Cultural tourism and the new silk roads

I recently gave a keynote speech at the 2020 World Culture and Tourism Forum in Xi’an, China. I spoke about the role that cultural tourism could play in the new Silk Road developments.

In my presentation, I focused on how cultural tourism could form a part of the new ‘Silk Roads’ in the context of China’s ‘Belt and Road’ initiative, but also about how cultural tourism might change in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. You can view my presentation below.

Tourism Entrepreneurship and Industrial Restructuring

Our latest paper, on industrial restructuring and tourism entrepreneurship in Serbia, has just been published. This is an open access paper that you can download and read, for free, from here. The abstract is below:

Aerial view Orthodox church Lazarevac, Kolubara, Serbia

National culture can influence entrepreneurship by creating a specific cultural framework that defines the possibilities for the recognition of opportunities for entrepreneurial activities, as well as their social desirability. Very large corporations, especially those that dominate a region, also have their own organizational cultures, which in turn influence local social culture, and which can constitute a specific subculture within society. The “Kolubara” mine is the largest in Serbia, employing more than 11,000 workers. As most of its employees are living close to its headquarters, the small town of Lazarevac (Central Serbia), the culture nurtured within this organization and among its employees is heavily intertwined with the social culture of the inhabitants of the town. The GLOBE (Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness) approach was used to investigate the relation between this organizational culture and national culture, by measuring the nine GLOBE cultural dimensions of the “Kolubara” employees and of the inhabitants of Lazarevac. The results of this are discussed and analyzed in the context of the ongoing economic transformation in many post-socialist economies. This study highlights the readiness of the people of small industrial towns, such as Lazarevac, to adapt to this ongoing transition and to undertake entrepreneurial activities in tourism during periods of industrial restructuring and the growth of service industries in former industrial areas.

Funded PhD Scholarship

With two of my colleagues at the University of Greenwich, we are offering a funded PhD scholarship to come and work with us, evaluating a major regeneration project over three years, in south-east London.

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You can view the full description, and find out about the application process here.  If you’d like to contact me about this directly, please just get in touch, but I’ve included some brief information below:

Description:

Are you interested in assisting with the evaluation of a large-scale regeneration initiative in London? A fully-funded studentship developed by Arup, The Social Innovation Partnership and the University of Greenwich is available for a student to qualitatively and quantitatively track changes in Thamesmead over time.

The Role

Thamesmead is a town that was established in the 1960s with the intention of being a ‘model city,’ built with utopian architecture, green spaces and waterways along the banks of the river Thames. Peabody’s mission is to improve, grow and look after Thamesmead for the long-term. Because Peabody owns much of the land, housing and retail, and natural spaces in the area, it is in the unique position to take a holistic, area-wide approach to its regeneration. Peabody has engaged Arup, TSIP and the University of Greenwich to jointly manage the Thamesmead Evaluation Framework.

The PhD student will make a significant contribution to the overall evaluation of the Thamesmead Plan, and will carry out research with practical implications. The research focuses on public space, culture, arts and heritage and community cohesion, and the lived experience of place.

This studentship will be supervised by a team specialising in urban and cultural regeneration, with additional support from Arup, a world-leading urban consultancy firm. The student is expected to work closely with the supervisory team, key internal stakeholders and external contractors. The student researcher will also train Peabody staff and/or local residents in data collection methods.

The Candidate

The candidate will hold a relevant postgraduate qualification, will be experienced with qualitative and quantitative research methods and willing to conduct fieldwork within the locality.

For further information please contact the supervisor: Dr. Menna Jones, M.T.Jones@greenwich.ac.uk

Bursary available (subject to satisfactory performance):

Year 1: £15,009 Year 2 and 3: In line with RCUK rate

The successful candidate will receive a contribution to tuition fees equivalent to the university’s Home/EU rate, currently £4,327, for the duration of their scholarship. International applicants will need to pay the remainder tuition fee for the duration of their scholarship. This fee is subject to an annual increase. Scholarships are available for three years, full-time study from the date scholars first register as an MPhil/PhD student with the university. Applicants must meet the programme entry requirements.

For additional information about the scholarship please go to: www.gre.ac.uk/research/study/research-studentships-and-scholarships

 

Cultur WB

Last week, I was very pleased to be invited to speak at the launch of the Cultur WB network, in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina. Cultur WB is a new network to support the development of Cultural Tourism across the Western Balkans region that has been set up with ERASMUS+ funding in a project with partners from Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, The Netherlands, Austria and Germany.  When I was there the project was also bringing in new contributions from the UK, Greece and Albania.

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The Cultur WB partners in Sarajevo

The Cultur WB project aims to not only strengthen ties between people working on cultural tourism as practitioners and researchers in the region, but also to to develop life-long-learning programmes for people working in tourism and new Masters programmes in cultural tourism.  At the launch event, I gave a presentation on how small and emerging destinations can use cultural events to develop their tourism, and how we should think about measuring the impacts of these events.  You can view the presentation below:

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The launch event was fantastic, with presentations from politicians, academics and practitioners.  Sarajevo itself is an amazing city and the organisers of the event, Sarajevo Meeting of Cultures, are doing an incredible job of trying to get their city onto the Cultural Tourism map, which I have no doubt they are succeeding in.

Big Events in Small Destinations

I recently spoke at the 2nd annual International Conference for Students in Tourism and Gastronomy, in Skopje, Macedonia.  My presentation was about how small tourism destinations, especially in emerging economies, can use major events as part of their tourism branding.  You can view my presentation below:

To get an idea of what my presentation was about, have a look at this short video about the recent stage of the World Triathlon Championship that was held in Jersey, a small island of 100,000 people off the coast of France.  With a worldwide television audience of 3 million people, hosting this event provided media exposure that Jersey Tourism could never afford.

This was a great event, which I also spoke at last year.  This year was even more successful, with presentations from Ljupco Janevski  from the Macedonian National Tourism Agency, Thiago Ferreria from Serbia4Youth and Prof. Dejan Metodijeski from the Goce Delcev University of Stip.  I’m looking forward to supporting the event again next year as it continues to grow and become an important tourism event in the region.

The Economic Impact of the Self Catering Sector in England

With a colleague, Ewa Krolikowska, we recently published a report for the English Association of Self Catering Operators, on the economic impact of the self-catering accommodation sector in rural and coastal England.  This was the first national study of its kind and you can download the report from the EASCO website by filling in your name and email address here.

James Kennell & Ewa Krolikowska at the House of Commons launch for the report
James Kennell & Ewa Krolikowska at the House of Commons launch for the report

There has been a lot of public attention given recently to the sharing economy in tourism, especially air bnb and uber, and although this is an important new entrant to our visitor economy, it isn’t yet clear what the future of this sector is on many levels, not least in terms of its social and economic sustainability, and its integration with the country’s wider tourism product.

In contrast to this, Self-catering accommodation is an established, well-regarded and often very high quality product that makes a significant contribution to our tourism industry, especially in our rural and coastal communities.  Despite this, it is hardly ever mentioned in the many reports, policies, strategies and destination management plans that have been produced by government and industry alike.

One of the reasons for this is its lack of visibility – paradoxically, one of the great strengths of this accommodation sector is a weakness in this regard.  Self-catering is a low-impact, sustainable solution for integrating visitors into a local economy – it creates jobs in family businesses, as well as domestic SMEs, and makes use of accommodation and services like village pubs and public transport that might otherwise struggle to survive without tourists.

We’ve carried out the first national study of the economic impact of this accommodation, using actual booking information, that has allowed us to estimate the economic impact of self-catering accommodation in rural and coastal areas in England. We’ve used the same multiplier calculations that are used by our public tourism bodies.  We’ve actually been quite conservative in our calculations.  We haven’t made assumptions about how much self-catering tourists spend, we’ve just looked at how much they pay to book their accommodation and what happens inside these properties.

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We have calculated that these self-catering properties contribute an additional £3.04 billion to English GVA each year.  We haven’t looked at the impacts of additional spending by these tourists, but it is clear to us that this figure would significantly increase this impact.

In addition to this, the sector supports more than 20,000 FTE jobs in our rural and coastal communities.

There are three main conclusions that we have drawn from this:

 

  1. It is clear that the more than £3bn economic contribution made by self-catering properties alone to rural and coastal economies in the UK is significant, and under-acknowledged.  To give some context, the government’s own statistics suggest that the entire contribution of agriculture and fishing to these same communities economy is only £10.7bn
  2. It is clear from the booking data that we have analysed that this economic impact involves a significant transfer of economic activity from the prosperous regions of the UK, especially London and the South-East to the countries rural and peripheral areas, not least the south-west and the north-west.  This has implications for the rebalancing of the economy and the government’s approach to our rural economy
  3. The sector should receive much more attention, not just from researchers, but from policy-makers and tourism agencies, who have a sustainable, high-quality, services industry available to them to support growth in often disadvantaged areas, with high potential for future growth.

We hope that this report helps politicians and policy makers to look at the self-catering sector with fresh eyes and makes a contribution to the current debates taking place within government about how to grow the English economy outside of London.

Tourism and Economic Development in Suffolk

This is the presentation that I gave last week, at the Suffolk Inside Out event in Ipswich.  This excellent event was organised by Events Management students from University Campus Suffolk, who brought together some great speakers and delegates from Suffolk to discuss the development of tourism and the visitor economy in the region.

The main points of my presentation were:

  • Tourism makes a strong contribution to the economic growth priorities of Suffolk,  and tourism stakeholders need to make that clear when they talk to politicians and policy makers
  • The majority of tourism in Suffolk (94%) is day visits, but day trip spending is around £25 per day, way below the national average of £31.  Increasing day visit spend should be a big regional priority.
  • The growth of staycations offers the opportunity for Suffolk to grow a high value domestic tourism market, but this is very competitive and tourism businesses should consider how to offer even more high quality, high value products to the top end of this market.

Heritage, Tourism and Economic Development in Seaside Towns

Yesterday, I gave this presentation at a fascinating event at Turner Contemporary in Margate on local lists and the heritage sector.  I was invited to speak by the Margate Neighbourhood Plan Forum and Margate Civic Society, about the relationship between heritage, tourism and economic development.  This was great opportunity for me to return to Margate, the regeneration of which I published this article about a few years ago.

In my presentation, I argued that, in the absence of strong government policies on tourism and culture, and as public sector funding and control of regeneration reduces, there is an opportunity for heritage groups (like the fantastic Sevenoaks Society, who presented their work on local lists at the event) to influence how their local heritage is presented to tourists and to influence the nature of local economic development.

My main point was that tourists want fantastic, memorable experiences.  If heritage groups can present their local heritage to tourists as interesting stories and use exciting narratives, then heritage can be a great resource for regeneration. This might mean them becoming comfortable with the inauthentic heritagisation of their areas, but seaside towns like Whitby and Blackpool show that this can be highly effective in bringing in tourists and generating economic impacts.

 

An elephant delighting tourists in Margate (Thanks to Geoff Orton @ Margate Civic Society)
A mechanical elephant delighting tourists in Margate (Thanks to Geoff Orton @ Margate Civic Society)

A visit to Belgrade

Last week, Dr Samantha Chaperon and I, from the University of Greenwich, presented at the Belgrade Tourism Conference 2015, which was being held alongside the Belgrade Tourism Fair.  We were invited to speak by Serbia4Youth, an amazing organisation who are working to present Serbia as a destination for young people from across Europe and beyond.

Serbia4Youth brought together a group of academics for an event that was opened by Gordana Plamanec, the Managing Director of the National Tourism Organisation of Serbia.  As well as Samantha and I, delegates heard from Rob Davidson (MICE Knowledge) and Dr Melanie Smith (Budapest Business School), Miha Lesjak (University of Primorska, Slovenia) and Milan Stojkovic (Tourism Management Consultant).

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Rob Davidson, Melanie Smith, Samantha Chaperon and I

The conference was one of the most interesting tourism events that I’ve been involved in for a long time – a chance to hear from academics in a region that is often under-represented in academic circles and to listen to the views of young people from the region about how they see the future of tourism and their own careers. I learnt about the extent and significance of spa and health tourism in south-eastern Europe and the innovative marketing of the European Basketball Championships in Solvenia in 2013, as well as the factors affecting tourism entrepreneurship in the region.  You can view our presentations below:

Dr Samantha Chaperon: Tourist Destination Image – Young People’s Perceptions of Serbia

James Kennell: Cultural Tourism and Urban Regeneration in Europe – Lessons for Serbia

As well as a great conference, our hosts showed us some of the traditional culture of Serbia and took us to some of their other events for young people in the city.  Belgrade has so much to offer young people as a destination, not least its nightlife!  We tried to keep up, but eventually gave in and saved our energy for sightseeing…

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Tourism Policy in the UK – do we really need one?

Despite writing and teaching about tourism policy, I do sometimes wonder about whether we need tourism policy at all, at least in the UK.

The classical arguments for why we need tourism policy are fairly convincing: The industry is incredibly complex and fragmented and benefits from structure and leadership; The environmental impacts of tourism require management; Tourism, left unchecked, can have severe social consequences in destinations; The high growth potential of tourism means that governments would be wise to support and nurture it and, most frequently, tourism suffers from the problem of market failure.

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There are at least two questions worth asking in response to all of this.  Firstly, do all of these arguments really carry weight in the UK?  Secondly, what would happen if we didn’t have a tourism policy?

The complexity of tourism was described perfectly by Bob McKercher in the first issue of the Journal of Sustainable Tourism in 1993: “Tourism is a multi-faceted industry and, as such, it is almost impossible to control”. This is certainly true, but begs the question of why we need to control tourism at all.  In the UK, with a strong and stable government, the tourism industry is regulated and monitored through a range of legislative measure, guidelines, NGOs, partnerships and communities.  Concerns about the control of tourism are caused by the bogey-man of tourism businesses running out of control and seeking profit at the expense of everyone else, but it is very hard for anyone to do that in the UK without running up against some pretty big obstacles, none of which are tourism-policy specific.

This first issue of control helps us to understand the arguments about the impacts of tourism.  Clearly, tourism has a range of impacts and some of these can be very negative.  Tourism Policy in the UK, however, doesn’t actually put any limits on the activities of tourism businesses – limits come from more general legislation such as planning and employment law.

As I’ve argued in this article, although previous UK tourism policies did make the case for sustainable development, this has been dropped from the current policy in favour of economic growth, in any case.

The market failure argument is a difficult one to evaluate, especially given the success of the tourism industry in the UK.  Of course, problems of free-riding mean that it is true that non-contributing tourism businesses can benefit from the destination marketing activities funded by their competitors, but most tourism marketing is funded by the public sector, or in partnership with the public sector.  Aside from that example though, it is hard to see real problems of market failure in the UK tourism industry – the industry makes a large contribution to GDP, is dominated by SMEs, offers huge diversity to customers and has low barriers to entry.

Tourism's Contribution to GDP in the UK (Visit Britain)
Tourism’s Contribution to GDP in the UK (Visit Britain)

So what would happen if we didn’t get a new tourism policy in the UK after the general election in 2015?

Let’s assume that Visit Britain would continue in some form.  Despite having its funding slashed in half since 2010 and becoming a public-private partnership in all but name, it has continued to carry out the international destination marketing campaigns that an NTO should.  With reduced government support and, potentially, no government department overseeing it, it would probably be wrapped up with UK Trade and Investment and Higher Education as a PPP with a relationship to the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, much as happened when Visit London became part of the new London and Partners, the ‘official promotional company for London’.  International destination marketing would almost certainly carry on as before.

At the local government level, it would become harder to justify support for tourism activities without it being endorsed by a specific government policy area.  But tourism has always been an area of discretionary spending for local government and has already seen huge cuts at this level.  A new breed of Destination Management Organisations is emerging, outside of local authority structures, and it is likely that these private-sector-led bodies would take on destination management and marketing roles, as they already are.

And I don’t think it would make a difference to the day-to-day running of tourism businesses, who spend large amounts of their time grappling with employment law, taxation, health and safety regulations and the like, but very little struggling with the implementation of government tourism policy.   At events over the last few years, I’ve heard tourism business leaders and small businesses arguing for reduced regulation, improved employment legislation and a reduction in VAT.  I haven’t heard anyone calling for an improved tourism policy.

This is the second in a series of posts about UK Tourism Policy in the run up to the 2015 General Election.  You can read the first post here.  Over the next couple of months I’ll be reviewing each of the main parties’ proposals for tourism policy, but I don’t think it is impossible to imagine the UK without one.