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Project seeks to tackle social exclusion in tourist city hot spots

Edinburgh skyline

Researchers at the University of Strathclyde are working with European partners to tackle the social exclusion created by mass tourism in cities such as Edinburgh.

The growth of tourism in recent years has produced conflicts, tensions and paradoxes for residents as well as workers of some cities, notably Barcelona, Venice and the Scottish capital.

The impact of mass tourism in cities can include the rising cost of living, housing shortages, congestion of public services and spaces, increasing casualisation of work and the transformation of place identities.

The EU-funded SMARTDEST project aims to contribute to policy making for cities, at all levels of government, which brings out the potential of social innovation from citizen engagement for more sustainable and equal communities.

It will set out to study how urban inequalities and exclusion are produced, lived, and coped with in cities that are hubs of tourism and other related activities.

Case study

The Strathclyde researchers will consider Edinburgh as a case study and will look at different sets of data about the impact of the city’s festivals and engage with various stakeholders. They will have a specific focus on employment, covering the gig and sharing economies, gender inequalities and migration.

The current COVID-19 crisis has seen the Edinburgh Festival and Fringe cancelled for the first time in its 73-year history and prompted great concerns on the future of tourism as well as presenting a challenge for the project.

Professor Tom Baum, of the Department of Work, Employment and Organisation at the University of Strathclyde, said: “Where once residents in the most-visited cities in Europe considered tourism a welcome source of wealth and employment, and a point of pride, today they see tourism as a threat.

“Our research will look for patterns in eight case study cities which are facing similar problems in a wide range of different geopolitical and sociocultural contexts, engaging with local communities as well as policy and industry stakeholders as participants in the co-design of smart solutions.

The results will be shared with European stakeholders and concerned communities through an ambitious program of knowledge transfer events and constructive dialogues.

“The COVID-19 pandemic may herald a new age of slower, less mobile tourism. If it does will it be more inclusive? Or more democratic? With our team, Dr Pratima Sambajee and Dr Kendra Briken, we will be in the front line of this debate, and will be able to track, inform and accompany the process of recovery. “

The project – running from January 2020 to December 2022– will be implemented by a consortium of 12 academic partners from seven EU countries and one associated country, under the leadership of Rovira i Virgili University in Tarragona, Spain, and has a total budget of €3.1M.