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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.

 

Trends of European Regional Tourism: 2008 to 2018

Author: Anna Bornioli, Erasmus UPT

The SMARTDEST report published in September 2020 is a preliminary exploration of the dimension of tourism and related mobilities at regional level across the EU territory in the period 2008-2018 and of regional trends of social unbalances across the EU. To these aims, a series of indicators to describe key dimensions of mobilities and social unbalances were selected by the researchers across multiple sources (including Eurostat, Labor Force Survey, AirDNA). These have been mapped on the EU geography and discussed, and are being collected in a work-in-progress database, organised at regional (NUTS2) level, and available at https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.4058290 in its preliminary version. Although the analysis does not include 2020 trends, thus not focusing on the impact of Covid-19 pandemic on mobilities and social unbalances, several lessons relevant to the post-Covid-19 recovery can be learnt.

A collection of 53 maps was produced. The regional (NUTS2) scale of this analysis was dictated by data availability, as the majority of the related statistics are only published or reliable at this scale. As a consequence, this collection of maps gives a preliminary overview of the geographical trends, without focusing on territorial nuances. Nevertheless, urban trends of tourism and mobilities can already be observed, since NUTS2 regions including large cities generally correspond with their metropolitan dimension.

Here we summarise the main tourism trends looking at tourism stays and their evolution over time, tourism pressure and stress, and the international character of destinations.

 

Tourism stays in 2018

Tourism mobilities in absolute numbers in 2018 (Figure 1) were more intense in coastal regions, particularly in the (Western) Mediterranean arc; in mountain regions, especially in the Alpine arc; in highly urbanised regions, especially capital city regions. Trends of Short-Term Rentals (STR), a form of tourist accommodation that is not fully accounted for in official statistics, mirror the ‘official’ statistics on arrivals (Figure 2). STR stays are highest in coastal regions and urban regions, especially in the south of Europe, France, the UK, Iceland, and Denmark. These figures are possibly also influenced by national regimes of regulation.

 

 

Growth of tourism 2008-2018

There appears a clear outlook of sustained growth of tourism mobilities ‘landing’ on

European regions in the period 2008-2018, with very few exceptions (Figure 3). In absolute terms, it is especially Southern and Mediterranean regions, islands, and

capital regions that have seen the largest growth of arrivals at tourism accommodation establishments. The only regions that had a decrease of the number of tourism stays are the regions in light blue.

In relative terms, the picture presented offers a further piece of the puzzle (Figure 4): while the most mature destination regions continued to grow, there is also a process of ‘catching up’ of regions that were less attractive and that grew substantially in the 10-year period. The regions that are strongly above the European average are mostly located in Eastern Europe, the Coastal region of Croatia, Portugal, the UK, Benelux, and Iceland. Cities and urbanized (coastal) regions have also had a sustained dynamic of growth over the 2008-2018 decade. Among the capital regions, Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels, Lisbon stand out.

 

Tourism stress and pressure

Tourism stress and pressure (overnight stays in relation to space or to the resident population respectively) have also increased over the reference period almost anywhere in Europe. In 2018, the number of overnight stays in tourist accommodation establishments in relation to the resident population (Figure 5) was especially high the East Alpine arc, coastal Croatia, Mediterranean island regions, capital city regions, coastal regions, and some of the less urbanised coastal and rural regions in Northern Europe.

 

International markets and potential vulnerability

The analysis also highlighted that some regions tend to be more reliant on international markets, having a large share of international visitors. These are large and smaller islands, border regions, but also Croatia, Baltic and Italian regions, among others (Figure 6). In addition, Iceland, the UK, Portugal, and Greece have become more reliant on international tourists since 2008.

These regions, being more exposed to international fluctuations, might be less ‘resilient’ to international crises such as the current covid-19 pandemic.

 

Conclusions

We identified the regions in Europe where pre-covid tourism was especially strong and where it was growing the most. These tend to be Mediterranean and Southern Europe regions, islands, and urban and capital regions. Subsequent analyses took a step forward and identified four typologies that illustrate different forms and degrees of attractiveness for tourists and related mobilities, based on the collection of maps presented here [link to https://smartdest.eu/a-typology-of-eu-tourist-regions-facing-social-inclusion-issues/ ].

typology of tourist regions

A typology of EU tourist regions facing social inclusion issues

By Antonio Paolo Russo, from Universitat Rovira i Virgili

As a first stage of the research approach of SMARTDEST, we have constructed a typology of European regions that illustrate different forms and degrees of attractiveness for tourists and related mobilities, and matched with a wide range of social indicators showcasing trends of social exclusion. The spatial patterns devised provide an interesting canvas to further examine how territorial structures, geographical specificities and policy regimes may play a role in explaining these variations, and inform postCOVID recovery towards policy reforms that bring forwards socially resilient tourist cities and regions.

As a first stage of the research approach of SMARTDEST, we have constructed a typology of European regions that illustrate different forms and degrees of attractiveness for tourists and related mobilities. This typology is then matched with a wide range of social indicators showcasing trends of social exclusion. The objective of this piece of research is to identify key inclusion challenges for groups of regions, having similar profiles in terms of their capacity and evolution to attract mobile populations. The spatial patterns devised provide an interesting canvas to further examine how territorial structures, geographical specificities and policy regimes may play a role in explaining these variations. This analysis refers to a context of steady intensification of tourism and international mobility that has characterised the last decades, to come to an abrupt halt with the sanitary emergency of COVID-19 in 2020, with an expected long tail of disruptions in global and local mobility systems. Looking into the near past goes in the way of understanding how tourism mobilities could have become enmeshed with social inequalities; the hindrances provoked by COVID-19 have been opening new relevant avenues of social exclusion, which the recent literature claims to be overlapping and heightening, and not substituting, pre-existing ones. Our analysis should therefore be informing the process of recovery, and underline the key policy challenges that are at stake in the debate as to whether tourism should bounce back to ‘business as usual’ and pre-COVID trends once the emergency is over, or whether this could be an important opportunity for reforms that bring forward social resilience in the face of the transformative and exclusionary power of tourism mobilities on places.

The indicators used to obtain this basic regional typology were selected from a wide range of measures of tourism and related mobilities considered in preliminary tasks of the SMARTDEST project. These include absolute and relative measures of tourism movement in space and in relation to the resident population (intensity and pressure indexes), for international and domestic markets. Whenever possible and relevant, these indicators have been stratified for areas that have different degrees of urbanisation. We also considered net migration rates for age groups, which the literature relates with different motivations for displacement; the mobility of Erasmus students; and a measure of the penetration of Airbnb supply in relation to the total population which is a proxy of the attractiveness of regions for visitors using this kind of platform-mediated  accommodation structures (generally not accounted for in official tourism movement statistics). All these indicators are calculated in stocks, taking 2018 as the most recent year for which there is an almost complete data cover, as well as in change rates, taking 2008 (the period immediately preceding the effects of global financial crisis) and 2013 (marking the start of the post-crisis recovery) as reference years. The technique used for obtaining the final typology has been 4-means clustering on a selection of such indicators after having eliminated redundancies.

The resulting geographical configuration is illustrated in the figure below. The first type, FAST INTERNATIONALISATION, includes only four regions in the European space (Iceland, Northern Ireland, the North-West of England, and the north of Serbia). These are relative newcomers in international tourism that have made a scale jump in the last decade, presenting themselves with an attractive destination profile especially for their rural and small and medium-sized towns. They have been experiencing a strong growth of tourism over the last decade and specifically of the share of international tourists, and are therefore subject to a relatively high tourism pressure (with low growth in cities and towns, high in rural areas). They are relatively unattractive as a site of migration for more senior cohorts but boast high crude migration rates for the younger migration cohorts.

The second class, LOW INTENSITY, includes 92 regions that are characterised as poorly attractive regions for tourism and other migrations but are subject to a rising tourist pressure in cities and towns, have a low and decreasing share of international tourism, and a moderate offer of Airbnb. This is a large set of regions across the core of Europe and stretching to its periphery. These regions are characterised by general low levels of attractiveness for visitors although they have been experiencing recent growth of the tourist intensity in cities and towns. The domestic market is the driving force of tourism development and wherever they have been experiencing some growth this has been mostly accompanied by an expansion of non-traditional forms of hospitality like short-term rentals mediated by digital platforms (as Airbnb). It is noteworthy that in spite of their relatively low tourist dimension, these regions can be moderately attractive for working age adults and senior migrants, maybe precisely on account of the ‘low pressure’ to which they are subject. The context of these regions varies to a great extent, from regions in the European core (as in Germany, France, Belgium and Switzerland as well as Southern Holland) to inland and predominately rural regions of Spain, regions in the Eastern periphery (Poland, Slovakia, Romania), the south of Finland, north of Sweden, the Italian South and Albania.

The third class, STEADY GROWERS, includes 53 regions whose profile is of being attractive and growing regions for tourism, with highest and growing pressure in rural areas, have a high foreign student population in relation to their size, a high and growing share of international tourism. These regions are mostly situated in the Mediterranean coastal and island regions (including almost the whole of Portugal), the Atlantic archipelagos except the Canaries; and extend to regions in Great Britain, the inner part of the Netherlands, Luxembourg, most Scandinavian and Baltic regions, and almost the whole of Greece, plus some ‘capital city regions’ like London, Prague and Bucharest. These are mature destinations for tourism that have not stopped growing and becoming more internationalised in the last decade, registering the highest pressure in non-urban areas, and are poorly attractive for working age younger adults, but moderately attractive for other migrations including under 25 and over-50-year-old workers.

Finally, the fourth class, TOURISM STARS, includes 15 regions that stand out as very attractive for tourism, especially urban, and all migrations, experiencing a moderate growth concentrated in towns and cities; they are subject to a large penetration of Airbnb, and experience a high share of international tourism but seeing a relative growth of the domestic market. These are some of the most visited destinations in Europe and at the same time preferred destinations for migrants of all age groups. Tourist pressure over the last decade has been mostly growing in urban and intermediate areas, and this has been accompanied by a high level of penetration of platform-mediated supply; yet in general the attraction of tourism (the international market in particular) is decelerating, for having possibly met some capacity thresholds. These regions include Catalonia, Madrid, the Balearic and Canary archipelagos, the Algarve region of Portugal, Paris and the South of France, the northeast of Italy, the whole of Croatia and Ireland, and two other capital city regions, North Holland (the region of Amsterdam) and Berlin.

The subsequent step of this analysis has been to calculate the average means of the score of a selection of social indicators in the four classes of regions in this typology, and test that these differences are significant. We have included in this exercise:

  • Health indicators (self-reported perception on health state by participants to the EU-SILC survey)
  • Housing indicators (self-reported perception on quality of housing, financial access to housing and rent values by participants to the EU-SILC survey)
  • Poverty and deprivation indicators (self-reported perception on conditions of dependency, lack of access to basic commodities and consumption, etc.)
  • Labour indicators proceeding from the Labour Force Survey and especially pointing at the dimension of regional employment in the tourism sector and at the characteristics of workers in atypical conditions or earning low salaries

The full discussion of results is available in the SMARTDEST Delverable 2.3, which can be retrieved at https://smartdest.eu/results/#project-reports. Here we only wrap up the most important insights.

A key aspect explored by the literature – but not in a systematic way and using an established metrics – is how positive and negative externalities from tourism development balance out (geographically and socially) and whether population change processes which could be triggered by tourism development may be shadowing an underlying process of social exclusion. In this sense, we have singled out the small group of FAST INTERNATIONALISATION regions as the most problematic to this respect: they present a profile of being places where access to housing represents a burden for women and a heavy burden for non-European foreigners and where a sizable share of the over-65 population lives in overcrowded households, and these hindrances do not balance out through the share of population that derive rents from property, which tend to be the lowest among the four types considered. They present the worst profile in terms of conditions of poverty and deprivation, the female population being particularly affected. They also have the large shares of workers in the tourist with elementary occupations (or others) having atypical work profiles and while they offer good opportunities also in term of salary to foreigners and women, they seem to offer them worse condition in terms of protection. The LOW INTENSITY regions present quite an opposite profile – though they derive much lesser benefits from tourism and other inward flows of migration, they show very little of the hindrances through which tourism growth may sustain pathways of social inequality and exclusion.

The other two categories, STEADY GROWERS and TOURISM STARS, are a mixed bag. The former group of regions have not reached a stage of development in which tourism pressure could be considered excessive (also on account of the relative spread of tourism activity out of urban areas), especially in relation to housing affordability, and they have some the best profile in terms of salaries paid. Their trajectory of development has been more paced, having had the opportunity to become embedded in new structures of institutional and social capital, yet the trends indicate that they may resent from an increasing specialisation in tourism, which makes them particularly vulnerable to systemic crises like the one that we are currently living with COVID-19. Finally, TOURISM STARS are in their majority characterised as places where the intensification of tourism in areas otherwise economically buoyant, of their very strong degree of specialisation in tourism, could have tipped some threshold which challenge social inclusion, for instance nuancing a high level of polarisation (for instance between homeowners and tenants), deprivation, and work conditions. That the already high level of concentration in urban areas has not grown in the last decade in average as much as in other regional types is not preventing the tourism economy to increase its dimension and lead to a structural deflation of employment conditions.

These findings may thus inform on some of the key challenges that should be taken into account in the European urban and regional policy agenda when the ‘tourist dimension’ and pace of evolution of regions is considered as a driver of social change, such as housing affordability, socio-spatial polarization, the casualization and precarious nature of tourism work or the effects that the reconfiguration of space brought about my global mobilities in their anchoring to place has on the most vulnerable segments of resident communities. These areas of concern will be the object of in-deep scrutiny in further stages of the SMARTDEST project both at pan-European and at case study level.

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.

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

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

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

Platform Failures – How Short-Term Rental Platforms Like Airbnb Fail Cities

The uneven relationship of short-term rental platforms like Airbnb with cities. A kind tourism that extracts local resources for the economic benefits of few, contributes to social exclusion of many.

A report written by Murray Cox, the data activist founder of Inside Airbnb, and Kenneth Haar, of Corporate Europe Observatory, provides insights on how short-term rental platforms have become one of the biggest exclusionary drivers in large tourist cities.

Report’s Highlights. Platforms refuse to cooperate with cities, fail to self-regulate and to comply with regulations to protect affordable housing for residents.  The report also provides insight on what the forthcoming Digital Service Act should deliver to support the legal capacity of cities to protect housing.

How Airbnb fails cities. In Amsterdam, Airbnb withdrew the ability to enforce a 60 days cap after the city tightened regulations; in Barcelona, Airbnb provides data but the 60-70% of the addresses of property on offer are missing or incorrect; in Berlin, the 80% of Airbnb listings are still illegal and the platforms refuse to provide data; in Paris, the 60% of Airbnb listings are illegal; 85% active listings are illegal; in Vienna, Airbnb refuses to remove listings offering hospitality in social housing.

What unequal consequences. Concretely, the report shows how many apartments short-term rental practices ended up extracting from the cities’ housing market and which effects that had on access to housing. In in some neighbourhoods of Amsterdam, this amounts to 1 out of 9 units rented on Airbnb; in Paris, 15,000-25,000 apartments; in Prague, 15.000 apartments; and in New York between 20,000 and 25,000. In Barcelona, the rise of Airbnb in areas of high intensity have determined a 7% increase of rents and a 19% increase of and property prices.

What could cities do to enforce regulations. 1) Mandatory Registration System; 2) Platform Accountability, 3) Platform Data Disclosure.

What is the best scenario for the new EU’s Digital Service Act. Exclude the digital platforms like Airbnb or Über from this act following decisions by the European Court of Justice in December 2017.

How could the Digital Service Act favour the right to the city. 1) Enforce the cession of disaggregated data to planning authorities; 2) Obligation to provide valid and certified data; 3) Acceptance of authorisation schemes for both hosts and platforms; 4) Full cooperation on the sanctioning of illegal listings; 5) Full liability where platforms operate. 6) No obstruction from the Commission in urban regulation of platform economy when it comes to protect fairly access to urban assets, like for instance housing.

Download the full report HERE.

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