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IAMSTERDAM

Transforming discourses on tourism

By Roos Gerritsma, Martine Roeleveld and Guido Stompff from Inholland University

Preliminary results of an extensive discourse analysis (2000 – 2020) on tourism and the impact on the inhabitants of Amsterdam reveal remarkably consistent, well known and opposing discourses. Smaller, transforming discourses emerged over time that attempt to solve the dualism and despite they are less in the news seem to have a large impact on policies.

The Amsterdam team of SMARTDEST gathered data from local and national newspapers plus other relevant sources that portray the evolving public discourse on tourism in Amsterdam. We expected that the discourse would be shaped by policy regime changes, while at the same time shaping local and national policies. Analysis is still ongoing, but preliminary results depict a remarkably consistent dualism between ‘growth’ and ‘liveability’ discourses. Besides two polarised  discourses, smaller discourses could be observed that seem to have planted the seeds for policy changes.

Starting with collecting thousands of media articles in the period 2000 -2020, the Amsterdam team of SMARTDEST team reduced the data set by strategically choosing  pivotal years in the development of Amsterdam tourism. Five years (2000, 2009, 2014, 2018, 2020) were chosen on the basis of a timeline in which policy changes and  major events were plotted. For example, 2014 was a jubilant year for Amsterdam tourism, including the reopening of one of its main attractions (the Rijksmuseum) resulting in extensive city marketing. While the public debate around excesses of tourists in the city can be traced back to 2000 (and arguably even before!), in 2014 that the debate hardened considerably. In 2015 a policy change attempted to rebalance the interests of residents, businesses and tourists and to enlarge the ‘liveability’ of the centre of Amsterdam, by means of a taskforce called ‘City in Balance’.

Over the course of these years the main discourses have proven to be remarkably stable, albeit the vocabulary and tone of voice and the spokespersons have changed. Although the numbers of overnight stays tourist in these two decades nearly tripled, the same dualism surfaces every year: between a ‘growth’ perspective versus a ‘liveability’ perspective. Whereas the first gives voice to economic considerations, the second voices concerns on the negative impact of tourism, although what is troubling residents changes over time. Whereas in the past pickpockets and small drugs related crime dominated this discourse, in recent years it has turned to nuisances in relation to AirBnB, stag parties, the city as a ‘themepark’ revolving into the qyuestion ‘who owns the city’.

In between these main discourses, several others emerge that attempt to transform the dualism, offering an overarching perspective that integrates opposing viewpoints. For example, at the beginning of the century the ‘tolerance’ discourse (e.g.: “Amsterdam is the gay capital”) offered such an overarching perspective, striving for both economic growth and tolerance, that is: more tourists and an inclusive city. Lately, the ‘reinvent tourism’ movement also offers such a transformative perspective, striving for an inclusive and sustainable kind of tourism, bringing tourists and residents together. Of particular interest is that these overarching, yet smaller perspectives seem to be influential on policy makers, offering a way out of opposing viewpoints. For example, the  highly successful ‘I Amsterdam’ city identity campaign that started in 2004 explicitly celebrated the diversity of it’s residents, arguably inspired by the ‘tolerance’ discourse.

digitalization for tourism

The challenge of digitalisation for a more sustainable, competitive and inclusive tourism in Europe under the smart destination approach

By Josep Ivars Baidal from Universidad Alicante

The challenge of digitalisation has been accelerated by the Covid-19 crisis, a process that tends to be integrated into the broader concept of smart tourism as a way to progress towards a more sustainable, competitive and inclusive tourism in Europe.

Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have been a major factor of disruption in the tourism sector even before the Covid-19 crisis. Digitalisation is perceived as a key challenge to improve competitiveness of tourism firms. Nevertheless, the tourism industry is a highly diverse and complex sector that integrates different subsectors (Accommodation, Travel Agencies and Tour Operators, Food & Beverage, Transport Services, Entertainment and Recreation Attractions, etc) which comprise mostly small and medium size enterprises (SMEs). This complexity together with the lack of accurate data hinders the identification of the exact degree of technology adoption in tourism, but some facts are quite relevant:

  • The higher technology adoption by large companies and the risk of widening the gap between large and small companies.
  • The existence of geographical differences, taking the level of digitalisation of each European country as an approximate indicator of the degree of digitalisation of its tourism industry. According to the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) (https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/digital-economy-and-society-index-desi), the most advanced countries are Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands and Denmark, while Bulgaria, Romania, Greece and Poland have the lowest scores on the index.
  • The need to revise the perception of tourism as a sector with low digital intensity, as recent studies highlight that the Accommodation and Travel Agency & Tour Operator subsectors are above other industrial activities in digital intensity. On the other hand, subsectors like Food & Beverage are at the bottom of the digital intensity indexes.
  • Technology adoption in tourism is mostly related to marketing and distribution and is less oriented towards productivity improvement, while more advanced technologies (big data, customer relationship marketing, etc.) are underrepresented compared to other economic activities.

However, digitalisation goes beyond the mere adoption of ICT and new sources of data. Dredge et al. (2018) (https://clustercollaboration.eu/news/digitalisation-tourism-depth-analysis-challenges-and-opportunities) describe the journey towards digitalisation of SMEs from an initial stage of weak digitalisation, characterized by an individual mindset, to a strong stage representing smart tourism, as a connected mindset that promotes a high level of innovation and ICT systems interoperability. Thus, the emergent smart paradigm becomes a core element for tourism destination management.

Digitalisation is among the four categories of the European Capital of Smart Tourism initiative (https://smarttourismcapital.eu/), together with sustainability, accessibility and cultural heritage and creativity. Best practices in digitalisation from a city perspective include facilitating information for specific target groups, collecting information for smarter management, and improving physical and psychological accessibility through innovation. This sectoral objectives should be complemented, within a framework of urban governance, by the potential of using technology to analyze and prevent the processes of social exclusion caused by tourism-related mobilities, a goal that inspires the SMARTDEST research project.

The European Union reaction to the Covid-19 crisis and the strategies for recovery, summarized in the European Commission Communication, “Tourism and transport in 2020 and beyond” (COM(2020) 550 final) (https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:52020DC0550&from=EN), have reinforced the need to work towards the smart management of tourism flows and the digitalisation of local companies to become more resilient and competitive. The revival of tourism must involve new management approaches in order to truly evolve towards more sustainable and inclusive models of development.

Empowering everyone in the tourism market

A step closer to empower everyone in the tourism market

By Tadej Rogelja, Dejan Križaj, Miha Bratec & Peter Kopić, from University of Primorska, Faculty for Tourism Studies Turistica

An innovative tourism experience marketplace and startup LocalsFromZero grew out of the global TourismFromZero initiative formed at the beginning of the 2020 pandemic. Initiative’s goal was to understand the struggles of the tourism industry and gather fresh ideas on how to start tourism ”from zero”.

One of the first and most prominent ideas endorsed by the founders of TourismFromZero was LocalsFromZero. The students of the Faculty for Tourism Studies Turistica have developed a brand-new business model of collaborative economy intended for offering local experiences which pursues 7 key objectives:

  • more inclusive, balanced, sustainable and regenerative tourism mobility
  • empowerment and visibility of overlooked local tourism stakeholders of all kind
  • dispersion of tourism
  • preserving local tradition, knowledge, habits and heritage
  • use of (urgently needed) advanced reservation technologies
  • digital empowerment of locals (through education)
  • promoting digital literacy

In recent years (especially during the pandemic), technology and digitalization has advanced at an unimaginable pace that is hard to keep up with. People (especially the young) are getting more and more used to it and it accompanies them at every turn (shopping, booking, searching, sharing, networking, etc.). Surely, its presence will only increase in the future. On the other hand, online absence, the improper use of the internet and the lack of online promotion on the supply side lead to invisibility, unattractiveness, loss of opportunities and revenue streams (Cai et al., 2019; Nugroho et al., 2017). According to our findings (we have conducted more than 20 workshops with local stakeholders all across Slovenia in the last year) this is especially true for smaller local providers mostly working in crafts sector and other creative industries (artisans, associations, clubs, etc.), as they lack financial resources, ICT skills/knowledge, time and support but still want to become part of the tourism market, get in touch with tourists, become bookable and generate additional income from their unique activities. Such actors are often overlooked, even though they contribute greatly to the preservation of local (past and present) traditions, cultures and environments, both in rural and urban areas. Normally, DMOs should take care of them, but they too often lack the resources, staff and time to take care all in the best possible way.

How does the LocalsFromZero model solve the above struggles?

Through its marketplace they provide all mentioned stakeholders with a supportive #LocalsFromZero environment, knowledge sharing and professional advice. They do this with the help of local LFZ Scouts (mostly tourism students stranded in their home municipalities during the Covid-19 lockdowns) who ensure that stories from their home regions are found, told and supported. The LFZ Scouts take care of reservations, administration and everything else that local providers lack. So far, our network consists of 22 officially registered and dedicated scouts who search for these local providers in their (mostly rural) regions. They have already uploaded 45 local & authentic experiences from Slovenia to our booking platform. Many more are in the pipeline, including from neighbouring Croatia and other countries. To achieve all this, the LocalsFromZero team is intensively working with the public, private and civil sectors of society on many levels.

Initiatives like LocalsFromZero can help build a stronger, more resilient tourism with their bottom-up concept and bring tourism back to its roots. The way we travel will greatly affect the regeneration of tourism.

People qu

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

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

Sustainable aviation pathways after Covid19

By Alejandro González, URV phd researcher

Aeromobilities during Covid-19 have been highly disrupted due to the unprecedented global lockdown and the subsequent border restrictions, affecting the entire value chain of travel and tourism, with dramatic impacts on local economies that are most dependent on the visitor economy.  Yet, the desirability that air travel returns to the pre-pandemic trends has been critically questioned by one of the major authors in the field of sustainability transitions and mobilities, Stefan Gössling of the Western Norway Research Institute. In his newly published paper, Risks, resilience, and pathways to sustainable aviation: A COVID-19 perspective (Journal of Air Transport Management, 89), he questions if the volume growth model championed by the aviation industry and its travel and tourism allies ought to be replaced with a slimmed air transport system, less vulnerable to global shocks and more accountable for its environmental impacts. This alternative would disrupt the “back to business as usual” ambitions of the tourism industry, as air transport moves the 58% of international tourism arrivals but would represent a decisive breakthrough towards a low-carbon transition of tourism mobilities.

Billions of US$ have been allocated to recovery plans for airlines and airports (T&E, Greenpeace & Carbon Market Watch, 2020), with hopes to expediently return to business-as-usual (ICAO, 2020). At the end of May 2020, the total volume of State aid may have exceeded US$100 billion, i.e. almost half of what global airlines reported as their net result over nine years, i.e. for the entire period 2010–2018 (US$196.9 billion; IEA, 2019).

Figure 1: EUROCONTROL Draft Traffic Scenarios – 14 September 2020 (base year 2019/2020). Retrieved from https://www.eurocontrol.int/covid19

However, Gössling highlights that this crisis is a reminder of long-standing, interrelated and unresolved problems characterizing the global air transport system. Air travel is a major contributor to climate change (an estimate of 5% global warming, IEA 2019), and a vector of pathogen distribution, within very short timeframes (Browne, St-Onge Ahmad, Beck & Nguyen-Van-Tam, 2016). Besides, the sector’s small and often negative profit margins (Doganis, 2005; Gössling and Higham, 2020; IATA, 2019a,b) are highly dependent of State aids (Doganis, 2005; Gössling et al., 2017). Recent research also hints at adversely distributive features of air travel: only a small proportion of the world population participates in international aviation. So, cheap flight could hardly be considered a means of social empowerment, while carbon inequality has big implications to climate justice.

Therefore, how should the return of aviation be? IATA (2020) expects that the recovery after COVID-19 will take some time, but a return to business-as-usual is nevertheless expected. Conversely, an alternative scenario towards a desirable and resilient aviation system, the baseline is that air transport capacity is diminished, risks and vulnerabilities are taken into account, and the cost is integrated into pricing plans and weighed against short-term benefits.

‘Things have to change’: tourism businesses look to a greener future

While tourism destinations are looking forward to exit the lockdown and receive again national and foreign tourists, it is important to look at this post-COVID situation as a possibility for cities to redesign their tourism model in a more sustainable manner, environmentally and socially.

https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2020/may/28/things-had-to-change-tourism-businesses-look-to-a-greener-future

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.