Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Saturday was World Tourism Day

I am a strong supporter of leveraging tourism as a way to extend the array of cultural amenities available within a community.  I also think that the tourism promotion method is a good way to manage commercial districts, and that "locals" still benefit when this is done right.

See the 2005 post, "Town-City branding or "We are all destination managers now"."

This year's theme for World Tourism Day was Tourism and Community Development.

The 3rd UN World Trade Organization Global Summit on City Tourism will be held in Istanbul in November.  Last year's summit was in Moscow but I don't think presentations are available online.

-- WTO Global Report on City Tourism

City Break Tourism.  Earlier in the year during the writing project I was doing for the EU National Institutes of Culture Washington Cluster's Europe in Baltimore initiative, I came across a great paper about urban tourism opportunities in Thessaloniki (Development of Thessaloniki, Greece as a City Break Tourism Destination), which used a framework to evaluate what they called "city break" or urban-focused tourism, which is a particularly useful way to consider this issue.

-- Economics of Uniqueness: Investing in Historic City Cores and Cultural Heritage Assets for Sustainable Development, World Bank

UNESCO and cultural heritage promotion.  Separately, the United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has both heritage conservation programs, specifically the World Heritage sites designation program, and the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, which promotes cities in terms of their being exemplary examples of particular types of cultural heritage.   For example, within this program, Dublin is a designated City of Literature.

Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Not realizing what we were doing so, we celebrated World Tourism Day by visiting Lancaster, Pennsylvania (actually we took a friend of the family up there to attend a funeral).

While there we visited some of our favorite places, including the Lancaster Central Market, which is one of the best public food markets in the Mid-Atlantic, Building Character, a building materials and crafts-reuse-thrift "co-operative" type market, and Telus360, which used to have a home furnishings store but has morphed into a multifaceted performance space.

The recession hurt the Downtown Lancaster quite a bit. But I have noticed year by year improvements.  This year the improvements are considerable, very much noticeable, with many fewer retail vacancies in the main retail areas.

While stopping in the Visitors Center (I try to never miss an opportunity to check out tourist visitor centers because very quickly you can learn a lot), I came across an economic impact survey* for the Susquehanna Gateway Heritage Area.

I hate to admit that I didn't know that Greater Lancaster has a defined heritage area designation, even though

(1) separately Lancaster City has been a leader in historic preservation policy and practice for decades, and in fact, on some dimensions is ahead of Washington, DC (they have design review guidelines for the entire city, will use eminent domain to cure habitual nuisance properties, link tourism, business and residential recruitment to preservation, etc.) and

(2) the State of Pennsylvania is a national leader in the development and expression of the heritage area concept.

In general, the city has a lot going on, fostered by being the location of a decent liberal arts college, Franklin and Marshall, as well as having a vibrant industrial sector still, especially agriculture, which I attribute to the strong critical mass of Amish and Mennonite farmers and businesspeople, who support a broad network of independent businesses.

Blue Ridge Parkway.  The Roanoke Times reports ("Blue Ridge Parkway visits up this year, but managers still face challenges") that tourism in the Blue Ridge Parkway region is up, but still below 2012 levels.  It attributes part of the drop to budget cuts and lingering impacts from the federal shutdown. Interestingly, 2/3 of the tourism is in the North Carolina section of the Parkway. From the article:
By the end of 2012, 15.2 million visitors had traveled some part of the 469-mile road that connects Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina.
* Earlier this month at the monthly Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee, on which I sit, I suggested that the proposed market study include an economic impact study, because it will help bolster arguments for the market's role in Capitol Hill and the city's economic life, especially in terms of tourism.



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