Hypotesis

The increasing transformation and proliferation of mobility patterns of population has involved thedevelopment of complex urban structures and new demographic and economic processes that led to the emergence of new dynamics and social, territorial and environmental conflicts.
In this context, destination spaces acquire new features, become places for innovation and development, create new opportunities for the regions where they are located and have to cope/to face up with the new risks arising from the dynamics of global change.

 

Aims

To analyse the role of tourism and leisure development in the context of globalization in the factors of production, territorial competitiveness at a local and regional scale, as well as on hyper-mobile populations and new environmental challenges.

 

 

Background

Mass tourism has contributed to the creation of new territorial structures that influence flows of tourists and residents and generate new social, economic and spatial relationships. It can be argued from this perspective that new models of spatial and urban development have emerged that have originated from place attractiveness dynamics that – in a temporary or permanent sense – are wholly associated with coastal tourism (Duhamel y Violier, 2009).

This Project aims to analyse the value of consolidated coastal tourism destinations as confluence points for specific social groups – be they tourists or residents – and to study to which extent and within which limits these new Mobilities can configure such destinations as spaces and places that catalyse new economic and social opportunities in the framework of globalisation.

Mobilities is an emerging paradigm in the social sciences. It centres on the existence of place-based spatial preferences between people; it generates fluid relationships between spaces and can contextualise tourism destination dynamics with open and integrated systems in an efficient manner. In fact, external and internal accessibility in tourism destinations is considered by authors such as Russo and van der Borg (2002) to be one of the main determinants of its sectorial and spatial competitiveness.

In this sense, the spatial effects of the growth of airport traffic, along with the environmental impacts and growing intensity of tourism flows and the consequent repercussions for and interrelationships with climate change are increasingly known. Also increasingly evident in destination regions are the socio-economic transformations caused by improvements in transport and communication systems or the new relationships and internal/external hierarchies that these generate (Sheller and Urry, 2006, Rullan Salamanca, 2008). The spatial fixity effect of residential mobility on tourism destinations, in turn, generates new forms of urbanism and ‘urbanity’ (Anton Clavé, 2011).

 

1. Residential mobility and spatial competitiveness in consolidated coastal tourism destinations.

Williams and Hall (2009) proposed a new interpretation framework for explaining the relationship between tourism and mobility that allows us to understand that mass tourism is not only a source of wealth creation or a generator of environmental and cultural problems; rather it is a considerable agent of transformation linked to processes such as new transnational lifestyles or the emergence of leisure as culture.

Various studies have stated in this respect that in many tourism places, residential mobility has produced new productivity dynamics in the destination (see, for example, the contributions outlined in Mazón, Huete and Mantecón, 2009). It has been observed that many destinations evolve from their basic tourism orientation into complex spatial structures that reveal new and multiple functions in terms of attracting new residents, increased connectivity and productivity, increased capacity for innovation and new benefits from spatial competitiveness within a regional context (Equipe MIT, 2002; 2004).

Tourists, temporary residents, global élites, business people and workers tend to accumulate in destination places and contribute towards the transformation of spatial hierarchies in the regions where they base themselves and, in an accumulative sense, to the social construction of each particular place (see, for example, Córdona, 2009 and Valenzuela y Coll-Hurtado, 2010).

Obviously the rapid growth of tourism destinations has generated problems in terms of sustainability and the resultant acceleration of the restructuring process has brought with it a need for innovation on many levels. All these factors create a need for new ways of thinking about tourism destinations previously seen as places without an identity, with highly seasonal rhythms, disperse in nature and solely oriented towards leisure and recreation. These new frameworks must consider destinations also as innovative urban spaces of potentially global reach that contribute to the quality of life of their ‘users’ (residents and tourists) due to their external connectivity and the diverse characteristics of their inhabitants, even those that are ‘temporary’ yet with the capacity to leave a durable impression on the places in question.

Research based on the situation of the Mediterranean coast such as that undertaken by Gonzalez Reverté (2008) allow new insights into how ‘the new capitals of leisure and consumption act as concentration points for people, investment, services and infrastructure and – due to the effects of migration – as places of demographic polarity.

Taking these considerations into account, it would seem pertinent to suggest that detailed analyses are needed to understand whether the current ‘information society and the new hyper-mobilities’ include or exclude tourism destination spaces in the dynamics that generate the reconfiguration of networks, hierarchies, flows and spatial conflicts (see research along these lines by Quaglieri-Domínguez and Russo, 2010 which deals with the the case of urban destinations).

It is also important to ask questions regarding whether those social groups that are the carriers of creative capital who concentrate in places that are tolerant and open to new ideas can also concentrate in tourism destinations (in this respect, see also Florida (2002)’s arguments, as well as Peck’s (2005) counter-criticism) and from this same perspective whether specific restructuration dynamics can allow mass tourism destinations to convert into spaces of innovation (see Richards and Wilson, 2007).

In any case, we must not lose sight of the fact that destinations are places that are produced (and restructured) via processes and dynamics that necessitate the mobility of people, capital, goods, signs and information (Jackson and Murphy, 2002) and that beyond the criticisms that it has received, the concept of the ‘creative class’ has brought the Mobilities paradigm to the heart of debates on urban and regional dynamics and has questioned existing traditional ideas about the attraction and retention of human capital.

The project aims to develop new analytical perspectives on consolidated tourism destinations based on the understanding that tourism is a transformative agent that can offer new perspectives and solutions to debates such as those associated with problems of identity (Terkenli, 2002), urban spatial development (Stimson et al, 2001, Camagni, 2008) and the reordering of the hierarchy of regional centrality systems (Castells, 2000). Furthermore, any evaluation of the opportunities for development that the growing conversion of tourism destinations into global places (with capacity to attract new flows) must take into account their vulnerability and fragility in the face of global economic, social and technological conditions that have elevated the importance of new mobility patterns above other bases (Ritzer, 2009).

 

2. Competitiveness and vulnerability of local tourism destinations in the face of the dynamics of global change.

The rapid growth dynamics of tourism destinations (as particularly vulnerable places in the environmental, social and economic perspective) has caused the emergence of multiple spatial problems that in many cases have become the object of various dedicated research projects (Dowling y Pforr, 2009).

In the Spanish case, there are studies undertaken in relation to: housing developments and second homes (González, 2005); the construction of transport and communications infrastructure (Ivars, 2007); the consumption of water resources (Vera, 2006); the transformation of tourism destinations (López et al, 2005) and destination specialisation via the incorporation of new tourism products (Vera and Baños, 2010).

Such studies have allowed the observation of tourism’s capacity to stimulate the emergence of new systems of actors and new urban social practices, which in turn has permitted a move beyond the conventional research focus associated with the analysis of the evolution of tourism activity (Butler, 2006a and 2006b) and even to rethink concepts and classic models for studying tourism destination dynamics (see Bramwell, 2004, for example).

In this respect, it is important to understand and evaluate the effects generated by the development of tourism systems as a starting point for analysing the new opportunities that tourism development can offer places (Mullins, 1994). This implies, in parallel, the evaluation of the role of the policies established in different regional spaces and contexts related to tourism destination development, as well as generating a framework of spatial development policies oriented towards mobility objectives that also extends – on different scales – to social cohesion and sustainable development objectives (ESPON, 2006).

Taking as a departure point, for example, the inherent complexity of coastal planning and the different sensibilities, priorities and visions that local and autonomous regions have in planning and urbanism, we can argue that in the Spanish case that a wide diversity of planning proposals has been proposed that, since the approval of the Plan for the Direction of Urban Coastal Systems in Catalonia and the residential developments in Murcia, it is now necessary to take into account the conditions of competitiveness and sustainability in tourism destinations.

On the other hand, it is impossible to study urban and regional competitiveness if the analysis of social, cultural, economic and spatial dynamics (such as transnational capital flows [Amin, 2002], transformative lifestyles, multi-scale social and economic reconfiguration [Hall, 2005], the emergent role of social, economic and environmental conflicts [Davis, 2007] and global energy debates [Becken, 2002]) are not taken into account in parallel. In fact, arguably the current social, economic and spatial reorganisation of coastal tourism destinations, plus the progressive incorporation of urban functions at various levels, has come about due to global dynamics external to the local tourism systems.

Of fundamental importance in this context is the relative vulnerability of those destinations that are facing new global dynamics than can impact negatively on their competitive capacities. This is, however, an element that has not yet been studies in any great detail. As such, there is a pressing need to analyse how global flows and dynamics can affect competitiveness, as well as the longevity of tourism activities in destination regions. In this manner, for example, recent tourism policy initiatives along these very lines have emerged that focus on the transformation and improvement of coastal destinations; for example, the Integrated Renewal Project for the beaches of Palma de Mallorca.

As a baseline the Project takes seven strategic ideas that link tourism to the ‘urban condition’ (see Consorci Platja de Palma, 2009) and take into account questions such as reducing local and global environmental impact and climate change, as well as the preservation of terrestrial and marine ecosystems. The latter is, in any case a question that necessitates various different research approaches, from the perspectives of destination vulnerability (Moreno, 2010, Richardson and Witkowski, 2010) to the relative role and effect of environmental impact mitigation policies (UNWTO, UNEP and WMO, 2008).

Other research groups in the Spanish national and international domain working in the same field. Research into the development processes of coastal tourism and its impacts originated from the geography discipline’s interest in the tourism phenomenon. Currently in Spain there are a diverse number of research groups working on different disciplinary aspects of tourism as their main field of research to a greater or lesser extent.

This is the case for the various groups working on the forms and basic processes of tourism activity in a coastal context, such as the Universities of Girona (see Donaire and Mundet, 2001), Balearic Islands (see Aguiló et al, 2005 or Murray, Rullan and Blázquez, 2005), Alicante (see Vera and Ivars, 2003), Málaga (see Navarro, 2003), or indeed the Rovira i Virgili University (see Anton Clavé, 2011), to name but a few teams working in the Mediterranean ambit.

Furthermore, the Rovira i Virgili University (URV) also leads (via one of its group members – Dr. A. Russo) the European project ATTREG (The Attractiveness of European regions and cities for residents and visitors) which is based on human mobility at a European and regional scale. This project focuses on applied research, which began in 2010, under the framework of the EU’s ESPON Programme, financed partially by the European regional Development Fund. Also of note are the Research Group on Sustainability and Territory (GIST) at the University of the Balearic Islands, the Research Group on Spatial Analysis and Tourism Studies (GRATET) of the URV and the Research Group on the Planning and Management of Sustainable Tourism at the University of Alicante, whom in 2009 collaborated on a series of workshops that debated the necessary theoretical frameworks, methodologies and applications required for conducting joint research programmes based on coastal tourism. These workshops were financed by the Complementary Actions B programme of the Spanish Government’s MICINN (reference CSO2009-07050/SOCI) and the outputs have been disseminated widely via the Bulletin of the Association of Spanish Geographers (Anton Clavé, Rullan and Vera Rebollo, 2010) and the journal Tourism Geographies.

At an international scale, there is a growing interest in contemporary questions relating to mass tourism dynamics (Agarwal and Shaw, 2007) as well as the already classic Tourism Area Life Cycle approach, synthesised in Butler’s recent compilations (2006a, 2006b).

Another important contribution that GLOBALTUR has built upon is that of the French research group Equipe MIT (2002; 2004). Their work is based on a critical evaluation of tourism’s capacity to generate new places and spaces with new systems of actors and new urban social practices. This focus brings with it a necessary rethinking of the existing concepts and models available for studying coastal tourism, based on the incorporation of new lines of enquiry such as the role of creativity and social capital as catalysts in innovation processes, economic restructuring, value creation in a sustainable yet competitive environment, problems of mobility associated with tourism development, changes in styles of leisure consumption on the part of tourists and the new social dynamics between residents, tourists and immigrants in destinations (Williams and Hall, 2000).

In this sense, Duhamel and Violier (2009) propose a complete panorama of the meaning of coastal tourism in terms of the social construction of space at a global scale. It is worth highlighting as particularly relevant for GLOBALTUR the EU SECOA project (2009-13) worth six million euros and financed by the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme with participants from eight countries and which takes as an objective the analysis of the impacts of mobility on urban development.

 

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