Capital, authority, consumer and resident

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

Reflecting on the DCMS Tourism Recovery Plan

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.

Heritage Tourism in 2020: an overview

© David Gill

The impact of lockdowns due to the pandemic is making itself clear on the visitor figures released by ALVA. Reduced visitor numbers will see a reduction in income from ticket sales as well as through retail outlets. We have yet to see the impact on those who pay annual memberships.

These figures use the numbers for the Top 10 properties for the National Trust (NT), the National Trust for Scotland (NTS), English Heritage (EH), and Historic Environment Scotland (HES). The number for Historic Royal Palaces (HRP) is based on three properties: the Tower of London, Kensington Palace, and Hampton Court.

The 44 properties represented in this histogram received over 20 million visitors in 2019; in 2020 it was just over 6 million. The Top 10 properties for HES dropped by nearly 4 million visitors.

Heritage Tourism in 2020: Historic Royal Palaces

© David Gill

One of the last heritage sites I visited in London prior to lockdown was the Tower of London (for the Heritage Alliance conference). ALVA has now released the visitor numbers for three of their properties in London: the Tower, Hampton Court Palace, and Kensington Palace. The combined number of visitors in 2019 was 4.5 million; in 2019 it fell to 730,816.

Heritage Tourism in 2020: National Trust

Ordered by Top 10 sites in 2019 © David Gill, 2021

The ALVA visitor figure data has revealed the impact of the pandemic on the National Trust. Using the Top 10 sites in 2019, the fall has been from 5.4 million to 2.9 million in 2020.

Ordered by Top 10 sites in 2020 © David Gill, 2021

Using the Top 10 sites for 2020, the fall has been from 4.6 million in 2019 to 3.4 million in 2020.

Ordered by Top 20 Sites in 2019 © David Gill, 2021

To give a larger picture, using the Top 20 sites in 2019, the fall has been from 9.1 million to 5.3 million in 2020.

These figures suggest that parks and gardens have allowed the public to continue to engage with heritage through the pandemic.

Heritage Tourism in 2020: University of Cambridge Museums

© David Gill, 2021

The ALVA figures for 2020 have shown the impact of the pandemic on museum visitors through the figures for the University of Cambridge Museums. The total number of visitors has dropped from 1.3 million in 2019 to 471,408 in 2020. However if you remove the Cambridge University Botanic Garden from the figures this leaves 277,918 visitors to all the other locations.

Heritage Tourism in 2020: National Trust for Scotland

© David Gill, 2021

The ALVA figures for 2020 have been released. I have chosen the top 10 locations for the National Trust for Scotland where there is easily accessible data for 2019. I have not included Corrieshalloch Gorge (56,060), Ben Lomond (54,266), or Balmacara Estate & Lochalsh Woodland Garden (45,957). These 10 sites attracted 934,938 in 2020, down from 2.1 million in 2019.

Based on Top 10 sites for 2019 © David Gill, 2021

Using the Top 10 sites for 2019, the fall is from 2.1 million to 888,159 in 2020.

The figures reflect how landscapes and gardens have been used to allow the public to re-engage with heritage sites and locations.

Heritage Tourism in 2020: Historic Environment Scotland

© David Gill, 2021

ALVA has released the visitor figures for 2020 and they are showing the harsh impact of the COVID-19 on the heritage visitor economy. The top 10 Historic Environment Scotland (HES) sites (for 2o2o) have dropped from just under 4.4 million visitors in 2019 to 517,210 in 2020. Edinburgh and Stirling Castles saw a fall of 87 % and Urquhart Castle saw a drop of 89 %. Some sites, unsurprisingly, given the circumstances, saw a fall of over 90 %.

Based on Top 10 locations for 2019 © David Gill, 2021

Using the Top 10 visitor numbers for 2019, visitor numbers fell from 4.5 million to 512,203.

These numbers indicates the impact of the pandemic both on a specific heritage organisation as well as on the tourism sector more generally.

Sector knowledge: Tourist Studies

Journal summary: Tourist Studies is a multi-disciplinary journal providing a platform for the development of critical perspectives on the nature of tourism as a social phenomenon through a qualitative lens. The journal provides a critical social science approach to the study of the tourist and the structures which influence tourist behaviour and the production and reproduction of tourism.

The journal examines the relationship between tourism and related fields of social inquiry. Tourism and tourist styles consumption are not only emblematic of many features of contemporary social change, such as mobility, restlessness, the search for authenticity and escape, but they are increasingly central to economic restructuring, globalization, the sociology of consumption and the aestheticization of everyday life. Tourist Studies analyzes these features of tourism from a multi-disciplinary perspective and seeks to evaluate, compare and integrate approaches to tourism from sociology, socio-psychology, leisure studies, cultural studies, geography and anthropology.

The journal takes a global perspective of tourism, widening and challenging the established views of tourism presented in current periodical literature. Coverage includes: Theoretical analysis with a firm grounding in contemporary problems and issues in tourism studies, qualitative analyses of tourism and the tourist experience, reviews linking theory and policy, interviews with scholars at the forefront of their fields, review essays on particular fields or issues in the study of tourism, review of key texts, publications and visual media relating to tourism studies, and notes on conferences and other events of topical interest to the field of tourism studies.

Publisher: Sage

Website: Tourist Studies: SAGE Journals (sagepub.com)

Access: Subscription; some open-access

Journal type: Academic peer-reviewed

Greece: Museum visitors

National Archaeological Museum, Athens © David Gill

In 2019 there were 5.89 million visits to museums in Greece, worth over 23 million Euros in receipts. The two museums with the highest number of visitors are the New Akropolis Museum (with 1.7 million visitors in 2019) and the National Archaeological Museum in Athens (with 608,000 visitors in 2019). These two museums account for 40 per cent of all public museum visits in the country. Museums in Attiki account for 2.7 million visits, 47 per cent of all public museums visits in the country.

Other areas with high museums visits include Thessaloniki with 591,000 visits (10 per cent of visits), the Dodecanese (including Rhodes) with 381,000 visits (6 per cent of visits), and Crete with 845,000 visits (14 per cent of visits); the site museums of Delphi had 275,000 visits, and Olympia 159,000 visits (together 7 per cent of visits).

© David Gill. Data: Hellenic Statistical Service.