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)

Back the bid: East Kent City of Culture 2017

East Kent, the area that I grew up in and where I’ve spent most of my life, is bidding to become the UK City of Culture in 2017.  This is an innovative, exciting attempt to bring together the areas of Ashford, Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone and Thanet as a single ‘city’ for the bid.

back the bid logo

Over the last ten years, there has been a flourishing of cultural activity and investment in East Kent.  My Phd (which is almost finished!), looks at how this has taken place on Kent’s coast.  I’ve written about cultural regeneration has been taking place in seaside towns generally and in Margate and Folkestone, specifically.  Inland though, there are other exciting cultural activities – Canterbury is a beautiful heritage city with an international arts festival and Ashford has an emerging arts scene with a new exciting venue and an inspiring, energetic arts manager in the local authority promoting the work of the borough’s artists.

East Kent is a diverse and interesting part of the country – it is an area of significant economic growth and home to some very wealthy people, but it is also the site of areas of significant poverty and exclusion.  Kent is a huge county, and large parts of it are rural (the garden of England, apparently!), but the urban areas are densely populated and growing fast.  For years, the area’s proximity to London has been a brake on the development of its cultural offer, but now high-speed links and it’s great quality of life mean that it can attract new residents from the capital and put on events that attract London audiences.

The successful opening of Turner Contemporary on East Kent’s most distant tip shows that distance is no barrier in attracting audiences if the quality of the cultural offer is high and the marketing is right – this bid will showcase the excellent cultural activity of the area and build on the buzz around Margate.

I want this bid to win. 11 cities are submitting bids and East Kent’s is clearly the most innovative – bringing together a huge range of local authorities, cultural organisations and other agencies.  If East Kent isn’t successful, then there is a huge amount to be gained from the bidding process: new links between councils who have competed rather than co-operated in the past, new networks of cultural organisations, a better sense of the cultural offer in the area and increased visibility for tourists and visitors.

Jools Holland and Tracey Emin at the opening of the Turner Contemporary Gallery
Jools Holland and Tracey Emin at the opening of the Turner Contemporary Gallery

Of course, as a researcher, I and others will be looking for opportunities to get under the skin of this bid and the project itself, if East Kent win.  These projects aren’t without their critics and maximising the benefits of this for tourism, economic development and the cultural sector will be challenging, but bidding, and hopefully winning, is the beginning of an exciting new opportunity for East Kent.  The short list for the next stage of the competition will be announced in June – you can support East Kent’s bid by clicking here and adding your name!

Dreamland, tourism and the regeneration of Margate

This week, a battle has been taking place in the High Court over the future of the Dreamland theme park site in Margate, Kent.  The Local Authority for Margate, Thanet District Council, has been granted a Compulsory Purchase Order for the site, because it wants to develop it in what it sees as the best interests of the town and its residents.  The owners of the site, Dreamland Live, are challenging this decision and want to retain the right to develop this land in their own commercial interests.

This is a brief news report about the background to the court battle, including a short contribution from me.  The court case finished yesterday, with a judgement due in around two weeks.

The Dreamland site is an important part of Margate’s tourism heritage and vital for the future of tourism development and regeneration in the area.  The delays to this project are incredibly damaging to the development of the town and are only worsening Margate’s Tourism Destination Image, which had been massively improved recently with the opening of Turner Contemporary.

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Click here to find out about more about Dreamland

I wrote a journal article about the regeneration of Margate, and of the use of culture to regenerate seaside towns generally, which you can read more about here.

The large dreamland site
The large Dreamland site

I’m not convinced that the owners of the site have really grasped the full potential of a revitalised Dreamland for tourism and economic development. However, I’m equally concerned that the local authority may not have the funds, capacity and commercial experience to deliver a project that is sustainable in the long-term.

I hope that the future development of Dreamland involves a genuine partnership between the public and private sectors and that the Dreamland Trust remain at the heart of the project. The trust have put together a set of really exciting ideas for the future of the site and represent a range of views and interests in the local community.  Without them, I’m sure that the whole site would have been given over to housing or a supermarket development long ago.

Social media and tourism marketing: Margate vs. Easyjet

Last week, I posted a photo on twitter. I took it on a Southeastern train that was going from London to Kent. This is the photo:

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Within an hour or so, my tweet was being re-tweeted and the photo was popping up on twitter and Facebook. When I woke up the next day, it was appearing on blogs and I was being emailed by journalists to ask for more details.

This advert provoked strong reactions for a few reasons:

  • Easyjet were suggesting that Margate was a second-class destination, that you wouldn’t go to unless it was all you could afford.
  • Margate has been undergoing huge developments, not least the opening of turner contemporary. It was recently voted one of the top must-see destinations in the world by Rough Guides. Easyjet seemed to be ignorant of this or, worse, deliberately mis-representing the destination
  • The advert was placed on a train that served the destination that it was insulting.  This last point isn’t really an objection to Easyjet, but to Southeastern Trains.  They have been supporters of Visit Kent, the DMO for the region, but they have also recently supported the regeneration of Margate through their high-profile PR link-up with Margate’s Mary Portas-supported town centre revival project.

Over the course of a few days on twitter, the extent of public anger about this advertising campaign was made clear to Easyjet.  Margate’s Mayor used twitter particularly effectively to complain to the airline.

On Monday, Easyjet formally apologised and withdrew the campaign.  This was reported locally, but also nationally, in the Independent and Telegraph newspapers and on the ITV news website.

This is a fascinating example of how communities in tourism destinations can influence how they are perceived and marketed, thanks to the power of social media and the access that this gives communities to the media and tourism businesses.  Admittedly, this kind of negative advertising is quite rare.  In fact, it most closely resembles the kind of comparative tourism marketing that helped to kill off towns like Margate in the 1960s, when English tourists were first shown the delights of Sun, Sand and Sangria.

Local gourmet Pizza company, GB Pizza, came up with this witty response to Easyjet’s campaign, I wonder how far we agree?

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Seaside towns and Local Enterprise Partnerships: paper

Our paper on seaside towns and local enterprise partnerships has just been published in the proceedings of the 2010 ATHE conference.  Click here to go to the ATHE website where you order a copy of the proceedings.  The abstract is below:

Despite their huge popularity as holiday destinations, seaside towns have generally been under-researched. Existing research is limited to narrow historical perspectives and is often focused at a regional level. British seaside towns have suffered a significant decline but there is little attention given to how contemporary issues are likely to shape their futures. For this paper, a sample of British seaside towns that form part of the newly approved Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) are analysed to identify how these new governance arrangements are likely to affect future development in these areas. Core-periphery theory (CPT) is used as a framework within which to analyse these  arrangements and to identify potential problems and obstacles.  Analysis reveals significant governance issues for seaside towns in terms of structural inequalities and relationships of dependency. The LEPs do not adequately recognise the peripheral nature of seaside towns and the special conditions needed for their development. There is a reliance on outdated growth models and there is a lack of innovation in their approach. From a CPT perspective, the new LEPs do not seem to provide a brighter future for the development of seaside towns.

Rediscovering cultural tourism: cultural regeneration in seaside towns

UPDATE: This article is now available for free download from here.

I’ve just had this article published in the Journal of Town and City Management. The abstract is below.  If you’d like to know more about this paper and don’t have access to read it online, please get in touch.

“British seaside towns have been subject to numerous attempts at regeneration and rebranding since the collapse of traditional seaside tourism began in the late 1970s. This paper reviews contemporary approaches to seaside regeneration and demonstrates that cultural regeneration strategies are becoming increasingly prevalent in this area. The validity of transferring city-based models of cultural development to these smaller urban areas is critiqued. The history of cultural investment in seaside towns is highlighted to show how current approaches to cultural regeneration, while presented as novel, are in fact a resumption of earlier strategies of cultural tourism development. This heritage of cultural development provides a resource for seaside cultural regeneration which may allow development of this type to avoid the negative social impacts often associated with cultural regeneration in cities.”

Local Enterprise Partnerships and Seaside Towns: new paper

Samantha Chaperon and I have had a paper accepted for a Regional Studies Association event on ‘Innovation Processes and Destination Development in Tourist Resorts’ that will be held in Östersund, Sweden from 30th March-1st April this year.  Our paper is titled ‘Local Enterprise Partnerships and Seaside Towns: an analysis of a framework for the governance of tourism in the UK.’

The event has been organised by the RSA network on Tourism, Regional Development and Public Policy who are very interesting group of researchers.  I presented a paper on seaside tourism in Kent at one of their events in Aalborg, Denmark in 2008 – click here for the presentation – and the seminar was really well organised, with a great range of contributions with a Northern and Eastern European focus and lots of good discussion.

Seaside towns and Local Enterprise Partnerships

This is a copy of a presentation that myself and a colleague, Samantha Chaperon, were due to give at the ATHE 2010 conference last week. Sadly the weather conspired against us, but the organisers have been kind enough to let us submit the full paper for the proceedings, which I will post a link to here in Spring 2011 once they have been published.

Arts-led regeneration – visit of Japanese scholars to Kent

I was very pleased to be invited last week to speak to a group of Japanese scholars from Oita University who were on a visit to Kent to investigate cultural regeneration led by Teresa Smith from the University of Oxford. 

JK discussing cultura regeneration with visiting academics 

I spoke about my research into the social impacts of cultural regeneration and we had a detailed discussion of the recent evolution of British regeneration policy from the Single Regeneration Budget era to the new Local Enterprise Partnerships.  You can see my presentation below.

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*I’d love to be able to credit the artists involved in the first picture on my slides.  It was emailed to me in 2007 by a participant in some research I was doing at the time and I think it’s a fantastic image.  If you have any info on this, please let me know!

The development of seaside towns: domestic tourism in a core-periphery context

I’ve been working on some new research with a colleague, Samantha Chaperon, which uses dependency theory as a framework for analysing the development of seaside towns. In particular, we’re interested in what light this research can shed on the new Local Enterprise Partnerships that affect these towns. We’ll be presenting the early stages of our research at the ATHE conference from 1-3 December in Canterbury, UK, and I’ve included the abstract for the paper below:

Peripherality in tourism has traditionally been a concept used to contrast remote, economically disadvantaged, often exotic locations, with the prosperous tourism generating core(s) of northern, western nations. Dependency theory highlights the tension that this creates between nations and populations whose relationships are constructed on the basis of inequality (Britton 1982). This ‘core-periphery conflict’ has produced global landscapes of tourism governance that reflect these inequalities (Jordan 2004).

There have been relatively few attempts to study the governance of domestic tourism within the context of core-periphery theory (CPT). This is a significant omission in tourism and governance literature as domestic tourism at the local level also manifests economic and social inequalities which can lead to conflict (Weaver 1998, Bianchi 2002).

This paper examines the historical and contemporary development of British seaside towns, and the governance of tourism in these towns from a CPT perspective, concentrating on three historical periods. Firstly, the mid 19th century in which their development was tied to the growth of British industrial centres. Secondly, the period in the second half of the 20th century when the growth of southern Mediterranean resorts presented a challenge to seaside towns and, finally, the first two decades of the 21st century in which attempts to regenerate seaside tourism in the UK have been governed by the spatial remits of Regional Development Agencies and the new Local Enterprise Partnerships (Kennell 2010).