Small Grant Scheme on Pandemics, Cities, Regions & Industry: Bouncing back or bouncing forward? Place leadership and post-pandemic recovery in European tourism regions
Research team: Laura James, University of Aalborg; Henrik Halkier, University of Aalborg, Cinta Sanz-Ibáñez, Universitat Rovira i Virgili; Nicola Bellini, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, Pisa
Network participants: Dimitri Ioanides, Mid-Sweden University; Florian Aubke, University of Applied Sciences for Management & Communication, Vienna; David Bradley, University of Newcastle; John McClellan, University of Aalborg; Vilhelmiina Vainikka, University of Aalborg
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on the tourism sector and constitutes a huge external shock to all European tourism regions. A literature on post-pandemic tourism is already beginning to emerge and early contributions are primarily speculative reflections on potential tourism futures, ranging from the dystopian to the transformational. This project creates a network to collect data and analyse regional policy responses in European countries, focusing on the role of place leadership in shaping recovery strategies.
Given the importance and spatial concentration of the visitor economy, developing a comparative perspective on the regional impact of, and responses to, the pandemic is critical. It is particularly relevant from a place leadership perspective because tourism is typically a highly fragmented industry in which public policy has played a major role – through planning, marketing, innovation initiatives and public-private partnerships – and thus existing forms of place leadership are also likely to be challenged in the wake of the pandemic. The project is situated within an evolutionary economic geography framework and will explore the extent to which tourism regions try to ‘bounce back’ to previous development paths or ‘bounce forward’ towards new paths. It will employ the concepts of place leadership and institutional entrepreneurship to analyse the ways in which different public and private stakeholders (a) reacted to the immediate crisis (b) are developing a vision of the future and mobilising other actors to work towards it, and (c) are engaging with/adapting existing institutions to support future development paths.
The project will investigate tourism regions in seven countries across Europe (Denmark, Spain, Italy, Finland, Austria, Sweden and the UK) covering a variety of tourist experiences (coastal, urban, rural, alpine), and different regional governance structures and policy regimes.
“We are very grateful for the support we have received from the RSA Small Grant Scheme on Pandemics, Cities, Regions and Industry. The grant will help us to set up a research network and begin data collection and comparative analysis of the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on tourism regions in Europe, as well as facilitating knowledge sharing and discussion of policy responses between academics and practitioners within and between the participating countries”.