active in spreading the results of the research through publications and conference presentations. On the project website you can find publications from Georg Stadlmann on Innsbruck, Austria, Xerardo Pereiro on Trás-os-Montes in Northern Portugal, Elisabeth Kastenholz,
Maria João Carneiro, and Celeste Eusébio on segments of cultural tourists visiting Coimbra, Portugal, Patricia de Camargo on a crafts fair in Curitiba, Brazil, Zafer Oter and Osman Ozdogan on Ephesus in Turkey and Timo Toivonen's paper comparing omnivorousness in cultural tourism in different countries.
The group has produced a large number of publications over the years, including Cultural Tourism in Europe (1996), Cultural Attractions and European Tourism (2001), a study of the Cultural Capitals in Rotterdam and Porto (2002) and Salamanca (2003).
The next publication to appear will be the volume entitled Cultural Tourism: Global and Local Perspectives, to be published by Haworth Press later this year. This collection of the papers presented at the Expert Meeting held in Barcelona in 2003 includes contributions on the nature of cultural tourism, cultural tourist behaviour, cultural tourism in cities and in emerging areas such as South Africa.
The next meeting of the group on 'Cultural Tourism: Negotiating Identities' will be held at the Universidade de Trás-Os-Montes e Alto Douro in Chaves, Portugal on October 5-7. This meeting has already attracted a record number of abstracts, and promises to offer an exciting mixture of academic debate and cultural experiences.
One of the issues to be discussed in Chaves will be the future form of the research programme. The idea of running a continuous programme of surveys to build up an even more comprehensive and flexible database has been put forward by Timo Toivonen. There are also plans being made to collaborate with European Cities Tourism, to help city tourist offices monitor their cultural tourism demand, and to provide more logistical support for conducting the surveys.
The Cultural Tourism Research Group is the oldest Special Interest Group in the ATLAS network, having been operating since its initial meeting in Germany in 1992. The group now has 62 members from 23 countries.
In 2004/05 the group has been busy with a fourth round of data for its cultural tourism research project. Having started with the (then) 12 member states of the EU in 1992, the latest research involved 35 members from 25 countries. This time there was considerably more participation from outside Europe, with Africa and Latin America being notable additions to the research.
The fieldwork yielded a total of over 13,000 completed visitor questionnaires at different types of cultural sites. The project was ably supported by Celia Queiros, a graduate of the Polytechnic Institute of Viana do Castelo in Portugal. She worked extremely hard during 2004 to develop a centralized management and data collection systems for the project, using the website www.geocities.com/atlasproject2004. This site contains all the different language versions of the questionnaires used in the surveys as well as full implementation instructions. This allowed the different participants to work more or less independently and vastly increased the amount of data that could be processed.
The results of the 2004 surveys indicate that the general structure of the cultural tourism market has changed relatively little over the past decade. The cultural visitors tend to be highly educated, relatively wealthy individuals with a high level of cultural capital. Because of rising education levels, cultural holidays seem to be more important for this particular group. One of the key changes in the market, particularly in Europe, has been the increasingly important role of budget airlines in driving the growth of city breaks. This has also raised the use of Internet to book both travel and accommodation.
Due to its wide coverage and longitudinal comparisons, the ATLAS surveys have now become one of the most important sources of cultural tourism research information. Each project participant received a complete set of the global data, allowing them to produce comparative studies. The latest CTRG publication, Cultural Tourism: Global and Local Perspectives was also completed. This will be published by Haworth Press in 2007.
The ATLAS Cultural Tourism Project website has been updated and is now available on www.tram-research.com/atlas
If you have any new items for the website, including publications from the project, please forward them to me and we will put them on the site. Future publications and research activities will be on the agenda at the forthcoming project meeting during the ATLAS conference in Barcelona.
Cultural tourism has been identified as one of the most rapidly growing areas of global tourism demand. The importance of this market has created a need for information on the characteristics, behaviour and motivations of cultural tourists. Over the past decade, the ATLAS Cultural Tourism Research Programme has monitored this market through visitor surveys and studies of cultural tourism policies and suppliers. Successive surveys have illustrated how rapidly this market is developing, underlining the need for regular research.
In 2004, ATLAS is launching a new Cultural Tourism Research Project, with over 50 participating institutions from Europe, Africa, Asia, Australasia and Latin America. The depth and geographic extent of the surveys will be significantly greater than in past.
The aim of the 2004 research will be to analyse the motivations, socio-demographic profiles, consumption patterns and destination images of cultural tourists.
Read more at a joint ATLAS and INTERARTS website: http://www.geocities.com/atlasproject2004
The first expert meeting organised by the ATLAS Cultural Tourism Research Group was attended by 20 participants from 7 different countries, who had intensive discussions about the current state of cultural tourism over three days of sessions. The presentations were of a very high standard and generated lively and thoughtful exchanges. The concentrated nature of the expert meeting format allowed ideas to be developed and elaborated throughout the course of the meeting.
It is very difficult to summarise the wide-ranging contributions to the meeting, so this report concentrates instead on the major issues raised and the actions that may be taken by the group in future.
The discussions during the meeting displayed some level of continuity with previous work by the group and by other researchers. For example the issue of authenticity in cultural tourism was discussed in a number of papers, as were conflicts over the 'ownership' of culture and the shifting boundaries of culture and economy.
In addition to these continuities, some differences also emerged. For the first time ever in a meeting about cultural tourism, there was no mention at all of the definition of cultural tourism. This was a very positive point for the meeting itself, since endless discussions about the definition of culture were avoided. But perhaps it also points to a degree of maturity in this emerging research field, as people perhaps no longer feel they need to define each facet of their study object. There was some development of the debate about the nature of the study of cultural tourism, however, with the debate seeming to move away from the cultural 'content' of tourism (high culture, popular culture, etc.) towards the 'context' in which culture is consumed (as part of a process of learning about a city, as a process of distinction, repeat visitors versus first time visitors, etc). In terms of cultural tourism policy, a similar shift can perhaps also be identified in the emergence of 'cultural programming' of cities in place of cultural planning.
Another emerging area of work involves the concept of 'place' - which indicates that the study of cultural tourism is following the spatial turn in the social sciences.
Closely linked to place is the idea of distinctiveness, which seems to have been posed as an alternative to authenticity in some cases. Participation is also an emerging concept which seems closely linked to place - since the participation is usually the residents of a particular location.
When one looks at what might be distinct about places, it usually comes down to some aspect of the local, and the nature of 'everyday life'. This is an interesting development, in the sense that tourism has usually been linked to the 'extraordinary', which has led people to ignore the role of routine and ordinariness in tourism behaviour. Perhaps when 'everyday life' becomes 'culture', it suddenly becomes more interesting not only to consume, but also to study.
But the problem of distinctiveness is perhaps more complex than it might seem on the surface. What for example is the relationship between the terms distinction, difference, novelty and change? Are people looking for distinctiveness rather than difference? Are they looking for new distinctions, or simply more distinct experiences? One of the areas that might be worth examining is the extent to which cultural tourism is related to the collection of experiences as building blocks of identity (usually treated as a characteristic of the visited, rather than the visitor).
This also raises an interesting question of choice regarding the cultural experiences people are consuming. To what extent are people selecting specific experiences that fit a particular set of personal choices (or a lifestyle) or are they consuming a range of experiences offered by a particular place? In this regard, the concept of placelessness is also important, since the whole idea of placelessness is intimately linked to choice. The papers presented at the meeting seemed to reflect two different approaches to place and placelessness:
- A sense of loss for 'real' places (which links to authenticity)
- An increasing desire for non-places (everyday life, Mcdonaldisation)
Your degree of choice radically effects your reaction to these situations of placelessness, because if you have the choice to move, then non-places can be treated playfully. If you don't have that luxury, then these non-places become the raw material from which you need to create a sense of place. There is an interesting sidelight on this problem in Barcelona with the policy of creating 'hard plazas'. These are classic non-places, in the sense that they are stripped of even the most basic markers of place. In reality, however, the people who are forced to use them (because of their lack of mobility) are busy creating place markers of their own, through graffiti, through lounging around, through events. It is also interesting to speculate how this process in turn makes these placeless spaces into desirable places for the tourist.
It therefore seems that notions such as place and placelessness, distinction and difference, culture and identity are all closely linked in the cultural tourism system. Unravelling these different aspects of the cultural tourism experience may well require new approaches to the study of cultural tourists.
Scale of enquiry and methodology
One of the big changes in the study of cultural tourism compared with 10 years ago is the extent to which problems are posed in terms of the local and the global. This is understandable in terms of the pervasive influence of studies of globalisation. The problem is that we are usually operating at one level or the other - there is rarely a link between the two.
In the past, this was a potential advantage of the ATLAS cultural tourism programme - by tackling localised case studies within a wider European or global structure, the peculiarities of the local and the convergence of the global become more visible.
One of the problems with the current ATLAS framework is perhaps the reliance on survey methodology. This has fallen out of fashion with many analysts because of the limitations of quantitative data and the apparent richness of qualitative data. The problem is that without a rigorous basis for comparison, we lose one of the most basic strengths of quantitative research.
This is why we need to look for new methodologies that can link the global and the local as well combining the advantages of the quantitative and qualitative traditions. Q methodology (now being used by the backpacker research group) may be a way of mapping the socially-constructed field of 'cultural tourism' as well.
A number of areas for future work were also identified by the meeting participants.
In terms of research, it was generally agreed that the following areas would be of interest to group members:
- The tourist perspective on cultural tourism, particularly in terms of allowing the tourists themselves to make their own interpretation of the meaning of their consumption.
- There should be more attention paid to the planning systems within which cultural tourism functions (both from a cultural and a tourism perspective). The content/context dichotomy of the cultural tourism experience could be examined in terms of the embeddedness and institutional thickness of systems in different locations.
- More evaluation of the outcomes of policy interventions is also needed. There is scope for the study of the qualitative and quantitative impacts of events and programmes, such as the EU structural funds, in the field of cultural tourism.
- In the face of globalisation, the local is remarkably persistent. Although cultural tourism is often accused of being a harbinger of modernisation and the destruction of culture, homogenisation still seems a long way off in most destinations. More attention needs to be paid to the structures and practices underpinning the local, and how these articulate with the tourist search for distinctiveness, difference and novelty.
- The spatial consequences of cultural tourism could be explored through the study of cultural quarters and 'ethnoscapes'.
- The issue of the management of cultural tourism has been relatively under-researched in the past. More attention could be paid to the management of cultural tourism sites and the emerging networks of cultural tourism development and promotion, which join the public, private and voluntary sectors.
- There is a need to pay more attention to the special circumstances prevailing in different areas of the world. In particular there was a call to undertake specific research on cultural tourism in Africa, perhaps in conjunction with the ATLAS Africa group. Such studies could look at issues of globalisation and localisation, for example through the influence of former colonial links on current tourism patterns.
- More attention needs to be paid to the different categories of actors in the cultural tourism system - the tourists, residents, policy-makers, suppliers, etc. At present we take the distinctions between these groups for granted, whereas these are often indistinct groups.
- Links can also be made with other ATLAS SIGs, including the gastronomy group and the festivals group. There was also a call for more research on the role of souvenirs in cultural tourism, which links to work undertaken in the EUROTEX project.
These areas need to be drawn into a research plan for the group, which identifies the key priorities for research and puts forward the means to achieve these.
Research strategies and tools
It was clear from the wide range of initiatives being undertaken by the meeting participants and others in this field that there is a need for some degree of co-ordination and networking in the field. In this regard, Greg Richards presented the plans of ATLAS, Interarts and ArtBase for a 'Culture and Tourism Exchange' (CATEX), which would seek to support networking between and within the cultural and tourism sectors on an international basis. It is hoped to develop this proposal further in the coming months.
In addition it was suggested that the development of standardised survey tools or qualitative research instruments would be of value to the group. These might be able to be used by students to conduct comparative research in different countries. A series of comparative case studies might also be developed by students for their dissertations. A system of data exchange for such projects might be one function of CATEX.
Jordi Juan suggested that a link might be made with the UNESCO Chairs in cultural tourism. They have a network, although they have no specific funding for research.
There was considerable discussion of the publication options for the group, both in terms of the papers presented at the meeting and in the longer term. In the short term it was agreed to publish the papers via ATLAS.
In the longer term, members of the group are already collaborating with the volumes being edited by Melanie Smith and David Leslie. It was also suggested that the group should work on producing an Encyclopaedia of Cultural Tourism (this idea has already had some interest from CABI).
There was also felt to be a need for a text in the area of urban regeneration and cultural tourism.
There may also be some scope for more specialised publications, for example in the area of the European capitals of culture.
Julie Wilson suggested that the group should start compiling a bibliography, which would be useful for all members as well as providing source material for publications. There was also a suggestion that it would be useful to compile a list of current research projects among members to increase the flow of information.
Some delegates also pointed out the need for course development in the area of cultural tourism. There seems to be a particular need in Africa and Latin America at the moment. There was a suggestion that this might be linked to the Winter University concept.
It might also be useful to bring academics and practitioners together to discuss issues of mutual importance.
It was suggested that current projects being undertaken by group members should be documented, so that CTRG members could learn more about each others' current research.
It was agreed that future 'expert meetings' would be of value to the group. There are already plans for two conferences involving the group (August 2004 in Barcelona and October 2004 in Finland), so it might be a good idea to arrange at least one meeting in conjunction with these events. For the longer term, Xerado Pereiro indicated that his university in Portugal would be willing to host future meetings.
There will also be a short meeting of CTRG members present at the Naples conference in April 2004. This meeting will focus on the development of the research plan for the group.