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Tourism and Geopolitics: Issues and Concepts from Central and Eastern Europe

By: Hall, D.
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With 29 contributors from across Europe and beyond, this work represents a unique and important resource that examines the many relationships between tourism and geopolitics, with a focus on experiences drawn from Central and Eastern Europe. It begins by assessing the changing nature of 'geopolitics', from pejorative associations with Nazism to the more recent critical and feminist geopolitics of social science's 'cultural turn'. The book then addresses the important historical role of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) in geopolitical thinking, before exemplifying a range of contemporary interactions between tourism and geopolitics within this critical region. Pursuing innovative analytical paths, the book demonstrates the interrelated nature of tourism and geopolitics and emphasizes the freshness of this research area. Addressing key principles and ideas which are applicable globally, it is an essential source for researchers, teachers and students of tourism, geography, political science and European studies, as well as for diplomatic, business and consultant practitioners.

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Part I: Introduction and Overviews

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Part I:

Introduction and Overviews

1  Bringing Geopolitics to Tourism

Derek Hall*

Seabank Associates, Maidens, Ayrshire, UK

1.1  Tourism as (part of)

Transnational Neoliberal Hegemony

and the tensions between dynamic, high-level

(geo)political relations and local tourism-related cross-border quotidian activities; identity and

The study of both tourism and geopolitics is sub- image, exploring tourism’s post-communist and ject to conflicting interpretations, contrasting post-conflict contributions to changing local methodologies and diverse theorisations. To set and national self-perceptions and to overcoming and exemplify the conjoining of these two are- the tensions of contested heritage; and mobilinas within the dynamic context of Central and ties, theorising and exemplifying the tourism-­

Eastern Europe (CEE) summons all manner of related processes of human movement and their interactions. possibilities and challenges.

 

Part II: Reconfiguring Conceptions and Reality

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Part II:

Reconfiguring Conceptions and Reality

For those born during the last stages of, or after, the ‘Cold War’, the terms ‘post-socialism’ and

‘post-communism’ may possess little meaning.

For others of us, the experience of political, cultural and economic change brought about in

Europe during our lifetimes has been profound.

On either side of the former European divide, our perceptions and understanding of the European space, its values and significance have required a reordering, a reorienting and a rediscovering.

As Peter Jordan argues in Chapter 4, if we have the impression that the Adriatic space is emerging as a cultural region, it is because we are reacting to the impact of the Cold War period, when European division bifurcated the Adriatic

Sea. The Adriatic space is, in fact, re-emerging as a cultural region, which it had been for centuries, being shaped by powers from the Roman

Empire onwards. Thus, as a counterpoint to conceptions of Central/Central and Eastern/

 

Part III: Tourism and Transnationalism

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Part III:

Tourism and Transnationalism

A dimension that appeared to be beyond the foresight of neoclassical geopoliticians was the growth and significance of transnational economic power, but not through trade in the traditional sense. In seeking to upgrade technology and thus improve efficiency through gaining access to Western loans to purchase Western technology, the Soviet bloc in the 1970s and 1980s not only failed to take advantage of the potential

‘efficiency gains’ available but also did not appreciate that granting licenses for Western manufacturing giants – whatever their supposed political allegiances (e.g. Fiat) – to pursue their activities behind the ‘Iron Curtain’ was something of a Trojan horse.

By 1989, ‘Western’ multi/transnational corporations possessed the power to ‘invade’

Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) quietly, perhaps insidiously, in a way that even the war-mongering demagogues of the earlier 20th century would have admired.

This section of the book therefore examines, conceptualises and reflects on ways in which tourism- and leisure-related transnational corporations have (or have not) established their presence and exerted their influence in CEE countries.

 

Part IV: Borderlands

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Part IV:

Borderlands

I’m not crazy about borders; I can’t honestly say

I hate them either. It’s just that they scare me, that’s all, and I always get uncomfortable when

I get too close to one.

(Kapllani, 2010: 1)

CEE’s national boundaries have long been a subject of contention and debate, as well as of historical, geographical and political study (e.g.

Thuen, 1999). The changing nature of the EU’s internal and external borders is a significant factor in European spatial reconfiguring, mobility and tourism dynamics, and for local development. Border conceptualisation underwent a

‘processual shift’ during the 1990s, from ‘border’ to ‘bordering’, and, more recently, critical attention has turned to the potential of ‘borderscapes’ as a focus of analysis in helping to understand new forms of belonging and ‘becoming’ (Brambilla, 2015).

Borders and border regions have attained a particular role in the European discourse as active spaces where links and contacts for deeper integration are being established, not least in order to receive funds from the European Commission. As a consequence, political elites have appreciated the importance of cross-border collaborative projects. These notably embrace regions marginalised in former times. However, the imposition of exogenous and elite-driven models for border region development have not been consistent in taking account of the interests and customs of local people, including patterns of local ownership and knowledge. This is

 

Part V: Identity and Image

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Part V:

Identity and Image

As a mediator between ethnic minorities, host residents and tourists, ethnic gastronomy holds a potentially important role in the geopolitics of urban and ethnic tourism. Marta Derek’s

Chapter 16 exemplifies the Polish case. Derek highlights a number of insightful ironies. Eating out was not a popular pastime in communist-era

Poland, and this aspect of urban living only took on significance in the late 1980s. Yet the seed for one of the capital’s major ethnic cuisines –

Vietnamese – was sown under the communist regime, when large numbers of Vietnamese students came to study in Warsaw and later stayed on in the city.

In this otherwise ‘mono-ethnic’ capital of

Poland, Derek argues that ethnic gastronomy represents an important factor in contributing to the ‘globalising’ of local populations. Significantly, however, there is little evidence in Warsaw’s restaurants of cuisine from other CEE countries being available.

 

Part VI: Mobilities

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Part VI:

Mobilities

Referred to in the UK press as a ‘travel-industry guru’ (Calder, 2005: 3), Neil Taylor, as a founding director, employs the UK travel firm Regent

Holidays in Chapter 21 to exemplify some of the geopolitics behind the role of a select few Western tour companies who, operating on the periphery of business logic, managed to open doors into Central and Eastern Europe and influence

Western tourists’ perceptions of ‘the other side’ during the worst excesses of the ‘Cold War’.

While such companies that still exist have both revised and diversified their portfolio of destinations, Regent’s ‘Cold War’ mediating role continues with its escorted tours to North Korea.

Although Regent Holidays tends not to use them, ‘no-frills’ airlines – low-cost carriers (LCCs) – have played an arguably crucial facilitating role in opening up more marginal regions of Central and Eastern Europe to Western tourism and travel markets. In Chapter 22, Edyta Pijet-Migon´ examines some of the processes and consequences of this, and of the political and economic power such airlines wield. Indeed, it could be argued that as important geopolitical players, such companies’ choice of routes and operational procedures influence considerably the spatiality of (‘low cost’) tourism and travel in Europe, and impact significantly on the socio-­economic well-being of those who live and work in their destination areas.

 

Part VII: Conclusions

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Part VII:

Conclusions

26 

In Conclusion

Derek Hall*

Seabank Associates, Maidens,Scotland, UK

26.1  Where We Have Been

This volume has drawn on a wealth of scholarship and experience to emphasise that tourism possesses inherently geopolitical dimensions and implications that have been significantly underresearched in tourism scholarship. Through a diversity of critical lenses, albeit focused on a particular diverse and dynamic area of the globe, the foregoing chapters have drawn upon a range of conceptual and empirical methodologies, and have addressed issues and concepts

­articulating numerous facets of the tourism– geopolitics nexus.

As a collected body of work, highly valuable within itself, this volume offers a jumping-off point for further methodological reflection, thematic expansion and theoretical consolidation.

Although focused on places, people and processes in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), the conceptual frameworks, arguments and questions posed possess far wider relevance.

 

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