IHBC 2020 Yearbook

R E V I E W A N D A N A L Y S I S 27 CITIES, HERITAGE, TOURISM AND THE HISTORIC ENVIRONMENT PROFESSIONAL IAN BAXTER ACROSS THE world cities with high levels of tourism have been under the spotlight over the past year, and it is widely considered that they are being ruined by ‘overtourism’. Venice, Amsterdam and Barcelona are often quoted as suffering badly, while further afield Jakarta, Bangkok, Xi’an and Auckland are reported to be facing increasing pressures. Even in the UK, newspapers eagerly publicise stories of tense relationships between communities, businesses, city administrations and visitors in places as diverse as Edinburgh, Cambridge, York and Bath. Of course the reality is always more complex than the headlines suggest, and the pressures and pinch points differ from one city location to another. Each has a unique set of issues. What causes a flash point, and what makes a good story in the media may be down to specific transportation and mobility issues around a location, building uses and service offerings in the area, or retail and development pressures. Another factor may be visitor behaviour in highly localised physical, social, policy and business environments. Blanket terms such as ‘overtourism’ are unhelpful and usually inaccurate if applied to an entire city. There do however, seem to be some common factors at play. In particular, city locations are competing in a globalised market place via branding and visual content, attracting tourists by destination images that they project around the world. These tend to focus on specific types of experience which often revolve around the historic built environment. It is therefore unsurprising that the cities mentioned above might all be deemed heritage cities – projecting a captivating historic aesthetic with iconic architecture, streetscape, urban form and skyline. They also contain a myriad of high quality cultural institutions offering events and social ambience which bring the culture of the place alive in a holy grail of the tourist’s desire – the ‘authentic’ experience. St Mark’s Square, Venice with a cruise liner adding to the crowds (Photo: Jonathan Taylor)