Are the curtains finally opening on Edinburgh’s festivals and the city?

By Pratima Sambajee, Kendra Briken, Donagh Horgan and Tom Baum, University of Strathclyde

Edinburgh is a festival city constantly scrutinised and criticised by mutiple stakeholders in matters of city-planning, social exclusion, community ownership and overtourism. Residents, city officials, workers of all industries associated with festivals as well as the general tourism and hospitality industries, have experienced the city differently. The stage was set for a showdown concerning the value of the tourism economy, between city officials and disgruntled residents. A mounting debate around what is perceived by some as overtourism had reached fever pitch, following growing public opposition to entrepreneurial urban governance prioritising place commodification over citizen ownership. In recent years, a neoliberal backdrop had been revealed, exposing dark labour practices, workplace precarity and displacement in which the citizens of Edinburgh play only supporting roles. Once home to a thriving working class community, the festival city has been hollowed out as a skeleton for spectacle – a meeting point for numerous transient populations and impermanent urban dwellers. Relationships and bonds between stakeholders have weakened, meaning that suspicion often limits the spread of social capital and prosperity. Persistent and polarising poverty in Edinburgh is evidence of spatial and economic planning. The pandemic brought with it a unique opportunity to rebalance the economy of the festival city – an interval from the thundering hooves, and a recognition of the importance of shared space. However this is proving difficult due to the lack of granular data on tourism in Edinburgh.

The need for small cities like Edinburgh to remain competitive on the world stage, come in immediate conflict with more sustainable agendas focused on resilient place-based partnerships. Community ownership is important for placemaking-  and in planning for recovery and resilience – and can be difficult to cultivate in contexts where neoliberal urban governance necessitates a more reticent state. In fact the spatial development in Edinburgh would point to policy-making which cleared the city’s core of undesirable elements – and which continues to present a dramatis personae that masks forms of social exclusion and exploitation. The fallout from Brexit is slowly revealed on labour shortages in logistics and hospitality – the true extent masked by social distancing measures. Even before the formalities of Britain’s exit from the European Union were agreed, tourism bodies and sectoral associations warned of the particular risk to Scotland, whose hospitality industry relies heavily on migration from new accession states.  For those small businesses that have been able to weather the pandemic, resilience is built from the bottom up, and necessitates a wholesale engagement with the wider sector around Edinburgh’s hospitality workers – alongside other low-skilled employees.

For policymakers the picture is fuzzy, given the lack of granular data available on Edinburgh’s tourism workforce, and an absence of any real data on tourism’s impact at the neighbourhood level. Even if it were available, in informing the present circumstances, lots of big data has passed its expiry date – and cannot help us to predict an unknown future, only a complicated present. The period of austerity that followed the 2008 financial crisis, saw a rush to smart strategies to urban governance, many of which rely on the promise of big data to reduce city budgets and expenditure – and other top down approaches to small government. Not confined to the back office, technological innovation has also driven a Fordist reorganisation of the service industry reducing accountability and rights for workers. Previous crises have been the midwife of data-led transformation across all areas of society – the gig economy; the dark web and has set up multiple  barriers to transparent and open dialogue between and among stakeholders in a host of arenas. A reliance on data to guide policy, has reduced the capacity for agile responses to change, and increased the propensity for polarisation and paralysis. Within a constantly shifting context for recovery, some stakeholders are calling for less restrictions around opening up, while unions caution against risk to frontline staff. New questions are being asked around the quality of work, remuneration and on the sustainability of atypical and precarious work practices. Irrespective of a hostile immigration environment, Scotland’s tourism economy stands at a crossroads, where Edinburgh battles for its soul and identity  as a festival city.

Is smart tourism something tourist destinations only talk about, or also really implement?

By Dejan Križaj, Miha Bratec, Peter Kopić and Tadej Rogelja, University of Primorska

The focus of the research is on the adoption and implementation of technological innovations to analyse the Smart Tourism projects implemented in Europe according to the stringent technological criteria of contemporary Smart Tourism definitions.

Smart Tourism followed in the footsteps of the earlier concept of sustainable tourism and quickly established itself as the reference adjective when discussing tourism in politics, economics, and academia. In the latter, the debate has been lively, and although there are many different conceptualizations, academics seem to agree that Smart Tourism is based on the use of novel technologies that improve the quality of visitor and local experiences, while enabling destinations to take steps towards achieving their sustainability goals. However, as it happened in the past with the term “sustainable”, the adjective “smart” seems to be heavily misused when describing the various transformations that tourist destinations and cities are currently facing. Mostly, it dominates the marketing discourse, with many destinations trying to use this “smart” concept because it gives them a competitive advantage over other tourist destinations based on uniqueness and differentiation.

Based on our study, the reality of developing smart solutions within these destinations is mostly still in its infancy. More specifically, we, in detail, analyse:

  1. What is the real content of the Smart Tourism projects currently implemented within Europe and supported by substantial EU (European Union) funding?
  2. What are the characteristics of the Smart Projects and what kind of technology solutions are used in them?
  3. Can we really see the rapid technological progress in tourism services that the marketers of Smart Destinations promise?
  4. What do the currently implemented projects tell us about the future of Smart Tourism and Smart Destinations?

Summary of key findings:

Our work differed from most methods used in other studies that rely on the construction of conceptual models, frameworks, or indicator systems based on the evaluation of Smart City or

Smart Tourism goals, statements, strategies, and initiatives. The presented study goes a step further and tries to understand which technological innovations exactly were adopted and how they contribute to projects’ smartness. In order to better distinguish between conventional and advanced, interconnected technology, we have placed a special focus on Smart Actionable attributes of the projects analyzed. From what we could perceive in the selected projects, four smart technology trends can be identified: 1) Connectivity and Big Data, 2) Connectivity and Intelligent Algorithms, 3) Big Data and 4) “smart” projects with mainly well-represented technology that does not exploit the Smart Actionable possibilities.

In our initial online resource search, we encountered the vast majority of projects that were touted as “smart” but did not address any of the newer aspects of ICT infrastructure, such as interconnectivity and interoperability of integrated technologies. They were therefore excluded from our study, leaving only 35 projects, which we analysed in detail and assigned to the four groups mentioned above. This confirms our preliminary findings that there is a lot of hype and little substance (e.g., smart washing) regarding Smart Tourism projects. This problem stems in part from the fact that there are different, everchanging definitions and meanings of the term Smart Tourism. Subsequently, different stakeholders and entities adopt different meanings and set different priorities based on their viewpoints and schools of thought.

See full paper:

Workshop | DISTFest – Friday, October 22nd 2021

Cities and Universities
Socio-spatial dynamics of a complex relations and their implications for urban policies

Organized by:
Loris Servillo and Samantha Cenere (DIST, Politecnico di Torino)

Jean-Paul Addie (Georgia State University)
Louise Kempton (Newcastle University)
Daniel Malet Calvo (Instituto Universitário de Lisboa)
Silvia Mugnano (University of Milano Bicocca)
Nick Revington (Institut national de la recherche scientifique in Montreal)
Antonio Paolo Russo (Universitat Rovira i Virgili)

The phrase “town and gown” once used to describe the relationship between universities and the urban context in which they are located implies an understanding of the two as separate spheres. However, it is increasingly evident that complex, indirect, and hidden entanglements characterised the city-university nexus within the global paradigm of the knowledge economy. Universities may be seen as urban developers whose action impacts substantially on the built environment. Their capacity to implement an attractive and competitive educational offer and research environment triggers the arrival of students and academics from other regions and countries, thus transforming the demographic profile of a city. Through the attraction of highly mobile, cosmopolitan, and skilled populations, universities indirectly contribute to activate new urban economies that span from a new retail offer to the transformation of the housing market. These and other examples of how universities have become one of the most powerful actors of urban transformations will be discussed at the workshop Cities and universities. Socio-spatial dynamics of a complex relationship and their implications for urban policies.
Through the contribution of various international experts, the workshop will offer a wide range of perspectives on the complex university-city nexus, showing how the urban effects of universities activity are not limited to their capacity to function as providers of skilled workforces and as research centres contributing to regional economic development. The massification and commodification of university education, the mantra of global competitiveness, and the imperative for cities of being attractive lay at the core of heterogeneous urban processes that Higher Education institutions participate in activating. These processes encompass the transformation of the housing market, urban renewal interventions at the neighborhood scale, changes in the retailscape of a specific area, and the opening of private student residences.
However, these processes may reveal another side of the coin, constituted by spatial, socio-economic and cultural inequalities, both on an urban scale and within those areas particularly affected by these transformations. These could emerge in multiple forms, such as conflicts over the use of public space between students and residents; the replacement of services of general interest aimed at the resident population with others designed for a highly mobile population; difficult access to affordable accommodation; displacement, etc. To what extent the production of urban spaces linked to the increasing relevance of universities within global knowledge capitalism and interurban competition may be balanced by the pursuit of inclusive, sustainable, and just cities?
These questions and issues resonate with the Sustainable Development Goal 11 and build a bridge between the workshop and a research project on the urban effects and exclusionary dynamics related to university student mobilities, conducted by the DIST team of the Horizon2020 project “SMARTDEST. Cities as mobility hubs. Tackling social exclusion through smart citizen engagement”

For live streaming please register to:

Click here for the full program

Living apart together? Mobile professionals and long-term residents in Lisbon’s city centre

By Franz Buhr, Institute of Geography and Spatial Planning, University of Lisbon

In the last ten years, not only have tourist arrivals to Lisbon increased exponentially, but the city has also become a hotspot for other kinds of transient populations. Digital nomads, ‘expats’, lifestyle migrants, and other transnationally mobile professionals are increasingly present in the city’s social landscape. What are the impacts of these new temporary residents in the city’s dynamics?

Let us go for a tour around the neighbourhoods of Santos and São Bento in Lisbon. You will find centuries-old hilly streets, the tram tracks, tile façades, and… Nordic coffee shops, hip cocktail bars, and brunch eateries! Not long ago, these shops were either abandoned, derelict, or housed small family businesses such as traditional Portuguese bakeries or Cape Verdean restaurants. Now, these two neighbourhoods are probably the epicentre of a new kind of commercial dynamics attracting tourists and locals, but particularly appealing to digital nomads, ‘expats’, and other foreign residents whose purchase power is (more often than not) well above the Portuguese average.

During the most severe months of the COVID-19 pandemic, when there were virtually no tourists around, some of these specialty coffee shops, artisanal bakeries, and patisseries survived on the basis of their foreign-resident clientele. In one of our SMARTDEST interviews, the owner of a specialty coffee shop in the area argued that 95% of his customers were of foreign origin. “Lots of Germans, French, Americans… They come to Portugal but keep working for their countries and have a lot more economic capacity than those being paid Portuguese-level salaries” he stated.

Once considered ‘crossing points’ to the more touristic areas of the city, Santos and São Bento are now attracting their own visitors. The SMARTDEST team in Lisbon asked local residents if they also visited, bought, or ate at these new gourmet cafés and restaurants. Our preliminary results point to what one resident called ‘parallel worlds’: on the one side, traditional forms of commerce frequented by the local elderly population; on the other, new gourmet restaurants and trendy shops where one finds tourists, but mainly high-income foreign residents. Although some of these transient populations find short-term rentals within these same neighbourhoods, their consumption geographies seem to rarely intersect or interact with those of long-term residents.

Another research participant, mother of three children and living in the area for 25 years, said that “the ambiance feels very different now, because buildings have been renovated, trash is always collected, gardens look beautiful (…), and it’s nice to have that shop selling beautifully-made croissants, but they are super expensive and we won’t buy croissants every day. It’s all made for people in transit (de passagem)”.

Can these two ‘parallel worlds’ interact with each other? Do long-term residents feel excluded in some way? Are traditional forms of commerce and retail doomed to disappear? These are some of the critical questions to be discussed collectively at the future CityLab organised by the SMARTDEST project with local stakeholders and residents.

Can Airbnb be blamed for all housing issues? – The case of Ljubljana

By Tadej Rogelja, Miha Bratec, Dejan Križaj from University of Primorska


Slovenia is among the EU countries with the highest rate of housing shortage. We have focused on the capital Ljubljana and examined the causes that have led to such a situation. The reason on the one hand is the relatively old and poorly maintained housing stock and, on the other hand, the short-term-rental platform Airbnb. But what did the COVID-19 pandemic reveal?


Slovenia is among the EU countries with the highest rate of housing shortage. We have focused on the capital – Ljubljana and examined the causes that have led to such a situation. The reason for such a situation is, on the one hand, the relatively old and poorly maintained housing stock and, on the other hand, the sharing platform Airbnb.


The Slovenian capital of Ljubljana, with a population of around 300.000 is one of the smallest capitals in Europe and arguably on Europe’s most sustainable destinations, experiencing tremendous growth in terms of visitor numbers and press recognition within the last 10 years. The city is located in the Osrednjeslovenska Region (Central Slovenia) and it is the strongest area in terms of economic development, and is the administrative, economic, cultural, and scientific centre of the country. On the other hand, Slovenia is also among EU countries with the highest housing deprivation rates. In 2018, more than a fifth of its population lived in poor housing conditions. One of the reasons for the high housing deprivation rate is the relatively old and poorly maintained housing stock (IMAD, 2020). The state also abolished systemic sources of funding, did not develop new supply institutions and hindered the construction of public housing stock. National policies are also reflected in municipal policy, which has neglected the housing topic for the last 30 years since Slovenia’s independence. This played a major role in the housing policy when the socialist real estate market was privatized, and inhabitants had the right to purchase the apartments in which they were living for a price way below the market value. Due to this policy, 80% of Slovenians live in their own properties today and only 8% in rental flats. Consequently, the share of public housing in Ljubljana owned by the municipality fell from 42% (42,000 dwellings) in 1992 to 3% (4200) as of 2019 (IŠSP & FDV 2019). With the stagnation of the housing policy, Ljubljana has reached a point where few people can afford to buy an apartment while renting one equally puts a comparatively high burden on one’s disposable income.


Let us now add Airbnb to the whole story. Historically, Ljubljana has not been a prime tourist destination, but between 2014 and 2018, tourist demand increased significantly, leading to a sudden shortage of suitable accommodation. Peer-to-peer accommodation was a perfect solution at this time. The market was flooded with tourists so quickly that the government did not have time to take regulatory measures to prevent externalities. As a result, locals today experience very high prices and cannot afford long-term rentals. According to Milič (2021) from Capital Genetics which focuses on corporate finance, capital growth, valuation of business and real estate in Slovenia and other countries in Southeast Europe, prices have gone crazy. Currently, the average price of a used apartment in Ljubljana is already over € 3100 per square meter. Second-hand housing prices have risen by 50% in the last five years. Official statistics did not capture the additional supply of beds because many locals did not report their short-term rental activities. Figure 1 illustrates the large discrepancy between the number of beds in private accommodation reported by the official statistics of the Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia and the number of beds listed on Airbnb according to AirDNA. Thus, in 2018, approximately 2,038 beds were not registered on Airbnb and so failed to pay taxes from their commercial activities (Dolnicar, 2021).

Figure 1: Number of arrivals and overnight stays in Ljubljana (Source: Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia, 2019)


In addition to that, many Ljubljana residents reported the lack and high price of parking spaces as negative consequences of tourism. On the other hand, according to Airbnb˙s data, most apartments listed offered parking, which can be quickly combined into a meaningful whole. Moreover, a more detailed investigation revealed that Ljubljana’s accommodation listings on Airbnb often recommend that tourists use the public parking spaces near the property, which puts a significant strain on the public infrastructure and results in locals not finding parking spaces in front of their homes (Dolnicar, 2021).


But can Airbnb be so easily blamed for most of the housing issues in Ljubljana? Though the discourse went into such a direction, the pandemics showed a rather different picture. When tourism and especially short-term rentals plummeted in 2020, this only led to short term effects such as more offers on the long-term rental market, yet the prices for both housing rentals and purchase kept growing and reached record numbers by spring of 2021. All these leads to indicate that the housing issues in Ljubljana are much more complex and the growth of tourism within the last decade and Airbnb-related short-term rentals only played a minor role in sky-rocketing real estate prices. The real reasons behind them need to be further explored, but most likely have to deal with failed restructuring of the sector following the abortion of socialism and inefficent state and local housing policy formulation.

Forecasting Tourist Mobility and Overcrowding thanks to Agent Based Models

By Itzhak Omer and Amit Birenboim, Tel Aviv University

Overcrowding is a main negative externality that is associated with tourism. However, data on street level crowding is usually not available for studying this phenomenon. Using Agent based modelling, we can generate synthetic data of tourist mobility that forecasts street level tourist congestion.

Agent-based models (ABM) enable reference to various individuals’ travel behaviour attributes and to the simultaneous effect of the street network structure and land uses on movement flows. In the Jerusalem case study, ABM is used to represent the different movement patterns of local residents and tourists, and the exposure / interaction between them at the street level. The ABM simulation is based on the following ‘basic’ attributes of agents’ travel behaviour that were found most relevant in previous studies:


(i) The attraction/obstruction level of land uses as a destination or as intermediate paths, with distinction between agent types (local residents versus tourists) in this respect;
(ii) Scale/radius for movement and sensitivity to distance: represents the maximal distance available for movement from origin to destination according to destination types and preferences of nearby destinations within this radius;
(iii) Personal status: represents socio-demographic properties, such as age and gender;(iv) Distance type: three types of agents were defined: metric, topological, and angular. Each agent type (local resident and tourist) chooses the relevant shortest path – in terms of metric, topological (the number of turns or direction changes), or angular (cumulative angular change), respectively – between origin-destination pairs.
The ABM was designed with the NetLogo (ver.5.3.1) environment and is associated to geographical layers within ArcGIS software (i.e., street-segment, land uses). Data model is enriched by quantitative data that was collected at the sub urban level such as socio-demographics at the census tract level.
In later stages of the project, the ABM is intended to be used as a decision supporting tool. Using the ABM we will generate forecasted /simulated movement patterns of local residents and tourists according to various scenarios that are related to tourist behavior and tourist-oriented plans or expected trends. Such use of the ABM may help forecasting the implications of changes in the volume and spatial distribution of hotel/Airbnb rooms on local residents-tourists exposure at the street level. The model will also assist to evaluate the implications of urban and infrastructure changes on car usage and walking behavior of various types of agents (e.g., local population, tourists) under different assumptions of technology adoption levels and pricing. Outputs will include, among other things, indices of inclusion and inequality.

Touristic labour in Europe: how to compare it across different European regions

By Niklas Pernhaupt, Lukas AlexanderYuri Kazepov and Elisabetta Mocca from University of Vienna

As one of 12 research partners we are busy to contribute to the success of the SmartDest project.

The core research team at the University of Vienna consists of four people: Prof. Yuri Kazepov, Elisabetta Mocca PhD, Niklas Pernhaupt MA and Lukas Alexander MA. In SmartDest we are leading the empirical work of WP3 and provide transversal support to the case study leaders in task 3.1, 3.3 and 4.3. Moreover, we participate in various tasks in WP2, WP4, and WP5. We also planned a steering group meeting for September 2020 in Vienna, which had to be called off due to travel restrictions.

The previous few months we spent on refining our output of WP 2. More concretely, we conducted a systematic literature review on tourism typologies, where we analysed over 350 scientific publications. The results are going to be presented at the ATLAS Conference on the 3rd of June 2021 in Rotterdam. In addition to our review, we are trying to find a way to compare the quality of touristic labour across different regions. To do so, we first attempt to find a comparable approximation of tourism work. Different destinations come with different forms of tourism work. We are trying to find occupations that are likely common to most regional destinations throughout Europe. After we find our approximation of tourism work, we will look at different dimensions of job quality in the tourism sector. Which regions are characterised by contractual insecurity? Which regions show job insecurity in the sense of persons having to work multiple jobs, persons wishing to work more hours, and persons who are looking for another job? Which regions exhibit relatively bad working conditions? These three dimensions will then be summed up to an index of formal touristic labour quality and weighted by the socio-political context in which they are embedded. Here, we will explore which regions offer ‘flexicurity’ – e.g., a safety net to protect workers against the negative aspects of flexible labour.


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 the following Link

SMARTDEST, una risposta all’esclusione sociale nelle città turistiche

Negli ultimi anni la crescente penetrazione del turismo e di altre forme di mobilities come studenti fuorisede e internazionali, lavoratori stagionali, digital nomads,  nella vita quotidiana delle città ha iniziato a produrre diverse forme di conflitti, tensioni e paradossi:  l’aumento del costo della vita e la carenza di alloggi, la congestione dei servizi e degli spazi pubblici, la crescente precarietà del lavoro, la trasformazione delle identità dei luoghi. Ciò che le comunità residenti nelle città più visitate d’Europa un tempo consideravano una gradita fonte di ricchezza e occupazione, nonché un punto di orgoglio, è oggi considerato una minaccia.

L’obiettivo di SMARTDEST è quello di contribuire alla definizione di un’agenda politica per le città che consideri la mobilità del turismo e che faccia emergere il potenziale dell’innovazione sociale derivante dal coinvolgimento dei cittadini al fine di far nascere comunità più resilienti.

Può leggere l’articolo integrale al seguente link:

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 ( 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: