Negotiating your expectations of authenticity

Think through your past travels, the places you’ve visited and the impressions you came away with. And then contrast this with the way your views on how your own hometown have changed over the years. Do you apply the same criteria? Did you encounter authenticity? Can you locate authenticity?

Pico Ayer, in his New York Times piece, argues…

Today, we crave ‘‘realness’’ as never before, and in response, the travel industry is trying even harder to provide it…  This increasingly fevered quest for the authentic can in truth be a mug’s game.

As visitors, and particularly as expectant holidaymakers, perhaps it helps to bear in mind that…

Our notion of places — which is to say the romances and images we project onto them — are always less current and subtle than the places themselves.

That link again – Can a Trip Ever Be ‘Authentic’?

From brewing to blandscape

Beer and now: New lease of life for old brewery sites

Iconic buildings shape identities–both individual and collective–and this includes historic breweries in Britain.  Brewery closures and subsequent demolition can be disruptive for communities who have long identified with the brewery–buildings, beer, branding–particularly if they are replaced with the shapes and surfaces of “nowhere land”.  Is this taken into account by the local government officials, developers and architects who oversee what comes next?

A researcher quoted in the piece:

“People become disorientated. They lose a connection to their city. This creates a sense of alienation which can have spin-off effects in terms of losing a sense of community.  It’s not an argument for preserving everything–that’s not a practical proposition–but it’s an argument for people to realise they have huge cultural capital invested in them.”

Spoilt by tourists (again)?

BBC's Fast-Track asks "Is Barcelona being spoilt by tourists?"

BBC’s Fast-Track asks: “Is Barcelona being spoilt by tourists?”

“Is Barcelona being spoilt by tourists?”  This is a question that many Barcelona locals have been asking for some time.  In fact, some minds were made up long ago.

It’s been two years since BBC’s Fast-Track came through to gauge the balance of opinion on tourism and everyday life in and around Barcelona’s “Old Town” and other visitor hotspots.  Since then, there is perceptibly less grumbling about what, how and why tourism detracts from the city, which says something about public awareness of the economic benefits tourism brings to the city–no one in Spain right now wants to knock a trade that continues to grow and provide jobs.

But the issues surrounding the negative impacts of tourism don’t go away.  Do tourism activities and tourist paraphernalia now dominate sense of place in Barcelona’s “historical centre”?

Ensuring residents enjoy liveable places—a liveable city—can often go hand-in-hand with better places to visit.  So how can the remaining local charm and local life—those sources of increasing visitor interest (as well as distinct market advantage)—be sustained and nourished so that, further down the line, Barcelona can continue to reap the benefits of visitor arrivals and spend?

These are the issues that I hope will be thoroughly explored at RTD7.  I’m also really looking forward to hearing the likes of destination manager and marketers, Pere Duran and Mario Rubert speak on these issues, as well as the very observant human geographer, Jose Antonio Donaire.

Can the RTD7 programme–and the ensuing Declaration–help chart a more sustainable course for a city that continues to prosper from tourism?

Cultivating connections between the young and “old land”

News from Kangaroo Valley, New South Wales (Australia), of an initiative that will actively seek to cultivate sense of place, particularly among the young.  Run as a World Responsible Tourism Day activity, it will seek to foster connectiveness to nature using Aboriginal belief systems.

Organiser, Christopher Warren, writes “research confirms that individuals who have pro-environmental values also hold a strong connectivity to nature, and are frequently positive thinkers. Methods [therefore] need to be found to build connectivity to nature which in turn can influence pro-environmental social practice and behaviour”.

To achieve this highly intangible yet very valuable prize, Chris and his colleagues at a local school and in an aboriginal community will try “to determine if elements of traditional environmental care can be transferred to school children [to] successfully build pro-environmental values through connection”.

The 2012 World Responsible Tourism Day marks just the start of this very local action–the activity will run for at least a year and seek to engage youngsters through workbooks, encounters, reflections and story-writing.  To find out how this progresses, and perhaps contribute your ideas and moral support, follow Chris and colleagues here.

Te Awa Tupua

News of an astonishing agreement that recognises the status of a river in New Zealand as Te Awa Tupua, i.e. “an integrated, living whole”.  New Zealand’s Minister for Treaty for Waitangi Negotiations, Christopher Finlayson stated:

Under the settlement, the river is regarded as a protected entity, under an arrangement in which representatives from both the iwi and the national government will serve as legal custodians towards the Whanganui’s best interests.


Whanganui iwi also recognise the value others place on the river and wanted to ensure that all stakeholders and the river community as a whole are actively engaged in developing the long-term future of the river and ensuring its wellbeing.

File:Whanganui River.jpg

The Whanganui River on the North Island of New Zealand

(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0)
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Trade-offs in “capital public spaces”

A piece in The Economist pitches New York against London in terms of progress on “bettering” public spaces.  More usefully, it provides an overview of some of the key dynamics shaping today’s “capital public spaces” as well as people’s relationships with them, i.e.:

  • continued pedestrianisation and trading off visitor (tourist) interests against the interests of car-dependent or business-owning locals;
  • the insidious privatisation of public space;
  • place-making changes shaped by commercial motives, not community needs and sentiments;
  • the forces of power and control shaping public space.

Decent public space became an economic necessity.

For the washed, who quite like shopping and safety, such space is a great deal better than nothing.

The problem comes down to governance. While New York’s mayor is all-powerful, London’s shares power with 32 boroughs, which often have conflicting agendas.

A sense of place trail through Barcelona

From the site of the Republican Army’s Spanish Civil War gun placements and shelters.

Working through Nick Lloyd’s Iberia Nature and Spanish Civil War tours I was able to take some visitors on a rarely-run, long Barcelona walk at the weekend.  We ventured through some of the city’s particularly meaning-laden places, as well as other places less well-known, applying a kind of sense of place framework as we went.

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