The lure of city breaks

By | Category: Travel destinations

La Rambla, Barcelona. One of the cities where tourist and locals do not always live in harmony

During the summer, Just about Travel mentioned that the city break has overtaken the beach as the leading type of holiday. Why should this be so?

Earlier this month the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization) held a conference to try and understand this quite significant change to holiday patterns.

What they don’t seem to have discussed is whether this trend is actually happening or whether the information is suspect.

Assuming that it is genuine and that the lure of the Canaries, the Spanish Costas, the Balearics, the Algarve and Greek islands is declining, then UNWTO suggests that cities must become “smart tourism destinations, where tourism governance and the digital economy mesh together to offer travellers diverse and authentic experiences.”

For us mere mortals who only speak English rather than WTOglish, I think this means that cities should harness technology to make a visitor’s trip more memorable. To achieve this memorable holiday, it recommends that government and industry must work together; local communities should be included in the conversation (presumably so that fewer cities have objections from locals about tourism pollution and smart destinations should be created to cater for what the WTO calls “the new demands of hyper-connected and hyper-informed tourists.”

Ana Maria Redondo, the councillor responsible for tourism in the Spanish city of Valladolid said, “We need a better understanding of the fundamentals behind the current demand for city break experiences. Smart destination tools are our means to obtain this knowledge.” He comment suggests that she – if not the WTO –doesn’t understand why city breaks have become so popular.

The president of European Cities Marketing said that the concerns for cities were transportation issues, seasonality, and “the dispersion of tourism demand within a city and over time.” The main challenge is to attract visitors to come right at this moment.

It was only at the end that some conclusions were reached as to why the lure of the city break was so strong. It is that high-speed, low-cost transportation links that provide more and more visitors with access to city breaks and that probably stretches back to the birth of low-cost flights when airlines such as Ryanair, Go, Buzz and easyJet re-wrote accepted business logic as to how many people were needed to create a viable air route.

No longer could destinations just attract tourists. They now needed to “manage” where tourists went in cities so that locals could exist in harmony with visitors.

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