“Going s-Low in Cambridge: opportunities for sustainable tourism in a small global city” (Wilbert and Duignan, 2015)

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OUR SLOW TOURISM CHAPTER: Wilbert, C Duignan, M.B (2015) ‘Going s-Low in Cambridge- opportunities for sustainable tourism in a small global city


Small cities have often been ignored in urban research and policy making. Moreover, it has been argued that too often those in leadership roles in small cities feel pressures to appear bigger by adopting big-city policies or desire to ‘trade-up’ in scale as part of regional and global competitiveness of neoliberal globalization (Jayne, 2006: 1). City size is most often measured in terms of population, though many other measures – such as numbers of corporate headquarters – are also used particularly in the endless attempts to define so-called global cities. Cambridge, England, is a small city with a global reputation due to its main University, with a population of some 123,900 in the 2011 UK census (https://www.cambridge.gov.uk/2011-census [accessed 13th January 2015]).

In many ways Cambridge shows that it is not size of population that is so important in terms of influence a city has. In a world perceived as one of increased inter-urban competition and global urban orders characterized by networks of connection, it is as much about reach and influence (Jayne 2006: 5).

In terms of tourism, Cambridge reputedly, receives some 5.362 million visitors annually, a claim that includes a rise from 4 million in the last three years (TSE: Economic Impact of Tourism report for Cambridge 2014). Like many historic cities near other large centres of population or tourism gateway cities, most of these visits are day trips. Moreover, this growth has come on the back of controversial calls from an ex-Mayor of Cambridge for tourism taxes to be introduced and for day visitors to be limited to help pay for management of the congestion and mess that tourism in Cambridge causes (Cambridge News 18th Oct 2014). Evidently, tourism is causing some concern in the city, though as in many cases it might be argued that tourism becomes something of a scapegoat due to its highly visible profile.

In this paper, we seek firstly to analyze the successes and problems that tourism faces in Cambridge. We then outline proposals and justifications for how tourism might be diversified, pointed towards more sustainable forms, and encouraged to connect more with other aspects of the local economy. Here, some of the ideas and practices of Slow Tourism are used and reinterpreted from a S-Low perspective to develop ideas of a more sustainable based tourism development. This approach and research is ongoing and somewhat experimental, but is made up of four phases. We then briefly discuss some potential difficulties with diversifying tourism in relation to local areas, stakeholders and communities with which we seek to engage.



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