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SMARTDEST updated project presentation on Open Access Government Magazine

We have published a new article presenting our project on the Open Access Government magazine.

SMARTDEST tackles arguably one of the greatest challenges for urban areas and metropolitan regions in Europe: that of becoming sites of attraction for ‘temporary’ populations.

Cities have been historically the hub of multiple mobilities. Yet, the acceleration and compression of such mobilities, a fundamental trait of our age, is posing an unprece­dented threat to urban cohesion. Cities need to ‘make space’ for an ever-increasing number of visitors, short-stayers, expats, and the work­ers, goods, vehicles, infrastructure that facilitate their arrival and dwelling; and often, this subtracts to the opportunities, affordabilities, quality of life of ‘stable’ resident populations. One such mobilities is tourism. The attraction of tourists and the development of a visitor economy has been one of the fundamental dimensions of contemporary urban development. Yet, urban communities all over Europe recently started to feel that ever-growing tourist activity is turning into a hindrance for their way of life and a serious threat for their wellbeing.

In this moment of COVID pandemic emergency, the temporary blockage of tourism mobilities worldwide has also uncovered another key aspect of the problematic relationship between cities and tourism: the extreme dependence of urban areas from the attraction of large masses of visiting consumers.

The full article is available at: Link

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Past and Future of Venice’s Tourism Industry

Authors: Madison Di Vico, Martin McCormack, Lucas Micheels, Lauren Revene, Joe Sorrenti

The picturesque city of Venice is a destination well-known for its architectural and cultural allure. This unique lifestyle attracted roughly 26 to 30 million tourists annually prior to COVID-19. For decades, the number of tourist beds available in Italy consistently increased. This roughly 16% annual climb did not come without consequences. From 2000 to 2020, the resident population dropped from 76,007 to 51,550. As of 2019, there were more tourist beds available than residents. As a result, UNESCO gave Venice a deadline of 2021 to mitigate the environmental effects of tourism on the city or risk officially adding it to the endangered list.

However, these trends rapidly changed when COVID19 spread across the world. In February of 2020 Venice was placed under lockdown to combat the influx of victims that plagued the nation. As a means to remedy the damage to tourism and local businesses, the SmartDest Project had chosen to sponsor a proposal from SerenDPT that focuses on solutions to issues of dependency and deterioration of Venetian. The goal was to analyze tourism and the effects that it had on the economy, environment and culture in Venice as well as to create policy to usher in sustainable tourism. In doing this a team of VPC students form the Worcester Polytechnic institute worked to supply SerenDPT with pre-COVID socioeconomic trends regarding tourism; to aid in the development of a tool to automatically collect real-time tourism data; and engage with stakeholders in tourism and plan an event for stakeholders to meet and discuss sustainable tourism.

The individual stakeholders all have problems specific to their discipline and with varying severity. In order to help these stakeholders, develop a more sustainable tourist experience in Venice, the first passage was to analyze pre-COVID socioeconomic data. The research proved the fragility of the tourism industry, making it evident that it needed to be monitored. This led the team to renovate and repurpose the Venice Dashboard. Designing the new dashboard moved it from a tourist focused program to a researcher and policy maker oriented one. The new design presents data found from websites and API’s (application programming interface) which will be displayed in real time. The data will be displayed in various forms such as interactive maps, bar and line graphs and charts. In doing this the functionality of the website increases, as researchers will have a one stop spot for all socio-economic tourist data.

As per the SmartDest grant, they organized multiple stakeholder events to be conducted in Venice with the goal of discussing tourist related issues to help bring officials and administrators to make policy. The events have been organized into 5 groups each of which will have members from associations discussing issues in their industry: hospitality, tourism, transportation, housing and commerce association. We hope that this work will be beneficial to the grants goal of upgrading pan-European policy, influencing the issues of mobilization and exclusion brought on by tourism.

 

Want to know more about our project? Check our website and learn about tourism in Venice on a real-time basis!

 

Curated by Giulia Speri

The end of whitewashing mass tourism?

Our latest research indicates recent shifts in the public and political discourse on mass tourism in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Jerusalem and Venice. Key events marked turning points signalling that economic benefits no longer offset tourism-related impacts.

by Lukas Alexander

Last month we completed a report examining the socio-economic and political context of Amsterdam, Barcelona, Jerusalem and Venice. Crucial events and occurrences were identified to understand how tourism and related issues developed in the cities over the past two decades. This analysis will constitute the foundation for our future empirical research in SmartDest.

A common element stood out across the cities, when comparing the four case studies. At the turn of the century, tourism has been framed and debated predominantly in a positive way stressing economic advantages and infrastructural developments. However, in each city there appears to be a critical juncture or turning point, where the public and political discourse on urban tourism shifted. Economic benefits were no longer able to offset the issues engendered by mass tourism. To name some of these key events:

-In Amsterdam, the IAmsterdam sign a former symbol of opening the city to tourism, was removed in 2018 indicating the end of tourism growth-oriented policies.

-In Barcelona, public opinion on tourism tipped over in 2015 following the election of a radical left candidate who openly tackled the problem of overtourism in the city.

-In Jerusalem and Venice, it is difficult to pin down a turning point in the discourse as both cities are characterised by an interwoven political and economic context with countless stakeholders involved. However, the findings show how inhabitants increasingly mobilise against tourism impacts.

Although representing only the tip of the iceberg, these events express a fundamental process of change in the discourse. Critical voices and initiatives existed before the turning point, but they appeared to be drowned out by pro-tourism stakeholders.

In the next step, we will further examine these issues and consider the effects of the current crisis onto tourism. In early Spring 2021, we will dig deeper in public debates on tourism with a detailed discourse analysis.

#iamsterdam #barcelona #jerusalem #venice # overtourism #sustainabletourism #travel #smartdest

Which concepts are linked to the smart city theme? Results based on a bibliometric analysis

by Silvia Blasi and Andrea Ganzaroli, SMARTDEST team – Milan University

This study applies bibliometric analysis for conducting a systematic literature review that enable to map the intellectual structure of the smart city.

We performed a search on the Scopus database, which is one of the most important instruments for collecting systematic information on global scientific literature, especially for mapping an emergent field of research, since it does not include only ISI journals. We preferred to use Scopus instead of WOS (Web of Science) or Google Scholar, because the former includes a more restricted number of journals, with a smaller coverage of the social sciences field, and the latter includes also non-peered review articles and redundant information, making difficult to ensure data quality. Data are analyzed through bibliometrix, an R-tool used to do comprehensive science mapping analysis, which was written by Aria and Cuccurullo (2017). The bibliometrix R-package (http://www.bibliometrix.org) provides a set of tools for quantitative research in bibliometrics and scientometrics.

We identified the articles focused on topics related to the smart cities by performing an advanced search on all the subject categories included in the Scopus database. Following Zheng, Yuan, Zhu, Zhang, & Shao, (2020), we performed a search using as keywords [(“smart* cit*”) OR (“smartcit*”) OR (smart sustainable cit*) OR (“smart communit*”) OR (“intelligent cit*”)] in the title and keywords in Scopus and we considered only English document. Following this procedure, we obtained 1966 documents.

In the picture we can see the co-occurrence networks. Co-occurrence networks are the collective interconnection of terms based on their paired presence within a specified unit of text. Networks are generated by connecting pairs of terms using a set of criteria defining co-occurrence. Looking at figure we can see that the terms are distributed among several clusters. The green, turquoise and orange clusters has formed around the Internet of Things (IoT) and its practical applications in the context of a smart city. This finding confirms our hypothesis that the IoT is to some extent, a “core” term or technological core for a smart city. The term “smart city” itself is more within political and media discourse. From a technological perspective, the IoT is a global infrastructure for the information society that provides the ability for more complex services by connecting (physical and virtual) things to each other based on the existing and developing ICTs. Big data (green cluster) are also a key technology for a smart city. Red cluster contains concepts such as “innovation”, “urbanization”, “infrastructure”, “policy making”. While the green, turquoise and orange clusters tend to spotlight the technological sides of a smart city, the red ones is focused on its organizational and policy issues. The meaning of smartness in the urban or metropolitan context not only indicates utilizing cutting-edge of information and communication technologies (ICTs), but also importantly management and policy concerns. The blue cluster has at its centre the word “smart city” that is linked with “sustainable development”.

For more information you can see the entire report at the following link:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/344431217_The_spatial_articulation_and_local_effects_of_tourism_and_associated_mobilities

Venice Tourism May Never Be the Same. It Could Be Better.

Can the pandemic be an opportunity to rethink tourism? This article published in “The New York Times” discusses the Venetian case. In particular, it reflects on how the crisis can be an opportunity to make future travel to and in cities more sustainable and to develop an economy that does not rotate entirely around tourism.

Go to the article: link

Transnational gentrification, tourism and the formation of ‘foreign only’ enclaves in Barcelona

Cocola-Gant, A & Lopez-Gay, A (2020). Transnational gentrification, tourism and the formation of ‘foreign only’ enclaves in Barcelona. Urban Studies. DOI: 10.1177/0042098020916111.

In a context of global-scale inequalities and increased middle-class transnational mobility, this paper illustrates how the arrival of Western European and North American migrants in a central neighbourhood in Barcelona drives a process of gentrification that coexists and overlaps with the development of tourism in the city. In understanding how tourism drives neighbourhood change, the paper moves beyond the impacts of visitors and Airbnb and considers how tourism is made and shaped by different forms of mobilities. This involves that urban tourist destinations experience the influx of transnational mobile populations such as lifestyle migrants, international students, and digital nomads who tend to settle in centrally located areas that are themselves impacted by tourism. Given the spatial division of labour within Europe in which Southern Europe has historically targeted consumers from core-accumulation areas as a means to stimulate the economy, transnational mobile populations from more advanced economies become privileged consumers of housing and therefore are able to gentrify the places in which they settle. Relying on socio-demographic data and in-depth interviews with both migrants and Spanish residents, the paper shows how the issue of unequal income structures was mentioned by all the participants and regarding housing markets, it reveals a clear difference in the perspective of migrants and Spanish residents. On the one hand, migrants found Barcelona a cheap place to live in and indeed, for many, Barcelona was a good place to invest in terms of real estate. On the other hand, Spanish participants felt increasingly excluded and as one resident stated, ‘if you want to buy a house to live in you actually have to compete against people that for us are super-rich’. The result is that in a context in which housing has turned into hotels and holiday rentals, the remaining stock available for long-term occupation tends to be rented by transnational mobile populations. Furthermore, as tourism and transnational gentrification spatially coexist, we found that the effects of this overlap go beyond the inability of residents to access housing, and it further creates an exclusion process marked by the differences in lifestyles between long-term residents and transnational mobile populations. The fact that transnational migrants feel more integrated in a tourist area leads to the formation of ‘foreign only’ enclaves that are not attractive to Spanish residents. Not only housing, but retail and spaces for leisure and socialisation cater to transnational mobile populations as well; with little interaction between them and Spanish individuals. As a result, the paper illustrates how residents experience the transnational appropriation of space and their encounters with transient foreigners who are better positioned in the unequal division of labour.

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0042098020916111

COVID: tourism immobilisation and its social consequences

By Antonio Paolo Russo, University Rovira i Virgili, SMARTDEST coordinator
May 2020

The SMARTDEST project tackles the relation between tourism mobilities and the production of social exclusion in cities, with an ambition to contribute to the definition of a policy agenda for cities that takes tourism mobilities seriously, and that brings out the potential of social innovation from citizen engagement for more resilient communities.

While drafting the project proposal and then setting it in motion, the obvious concern of this consortium was the wide array of disruptions that are produced in a context of relentless growth of tourism activity in cities, and its increasing penetration in the citizens’ everyday. We therefore intended to situate our research in the rising debate on ‘overtourism’ and its effects, broadening its conceptual approach and empirical developments to the constellation of mobilities, communities and spaces that are enmeshed to contemporary travel and tourism in complex ways.

Yet, alas, in the verge of a few weeks the context we are studying has changed radically, in ways that could not be remotely imagined before.

The current COVID-19 pandemic, the subsequent measures of confinement to which a substantial part of the world population is subject, the temporary restructuring of work and family routines, and the foreseeable economic slump which will follow from the shock by ‘immobilisation’ of the global economy, present us with a very different future scenario than that of overcrowded streets, low-paid hotel workers and vulnerable families evicted to make space for short-term tourism rentals.

Today, the great societal (and academic) debate in relation to mobilities is whether we will ever go ‘back to normal’, if tourism as we knew it has a future, how to contain the social costs of this slump, and whether it is possible to effect a rapid transition towards ‘slower’, less mobility-dependent forms of economic and social organisation which are more resilient to the uncertain future that comes ahead. For the EU, this may mean that the policy concern for overtourism that had taken foot in the past years is likely to be rapidly overcome by the imperative of economic recovery.

Project to throw in the dustbin? Bad luck? Give back the EU money?

By all means, no. There are at least two main reasons why we consider that actually our research approach is the most adequate to tackle these questions, and offer a sound scientific contribution to the stage of recovery or adaptation to this new scenario.

The first reason stands in our epistemological approach. Moving from the baseline of the ‘mobilities paradigm’, and examining the relationships between tourism-induced urban transformations and the production of social exclusion from this position, allows us not just to analyse the pressure of the visitor economy and its social effects, but to engage with a much more ambitious program of research that takes in and connects:

  • human mobility as an expression of democratic freedom, and leisure as a dimension of urban life that is inextricable from many others;
  • the multiple and multiscale interconnections between the different manifestations of human mobility (e.g. tourism, migrations, commuting, leisurely walk, etc) and between these and the physical spaces that these contribute to produce and contest;
  • the juxtaposition and interrelations of the highly mobile and the ‘less mobile’ or immobilised;
  • the agencies, socio-technological regimes, ideologies and discourses that frame such relationships and promote or mitigate social exclusion.

In other words, if tourism ­– its practices and embodiments, the multiple flows of things, technologies, money and imageries that goes with it, and the marginalisation of sizeable sectors of the society from the benefits of a thriving visitor economy – could have been the context of development of the project until January 2020, the same conceptual concerns, the same empirical developments, and the same ambitions to find informed solutions to social exclusion apply in a non- or less-tourist world.

The current scenario, with the streets of tourist cities temporarily empty, thousands at risk of losing their job, and clean air, is one in which paradoxically social breeches are reproduced and reversed – those who can, comply with the new social norms of ‘good citizen’ and stay safely at home, while others are stuck with dangerously mobile jobs, uncomfortable dwellings, and dependency from the proximity with others. Even when this confinement scenario is relaxed, a new ‘regime of post-COVID mobility’ might be fathomed in which mobilities are promoted, regulated, and reified in vastly uneven ways.

Said this, it is still important to look back and have a structured, nuanced understanding of how the acceleration of tourism and related mobilities in the pre-COVID world may have widened social breeches, and which agencies and power coalitions would have made that possible. We definitely are going to do that. However, SMARTDEST will also look into the present and the future, clarifying how the analytics of mobilities also matters in an ‘immobilised’ world.

And this is precisely our second reason to stay on the ground. Our project foresees engagement with eight case studies of European cities variously interested by tourism-related physical and socioeconomic transformations which represent key challenges for social cohesion. SMARTDEST will not only examine what has gone on in such places until now and in the coming two years, but – as its title states – also aims at contributing to solutions or forms of mitigation to social exclusion that our research will relate to the production of tourist places. In a specific work-package, it will thus convene social actors – among which affected communities, groups at risk of exclusion, grassroots movements – together with economic and political agents to collaboratively design viable strategies by which forms of coping with social exclusion, smart forms of citizen collaboration, as well as small-scale planning innovations can be rescaled to the wider domain of urban policy and may be seen as valuable and implementable within the wider destination ecosystem.

In this light, our project is going to tackle these questions precisely in the stage of recovery (2021-2022), presumably following the current state of emergency. Our case study cities will find themselves in front a ‘recovery dilemma’: going back to normal – and mobilise public and private resources to achieve the recuperation of tourism jobs and economic activity lost in 2020, from which some of them are badly dependent –, or use this breakthrough moment as an opportunity for transition towards a destination environment that is less excluding, more just, more democratic; one that promotes quality of life and shared value over sectorial economic interest, that takes the effects of mobilities (social as well as environmental) seriously, and is prepared to mitigate them.

The temptation to stick to the trodden path will be strong: this is already being hailed, not only by corporate interests but also by policymakers faced with a sudden slump of the economy and employment. However, a return to the pre-COVID conditions – that in many destinations have been at the root of social issues – may not be even an option: as mentioned before, there are high chances that global mobilities and their local manifestations will change, albeit temporarily: ranging from the rights, practicalities and cost of travelling long-haul, to the attractiveness of the most affected destinations, or the effects of physical distancing on the viability of products and attractions.

It has been demonstrated by experience that sustainability transitions focusing on mitigating the impact of tourism mobilities are difficult, as they face lock-ins and pressures of all kinds, though the present scenario may offer a unique opportunity for realignment of societal and corporate interests. Besides, it is also not totally clear what this presupposes in the policy and planning sphere, although certain elements may be envisaged as essential, such a strengthening of the regulation capacity, the dignification and upgrade of work conditions, the concern for gender and intersectional unbalances, the promotion of citizen participation and their innovation capacity, the revision of governance mechanisms. However, whose interests will dominate in the recovery debate, whose rights will be put upfront, and who will be controlling and tapping from the sociotechnical machinery of innovation in mobility, are still moot points – and key discriminants in the effort to achieve more inclusive post-COVID cities.

In this sense, being able to contribute and inform this debate, that will necessarily take place in all the cities we will be studying in our project, is a fundamental challenge for SMARTDEST. Our ambition is that CityLabs will be a key arena where the post-COVID urban future is analysed, designed and shared, and this consortium is already taking steps to make that happen.