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This article provides an overview and assessment of my concept of tourism gentrification. I describe my motivation for developing the concept and elaborate on the sources of inspiration for my theorizing of tourism as a major driver and outcome of gentrification trends. I next discuss the various scholarly reactions to my concept and delineate the ways in which researchers around the world have engaged my research to fashion new theories and understandings of the interconnection of tourism and gentrification. As a heuristic device, tourism gentrification focuses theoretical and analytical attention on how the interlocking nature of consumption-led economic growth, cultural identities linked to gentrifier status, and global circulations of real estate financing can produce unique local configurations of tourism and gentrification. As I point out, my concept of tourism gentrification is flexible and nimble enough to reveal the diverse ways in which tourism can be a driver of urbanization and neighborhood change, an effect of group conflict, and a site for localizing global flows of finance and culture.

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1Over the last decade, my concept of tourism gentrification has catalyzed a major transformation in empirical and theoretical research on the causes and consequences of gentrification in cities around the world. Tourism gentrification is heuristic device that draws analytical attention to a previously unrecognized driver of gentrification – tourism activities. While decades of research have focused on gentrification’s outcomes in terms of residential displacement and housing stock, my 2005 article and subsequent research focused on the commercial aspects of gentrification including the replacement of residential land-uses with commercial (touristic) land-uses and displacement of mom-and-pop businesses by entertainment corporations and tourist attractions (Gotham, 2005a; 2005b). Since 2005, academic books, edited volumes, and journal articles have engaged my concept and adapted it in various ways to examine the linkages among tourism, gentrification, and socio-spatial restructuring (Brown-Saracino, 2016; 2013; Lees, Slater, Wyly, 2013; Lees, Shin, Ernesto, 2016; Columb, Novy, 2016). Before the 2000s, the dominant theories and research agenda of gentrification studies rarely spoke of tourism. In contrast, a key feature of recent tourism gentrification studies is the effort to connect gentrification patterns and trends to larger economic and political processes, including tourism development, the deregulation and reregulation of urban real estate markets, the actions of transnational corporation, and shifting patterns of global finance (Gotham, 2006; 2009; 2012; Lees, Shin, Lopez-Morales, 2016).

2My research on tourism is synthetic and interdisciplinary. I focus on developing new empirical investigations and theorizations of the transformation of urban space due to the interacting forces of tourism and gentrification. Whereas most analyses of tourism have ignored the impact of tourism on gentrification processes and trends, my concept of tourism gentrification suggests that neighborhoods undergoing tourism redevelopment represent major arenas of gentrification restructuring. In my work on New Orleans, I develop the more general argument that during the last several decades, past patterns and trends of tourism development are being fundamentally rearranged by new forms of real estate financing and corporate investment (Gotham 2009; 2007a; 2007c; 2007d; 2007f). Through a combination of theory construction, historical analyses and ethnographic field observations and interviews, my research provides an original, innovative analysis of the new formations of both tourism and gentrification that are currently emerging in cities around the world.

Origin, Motivation, and Sources of Inspiration

3My concept of tourism gentrification derives theoretical inspiration from scholarship in urban political economy, critical theory, and the insights of Guy Debord and the Situationinst International (Gotham 2017; 2011b; 2011c; 2007b; 2005c; Gotham, Krier, 2008). Empirically, my work has focused on how tourism can become a major flashpoint and battleground of contention in which various political alliances struggle to influence the form and trajectory of urban cultural and economic restructuring (Gotham, 2011c; 2007b). Theoretically, I have examined the ways in which tourism attractions and spectacles unfold contradictions and irrationalities, give rise to conflicting meanings and effects, and constitute fields of domination and resistance (Gotham, 2011a; 2011b). My research views tourist sites and attractions as spectacles of contestation in which opposing groups and interests battle to control the production, representation, and consumption of spectacular imagery and cultural symbols (Gotham, 2017; 2007e). In this multifaceted conceptualization, tourism contains both oppressive and negative attributes as well as resistant and transformative qualities that reflect the politics of representation and urban meaning-making (Gotham, 2007g; 2005a; 2005b). Tourist attractions express unequal social relations and antagonisms in society at large to the extent that they put on display and articulate the contradictions of race, class, gender, and other structures of domination and subordination (Gotham, Lewis, 2015; Gotham, Haubert, 2006). Such a conception avoids celebratory, one-sided, and reductive views and probes for the conflictual, contested, and contradictory nature of tourism.

4In addition, my ideas and findings about tourism gentrification grew out of my dissatisfaction with classical perspectives on gentrification, my engagement with the interdisciplinary literature on tourism, and my confrontations and interrogations of scholarship on “third wave” gentrification. Classical perspectives have long viewed gentrification as a process of residential change in which lower- or working-class residents are pushed out of a neighborhood by incoming middle-class or upper-class residents leading to a class transformation of the area. As is characteristic of general ecological land-use theory, classical analyses of gentrification share a common emphasis on consumer demand and individual preferences as drivers of gentrification in which the principal actors are the individual gentrifiers. Such perspectives are ad hoc, individualistic, ahistorical, and descriptive. Critics have argued that classical perspectives tend to conflate the causes of gentrification with its consequences and fail to identify the key actors, organized interests, and macrostructures and extra-local processes that drive gentrification trends and patterns (Gotham, 2005b).

5A related source of inspiration for me was the emerging literature that examined how both gentrification and tourism had come to dominate expanding sections of U.S. cities and neighborhoods. Since the 1970s, and especially since 2000, downtown gentrification had intensified, and a growing number of urban neighborhoods had gentrified (for an overview, see Hwang, Lin, 2016). It was clear that the impulse behind gentrification was no longer restricted to the United States or Europe but was a global and generalized process (Lees, Shin, Ernesto, 2016). Moreover, both gentrification and tourism were emerging as global urban strategies in which both processes were intertwined and densely connected to economic and cultural globalization. Yet, through the 1990s and 2000s, despite much research and debate, few scholars agreed on how analysts should conceptualize gentrification, what should be the appropriate levels of analysis for assessing the effects of gentrification, and what data sources researchers should use to measure gentrification empirically. While many scholars agreed that tourism development and gentrification were different from the 1970s and 1980s they disagreed over their form, causes, and impacts.

6One of my motivations was to understand the causes and consequences of both residential gentrification and commercial gentrification and their linkages with tourism development in the Vieux Carre (French Quarter) neighborhood in New Orleans. Using long-term ethnographic field observations and interviews, I found that the interaction of tourism investment and changing flows of capital into the real estate market enhanced the significance of consumption-oriented activities in residential space and helped encourage gentrification. Here I was influenced by “third wave” gentrification research that focused on the formation of new alliances between private developers and local government, and the growth of large corporate developers, the impact of real estate investment trusts (REITs), and the role of new networks of mortgage brokers in the development of new forms of “corporatized gentrification” (Gotham 2006).

7A distinctive feature of my work on tourism gentrification was to shift the focus of debate to the role played by large entertainment corporations and state policies in encouraging the touristification of space and facilitating tourism-led gentrification. Prior to the 1990s and 2000s, most research on gentrification focused on questions such as who are gentrifiers (e.g., artists, business owners, middle-income and upper-income residents, etc.) and what is the character of gentrifiers’ relationships to their neighborhood. As noted by Brown-Saracino (2013; 2010, p. 168), while scholars disagree about whether gentrifiers drive or respond to conditions that enable gentrification, little research at the time focused on the interaction of tourism processes, actions entertainment corporations, and state policy. One popular argument that I challenged was the contention that consumer desires are forces to which capital merely reacts. Consumer taste for gentrified spaces is, instead, created and marketed, by powerful political and economic actors and other organized interests primarily interested in producing the built environment from which they can extract the highest profit. In addition, redeveloping a neighborhood as an entertainment destination can attract an upscale and affluent population to the neighborhood, increase property values for home owners, and serve as a magnet for national retail chains.

8In short, my concept of tourism gentrification offered a new way to theorize and analyze tourism as a set of practices that has causal impacts on urban form, socio-spatial patterns, and processes of urban development. While my empirical analysis was specific to New Orleans and the Vieux Carre, I argued that my concept could have broader theoretical generality and applicability to understanding the interconnections among tourism and gentrification. In the years after the article was published, many researchers and scholars began to address these issues providing their own reworking and modifications and contributing to the evolution and transformation of my concept (for a recent overview, Gravari-Barbas, Guinand, 2017).

Reactions and Engagement by the Social Sciences and Tourism Studies

9While there has been a proliferation of topics, perspectives, and empirical investigations in tourism gentrification scholarship, I want to focus on five areas of research that have fostered new theoretical inquiries and analyses on the relationships among tourism and urban change. These five areas are neither exhaustive nor comprehensive. They represent a partial and incomplete summary of the vast literature on tourism gentrification. One goal is to outline the ways in which scholars conceptualize and examine gentrification in the context of tourism. Another goal is to look specifically at some forms of gentrification to add a new dimension to the ways scholars may theorize and examine tourism. To accomplish these goals, I discuss how my concept of tourism gentrification has been received by tourism scholars and social scientists and assess how various adaptations of my concept have advanced our understanding of tourism.

10First, scholars around the world have adapted and applied my concept of tourism gentrification to advance questions concerning how various types or stages of gentrification are related to different forms of tourism. The use of tourism to attract urban investment and promote gentrification often involves the commodification of places through various forms of representational imagery, symbols, and motifs (Santos, Buzinde, 2007; Minoia, 2017; Murphy, 2008; Lehrer, Wieditz, 2009). Recent work has focused attention on the ways in which the designation of a neighborhood as a site of “historic preservation” can contribute to economic revitalization, tourism redevelopment, and promote gentrification (Chan, et al. 2016; McCabe, Ellen, 2016). In a case study of a decade of change of businesses in Brooklyn, New York, Benediktsson and colleagues (2016) argue that changes in consumer culture embedded in broader processes of gentrification are segmented according to local spatial and demographic context. Others have identified how tourism practices have been used to promote gentrification near brownfields sites (Pearsall, 2013), combat gang crime (Zerva, 2013), and rebrand spaces using music genres (Gibson, Connell, 2007).

11Still others have highlighted the nuances and complex relationships among tourism and gentrification. In a study of indigenous entrepreneurship at Honghe Hani Rice Terraces World Heritage Site (China), Chan and colleagues (2016) propose the concept of “self-gentrification” to describe individuals who seek to conserve both heritage landscapes and indigenous ways of life against the negative impacts of tourism. Liang and Bao’s (2015) study of tourism and gentrification in Shenzhen, China suggests that tourism can be a vehicle for revitalizing locally unwanted land-uses (LULU’s) near brown field sites. While Chan and colleagues (2016) focus on gentrification as a threat to indigenous and grassroots forms of tourism, Liang and Bao (2015) argue that tourism can nurture the growth of mixed-income communities and help preserve local cultural practices.

12Second, much research has applied my concept of tourism gentrification to examine whether tourism-induced gentrification in rural areas is similar to gentrification processes and trends occurring in urban areas. Using a case study of Quebec, Canada, Guimond and Simard (2010) illustrate the complex interactions of tourism and rural gentrification at different levels: socio-demographically; in terms of housing and economic impacts; on community and cultural levels; and on physical, environmental and political levels. Importantly, different levels of rural gentrification are neither mutually exclusive nor logically exhaustive. Rather, they are socially constructed by different kind of gentrifiers: newcomers, long-time residents, directors of local and regional community organizations, and municipal officials. Donaldson’s (2009) survey research on urban-rural migrant entrepreneurs in Greyton, South Africa suggests that the making of a tourism-gentrified town is driven by economic re-ordering of property values, socio- demographic changes, place preferences, and the economic impact of gentrifiers.

13Third, tourism gentrification has also motivated researchers to investigate the contested and conflictual dynamics of tourism development in cities. Columb and Novy’s (2016) edited volume draws on case study research from 16 cities to examine the increasing politicization of urban tourism as residents and stakeholders challenge what they view as the negative impacts and consequences of tourism development. In many cities, political mobilizations are not directed at tourism per se but are organized to address the deleterious effects of gentrification-induced inequalities, displacements, and threats to quality of life. Fuller and Michel (2014) describe how transformations of the urban fabric in Berlin-Kreuzberg take place “primarily on a relatively small-scale, with almost no strategic state planning involved” (p. 4). Su and Teo’s (2009) edited volume focuses on the politics of heritage tourism development in Lijiang, China. The contributors provide a compelling study of the dialectical interaction of global and domestic capital, state government policies, and actions of tourists and locals in shaping Lijiang for tourist consumption and gentrification. These studies engage my concept of tourism gentrification with different empirical cases to highlight the central importance of relations of domination and subordination in the process of tourism development.

14Fourth, the timing, pace, and trajectory of tourism gentrification are locally specific and historically contingent. Several studies have explained the interlocking nature of tourism and gentrification in the context of neighborhood history (Langegger, 2016). In a recent case study of the relationship among arts enhancement and aesthetic regulation in Singapore, Chang (2016) uses the concept “gentrification aesthetics” to explore how arts and culture intertwine to aestheticize the city. According to Chang, the urban aesthetic and state actions create the socio-spatial conditions that pull artists to the city as nascent gentrifiers. The movement of artists into urban neighborhoods is not a conflict-free process, however. Rather, like the research discussed above, gentrification gives rise to spatial and social struggles between people of different values, land claims, and aesthetic inclinations within the city. Widespread local differences in the implementation of state policy combined with contingent nature of tourism gentrification suggests that we need detailed case studies to understand the synergistic nature of tourism and gentrification dynamics. These concerns are highlighted in Herrera and colleagues’ (2007) work on Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Zhang and colleagues’ (2013) study of the gentrification of Yuexiu in Guanghou, China, Shin’s (2010) analysis of tourism gentrification in Beijing, China, Zhao and colleagues’ (2009) study of gentrification in Nanjing, China, and Lederman’s (2015) research on urban fads in Buenos Aires. Despite differences in empirical and analytical foci, what unites these diverse studies is that they highlight the ways in which tourism development can be a source of conflict and antagonism for cities experiencing rapid gentrification.

15Fifth, my concept of tourism gentrification has informed tourism scholarship on the role of human agents in constructing, appropriating, and deploying particular imagery, framing strategies, and representational devices to challenge the process of tourism development. In a case study of ethnic tour guides in Chicago, Emily Drew (2011, p. 64) documents how tour guides use the concept of tourism gentrification to make explicit links between tourism and political processes that threaten to drive long-time residents out of their close-knit communities. According to Drew (p. 64), in different racial/ethnic neighborhoods, guides often represent tourism as a pathological force that produces an inauthentic version of communities of color. From intimations to explicit statements, guides communicate to tourists that the culture they are consuming is as much produced by social inequality and gentrification as it is an “authentic” expression of the community. In Drew’s ethnographic research, tour guides employ academic concepts such as tourism gentrification to challenge and contest racialized constructions of African American communities. As “representational strategists,” tour guides use my concept of tourism gentrification to “develop strategies that put forward alternative – even antiracist – representations of marginalized communities” (p. 55). In short, Drew’s field research shows how an academic theoretical term like tourism gentrification can be appropriated and used by local activists as a representational tool to contest gentrification practices that reinforce social marginalization.

16In sum, since 2005, scholars and researchers have engaged my concept of tourism gentrification to catalyze the development of a burgeoning literature on the impact of tourism discourses, and tourism modes of visualization and staging on processes and forms of urban transformation. The theoretical and empirical significance and popularity of my concept are evident in studies of tourism development and gentrification in Hanoi (Yip and Tran, 2016), Berlin (Fuller and Michel 2014; Novy 2014), Memphis (Gibson and Connell, 2007), London (Benediktsson, et al. 2016), Toronto (Lehrer, Wieditz, 2009), New York (Pearsall, 2013), Los Angeles (Zerva, 2013), Chicago (Drew, 2011), cities in China (Chan, et al. 2016; Liang, Bao, 2015; Zhang, et al. 2014), and cities in Southern Europe and Latin America (Janoschka, et al. 2014; Gonzalez, 2017). The multiple agents, geographies, and conflictual dynamics of tourism gentrification have spurred much international research concerning how tourism practices can influence gentrification trends and how gentrification can be a force for tourism development.

Adaptations and Modifications of Tourism Gentrification

17Finally, I want to describe several conceptual refinements and analytical approaches that I believe can push scholarship on tourism gentrification in new and innovative directions. First, investigating the process of tourism gentrification in relation to processes of neighborhood transformation can advance the study of tourism dynamics more broadly. One way in which scholarship on gentrification has been limited is that it has generally remained isolated from the study of tourism. This isolation of research agenda has limited theoretical progress. Decades ago, when gentrification was a relatively small-scale phenomenon occurring in a few major cities and primarily near downtown areas, the separate development of tourism research and gentrification research may have been sufficient. Gentrification’s increased global prevalence and growing public concern surrounding its implications for urban tourism development mean that we can no longer study gentrification separately from processes of urban tourism. Moreover, a growing plurality of disciplines beyond sociology and geography, including economics, history, political science, and public health, to name a few, are increasingly studying the complexity and globalized nature of tourism. My concept of tourism gentrification is a useful heuristic device to engage past understandings of gentrification with current tourism theories to improve empirical research on the causes and consequences of urban change.

18Second, my concept of tourism gentrification can assist researchers in identifying the drivers and outcomes of “super-gentrification.” Lees (2003) drew attention to “super-gentrification” to highlight the impact of wealthy financiers in extreme or highly advanced stages of gentrification. Tourism gentrification can be useful for discussions concerning how “super gentrification” has changed over time, and how it takes shape in different city and neighborhood contexts. Most research on gentrification has focused on issues of spatial differentiation, class transformation of urban neighborhoods, and the displacement of former residents by wealthier residents. By contrast, tourism gentrification is commercial as well as residential and reflects new institutional connections between the local institutions, the real estate industry, and the global economy.

19Thus, my concept of tourism gentrification is theoretically specific enough to permit detailed examinations of the different micro-macro processes, forms, and types of gentrification occurring in cities around the world. Moreover, the clear conceptualization of tourism gentrification allows for more valid and parsimonious explanations of the causes and consequences of gentrification than current theories and explanations. Broad and general theorizations of gentrification tend to divert attention away from local embeddedness of tourism practices and local impacts of real estate financing and investment on commercial and residential space. They also tend to render invisible the regulatory and legal changes that underpin the processes of displacement and tourism development. Thus, we need nuanced perspectives on tourism gentrification that are sensitive to political, cultural, and socio-economic circumstances, local cultural sensibilities, and historical contingencies.

20The take-a-way is that tourism gentrification can have a broad range of application and is specific enough to distinguish between a range of types of both tourism development and gentrification. My concept offers a theoretically fertile understanding of tourism as a driver of socio-spatial transformation, an outcome of collective struggles over the use of space, and a site for emplacing extra-local socio-economic, political, and cultural processes. Importantly, tourism gentrification highlights the twin processes of globalization and localization that define modern urbanization processes. On the one hand, tourism is a “global” industry dominated by large international hotel chains, tour operators, car rental agencies, and financial services companies (American Express, Visa, and so on). On the other hand, tourism is a “local” industry characterized by grassroots cultural production, spatial fixity of the tourism commodity, and localized consumption of place. Understanding and explaining the interaction of the “global” and the “local” in theoretical and empirical research on tourism gentrification means that any explanation of why and how tourism gentrification develops will need to consider where and when it develops.

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Kevin Fox Gotham

Ph.D., Department of Sociology, Tulane University, New Orleans

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