This literature review is written by Wendy Yang as part of her NHTV Master in Tourism Destination Management.

Urban tourism has become one of main stream in tourism research since more and more urban areas promoted themselves as the most “charming”, ”sparkling” or ”touching” place on earth. In Asia, since so-called ‘tiger’ cities rose, city promotion combined with urban tourism has been view as a stage on which the state exhibits the success of economic success and modernized (Ward, 2005).Southeast Asia became a popular tourism destination to international visitors around 1970.From the beginning, tourism in Asia which consists of beach, sex, drugs, food and shopping has been based on urban. After two decades of development, in 1990s, East Asia pacific region received 16 percent of international tourists and 46 percent of them travelled to Southeast Asia (Mullins, 1999). According to UNWTO (2011), the average annual growth of international tourist arrivals in Southeast from 1995 to 2010 is 6.8 percent, second to Middle East.Hong Kong and Singapore, with spectacular growth, has been the best model for other Asian city states to imitate.In addition, Bangkok is also a good example to explain how being as a tourist gateway bring rapid growth to a city.The instant and obvious economic benefits and glory of “modern” have already driven more and more city authorities in Asia to develop tourism enthusiastically as the priority of policy. However, what if every city tries to attract tourists by using similar strategies and elements, like shopping, food and Skyscrapers (Leiper& Park, 2010). Furthermore these cities are all located in Asia, possibly modernized to different degree, but move to the same direction which early successful tourism Asian cities once went on.How do these cities make themselves to be more recognized? And do their efforts work? Is there any stakeholder without or within power but in urgency due to fast growth of urban tourism? Environmental issues about tourism in rural area have been discussed a lot, how about urban tourism? What kind of environmental impact could urban tourism cause?The ignored danger of urban tourism is the core of this literature review concerns about.


Unlike popular Europeantouristcities that attract holidaymakers with unique recreational and cultural experience, tourism products providedby newly modernized Asian cities are very similar, such as food, shopping and skyscrapers. The authorityalso tried to locate the destination in an unoccupied tourism market position by applying certain general elements, such as culture, sports and special events (Ward, 2005).Therefore, marketing strategies plays a more important role on urban tourism in Asia. For some Asian governments, the statistics of international tourist arrivals represents the extent of successful internationalization. In pursuit of increasing number, marketing and promotion hasbecome the core of tourism policy rather than quality improvement. Similar terms can easily be found in every Asian tourism brochures and campaigns.The government keeps searching for the most special description to make its cities more recognized. Unfortunately, this kind of efforts make new marketing themes tends to be mere rhetorical fancy(Ward, 2005).City branding sounds to be a possible solution to this confusion.However a city which Once branding concept is applied to a tourist destination “which are multi-faced entities serving various groups of users who each have their owen sets of motivations, expectations and experience”( Henderson, J ,2000, pp. 209). In addition,the images of destination branding are in high risk of fostering an unachievable perfection, far removed from real life. Better campaign quality result in greater danger with more beguiling imagery (Ward, 2005). Worst of all, residents in Asian cities has seldom been consulted about the form of picture.

Because developing tourism in development stage needs more facilities and accommodation to meet tourist demands, so the ministry of tourism encourages much new construction in city centers.However, the first problem is that the price or rent of land is always high in cities centers. Therefore the authority would provide tax holiday or sell the land owned by the government to appeal foreign investment. International-chained hotels are especially welcome to be open in Asian cities because the amount of five-star hotel is one of important tourism development indicators published on UNWTO facts book annually. It is careless whether the true situation of deal is fair or not is careless. In Asia, this kind of ‘partnership’ between politics and business lack supervision. What extent could citizen tolerate consent?Unfortunately, city marketing is a commodification of place and even more metaphorical than actual (Ward, 2005). Moreover, in the other hand, for the same reason mentioned in last paragraph, a global brand or transnational corporationis very welcome. Therefore, urban tourism in Asia depends on external and highly mobile capital rather than local business involvement.

Increasing facilities thriving in urban areas have changed the surface of the city. Huge amount of new high-rise buildings has been constructed and originallow-rise onesdisappeared. One new-built skyscraper brings more skyscrapers and leads the surrounding old buildings to the way of destruction (Leipera, N. & Park, S., 2010).Cities look much more crowded and make not only visitors but also residents feel depressed with the growth of urban tourism. ”Tourists may be more affected by this sort of urban environment than locals,because locals accept it as part of their normal environment but for tourists it isantagonistic to the leisure that underlies recreational and cultural activities intourism.”(Leipera, N., & Park, S., 2010, pp. 346)Asian cities are losing their characteristic and ethnic style. For example, one grand fancy hotel in modernist style designed and constructed by international architect team can easily find the similitude to another one in Asia.

The urbanization is growing, by 2030, approximate 60 % of people on earth willlive in cities.People keep moving from country to city looking for opportunities. Most significant growth is predicted to occur in less developed regions, and themajority of sustained and rapid increase attributes to the poor who concentrateinto urban slums (Mowforth&Munt, 2009).However poor migrants are unable to afford high room rent in city center, then, the scale and quantity of slum grew. The truth is slum is the inevitable outcome of urbanization.But of course no Asian city government would like to give a shot to the poverty on promotional advertisement. From Western point of view poor people living in countryside sometimes could be romantic or culture-rich (Mowforth&Munt, 2009), but once if they appears in cities, the poverty should be eliminated as soon as possible. For Asian governments, in pursuit of tourism, the poor should be kicked off cities to improve the ‘appearance’ of cities.The state or enterprise can easily evict the urban poor because of their lackof property ownership by tourism-related development and infrastructureprojects, large international eventsand urban renewal.

Under the guidance of the authority, successful urban tourism equals to the badge of progress and achievement. While citizens, as main users of the space and participants of activities in cities, are rarely taken into consider. (Coles, 2008) In fact, citizens are asked to support tourism and educated not only to be friendly to visitors, but also agree with controversy polices including urban renewal, driving tramp away from streets and slum clearance schemes. Under the protective umbrella of urban tourism, the secret collusive relation between politicians and businessman were ignored and free from supervision.

The gap between the intensions of the marketers and understandings of localsis not rare.Take Singapore for example, both visitors and locals did not approve the description used for tourism promotion. “Societies cannot engineered or places manufactured for tourist consumption without a loss of authenticity which is ultimately by the visitor who will move on to seek it elsewhere. ”(Henderson, 2002, pp. 215) Comparing to the involvement of European citizenships in the project of city development, Asian people used to obey orders, silent urban residents create no criticize or debate on public events and cultural identification. Moreover, governments had no vision of refining cultural context but only objectives emphasized on marketing. Eventually, if the city authorities fail to realize the importance of long-term strategies to urban tourism, here is a prediction, the similar path taken by some older beach tourist destinations, less visitors and no more new jobs (Shaw, G.& Williams, A., 2002).

Now in certain Third World cities, there is a new form of urban tourism which diverged far from the definition of urban tourism called slum or reality tourism. Does direct contact with a city’s poor could improve the life of poorer communities or work in the opposite way? The question still waits for answers. However, slum tourism could give Asian cities a chance to examine the nature of its urban tourism.



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