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06.11.2017

Canterbury Christ Church University (Kent, UK) survey shows tourists still value authenticity of historic cities

Photo: Westgate, Canterbury, Kent, England © Dr. Patrick Patridge

City tours and city breaks are one of the most popular forms of coach holiday. New research suggests that tourists still search for, and value, authenticity in cities.
Dr. Jane Lovell from Canterbury Christ Church University has been researching heritage tourism for ten years, looking at how authenticity is used and sometimes staged by cities and locations. Her research suggests that tourists still want to discover the original story of the places they visit, valuing the authenticity of their chosen city or location.

Dr. Lovell, Senior Lecturer in the School of Human and Life Sciences, explained:
“We all value authenticity in its many layers and tourists in particular seek it out. We enjoy staged authenticity such as ‘authentic’ folk dancing, costumes and souvenirs and even in the seemingly inauthentic theme parks, with visitors comparing the detail to the descriptions in the books and ‘authenticating’ the attraction. However, places are always changing; buildings are restored or recreated and in recent years, areas seem to change beyond recognition for many locals due to gentrification in their neighbourhoods.”

“The gentrification of places such as SoHo and Williamsburg in New York, Wicker Park in Chicago and Shoreditch in London is highly apparent, to the extent that Shoreditch has been described as a ‘hipster theme park’. But, these ‘hipstorical’ places often display industrial heritage traits and features, including symbols of the working class, slow anachronistic crafts processes and vintage products.”

 “Gentrification can be seen as authentication on a fast forward button. It’s all part of the cycle, but it can also be very sad as it reproduces the shells of an original community who have had to leave to find a new sense of purpose. Gentrification takes the authenticity of a place and tries to replicate it. In its own way, the process places more value on the heritage of an area.”

Dr. Lovell’s research features in a new book co-written with Christ Church colleague Dr. Chris Bull, titled ‘Authentic and Inauthentic Places in Tourism: From Heritage Sites to Theme Parks’. The book explores how we perceive heritage management focusing on how authenticity is staged (and un-staged) in historic cities, including Canterbury, Durham, Oxford, Cambridge, York and Bath, as well as looking at seaside resorts, historic sites, museums, gentrification and film location tourism.

Further information: https://www.crcpress.com/Authentic-and-Inauthentic-Places-in-Tourism-From-Heritage-Sites-to-Theme/Lovell-Bull/p/book/9781138936706

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