I have just read a paper by Zhang et al. on the reproduction of consumer spaces as applied to the historic districts of Beijing city centre. It took its cue from theories around the social construction of space for touristic purposes, and further considered the historical development of that space over an extended period. Using some detailed property use analysis, the researchers considered statistically the differing concentrations which developed in the different historic districts of tourism-focused versus resident-focused businesses.
I will freely admit that some of the equations and graphs were beyond me, but the analytical commentary was clearly expressed, and the study showed the importance of looking at the intersection of different capital flows in urban historic districts with the influences of differing types of authority (i.e. control) on development. This in turn affects the agency of residents and behaviour of consumers which in a feedback loop affects the ongoing management and development (and indeed control) of those historic areas.
So what – all very obvious? Maybe, but having recently spent time over in workshops with colleagues thinking about climate vulnerability in Edinburgh’s World Heritage designated area, the paper got me thinking again about how different types of capital (beyond just money) ebbs and flows around the different and distinct historic ‘districts’ of Edinburgh’s WHS and where different types of authority and control are exerted, felt and influenced. Further, it got me wondering how does agency of resident and consumers change across those different districts as a result of those flows of capital, and what are the longer term implications for the city as a result?
Reference: Keer Zhang, Handuo Deng, Fang Wang & Ye Yuan (2021) Reproduction of consumer spaces and historic district touristification in Old Beijing City, Tourism Geographies, DOI: 10.1080/14616688.2021.1934724
The DCMS has just published its Tourism Recovery Plan. There is a lot in it, with stats and analysis comparing the pre- and ‘post’-pandemic situation, underlining that tourism is one of most important industries and also one of the industries which has suffered the most in the pandemic.
The multi-faceted nature of the tourism industry means that there cannot be a single guiding mind in public policy terms – different parts of the industry are regulated from within different public policy areas, and various bits of the tourism policy brief are a devolved matter for the Governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. What comes through clearly in the Plan is that a post-pandemic recovery is reliant on good data, sharing of knowledge and greater co-ordination and collaboration across those disparate policy briefs, to enable a good (and green) recovery, rather than just an economic rebound which is looked for seemingly in some of the language of the document.
Sustainability and spreading the beneficial impact of tourism does feature in the report, though the messages and aims here could be more ambitious and inclusive. I recognise this is tricky however – but we need to be balancing that looked-for rebound with growth which is inclusive and provides net positives across a triple bottom line (social, environmental and economic). Communities need to be enhanced by tourism and not blighted – and it would be unfortunate to chase a rebound which leads back to discussions of 2018 and 2019 on over-tourism, environmental degradation, economic inequality and tension between the industry and host communities.
The heritage sector really gets centre billing in the Plan. Through figures presented, commentary and case study, the role of the historic environment (where distinctive built or natural character is a key feature) explicitly and implicitly provides the overarching places, canvas or ‘-scapes’ for what is looked for in Britain as a global and local tourism destination. The heritage sector arguably is positioned in an excellent place as far as the recovery public policy lens goes. The challenge that is going to weigh on us as a sector again is the need to further prioritise, balance competing desires of conservation and development, and keep cool calm conversations at the heart of the shared desire for what a good recovery is for both heritage and tourism together.
The Green Alliance has just published a policy insight report setting out the data and arguments for investment in a range of nature-based investments which would bring about environmental improvement, assist climate change mitigation and deliver social and economic benefits, notably in job creation for areas of the country where there is a distinct labour market challenge.
The summary report and accompanying detailed analysis include focused case studies on some specific potential actions, such as habitat restoration for bogs and seagrass, and tree planting and park creation. These specific examples within a broader approach for green jobs help to build that compelling case, especially given the downstream wider potential skills development, higher level job creation, and broad long-term societal benefits.
The detailed report shows the impacts diagrammatically.
There isn’t a specific read-across to the historic environment within the report, but the links can be seen – from allied research and operations associated with understanding and managing the cultural landscape as nature-based investment is made, to shared skills enhancement and longer-term job creation which benefits both the natural and historic environment.
Figure 10 in the detailed report provides a breakdown of jobs in Scotland in nature-based activities and nature-dependent sectors in 2019 with 195,300 total jobs, noting that 2% of these are specifically related to museums and cultural activities, with a further proportions being travel/recreation and hospitality-related, and natural craft skills which are intimately tied to the heritage of localities.
Journal summary: Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space is a pluralist and heterodox journal of economic research, principally concerned with questions of urban and regional restructuring, globalization, inequality, and uneven development. International in outlook and interdisciplinary in spirit, the journal is positioned at the forefront of theoretical and methodological innovation, welcoming substantive and empirical contributions that probe and problematize significant issues of economic, social, and political concern, especially where these advance new approaches. The horizons of Economy and Space are wide, but themes of recurrent concern for the journal include: global production and consumption networks; urban policy and politics; race, gender, and class; economies of technology, information and knowledge; money, banking, and finance; migration and mobility; resource production and distribution; and land, housing, labour, and commodity markets. To these ends, Economy and Space values a diverse array of theories, methods, and approaches, especially where these engage with research traditions, evolving debates, and new directions in urban and regional studies, in human geography, and in allied fields such as socioeconomics and the various traditions of political economy.
Journal summary: Environment and Planning is a suite of 5 linked journals. First published in June 1969, the first issue of Environment and Planning was one of two issues that year. An immediate success, the journal quickly expanded, spawning a second series, Environment and Planning B in 1974 and adding Environment and Planning C and D in the 1980s. In 2018 Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space was launched. Environment and Planning series contributes to the interdisciplinary study of space; the stuff of not only of human geography but today a matter of concern for a growing number of related social-science disciplines.
The next UCS Heritage Seminar will be led by Tim Schadla-Hall of the Institute of Archaeology, UCL. His topic is: “It’s the Economy, Stupid!”
The discourse frequently presented in academia about the value and use of archaeology in the 21st century still fails to recognise that archaeology is neither neutral nor outside the “real world.” The need to both recognise this and be aware of the need to understand and promulgate aspects of public rather than professional interest forms the core of this presentation which will use various examples to illustrate the point.
Tim Schadla Hall spent a limited period teaching, followed by a career in field archaeology, before working in museums from Hampshire to Leicestershire via Hull. He is now Reader in Public Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology, UCL where he lectures on Public Archaeology, Museum Management, and other aspects of archaeology. His interests are in the early Mesolithic in NW Europe, as well as the Mesolithic in general; he also researches the archaeology of standing buildings and their landscapes. Amongst his particular interests are ‘ authenticity’, the media and alternative archaeology. He is working on various aspects of heritage law and repatriation of archaeological material, as well as the economics of archaeology. He is particularly interested in public participation in archaeology and also governmental policy development for the past.