New Cultures of Urban Tourism: a Virtual Special Issue

International Journal of Tourism Cities

Guest Editors: Maria Gravari-Barbas, Sébastien Jacquot and Francesca Cominelli

Classic models of mass-tourism still prevail in most tourism cities, bringing increasingly larger numbers of tourists in urban hotspots. However, the tourism literature observes a change of paradigm in terms of tourism practices and offers and in the attitudes of local populations vis-à-vis to tourism (Quinn, 2007). 

The collection of the ten papers in the Virtual Special Issue (VSI) on New Cultures of Urban Tourism sheds light on the changing patterns of urban tourism, insisting οn the multiple and complex transformations of tourism practices, stakeholders and places in contemporary cities.

Most of the papers build on literature analysing the blurring edges between tourism and everyday life, which challenge our traditional understanding of tourism. They contest, as a starting point of their analysis, the former binary distinctions between home and away, the ordinary and the extraordinary, and the ‘hosts’ and the 'guests'. Based upon the literature on ‘post-tourism’, ‘hyper tourism’, trans-tourism or ‘new tourism’, and on original case studies in several cities (Athens, New Belgrade, Detroit, London, Los Angeles, Marseille, Paris), the authors offer a spherical analysis of the new cultures of urban tourism and contribute to prolonging the debate on the transformation of tourism in contemporary cities and on the changing patterns of cities due to contemporary forms of tourism. 

Editorial: New Cultures of Urban Tourism

1. From urban exploration to ruin tourism: a geographical analysis of contemporary ruins as new frontiers for urban tourism. Aude Le Gallou.

Despite the increasing academic interest for urban ruins and evolutions of urban tourism, research on ruin tourism as an emergent form of urban tourism practice is still lacking. Drawing on existing works on urban exploration, the purpose of this paper is to provide a first geographical insight into ruin tourism and its spatial implications in terms of imaginaries, practices and regulation of urban space.

2. Walking the public: re(visiting) Athens’s historical centre. Dimitra Kanellopoulou.

Since the 1980s, planning public spaces for leisure walking is largely linked with economic and cultural objectives. Parallel to this tendency and the priorities of local authorities on barker public space projects, inhabitant’s associations, that grow up after the 2000s, propose new ways of visiting the city through collective walks. Drawing on the example of the Atenistas group, and based on the discourses of its founders, its presence on social media and the narratives of participants, the purpose of this paper is to question the emergence and function of new forms of urban walking that joggle between tourism, social exchange and act of citizenship.

3. Urban tourism as a bone of contention: four explanatory hypotheses and a caveat. Johannes Novy.

The purpose of this paper is to respond to recent debates surrounding the observable proliferation and intensification of controversies and disputes surrounding urban tourism. It argues that coming to terms with conflicts about and around tourism in cities represents an important frontier for research and puts forth some observations about its causes and characteristics, the debates they have sparked and the scholarly engagement with them to date.

4. The ordinary – extraordinary dialectics in tourist metropolises. Leopold Lucas.

Starting from the hypothesis of an ordinary/extraordinary tension that drives the link between tourist places and non-tourist places, this paper discusses the issue of tourist spatial delimitations. Rather than take such an issue for granted, the paper argues that the author needs to understand how the different actors within the tourism system create specific delimitations and how tourists deal with these delimitations. To pinpoint these tourist spatial delimitations, this paper considers three types of discourses: the discourse of local promoters, the discourse of guidebooks and the discourse of tourists. The purpose of this paper is to explain not only the tourist delimitations established by these actors but also the concordance between the guidebooks’ prescriptions, the public actors’ strategies and the tourists’ practices. In this empirical investigation, the author uses the case of Los Angeles and focuses more specifically on the two main tourist places within the agglomeration: Hollywood and Santa Monica. The argument supports the idea that political actors tend to develop what the author could consider a tourist secession, as the author tends to precisely delimit the designated area for the sake of efficiency. Guidebooks, which the author must consider because they are true and strong prescribers of tourist practices, draw their own tourist neighbourhoods. Finally, most tourists in Los Angeles conform to these delimitations and do not venture off the beaten track.

5. Alternative tourism and civil society in Athens. Hecate Vergopoulos.

The purpose of this paper is to tackle the issue of the meaning of tourism as it is being crippled by the economic crisis in Greece.

6. Post-socialism and “ordinary” tourism: New Belgrade. Milos Nicic, Sanja Iguman.

The purpose of this paper is to examine the emerging practices of the “tourism of the ordinary” in the wider frame of post-socialist transformation of Serbia’s capital city – Belgrade. By sourcing the inspiration in cultural studies and classics of the studies of the ordinary, focus is directed to the patterns of tourism consumption of practices, places and people that do not fall in the category of tourism attraction. The attention is drawn to New Belgrade (Novi Beograd in Serbian), residential part of Belgrade built predominantly after the Second World War. New Belgrade lacks proper tourism infrastructure, commoditized attractions and consumerable tourism experiences on a large scale. Nevertheless, this part of the city is slowly becoming explored by tourists individually or in organized walking or cycling tours. Visits to New Belgrade are most often connected to alternative or hip visitors and have the allure of both urban exploration and cultural practice, as the tours are offered by specialist architectural organizations or individual guides. By introspecting the case of New Belgrade, this paper attempts to address the prospect that ordinary exist only in relation to the attraction and that its appeal comes from the fact that what is ordinary to someone is attraction to another.

7. Tourism and involvement of inhabitants in Paris. Marine Loisy.

The purpose of this paper is to examine the adaptation strategies of inhabitants and the forms of participation they adopt in tourism activities in Paris. As public policies have recently recognized the importance of taking into account inhabitants in the tourism development strategy in Paris and its suburbs, this paper proposes an analysis of the different forms of this participation and its stakes for the territories.

8. Exploring new frontiers? 'Neo-slumming' and gentrification as a tourism resource. Raphaël Pieroni, Patrick James Naef.

The purpose of this paper is to analyse urban transformation as a tourism resource. Tourism is undeniably a powerful motor for urban transformation but in return, urban transformation can represent a resource for actors related to tourism. More precisely this paper focuses on one major transformation of modern cities: gentrification.

9. Boundary tourism and touristic boundaries in Marseille’s northern districts. Yannick Hascoët.

The purpose of this paper is to discuss the touristic classification of the developing practices in the northern districts of Marseille (France).

10. Mechanisms, actors and impacts of the touristification of a tourism periphery. Maria Gravari-Barbas, Sébastien Jacquot.

The purpose of this paper is to analyze the mechanisms involved in the progressive integration of marginal and peripheral urban areas, located close to established tourist destinations, into the visited tourism perimeter, and the interplay of the supporting public and private actors. It focusses on the intertwining processes of commercial gentrification, heritagization and aestheticization of former “ordinary” or marginal areas as tools for and indications of their tourism development. It explores how the metropolitan tourism geography is progressively redesigned.