Urban Tourism


ATLAS Special Interest Group
Urban Tourism

The coordinators for this Special Interest Group are:

Melanie Smith
Budapest Business University
Ko Koens
Inholland University of Applied Sciences

Before the COVID 19 pandemic struck cities were seeing strong increases in visitor numbers. This can be attributed to cities being easily accessible via low-cost-carriers, but also due to the growth of business tourism and the increasing attention of people for cities as places of leisure. Cities, on their part, have also developed, and now offer a wider variety of hospitality and leisure experiences than ever for visitors and residents (e.g. due to Airbnb and the rise of facilities catering for the ‘experience economy’).

The growth did come at a cost though. The resurgence of the critical discussion regarding negative tourism impacts and externalities in the form of overtourism, can be at least partially attributed to the experiences in often-visited (European) city destinations. Most initial academic contributions on overtourism built on earlier work on tourism impacts as they described the issues that came with tourism and including the ways to deal with this, often using single-case studies. However, more recently, more conceptual contributions have been suggested, related to concepts such as degrowth, tourism transformations, mobilities, city hospitality or placemaking.

As tourism seeks to rebuild after the pandemic, cities can be useful places to experiment and investigate. With its wide range of stakeholders, diverse offerings and activities, cities are well suited to act as incubators for innovations in tourism, thus advancing knowledge on both tourism development in cities and beyond, but also on life in cities and urban planning.

Within the Urban Tourism Special Interest Group we seek to contribute to the academic debate on urban tourism, and build relationships with an eye on joint projects that may can help with knowledge development. More information with regards to our activities in 2021 will follow soon!

If you want to contact the SIG coordinator, please fill in the form HERE

If you want to join this SIG, please fill in the form HERE


Annual review of activities 2022

The activities of this SIG in 2021/2022 focused on maintaining and strengthening the SIG. The primary activity of the year was the first in-person meeting of the SIG, which took place in Helsingborg, Sweden on 8-9 June 2022. The theme of the meeting was” Rethinking Urban Tourism Development in post pandemic times” With around 20 participants and 13 presentations, interesting insights were shared.

The presentations dealt with the following themes:

  • Tourism and quality of life in cities
  • Over- and under-tourism and tourist flows
  • Sustainable, green and creative cities
  • Resilience and city management
  • Spatial and social theory
  • Impacts of COVID
  • Post-COVID tourism

The presentations provided useful insights and stimulated interesting debate, which helped focus the research agenda. The meeting, which was very well organised, also contained a very nice social programme, which included an international ‘Tura’ Dinner Cruise between Sweden and Denmark and an insightful stroll through the city.

In addition, the SIG organises a special track during the 2022 Annual conference in Cork. Rather than inviting a set of presentations, the track will entail an interactive workshop titled ”Dereliction, duty and delightful destination – taking a regenerative placemaking approach to vacancy in Cork”. This workshop, hosted by Donagh Horgan, brings together participants of the conference with local stakeholders to look at what a regenerative approach can achieve in practice.

Research in this group will continue to focus on new paradigms for urban tourism post-COVID, managing mobilities, de-growth and resilience, urban ‘co-production’, sustainability and liveability, urban tourism in the metropolitan region, deconcentration and visitor flow management as well as experience creation.

There are plans to edit a special issue of a journal based on input from the different conferences and streams of the past 1.5 years. The SIG also seeks to bring together researchers to converge on a topic hopefully resulting in a funded European project and to stimulate further interaction and research. 

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