Tourism Seminar: Dr Andrew Smith
The City as Destination: Research at the Interface of Tourism / Event Studies and Urban Studies
One key shift that has occurred in my lifetime has been the rise of entrepreneurial cities and the growing significance of tourism and events in the urban economy. Many cities have been reinvented as destinations – a ‘project’ fraught with issues as, even if this is achieved, the outcomes for citizens are often problematic. Despite the prominence of tourism and events in policy and media circles, the field of urban studies still tends to neglect their significance. This provides an opportunity for scholars working on these themes to establish themselves as key commentators on the contemporary urban condition. However, this requires direct engagement with urban studies – and consideration of how our research fits with wider urban issues - rather creating a distinct urban tourism / city events research domain. This is particularly important in an era when tourism and events are indivisible from other forms of mobility / consumption. In this presentation I review the ways that researchers (including myself) have tried to build bridges between tourism / events studies and urban studies and I explain some of the issues associated with this endeavour. I highlight some of the themes that I have covered in my own research - image, experiences, regeneration, public space - and outline where more work is needed. The presentation culminates in a clear message to tourism and events researchers: to help our research gain the credibility and prominence it deserves, we need to engage, debate and collaborate with scholars outside tourism and events departments.
Andrew studied Geography at the University of Cambridge before gaining a bursary to complete a PhD in Sheffield which was jointly funded and awarded by the both universities in the city. His thesis addressed the re-imaging of post-industrial cities as destinations, with a particular focus on the use of sport initiatives to achieve this objective. His PhD was supervised by Bill Bramwell who continued to play a significant role when Andrew gained his first academic job: as Lecturer in Tourism at Sheffield Hallam University. In 2003 he was recruited by the University of Kent to establish their new degree programmes in tourism. He then moved to the University of Westminster where he has remained ever since; initially as a Senior Lecturer and, since 2012, as a Reader in Tourism and Events. He currently co-leads the Tourism and Events Research Group at Westminster and acts as his Faculty’s PhD co-ordinator. Andrew leads modules on the UG and PG programmes at the University of Westminster; and also teaches on the Doctoral Researcher Development Programme and the new UG programme Designing Cities.
Drawing on his background in urban geography and his current position in a Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment, Andrew’s research focuses on cities and the place-based dimensions of tourism and events. His initial work focused on attempts by cities to reorient their images as destinations. Subsequently, his work has broadened to examine city tourism more generally and he has published several papers (and supervised several PhDs) that evaluate city tourists’ experiences. He has published tourism papers on a range of European cities including London, Oslo and Barcelona.
Andrew is perhaps best known for his work on major events and their role in urban change. His first book Events and Urban Regeneration: the Strategic Use of Events to Revitalise Cities was published by Routledge in 2012; and he has written extensively about the regeneration projects associated with the London 2012 Olympic Games and the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games. He has contributed to the emergence of leverage as a key concept in event planning and his work acts as an important bridge between the fields of urban studies and event studies.
Andrew’s recent work has focused on the trend to stage major events in urban public spaces. His book Events in the City: the Use of Public Spaces as Event Venues was published by Routledge in 2016; and he has written several research papers and book chapters on the controversial staging of ticketed events in urban parks and squares. His current research focuses on two key themes: park events and urban light festivals. He recently completed some work on the use of Battersea Park in London as a venue for Formula E racing and is now working on a project analysing resistance to urban music festivals staged in London’s parks. He is also working on two edited volumes: a special issue dedicated to Tourism and the Night and a book about the expansion of the visitor economy in London.