Tourism, Public Transport and Sustainable Mobility

This month we are publishing Tourism, Public Transport and Sustainable Mobility edited by C. Michael Hall, Diem-Trinh Le-Klähn and Yael Ram. In this post, Michael discusses the under-researched relationship between tourism and public transport and the many positives to be found in tourist use of public transport.

Tourism, Public Transport and Sustainable MobilityPublic transport is something that has become a major focus for many cities and regions in recent years. For cities, this is often connected to the need to cut traffic congestion and reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in order to meet climate change goals. For regions, especially in rural and peripheral areas, public transport is about connectivity and access, and ensuring that people who live in such places have links to shopping, services and schools. Yet tourism is hardly mentioned in any of the usual public transport literature.

In many ways this is really surprising given how visitors and tourists are often substantial users of public transport services. For example, Diem’s research in Munich, which we discuss in the book, suggested that 78.5% of tourists used public transport. In London, the figures are even more impressive, with Transport for London suggesting that 93% of inbound tourists to London use public transport. Of course, in the case of London, the underground and double-decker buses are potentially an attraction in themselves, though this is something shared with many other destinations, for example, ferries in Stockholm, trams in Melbourne and street cars in San Francisco. If you include active transport, you could also now add cycling in Copenhagen or walking the High Line in New York. However, one of the great challenges is that this data is often not collected. Public transport agencies only tend to collect from residents, while many destination management organisations don’t collect data on the type of transport that visitors use, especially once they have actually arrived at a destination.

Nevertheless, a number of cities and destinations are now starting to see great advantage in encouraging visitors to use public transport, as they do permanent residents, in order to reduce traffic congestion. For example, some Swiss cities provide free bus access for hotel guests and for airport transfer. However, there are other benefits as well; tourists get to have a more direct experience with local people and the place they are visiting, which can improve the quality of the destination experience and increase likelihood of return visitation. For many public transport systems though, there is also recognition that tourists are helping to support the maintenance of the system to the benefit of locals. In the case of some ferry services to some of the islands in Finland and Scotland, tourists are clearly important users of the system, especially in summer, and the public transport services are therefore helping to get the tourist to spend out of the main centres in such situations, while also showing tourists more of the country. There are also many benefits for a tourist in not having to drive, as they are able to see more of a destination and not have to contend with unfamiliar road signs and roads.

Given that tourists are not usually seen as a significant market by public transport companies, there clearly remains a number of challenges in encouraging tourists to use public transport in many situations. As we discuss in the book, foremost among these is high quality and up-to-date information that is easily accessible. Ideally this should also be available in languages other than that of the destination and/or be accessible by a translation service. Cost is also significant and this is not just the direct economic cost of using the service but also ease of use, travel times and the extent to which different modes of transport are coordinated so as to make connections easy.

Overall we found that tourist use of public transport at destinations can have many positives, particularly with respect to developing more sustainable cities and contributing generally to reductions in emissions from transport use. However, the real challenge is to try and encourage more tourists to use public transport for longer distance travel. In some cases this is harder for structural and design reasons, i.e. the services just don’t exist or there’s no or insufficient capacity for carrying luggage, but in some parts of the world this is beginning to change. For example, in Europe and China we are seeing the development of new high speed rail routes and in the United States and Australia these possibilities are increasingly being discussed as a focal point of economic development and as a means of reducing both air and car congestion along major routes. In addition, some countries are developing long-distance cycleways as a means of encouraging long-distance active transport.

In terms of the future we are undoubtedly going to continue to see more focus on public transport as a core part of the sustainable mobility mix, and we think public transport, economic development and destination agencies are increasingly recognising that they can work together to encourage and promote tourism. However, as well as ongoing concerns over climate change, congestion and tourist support for public services, we see the other big issue as the growth in autonomous vehicles. This is going to have enormous impacts in the future on employment in the tourist transport sector and visitor experiences, as well as on public transport provision. Uber, for example, has major interests in autonomous cars and that, combined with their disruptive impact on taxi services and public transport, is going to create a whole new set of challenges. And we can imagine that if we are doing a new edition of the book in five years’ time, rather than consider autonomous public transport at the end of the book in the futures section, we will probably have to have a separate chapter allocated to it because it will be happening now!

Tourism and TransportFor more information about this book, please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Tourism and Transport by David Timothy Duval.

Can cultural tourism be developed sustainably in southern Africa?

In January we published Cultural Tourism in Southern Africa edited by Haretsebe Manwa, Naomi Moswete and Jarkko Saarinen. In this post, the editors discuss how the book calls for sustainable development of cultural tourism in southern Africa.

Nowadays it is conventional to estimate that cultural tourism is one of the largest and fastest growing sectors of the global tourism industry. However, this association with culture is often absent when discussing tourism in an African context where tourism consumption is still largely seen to be based on wildlife viewing (especially the Big 5) and pristine wilderness settings. If there is a cultural element involved, it typically refers to ‘primitive’ tribal groups and imageries based on the era of nostalgic expeditions by western explorers to the ‘wild’ Africa.

Cultural Tourism in Southern AfricaOur edited book Cultural Tourism in Southern Africa aims to provide an alternative view. What the book and the contributing authors say is that southern Africa is culturally rich, diverse and multi-layered, and while cultural tourism is a relatively new ‘product’ in the region, it is already playing a major role with great potential for the future. Cultural tourism in the southern Africa region is not only about indigenous groups, cultural villages and living museums – which are important – but also arts, modern industrial heritage, urbanised cultures, townships, carnivals and other events. Especially for the domestic and regional tourists, the modern cultural and relatively recent historical environments are key motivations in tourism consumption. The future of the tourism industry in the southern Africa region is increasingly dependent on domestic and regional tourism!

Indeed, southern Africa is endowed with diverse cultural resources and especially in the recent decade cultural tourism has become an important sector of the industry. Culturally-oriented tourism is also increasingly used for local and regional development purposes as it can involve and directly benefit local communities and previously marginalised groups. As we explore in the book, this is a highly important aspect as it can empower local communities in development and contribute to global and regional scale policy aims, such as poverty alleviation and promotion of gender equality. In addition, an inclusive development of cultural tourism which involves local communities and other stakeholders could serve the United Nations new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in the region.

Constitution Hill, Joburg 2013
Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, South Africa. The Constitution hill was originally a fortress which was later used as a prison where e.g. Mahatma Gandhi was imprisoned. Nowadays, the Hill is a heritage tourism attraction and a symbol of freedom (Photo: Jarkko Saarinen 2013)

Obviously cultural tourism does not only bring about positive impacts, particularly if not promoted based on inclusive development thinking. What the contributing authors underline with their versatile case studies is that while the positive impacts are evident, negative aspects of the utilisation of cultural resources in tourism should also be recognised and mitigated. This calls for sustainable and responsible modes of tourism development. This is important in general, but especially crucial in the case of indigenous cultures and other cultural minority groups, who often lack power and knowledge to control the utilisation and commodification of their traditions and cultural landscapes.

Together with the recognition of culture and wider understanding of the diversity of culture and cultural resources in southern African tourism landscapes, this call for sustainability in cultural tourism development is the key message of the book.

Jarkko Saarinen, University of Oulu (Finland) and University of Johannesburg (South Africa), jarkko.saarinen@oulu.fi
Haretsebe Manwa, North West University (South Africa), 23815310@nwu.ac.za
Naomi Moswete, University of Botswana (Botswana), MOATSHEN@mopipi.ub.bw

Sustainable Tourism in Southern AfricaFor more information about this book please see our website or contact the authors at the addresses above. If you’re interested in this book you might also like Sustainable Tourism in Southern Africa edited by Jarkko Saarinen et al.

How can marketing principles help park managers to manage parks sustainably?

Marketing National Parks for Sustainable Tourism

This month we published Marketing National Parks for Sustainable Tourism by Stephen L. Wearing, Stephen Schweinsberg and John Tower. In this post, John introduces the main themes of the book and explains why marketing principles are vital for park managers.

The first task in writing Marketing National Parks for Sustainable Tourism was to convince park managers that marketing principles provide the tools for them to manage their parks with sustainability as a core value. Too often park managers perceive marketing as a step towards commercialism that would compromise their values of sustaining the environmental integrity of parks for future generations. This book provides a suite of marketing principles to guide natural resource and tourism students, leisure and tourism scholars, and park and forestry managers so they can understand how sustainable tourism practices are achievable in national parks.

The book sets the scene by critiquing sustainable national park-based tourism marketing. Marketing principles illustrated by the Tree Model of Marketing Delivery introduces key marketing concepts of making decisions based on reliable data to decide target markets, make market mix decisions and establish systems for managing the marketing effort. These traditional marketing concepts are complemented by alternative marketing approaches such as ecological marketing, social marketing, de-marketing and relationship marketing. The combination of these marketing principles is used to help park managers understand how they deal with competing stakeholders with contrary views about development and sustainability.

A series of park management issues such as ‘wicked policy challenges’, ephemeral tourist experiences and the multifaceted perspectives for park interpretation are explained. These issues provide unique insights that marry the marketing principles with the realities of managing national parks for sustainable tourism.

This book is not a ‘how to market national parks guide’. Instead, it introduces a variety of marketing principles that will assist all who are interested in sustainable tourism in national parks to have a better understanding of the complexities of park management. Case studies focused on diverse settings such as Yellowstone National Park, Phillip Island Nature Park and the legacy of John Muir add further insights about sustainable park tourism and marketing.

The book concludes by grappling with questions about marketing’s capacity as a tool for national park managers to advance the sustainability of natural environments. While at the same time, park managers can apply marketing principles to maintain the balance between environmental preservation and the diverse needs of different customers and stakeholders.

John Tower, Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living, Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia
Email john.tower@vu.edu.au

Wearing coversFor more information about the book please see our website or contact John at the address above. You might also be interested in our other titles: Tourism and Trails and Natural Area Tourism.

Peak Oil and Tourism

The supply and price of oil is a constant source of discussion and scrutiny across the world. Our forthcoming title, Tourism and Oil by Susanne Becken, out later this month, is the first book to examine oil constraints and tourism. Here, Susanne discusses the current low oil prices and what this means for the world.

Oil prices have plummeted to a 5-year low. In the last six months since June 2014, the price of Brent crude has fallen from about $115 per barrel to less than $60. So, why worry about Peak Oil?

Tourism and OilAs detailed in the new book on Tourism and Oil, the supply of oil is a highly political matter, and consumer prices reflect a complex mix of actual production costs, geopolitical interests, speculation and economic policies. The fact that oil prices are presently comparatively low confirms the extreme volatility of recent years but does not mean that Peak Oil is not an issue any more. Oil resources are finite, and exploitation is getting more expensive. These are the two key messages discussed in great depth in the book in Chapter 4.

But why is oil so cheap then? The high prices – consistently over $100 per barrel for the last few years – made it economical to drill for harder-to-get resources. America in particular, through its shale gas and shale oil revolution, has increased domestic oil production substantially. At the same time, demand has slowed down due to ongoing economic weakening in a range of countries and easing growth in China. Political conflict in Libya has eased as well with positive effects on production. In sum, by the end of 2014 supply outstripped demand, leading to plummeting oil prices. In the past, and as elaborated on in the book, Saudi Arabia acted as a so-called swing state and adjusted production to maintain stable prices. However, this time Saudi Arabia decided to continue current production to maintain its market shares. Some interpret this decision as an open ‘price war’ with the USA.

One can be forgiving to think that this is all good news. In fact, the cheap oil prices provide advantages for some countries and consumers. Tourism activity is certainly a short term beneficiary for reduced transportation costs. However, Kjell Aleklett and other experts point out that undervalued oil prices are more likely to be a sign of problems to come. Most immediately, oil producing countries are feeling the pressures of reduced income. Social unrest, for example in Venezuela, is an expected consequence. Russia is in a similar position and observed carefully by the global community. Furthermore, if oil prices continue to be in the order of $60 per barrel, technologies such as fracking are simply not viable and production in the USA is likely to decrease. But more broadly, oil consumption closely correlated to economic growth, and the fact that energy demand is decreasing is a strong indication of an economic contraction. Recession and consequences such as reduced income and employment are major factors for tourism activity. People’s travel propensity is tightly tied to their economic wealth and Chapter 6 in the book discusses how oil prices interfere with travel behaviours and business profitability.

It appears that given the uncertainties around oil prices, the insights compiled in Chapter 7 of the book on low-carbon tourism are as relevant as ever, if not more. Tourism that depends less on fossil fuels is more resilient, more environmentally responsible, and cheaper in the long run.

Tourism and Climate ChangeFor more information on this book please see our website. You might also be interested in Susanne’s previous book with John E. Hay Tourism and Climate Change.