Berlin (Germany), 29-31 August 2013
Humboldt-University Berlin, Institute for Social Science, Dept. for Urban and Regional Sociology


Tourism has become one of the main economic development resources in many cities of the Global North and increasingly, of the global South. Urban leaders have promoted various initiatives and programs to support and expand the growth of the tourism sector in their cities in partnership with the private sector, mobilizing the cultural, social and physical capital present in their city in the process. The expansion and prioritization of the tourism sector in urban development, and its material impacts on urban space and the life of urban residents have generated new contestations of, and conflicts over tourism development and the visitors’ economy in cities, which are the focus of this session. Observable in numerous cities around the globe and indicating an increasing politicization of what previously had essentially been a non-issue in political debates and struggles, many of these conflicts revolve around

  • the effects tourism is having on local environments and communities;
  • the way tourism’s costs and benefits are distributed;
  • the role tourism plays in spatial restructuring and gentrification processes; as well as
  • the nature and orientation of tourism policies and marketing strategies at local/regional levels.

The aim of the session is to better understand what type of conflicts and contestations have emerged and to explore the multiple and variegated ways in which community groups, activists and other people and organizations respond to – and challenge – prevalent tourism patterns in an international comparative perspective. It invites empirical and theoretical investigations from different contexts and regions that reflect on:

  • The sources of conflicts and contestations: What are the main elements of conflicts and how do they relate to wider struggles about – and within – contemporary cities and especially particular neighborhoods within them?
  • Their protagonists: Who are the actors that initiate or drive protests and how do they relate to other urban-based movements? What are their motifs and demands and how do they articulate them?
  • Sites and Scale(-s): Where and at what scale do backlashes against tourism occur? What common elements and what differences characterizes protests across places?
  • Consequences: How does the local state respond to contestations of and conflicts over tourism development and what impact do manifestations of protests have on tourism patterns and practices? As well as
  • Alternative/bottom-up/community-based approaches as well as their potential – and limits – for achieving more ‘equitable’ and ‘sustainable’ patterns of urban tourism.

Session Organizer

Johannes Novy, PhD, Senior Researcher, Habitat Unit, Technical University Berlin, Germany, E:


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