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)

UK Tourism Policy and the 2015 General Election

As the 2015 general election in the UK draws nearer, the tourism industry will look with interest to the manifestos of the major parties to see whether tourism gets a mention.   Despite none of the parties mentioning tourism in their manifestos for the election in 2010, tourism was the subject of one of the first policy statements by our Prime Minister, David Cameron, in August 2010.

uk tourism image

I posted a series of blog posts in the run up to the publication of the 2011 UK Tourism Policy, which you can read herehere and here. In these posts, I suggested that the government needed to develop a serious industrial policy for tourism, cut VAT on tourism, invest in skills development and education for tourism professionals and create tourism enterprise zones. Over the last few years, I’ve written (mostly with my colleague Dr Samantha Chaperon) a few papers that evaluate the UK Government’s recent approach to the tourism industry along similar lines.

In 2010, we published this paper on the prospects for English Seaside Towns in the context of the closing down of the Regional Development Agencies and their replacement by new Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs). We concluded that the LEPs did not place sufficient emphasis on tourism and that they did not recognize the challenges to developing seaside towns associated with their peripheral locations.

In 2013, we published this paper critiquing the UK Government’s 2011 Tourism Policy. In the paper we outlined the major changes that had taken place in the governance and public funding of tourism following the publication of this policy and suggested that the policy did not offer a clear vision of how the government would support the industry in a period of public sector austerity.

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Click on this image to read the current UK tourism policy

Also in 2013, I published this paper, which reviewed the tourism policies of successive UK Governments from 1997-2010 in terms of their relationship to local economic development. This paper shows that, although the current government’s tourism policy continues with many of the assumptions of previous policies about the links between tourism and economic development, it does introduce some new thinking that may create an environment in which the tourism industry can contribute to local economic development.

Thanks to pressure from industry groups such as the Tourism Society, British Hospitality Association and the Campaign to Cut Tourism VAT, it is likely that all of the main political parties in the UK will make statements about the plans for tourism in the run up to the general election.

I think the chances of tourism making it into the published manifestos are pretty slim – tourism isn’t really a doorstep issue. However, we should expect to hear something like this statement from the Labour Party from all of their rivals over the next few months. As they do so, I’ll be reviewing them on this blog and trying to get a sense of what the post-election tourism landscape will look like.

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.

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!

Why choose the arts to regenerate a community?

This is the presentation that I gave at the ‘Cultural Journeys’ conference at University Centre Folkestone on 9th September. It is mainly images, but if you download it you can read my notes in the PowerPoint file that include references to some useful sources about cultural regeneration.