The Impact of Cultural Events on City Image

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The Impact of Cultural Events on City Image: Rotterdam, Cultural Capital of Europe 2001 Greg Richards and Julie Wilson Urban Stud 2004 41: 1931 DOI: 10.1080/0042098042000256323 The online version of this article can be found at: http://usj.sagepub.com/content/41/10/1931

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Urban Studies, Vol. 41, No. 10, 1931–1951, September 2004

The Impact of Cultural Events on City Image: Rotterdam, Cultural Capital of Europe 2001 Greg Richards and Julie Wilson
[Paper first received, May 2003; in final form, March 2004]

Summary. Cities are increasingly using cultural events to improve their image, stimulate urban development and attract visitors and investment. As part of its event-led regeneration strategy, Rotterdam staged the ‘Cultural Capital of Europe’ event in 2001. The aims were to attract visitors and to stimulate cultural consumption among residents, while positioning Rotterdam as a cultural destination. Over 2000 questionnaire responses by resident and non-resident visitors to the Cultural Capital event were used to evaluate the image effects of the event. In depth interviews were also undertaken with policy-makers and cultural managers, to permit evaluation of survey findings in the context of richer qualitative material. The image of the city as a cultural destination did improve in 2001, but the physical and tangible elements of the city’s image (modern architecture, water) and its character as the working city of the Netherlands continued to dominate.

Introduction Cities have long used mega events such as World Fairs, Expos and sporting events as a means of revitalising their economies, creating infrastructure and improving their image (Getz, 1991). Recent studies of city marketing and tourism have pointed to the increasing use of events as a means to market places and major cities in particular (for example, Law, 1993; Robertson and Guerrier, 1998; Waitt, 1999, 2003; Schuster, 2001). This phenomenon can be linked to a general increase in competition between cities for the attention of important stakeholders, including consumers, investors and policy-makers. As a result of the increasing integration of the global economy, a greater number of places are drawn into this competitive environment and, at the same time, the built environment, infrastructure and amenities in different places tend to become more similar. Cities therefore need to find new ways of distinguishing themselves from their competitors. As Paddison (1993) points out, city marketing is often directed at the levering of private capital to support infrastructural developments. For example, signature buildings frequently feature in urban strategies to develop an image or ‘brand’ and create competitive advantage, often at great financial cost. Recent examples include the Bilbao Guggenheim museum, the Tate Modern gallery in London and the Baltic Flour Mills in Gateshead. However, Paddison (1993) also underlines the relative inflexibility of such infrastructure-based strategies. The cost of building such landmarks is perhaps one of the most important reasons why events have become an increasingly important aspect of interurban competition in recent years. Events provide a means of adding flexibility to fixed structures, supplying a source of spectacle

Greg Richards is in the Fundacio Interarts, c/Mallorca 272, 9a, 08037 Barcelona, Catalonia,...
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