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.
Journal Summary: From 1981 through until 2018, the George Wright Society published The George Wright Forum, an interdisciplinary journal that explored innovative thinking and offered enduring perspectives on critical issues across the whole spectrum of place-based heritage management and stewardship. The George Wright Forum published insights from virtually every field in cultural and natural resources related to parks, protected areas, and cultural sites. You can download free of charge every paper ever published in The George Wright Forum from our publications archive website: http://www.georgewright.org/forum_issues.
Journal Summary: Emerging from the UCL Institute of Archaeology Heritage Studies Section, Present Pasts is an interdisciplinary journal encouraging global and cross-cultural debate on critical issues around the meaning of heritage today. After a long hiatus, the journal is being re-launched under the editorship of the Department of Anthropology of the University of South Florida. The journal seeks to give voice to a wide range of stakeholders with a common interest in heritage, particularly from the fields of Cultural Heritage Studies, Public Archaeology, Museum Studies, Public History, Sociology, Anthropology, Memory Studies and Cultural Geography. The journal is published online as a continuous volume and issue throughout the year. Articles are made available as soon as they are ready.
Journal Summary: Published every month by the Museums Association, Museums Journal provides readers with comprehensive news, analysis of key issues, profiles, reviews and details of the latest projects in museums, galleries, historic sites, cultural properties, archives and libraries.
I was invited to present a keynote talk last week on how I have engaged with heritage policy making over an extended period. This formed part of a workshop at the University of Leeds, run by PRAXIS, under the GCRF programme – a giant funding stream from the UK research councils designed to address a range of global issues. Various projects funded via the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) are either heritage-focused or have elements of heritage activity or cultural resource use within them. From discussion with the organisers and delegates at the workshop, this very international / externally-facing group of research projects (as far as geography is concerned) have potential to influence policy both in the overseas territories in which the work is being undertaken, but also potentially back home. However, the challenge and skills gap identified is one of how to go about translating these findings into a policy context, and where best to do it.
I tried to convey a few key points based on my experience:
Policy happens in many places / levels / geographies and organisational settings. We tend to think of policy being something which is done by national governments through Ministries and the legal system. Policy, however, exists in many different places, and influence (possibly with greater results) might be achieved in a policy context at a city, region or locality scale, or with a particular group of stakeholders. Equally, policies exist within the organisational context, of NGOs, civil society bodies, charities and businesses – and research outcomes or findings may be able to have influence on decision-making and approaches to issues there. Indeed, some research outputs in the international development space, allied to low-tech and simple solutions to a problem, potentially have commercial application in another space supporting entrepreneurship. So, policy isn’t just about Governments.
Approaches to issues and methodologies might be as important as a specific policy or shift. A lot of my own work over the past 25 years hasn’t directly influenced a specific outcome or output, but has facilitated development of knowledge management, which has in turn been able to be used to influence policy and decisions higher up the Governmental chain, or elsewhere in the sector’s ecosystem of organisations. I used the example of Heritage Counts and Historic Environment Audits – which I was instrumental in establishing in the first place (back in 2000-2002 in England, and subsequently in Scotland), through demonstration to lead heritage bodies in the home nations, that collation of key statistics and KPIs, alongside a focused data collection and analysis programme, could help to address the perceived lack of ability to argue the case for heritage within a national policy setting.
This can take time. Policy and/or approaches to policy aren’t made or changed overnight (usually). Getting involved with policy has to be thought of in the timeframe beyond any research itself, and may take an extended period of years. Another case study I used was my small involvement through the Built Environment Forum Scotland’s workstream groups supporting the creation of the Scottish Government’s national heritage strategy in Scotland (Our Place in Time). This took place over a period of almost two years in total.
Engagement with policy can take particular type of effort and engagement. I think it is really important to translate research into policy influence, to support better evidence-based policy making (to use a well known public policy phrase): but this requires a particular decision to get involved and stay involved on a personal level as an academic. This decision has to be made in the context of everything else that an academic might be expected to do ‘in the day job’, as many involvements beyond taking time, require other kinds of capacity to engage properly. In my own case, over the past 4 years, I have stepped back from an absolutely full time role in order to ‘buy’ me some space to continue to engage with organisations and policy approaches properly. It all complements and feeds back in a myriad of inter-relationships into my own day job, and arguably makes me a more useful member of University staff because of it, but it required me to make some very specific decisions and considerations about my career.
I will reflect a little further on the workshop in another couple of posts, and will also make my slides available. The PRAXIS team filmed parts of the event, and a podcast is also going to be made available, which we made at the end of the day picking up on some key questions.
As another trip to China draws to a close, I leave this time from Shanghai Pudong Airport. Apart from the excitement of a trip on the Maglev (finally, after three years my itinerary allowed it!), the real thrill was finding a Lego Architecture set in the Duty Free of one of the great World Heritage Sites: the Great Wall of China. What’s not to like (apart from the price, which is as steep as the climb up parts of the Wall)?
Journal summary: The Journal of Cultural Economics applies economic analysis to all of the creative and performing arts and the heritage and cultural industries, whether publicly or privately funded. Furthermore, the journal explores the economic organization of the cultural sector and the behavior of producers, consumers, and governments within the cultural sector. Papers are published dealing with the theoretical development of cultural economics as a subject, the application of economic analysis and econometrics to the field of culture, and the economic aspects of cultural policy.
Publisher: Springer in association with the Association for Cultural Economics International
Journal summary: The Journal of Contemporary Archaeology explores archaeology’s specific contribution to understanding the present and recent past. It is concerned both with archaeologies of the contemporary world, defined temporally as belonging to the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, as well as with reflections on the socio-political implications of doing archaeology in the contemporary world. In addition to its focus on archaeology, JCA encourages articles from a range of adjacent disciplines which consider recent and contemporary material-cultural entanglements, including anthropology, art history, cultural studies, design studies, heritage studies, history, human geography, media studies, museum studies, psychology, science and technology studies and sociology. Acknowledging the key place which photography and digital media have come to occupy within this emerging subfield, JCA includes a regular photo essay feature and provides space for the publication of interactive, web-only content on its website. Emerging from a number of different quarters, this exciting and rapidly expanding field of research has for some time fallen uneasily between a range of other disciplines, research areas and journals. JCA acts as a dedicated international forum in which to establish the boundaries of this emerging sub-discipline, to develop new methods, concepts and approaches, and to collaborate on important future research agendas on archaeologies of the recent past and present.
Journal Summary: The International Journal of Heritage Studies (IJHS) is the interdisciplinary academic, refereed journal for scholars and practitioners with a common interest in heritage. The Journal encourages debate over the nature and meaning of heritage as well as its links to memory, identities and place. Articles may include issues emerging from Heritage Studies, Museum Studies, History, Tourism Studies, Sociology, Anthropology, Memory Studies, Cultural Geography, Law, Cultural Studies, and Interpretation and Design.
Journal summary: Heritage & Society provides a forum for scholarly, professional, and community reflection on the cultural, political, and economic impacts of heritage on contemporary society. It seeks to examine the current social roles of collective memory, historic preservation, cultural resource management, public interpretation, cultural preservation and revitalization, sites of conscience, diasporic heritage, education, legal/legislative developments, cultural heritage ethics, and central heritage concepts such as authenticity, significance, and value. The journal provides an engaging forum about tangible and intangible heritage for those who work with international and governmental organizations, academic institutions, private heritage consulting and CRM firms, and local, associated, and indigenous communities. With a special emphasis on social science approaches and an international perspective, the journal facilitates lively, critical discussion and dissemination of practical data among heritage professionals, planners, policymakers, and community leaders.