Tourism in Western Europe: A Collection of Case Stories

Richard Voase provides an interesting collection of case studies on Western European tourism development. The case studies are well organized in three thematic areas based on political, economic and socio-cultural contexts. The collection of stories communicates changes in tourism development and practices and reflects how tourism development seeks new ways of thinking about tourism. Voase concludes that tourist experiences from travelers show signs of active decision making with passive consumption. This point prompts the reader to think that tourists choose “canned” experiences that are creatively constructed, however, accessed through extensive information search and decision making.

The case studies have been written by a number of authors with strong local ties to the place they are writing about, enabling extraordinary insight into issues facing the tourism industry in Europe and North America (although North America is not the focus of this book). This book can be used in a tourism development course to help students identify current issues in tourism (e.g., environmental challenges, sustainability, conservation methods) and build on definitions and theoretical models in tourism.

In his introduction, Voase states that the analysis or interpretation of the cases is based on political, economic, socio-cultural and technological environments. The analysis captures the multidimensionality of the tourism product and the cultural and social factors that relate to the current ideologies affecting the development of tourism. Such ideologies relate to prevailing postmodernism approaches that appear to influence consumer behavior that captures experiential consumption rather than production processes for products or services.

The book consists of eleven chapters. The first four chapters open under the lenses of a political context analysis. The first chapter, by Meethan, presents the role of marketing tourism and public policy in the counties of Devon and Cornwall, England. Meethan concludes that “for these two counties” marketing was an aspect of a broader integrated policy aimed at integrating tourism more fully into the regional economy “and these programs would not have been possible without European Union (EU) funding. ). “The Devon and Cornwall cases also demonstrate how new organizational forms emerge in response to major structural changes.”

Chapter 2 of Morpeth focuses on leisure and the role of tourism as political instruments in the UK during the 1980s. Central and local authorities used recreational and recreation policies as an extension of urban policy to balance the negative effects of unemployment and structural problems evident in England in the 1980s. Morpeth discusses the case of the city of Middlesbrough and the role that Thatcherism policies play for the city, which focused on the creation of inner cities and the use of tourism as a tool for renewal.

Chapter 3, by Voase, discusses the impact of political, economic and social changes in a mature tourist destination; Isle of Thanet in south-east England. Voase concludes that the process of politics, planning and development of tourism in a mature destination is not always straightforward. The antagonistic policy of the stakeholders involved in tourism development led to discrepancies in the development of the destination. Chapter 4 of Robledo and Batle focuses on Mallorca as a case study for replanting tourism development to a mature destination using Butler’s (1980) product life cycle concept. As a mature destination, Mallorca needs a sustainable development strategy to survive in the future. This recognition led to the Ministry of Tourism of the Balearic Islands government introducing a regulation on the tourism supply side to protect the environment. However, this plan, which Robledo and Bade identified, is an interesting case of struggle between different groups (ie government, ecological groups, councils, hotel companies, construction) defending their interests in tourism development. Voase identifies these first four chapters, which have three common factors: the role and interplay of local government in the formulation and implementation of politics, the role of politics as a tool for promoting and managing economic interests, and the strong influence of socio-cultural factors. Although these common factors are not directly visible in the case studies presented, Voase fills this gap with his authors. These common factors can stimulate further discussion about the role of politics in tourism and how politics can influence researchers and practitioners in the field.

The second part of the book focuses on the economic context of tourism and its use as a tool for renewal and prosperity. Chapter 5 by Lewis focuses on two eco-friendly farming schemes, Tir Cymen and Tir Gofal, and how they affected leisure access in rural Wales. This chapter presents how these schemes caused many changes to agricultural practices in Wales. These changes positively affected recreational opportunities in Wales’s agricultural landscape and changed the relationship between “rural and urban and new rural access requirements, all of which now reflect the interdependence of environmental health, local social and economic needs and access to land for recreation”.

Chapter 6 of Lindroth and Soisalon-Soinimen discusses how a historical tourist product was developed in Loviisa, Finland. The aim of the tourism development was to create a picture of Loviisa as a historical tourist destination and to create new products in accordance with the historical theme. Lindroth and Soisalon-Soinimen identified that without the support of the Tourist Office as well as the National Board of Antiquities, the development would not have gone significantly. EU funding also helped with training and expert assistance. The professionals and project managers involved in the process shaped the project through their enthusiastic actions described in detail in the case study.

Chapter 7 by Bohn and Elbe describes the story of a man and how his vision for the municipality of Alvdalen, Sweden transformed the city into a tourist destination. The most important element of this story is that this man created a destination without being an expert in tourism development. I used the current concept of relationship marketing to achieve successful development without knowing its full value as a marketing tool. This chapter also emphasizes the importance of collaboration between stakeholders involved in tourism. Voase identifies factors that these three cases share: the role of the individual contractor in the development of the product, the consumption of natural resources and tourism, focusing on the heritage of the past.

The third part of the book focuses on the socio-cultural context of tourism in four case studies. In Chapter 8 of Finn, the change of European football is discussed from being a fan sport to being a spectator sport. Finn identifies current sports marketing practices that construct a product or experience in which fans ‘identities do not fit current “civilized” consumer processes, and instead matches spectators’ identities with the images and procedures promoted by sports marketers inside and outside football stadiums.

Chapter 9, by Baron-Yelles, focuses on tourism and the politics of nature-based tourism, and how the ‘Grand Site National at La Point du Raz’ underwent changes in tourism services and infrastructure to meet tourists’ demands. In this chapter, the reader can observe the trade-offs between natural resources and the provision of tourism experiences. This case study also shows how a destination responded to stakeholders’ views on coastal conservation, public access and allowed visitor levels.

Chapter 10 by Lohmann and Mundt focuses on mature markets for cultural tourism in Germany. The chapter discusses how tourism shapes culture through the exchange of experiences between travelers and residents in a destination. Travel and tourism are discussed as cultural components. Lohmann and Mundt conclude that travel has become an important part of people’s lives and, in turn, is exposed to other cultures that can affect their own.

Chapter 11 of East and Luger focuses on youth culture and tourism development in the Austrian mountains. East and Luger share interesting insights into young people’s reactions and behavioral adjustments to tourists. They report that youth engaged in tourism through family businesses tend to be more respectful to tourists. Rural youth in rural areas proved to be interested in urban experiences.

Voase concludes that these last four cases have three underlying themes. The first theme is that the consumer experience is staged or produced. This theme reflects MacCannell’s (1976) conception of realities front and back. The front stage is the presentation of a destination for visitors, while the back stage is the real or true character of a destination. The second theme is that commercialization and commodification are not synonymous terms. The third theme is environments that are often manipulated to affect people. Voase explains how sports environments have changed and also causes spectators to change.

Overall, this book is useful for practitioners and academics because it delivers case studies offered by people closely associated with the tourism industry, providing an insider’s point of view. Voase, as both a holiday tourism practitioner and an academic, effectively collects case studies focusing on Western European tourism and conveys concepts that shift ‘old’ tourism principles to ‘new’. His introductions to each collection of cases (i.e. economic, political, and socio-cultural) are insightful. However, Voase does not discuss the introduction of the euro currency in January 2002. This is an important change in the economic structure of all EU countries and their socio-cultural development. Connecting the EU countries through the single currency can create a sense of a larger society, potentially affecting tourism through EU cultural, social, political and economic member states.

Finally, Voase’s closing piece is insightful. His conclusions identify demographic, environmental and consumer trends that will impact tourism in Western Europe during the 21st century. I have completed an aging population, global warming and active and passive consumer segments are elements of a ‘new’ tourism. All three trends will potentially affect future research in tourism development and marketing. Both academics and practitioners need to be aware of these trends. Voting as a practitioner and academic makes a meaningful contribution through these thematic case studies and identifying the main themes and trends of tourism in Western Europe.