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Richards, G. and Wilson, J. (2006) Developing Creativity in Tourist Experiences: A Solution to the Serial Reproduction of Culture? Tourism Management 27, 1209-1223. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tourman.2005.06.002

Developing Creativity in Tourist Experiences:
A Solution to the Serial Reproduction of Culture? (summary)

Greg Richards (grichards@interearts.net)
and
Julie Wilson (jw@urv.net)

As culture is increasingly utilised as a means of social and economic development, the cultural tourism market is being flooded with new attractions, cultural routes and heritage centres. However, many consumers, tired of encountering the serial reproduction of culture in different destinations are searching for alternatives. The rise of skilled consumption, the importance of identity formation and the acquisition of cultural capital in (post)modern society point towards the use of creativity as an alternative to conventional cultural tourism.

Culture has become a basic resource from which the themes and narratives essential to ‘placemaking’ can be derived (Gottdiener, 1997), often seen as tying the physical assets and the living culture together. Many declining cities, for example, have had to create new narratives of regeneration based on urban culture and heritage, as well as making a transition towards an economy of signs and symbols (Lash & Urry, 1994) and the representations of space positioned by Soja (1996:79) as ‘secondspace’. Many rural areas have re-defined themselves as consumption spaces in which history and rural tradition take over from modern agricultural production as the key elements of identification (Cloke, 1993).

Ironically, the strategies adopted by cities to create a ‘distinctive’ image are also converging. Zukin argues that ‘so called “cultural cities” each claim distinctiveness but reproduce the same facilities in any number of places, echoing industrial globalization with its geographically widespread production but concentrated consumption’ (2004: 8). The development of major cultural brands is a good example of this (see Evans, 2003). The production of brands such as Guggenheim or the European City of Culture event has the advantage of consumer familiarity, but by becoming a brand these cultural icons tend to lose their distinctiveness.

Strategies adopted by cities and regions in developing distinction in tourism can arguably be categorised under a few major headings:

Iconic Structures - creating architectural icons to attract visitors (e.g. Bilbao Guggenheim) Megaevents – staging large events such as the Olympics, Capital of Culture, etc. Thematisation – creating a theme as the basis for narrative Heritage Mining – using the resources of the past to develop tourism (e.g. Bruges, Venice).

A major problem is that cities are extremely accomplished at ‘borrowing’ ideas from their contemporaries, to the extent that some cities have become global models of urban development; emulated and copied the world over. Baltimore (waterfront development), Bilbao (iconic museum development), York (digging up the past) and Barcelona (event-led regeneration) are reference points for planners and civic leaders across the world. Such copying creates problems for the copies (although it may enhance the value of the original). The cost of many such strategies is also becoming problematic, and many urban and cultural tourism-based development strategies have encountered heavy criticism. Many cities and regions have therefore begun searching for alternative models. Creativity has become a particularly popular choice.

As Zukin (1995) points out, culture has demanded and attained more space in the urban economy in recent decades. In the 1990s, however, there was a shift in the use of this cultural space away from consumption towards production and creativity. Creative production attracts enterprises and individuals involved in the cultural sector, generating important multiplier effects in the local economy,...
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