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ATLAS Special Interest Group
Urban Tourism Research



Contact details

The contact persons for this research group are:



Melanie Smith
Budapest Metropolitan University

Ko Koens
Inholland University of Applied Sciences





The contact persons for this research group are:
Before the COVID 19 pandemic struck cities were seeing strong increases in visitor numbers. This can be attributed to cities being easily accessible via low-cost-carriers, but also due to the growth of business tourism and the increasing attention of people for cities as places of leisure. Cities, on their part,  have also developed, and now offer a wider variety of hospitality and leisure experiences than ever for visitors and residents (e.g. due to Airbnb and the rise of facilities catering for the ‘experience economy’).

The growth did come at a cost though. The resurgence of the critical discussion regarding negative tourism impacts and externalities in the form of overtourism, can be at least partially attributed to the experiences in often-visited (European) city destinations. Most initial academic contributions on overtourism built on earlier work on tourism impacts as they described the issues that came with tourism and including the ways to deal with this, often using single-case studies. However, more recently, more conceptual contributions have been suggested, related to concepts such as degrowth, tourism transformations, mobilities, city hospitality or placemaking.

As tourism seeks to rebuild after the pandemic, cities can be useful places to experiment and investigate. With its wide range of stakeholders, diverse offerings and activities, cities are well suited to act as incubators for innovations in tourism, thus advancing knowledge on both tourism development in cities and beyond, but also on life in cities and urban planning.

Within the Urban Tourism Special Interest Group we seek to contribute to the academic debate on urban tourism, and build relationships with an eye on joint projects that may can help with knowledge development. More information with regards to our activities in 2021 will follow soon!



Activities 2021

The main activities of this SIG in 2020/2021 have been centred around its revival and transformation from the earlier Cities and National Capitals SIG run by Professor Robert Maitland. The new Co-ordinators Ko Koens and Melanie Smith have broadened the scope of the SIG to include all research that pertains to Urban Tourism and not only national capitals. This includes (post)overtourism strategies; changing mobility practices as a result of COVID-19; sustainable planning and social wellbeing; deconcentration of tourism and visitor flow management; the urban periphery and off-the-beaten track experiences.

The first meeting of the new SIG group took place on 3rd and 4th June 2021 with 22 presentations by 31 participants. The presentations were grouped into the following main themes:
• Tourism and quality of life in cities
• Over- and under-tourism and tourist flows
• Sustainable, green and creative cities
• Resilience and city management
• Spatial and social theory
• Impacts of COVID
• Post-COVID tourism

The presentations stimulated some interesting, lively and critical debates which helped to move the research agenda forward.

The second main activity was to organise a one-day specialist stream at the ATLAS Annual Conference in Prague with around 8 presentations, which included the themes of experience creation, new technology, sustainability, gastronomy and post-COVID strategies.

Future research in this group will focus on new paradigms for urban tourism post-COVID, managing mobilities, de-growth and resilience, urban ‘co-production’, sustainability and livability, deconcentration and visitor flow management as well as experience creation.

There are plans to edit a special issue of a journal after the annual conference as well as organising another SIG meeting in 2022, which is likely to take place in Sweden. It has also been discussed that this SIG will try to pilot a new ATLAS initiative which involves creating educational packages for students and practitioners via an international publisher.



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