July 12, 2016

Culture Beyond Tourism: towards a new language of value

Image Credit: Forum Futuro Arsenale


Date: 12 July 2016
Participants: Marta Ajmar, John Bingham-Hall, Luc Boltanski, Jane da Mosto, Cecilia Dinardi, Amica Dall, Arnaud Esquerre, Liza Fior, Adam Kaasa, Elke Krasny, Teddy Kronthaler, Josep Maria Montaner Martorell, Zaida Muxi Martinez, Barbara Pastor, Elisabetta Pietrostefani, Stefania Tonin

This workshop was followed by a public panel on the 13/07 at the Querini Stampalia in Venice.

We live in an era of planetary tourism.

Tourism accounts for 9% of global GDP and is climbing. One out of every eleven jobs on the planet is related to the tourist economy.[1] But despite associations between economic development and an ever growing tourist economy, this workshop intends to articulate some of the problems associated with mass tourism, and specifically with relation to cultural production and display in cities.

This workshop asked, for example, what happens to cultural production in a country like Spain that has a third more tourist arrivals each year (64 million in 2015) than their entire population (46.7 million in 2014)? Or in a city like Venice with over 30 million tourists annually compared to residents in the historic centre of the city numbering some 60,000?[2] 

Are sites of cultural production and display seeing a change of priority and growing competition for the shifting attention spans of an exploding tourism market? And if so, what alternatives are there to the now cemented narrative of “culture-led” regeneration? This workshop interrogated culture for tourism, and developed an analysis framework via a broad range of case studies examining the proposition of culture beyond tourism.

The workshop took ‘tourism’ to be a literal relationship of people to place, drawing on a wealth of global and regional statistics of international and domestic travelers. It also considered ‘tourism’ as a conceptual subjectivity representing a transformative change in the relationship of labour to place, of attention to performance, and of spectacle to desire. In this way, the proposed investigation suggested that one of the primary modes of negotiating the contemporary cultural city, even as a resident, is increasingly in the mode of the ‘tourist’.

Drawing on invited case studies from across Europe we aim to develop a shared research agenda for the development of a new language of value that goes beyond the cultural industries’ one-dimensional framework of measuring visitor numbers and economic output.

The incredible success of Venice’s Biennales of art and architecture have contributed to making that city one of the world’s most eminent cultural destinations. Venice, then, is the effective backdrop to workshop a research agenda for a new way of evaluating culture – beyond tourism.

Beyond Venice, we brought together case studies from Cardiff, Barcelona, and London to inform a collaborative research bid.

[1] All statistics from UNWTO Tourism Highlights 2015 Edition accessed online 3 May 2016: http://www.e-unwto.org/doi/pdf/10.18111/9789284416899

[2] 33.6 million visitors to Venice region in 2015 including “balneare” attractions http://www.turismovenezia.it/Statistiche-2015-485193.html

Part of the ongoing theme for 2016 New Spaces for Culture