Back in “the day” tourism in cities took place in the “tourist bubble”. The “tourist bubble” is that safe space downtown, full of chain restaurants and attractions, which cater for conventioneers and leisure visitors. In these bubbles, hotels, conventions centers and other businesses that meet the specific needs of tourists cluster. Businesses in these areas “understand” tourists and cater to them. So do host cities that ensure these areas are safe and secure for visitors. In some ways, the tourist bubble was an effective way to “manage” tourism. Of course, the downside of these bubbles is that all start to look and feel the same.
In recent years – an interesting thing has begun. The bubble is beginning to burst. Fueled in part by home-sharing services like Airbnb, travelers are moving out of the bubble and staying in neighborhoods. In these neighborhoods, travelers seek more authentic experiences. Places like Fitzroy in Melbourne, and “family friendly” West Seattle are now “hot” tourist destinations according to Conde Nast Traveler. For an article on “hot neighborhood destinations – check out this article.
There are benefits for these neighborhoods from the new business – new customers for instance – but there will be challenges as well. These new visitors are changing neighborhoods in ways that could not have been predicted “back in the day”. As a new equilibrium is achieved, it will be important to understand the impacts – positive and negative – of these new visitors. The challenge, as with all tourism, is to not destroy what attracts us in the first place. Now, more than ever, neighborhoods need to understand the principles of sustainable tourism.