Tourism Governance: a critical discourse on a global industry

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By Amir Gohar

Although the history of governances has been thoroughly chronicled and the history of tourism has also been thoroughly examined, the relationship between both has received relatively little attention. This is primarily because numerous scholars have specialised in certain perspectives of tourism, including anthropological, sociological, cultural, economic, business, and hospitality. 

The management of tourism and tourism related activities are often the role of a very complex set of stakeholders. In many countries, despite varying cultural and geopolitical differences, there are government agencies with similar or identical titles of “Ministry of Tourism.” However, in other countries, even with similar levels of tourism sector activity, there appears to be no trace of tourism policy within any government agency.

Tourism Governance: a critical discourse- on a global industry book cover

This book “Tourism Governance: A Critical Discourse on a global Industry” is conceived as a natural evolution to the critical thinking of the different negative impacts of tourism on several scales. It was conceived in 2016 in one of the Berkeley’s Tourism Studies Working Group (TSWG), in the University of California at Berkeley, California. During my journey of exploring and questioning tourism, I have been observing both: tourists and tourism critics occupied with the impacts of the final tourism product or tourism development while paying very little attention to the energies, forces, and dynamics that contribute to shaping this tourism development that they have been dissatisfied with.

The governance structures of Colombia, Egypt, Finland, France, India, Italy, Lebanon, Mexico, Oman, Poland, Portugal, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, and the United States are compared and contrasted in the book. It offers methodical, critical comparisons of various tourism governance systems and stakeholders throughout these nation-states, with a separate chapter for each nation-state. In addition to individual country chapters, this book discusses non-country-specific forms of tourism that do not necessarily fit the mould of tourism governance.

Without a doubt, international governments play an important role in shaping national and local tourism policies. The book elaborates on how international organisations such as UNWTO, UNESCO, World Bank, USAID, UNEP, GEF, and many others contribute to shaping tourism policies on both the national and international levels, such as offering economic assistance to nation states that is spent on tourism sectors.

Tourism governance, as explored throughout these diverse contexts, may often appear in one of two forms: either as a centralized agency or multiple agencies which operate in different divisional hierarchies. In some cases, there is a mixture of both centralized tourism governance and localized –or decentralized– tourism governance.

The book identifies three categories to unpack tourism authorities within different countries:

(1) Tourism Governance in the Central Government (Stand-alone/Mixed/Non-existent): Tourism presented as a stand-alone sector such is in France; mixed/shared with other economic sector such as fishery or agriculture; or doesn’t exist in the central government such as in the USA.

(2) Tourism Governance (Centralized or Localized): Tourism as an authority is represented in the central government such as in Oman; managed through local government such as Spain; or in mixed between the two levels of government such as in Poland and Thailand.

(3) Tourism Governance (Public Sector or Private Sector): Tourism as an industry managed by the public sector such as Oman, the private sector such as in USA; or by mix of both, such as in Egypt.

There are numerous approaches to achieving the overarching goal of promoting tourism within a country. Because each agent within a country has a different set of priorities to consider when managing tourism, there is a lot of room for potential conflict between tourism governance and national, local, and other sectors, industries, and organisations.

Tourism governance must compete with other industries in which land use is the primary source of income. Conflict with these other income-generating land uses, particularly when resource extraction visually and significantly contributes to landscape degradation, is a major source of concern in tourism promotion. In Oman, for example, the oil sector has long been a significant part of the economy, but in the last decade, tourism has emerged as a new investment and a growing part of the economy. However, there is a direct conflict between the differences in coastal usage: for a long time, oil extraction and manufacturing equipment has made coastal areas less appealing to tourists, preventing the opportunity for a tourism infrastructure explosion.

Notwithstanding the resource-based conflict, there is additionally fundamental conflict among the travel industry and other non-financial qualities, particularly concerning cultural and social qualities. In spite of the fact that the travel industry helps the economy, it might likewise act as a force to displace local people. The tourism governments on all level should consider such inherited conflict and act to safeguard the wellbeing of local communities.

While the nations discussed in the book were not picked with a specific foreordained characteristic, diving into their travel industry administration structures has uncovered numerous worldwide subjects. From the administrative association of the travel industry board, to the collaborations among specialists and partners, as well as the effects of other businesses and assets, there are numerous likenesses between the travel industry enterprises around the world. Significantly, this exploration doesn’t endeavour to rank the distinctions between these various types of the travel industry, yet rather to feature how these distinctions may assist with serving these singular nations’ differing needs for their particular objectives in the travel industry administration and advancement. However, even given contrasts in social and geographic settings, there is a strong story of the travel industry administration universally also, locally.

If interested, you can find out more about the book here:

The challenge of delivering affordable housing in the South West

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by Dannielle Sinnett, Hannah Hickman, Katie McClymont, Stephen Hall, Cat Loveday, Jessica Lamond and Rebecca Windemer

We were commissioned by Homes for the South West, a consortium of housing associations, to examine the factors affecting housing affordability in the region and provide an estimate of future housing needs. To do this, we drew on Government data, a survey of local authorities, interviews with housing associations, local authorities and private developers, and a review of planning policies in the region.

Mulberry Park, a new development by Curo in Bath (credit Andrew Sykes and Curo)

How affordable is housing in the South West?

The South West faces acute problems of housing affordability. The region is conspicuously less affordable than England as a whole, and the North and Midlands in particular. In 2021, median house prices were approximately ten times greater than the median earnings. These inter-regional disparities are also becoming progressively more pronounced; in 1997 house prices were around four times greater than earnings.

Three quarters of local authority areas have affordability ratios (the ratio between house price and individual earnings) higher than that for England as a whole, and all have affordability ratios higher than those for the North of England. There is also substantial diversity in affordability ratios within local authority areas in the South West. The ten least affordable neighbourhoods in the region have median house prices more than 28 times median earnings. Even in the most affordable neighbourhoods median house prices are still more than three times median earnings.

Which factors impact housing affordability?

Property prices in the South West are markedly higher than England as a whole, and have risen nearly fourfold – faster than the national average rate of increase – in the past 25 years. However, the region has lower than average earnings, which have failed to keep up with house price increases. This has significant implications for local people, especially younger households or first-time buyers.

House prices are often higher in places with a high environmental quality and good access to local amenities and services. We found that, within a local authority area, neighbourhoods closer to the coastline are less affordable, as are those in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. In general, more rural places are less affordable than towns and cities, but within these rural areas, those with better transport and broadband connectivity were even less affordable. Stakeholder reported that the high land values in the region undermine the viability of affordable housing.

Furthermore, these locations are also popular retirement and tourist destinations. It appears that local authorities in the South West with a greater proportion of second homes are less affordable and in-migration is dominated by arrivals from elsewhere in the UK (as opposed to international migration). This suggests, perhaps, the existence of a distinctive residential ‘offer’ in the region, one that attracts retirees, people working from home and those commuting to London and the South East, further increasing demand for new homes.

Finally, we looked at the supply of new homes compared with projected household formation since 1997. Over this period, the supply of new homes in the South West has not kept pace with demand, with an estimated deficit of 99,978 homes. This shortfall does not account for holiday lets or second homes, so is likely to be much greater. Most local authorities’ assessments of housing need will not address this shortfall by 2032.

Planned affordable eco-homes by Bromford Housing Association in Moreton-in-Marsh

What is the impact of Right to Buy?

Housing providers in the South West report that Right to Buy has had a detrimental impact on housing affordability in the region, particularly in respect of its role in the depletion of the overall stock of affordable housing. Since 1997, some 33,220 local authority-owned homes were sold through Right to Buy, whereas local authorities in the South West delivered only 2,320 new homes. The impact of Right to Buy appears to be particularly acute in small rural communities where a handful of sales locally might equate to a high proportion of total stock and may be difficult to replace given the higher unit costs of construction on small rural sites. In addition, development viability and funding challenges make it difficult for local authorities to replace social housing on a one-to-one basis.

What is the impact of national and local policy?

Regional stakeholders were critical of the complexity created by multiple definitions of affordable housing observed in planning policies. More importantly, they argued that these definitions do not equate to genuinely affordable housing.

The under-resourcing of planning was identified as a significant impediment to timely decision-making and on-site delivery.

Assessing future affordable housing need

To assess future housing need we estimated the number of new homes needed for each local authority in the South West from 2022 to 2039, and the proportion of new households that would need to spend more than 40% of their monthly income on mortgage repayments (i.e. unaffordable housing).

We estimated that around 28,337 homes need to be delivered in the region each year between 2022 and 2039, of which 17,282 would need to be affordable for those on median incomes – around 60%. These proportions are far greater than the thresholds in many planning policies.

Despite these challenges, stakeholders detailed how collaboration and partnership working between housing associations, local authorities and SME housebuilders was able to deliver affordable homes. They also highlighted that the delivery of affordable homes was intrinsic to other priorities, including ensuring high quality homes and responding to climate and ecological emergencies. Such practices provide opportunities on which to build to ensure that housing is delivered in the region which is affordable and sustainable.

The full report can be found here:


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by Gloria Lanci

The Liverpool Map, by Inge Panneels and Jeffrey Sarmiento, in exhibition at the Museum of Liverpool (photo Gloria Lanci, 2019)

My recent book, ‘Art Maps and Cities’, presents an original study on how contemporary artists are exploring urban spaces through mapping. It elaborates on the idea of the art map as an open-ended practice that can unfold collective endeavour, personal narratives, contestation and protest, embodiment and play, and where knowledge is a cultural production. As cities are transformed through urban planning, political ideologies and socio-economic forces, art maps not only reflect these processes, but they embed knowledge to reinterpret and understand the very nature of urban spaces. Cities have been intrinsically connected with mapmaking throughout history, from the pre-historic rock engravings and paintings of the first settlements, to the intricate and fascinating printings of the Renaissance and the current hyperreal digital visualisations. Despite that, little research is dedicated to investigating how artists intervene in the realm of urban cartography, and the relationships that can be envisaged between art maps and cities in the contemporary world.

‘Art Maps and Cities’ examines a century-old history of art maps and draws on academic debates that have been challenging traditional notions of maps as scientific artefacts for information and way-finding, constructed through accurate measurement and surveying, and based on knowledge that is detached from cultural, economic and political contexts. The book discusses the potential of art maps to construct personal narratives, through contestation, embodiment and play.

Lanci, G. (2022) Art Maps and Cities: contemporary artists explore urban spaces. Palgrave Macmillan / Springer International

This book was developed from both my long-established research interest in the urban landscape and more recent training and work experience in geographic information systems. Although these subjects were pursued in quite different contexts of knowledge—the former in the humanities, following an academic background in architec­ture and planning; the later within the science and technology of spatial analysis and database management—they came together unexpectedly in a project combining visual arts, mapping and cities.  Adopting an exploratory and interpretative research approach that investigates the confluence of theories originated in different domains, this book conducts the reader to discover what artistic practices can bring into a more creative, while inquisitive, understanding of cities. The bulk of the research conducted for this book is centred on two sets of semi-structured interviews: four British artists based in Britain and the US, and a small group of artists who produced three maps for Liverpool between 2005 and 2011. Artists were enquired about how they apprehend, process and re-create urban spaces in artworks, incorporating cartographic processes alongside their art practices. Visiting their studios and entangling in long conversations, I could understand how much of their mapping interests are associated with their own personal artistic journeys. Each art map is materialised through fabrication that can involve intense labour and elaborate craft skills, but also from an accumulated experience of constant interrogation of their own practices and their meanings. In this sense, the art maps they produce result in more than objects to be seen, exhibited, archived; they document performative acts.

If interested, you can find out more about the book here: 

Hitting the right note

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by Judith Parry

In June this year, I had the privilege of attending a residential conference for UWE postgraduate research students, hosted by the graduate school.  Among the excellent items in a packed programme was an activity based on the dance your PhD contest.  This is an annual competition aimed at postgraduate researchers, in which students are challenged to present their research clearly and succinctly, in an entertaining manner, in order that it can be accessed by a wider audience audience (further information on the competition can be found here:

As luck would have it, I had brought my guitar to the residential. A few hours later, therefore, I had a rough-hewn song with some ropey lyrics.  The initial intention had been to add this as an audio file over some images, but I ran out of time and tech conspired against me.  Consequently, I chose instead to go unplugged, performing my “sung PhD” to a room full of my peers to much critical acclaim i.e. applause and some enthusiastic feedback.

Emboldened by this early success, I found myself playing the audio file of this song to my supervision team a few weeks later. They weren’t too damning of my efforts either – one of them even danced a little – so I proceeded to take further encouragement from this.

Which is how I recently found myself presenting my PhD research “Exploring the wellbeing benefits of Community-Led Housing, focusing on the influence of green space and green infrastructure on the mental wellbeing of residents”, as a more refined version of this song. This took place at the South West Doctoral Research Partnership conference, hosted on Frenchay campus towards the end of November.  I think the delegates attending the break-out session at which I provided this opener were more than a little surprised, but – once again – my efforts appeared to be met with some approval.

I suggest therefore that there is something to be said for not always conforming to the usual PowerPoint presentation as a means of communication.  The existence of a seminar at this same conference, on the topic of podcasts and research, would perhaps indicate I am not alone in thinking this.  Also, as a fellow PhD student said via direct message immediately afterwards, she found my performance “very informative as well as entertaining.” Which had been entirely my intention.

As researchers, many of us seek not only to gain knowledge for the sake of it, but also for our findings to have a wider influence on society, beyond the walls of academia.  More inventive forms of communicating our results are therefore surely to be recommended.  That is not to say that the accepted routes, such as peer-reviewed publications and traditional presentations, don’t continue to be valid and viable, but they perhaps lack the broader appeal needed to enable wider impact.

Whilst I recognise that approaches such as this song will not be acceptable to everyone, the reactions received to date suggest that at least it will not be forgotten. I thus remain resolved to continue in my attempts to strike a chord* with people in this manner.

(*Yes, I also pun.  And I’m not sorry.  You’ll remember that one too, though, won’t you?)

Ageing onshore wind infrastructures: researching end of life moments of wind energy infrastructure in Italy

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by Carla De Laurentis

COP 27 concluded on the 20th of November 2022 and stressed how the unprecedented global energy crisis underlines the urgency to rapidly transform energy systems and the need to accelerate towards a clean and just transition to renewable energy. Seizing the opportunities of cheaper renewables will play a major role in the forthcoming decade and as countries move towards carbon neutrality goals, reaching these goals will require increased efforts in renewable energy development and deployment. While there are numerous benefits globally from the growth in renewable generation, a pertinent environmental and policy issue in the next decades- one that has been given only limited and recent attention- is the consideration of the end-of-life of low carbon infrastructure.  

Existing energy infrastructure, from conventional power generation plants to wind farms, have a technical and/or economic lifecycle predetermined by the gradual decreases of their performance or conversion efficiency over the infrastructure’s lifetime. At the end of this lifetime, it is expected that this infrastructure will contribute to a dramatic increase in waste generation. Most of the attention towards renewable energy infrastructure has predominantly focussed on the planning, design and construction of renewable energy projects driven by the need to decarbonise the energy sector, while overlooking the processes required for the management of the end of life and the decommissioning options of renewable infrastructure. Nevertheless, as waste arising from end-of-life renewable energy infrastructure is projected to grow over the next 10 years this is considered one of the biggest emerging environmental sustainability issues faced by countries globally.

To date, there have been limited number of studies that have focused on life extension, completed repowering, and or full decommissioning projects from which lessons can be learned. To address this knowledge gap, Dr Rebecca Windemer and I have joined forces- and research interests- to undertake a research project entitled ‘Is there an afterlife for wind installations in Italy?’. The project, funded by an Environmental and Sustainability Research Grant of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS-IBG), aims at investigating and understanding the different end of life moments, opportunities and challenges that are emerging in wind infrastructure in Italy. The Italian case offers a pertinent opportunity to investigate the supporting governance, environment, and business models of proposed solutions as approximately 50% of wind capacity is expected to reach end-of-life by 2030.

Rebecca and I outside the Ministry of Economic Development in Rome, Italy

The research is ongoing and has so far included a number of qualitative interviews and a short survey with wind farm developers, operators, renewable consultants, and policy makers. We had a really successful visit to Italy in October 2022 where we conducted fifteen interviews, which we are in the process of analysing.

Initial findings suggest that, while determining end of life options for wind infrastructure is undoubtedly a decision unique to each project, there are a number of factors that are also influencing such decisions. Life extension, repowering and full decommissioning of wind infrastructures are multifaceted issues affected by technical, legal, economic, financial, social and environmental challenges. There is great value in understanding how these challenges coalesce as it provides an opportunity to better understand how much waste will be generated in the future and the range of possible options for dealing with that waste.

For update on the research please contact us:;

“Where are ‘smart’ sustainable cities made?” Recognising, raising and responding to shared questions…

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by Rebecca Windemer, Torik Holmes and Carla De Laurentis

Where are ‘smart’ sustainable cities made?

The three of us met during our respective ESRC post-doctoral fellowships during the Covid pandemic. Eager to strengthen existing connections and forge new ones, during a time when researchers were grappling with learning new ways of academic working, we engaged in a number of online discussions related to our research interests. We soon realised that although from different disciplinary backgrounds (planning, innovation, and sociology), our research areas overlapped and we shared a topical concern with energy transitions and their material, spatial and temporal dimensions.

We have now organised two workshops, written a book chapter and a journal article (both currently under-review) focused on the connections between infrastructures, climate change and sustainability. Under the artistic direction of Mair Perkins, we also produced the embedded animation above. It draws on insights from our independent and combined research.

The video’s title – ‘Where are ‘smart’ sustainable cities made?’ – is one of the questions we have raised and responded to in conjunction.

‘Smarter’ and more sustainable city visions hinge on the increasing generation of clean power and the electrification of everyday modes of travel, working and living arrangements.

The animation tells an important story about socially, institutionally and geographically saturated and stretched energy infrastructures and the interconnections between various sites of demand and systems of provision. Indeed, it conveys the importance of ‘following the wires’ to reveal points of tension along networks of provision where sustainable transitions are calibrated. This somewhat bucks against the norm.

‘Smart’ city research has typically involved turning to cities with smart and sustainable aspirations to address empirical questions, examining, along the way, local discourses, strategies and sited innovations. A great deal of resources, time and effort have been poured into smart city discourses and, indeed, into making cities smarter and, so the rationale goes, more sustainable.

Following the wires can help reveal points of tensions along networks of provision.

Researchers have taken a great deal of interest in these topics and things going on ‘in’ cities. Recognising this and drawing on our knowledge, we were drawn to focus instead on the wider ordering and management of key service infrastructures and the provision of renewable sources of energy, both of which have received less attention in smart city literature. This is the case even though these are critical for smart and sustainable city ambitions. In quite rudimentary terms, without an ability to connect to electricity networks and without the provision of clean energy, smart and sustainable city buildings, technologies, policies and initiatives would not (and will not) materialise.

We hope the video speaks for itself and sparks discussion and consideration of what changes are needed in and indeed beyond cities to facilitate sustainable shifts. Through doing so, we hope it also reveals the benefits of interdisciplinary collaborations in facilitating broader discussion around sustainability and net zero agendas.

We are thankful to the ESRC for funding our post-doctoral fellowships as well as the video produced.

A short note about the authors:

Dr Rebecca Windemer is a senior lecturer in environmental planning at UWE and a member of the Centre for Sustainable Planning and Environments. Her teaching and research crosses the disciplines of environmental planning and energy geography. Her teaching and research interests involve the regulation of renewable energy infrastructure and how the planning system can help achieve net zero ambitions.

Dr Torik Holmes is a sociologist and social science researcher based in the Sustainable Consumption Institute at the University of Manchester. His research interests focus on connected systems of provision, consumption and disposal, with electricity and plastics forming central subjects.

Dr Carla De Laurentis is a lecturer in Environmental Management in UWE and a member of the Centre for Sustainable Planning and Environments. Her research interests converge around the geography of innovation and low-carbon transitions. She is particularly interested in understanding the mechanisms that lead to an effective diffusion of renewable energy technologies and how energy infrastructure networks, and their reconfiguration, might influence renewables deployment.   

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