Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Urban Design for Tourism City

This essay discusses components in urban design in relationship to tourism industry and factors that contribute to successful tourism industry.

Hall (2008 P.1) quoted World Tourism Organization’s (1997, 2001, 2006a) forecasts predict that international arrivals will reach nearly 1.6 billion by the year 2020. The rapid growth of tourism industry has become an important economic back-bone for certain city. Edinburgh for example, its tourism industry employs around 31,000 people which is equivalent to 9% of the total workforce (2006) and generates 1.7 billion pound to the city in the year 2006 (Edinburgh Tourism Action Group 2008 p.2). Hall (2008. P.1) states that tourism is the world’s largest industry because tourism industry provides enormous job opportunity and generates huge profit into a destination. These facts, the growth of tourism industry explain the high potential of tourism and its economic impacts is very beneficial to a city. Therefore, it is wise to concern for tourism growth during urban planning and design stage in providing opportunity for the growth of tourism industry as another source of economic income.

 Inskeep, cited by Harrill and Potts (2003 P.233) claims that tourism is an “invisible” industry to many planners and so tourism development is often left to private developers and leisure service providers. However, by understanding the supply and demand concept in tourism, this “invisibility” could be visualized. “Figure 1 The Expanded Tourism Model” presented by Laws (1991 P.5) explains tourism in detail which would help in the understanding of demands in tourism industry. This expanded tourism model revealing the complexity of tourism and breaking this complexity into many components. These components are the “Journey from Home to Local Terminal”, “Local Terminal”, “Main Journey”, “Terminal”, “Local Transfer”, and “Destination”. The first two components: “Journey from home to local terminal” and “Local Terminal” will not be discussed because these two components are not in the field of planning in urban design. 

Main Journey is the component transporting travelers from other country or region into the designated city. The examples of Main Journey include airplane, cruise, bus, train and private vehicle. Terminal is a gateway that welcomes travelers and it is important to give a good first impression to travelers before experiencing the city. Without terminals, the Main Journey could not stop at the city and hence no passengers would be able to reach at the city. Examples of Terminal include air-port, port, bus station, train station or sometime a central transportation hub. Local Transfer is the component that allowing tourist travel within the city. Examples of local transfer are road, pedestrian walkway, canal, cable car and so on. Destination is the component that attracting tourist traveling to a specific city. This component includes accommodation, catering, and activities/event (Laws 1991 p.5).

Figure 1 The Expanded Tourism Model (Laws 1991 p.5)

Tourism Components as discussed above can be understood as the Demand in Tourism Industry. On the other hand, Urban Design has the role as the supplier to create and provide supplies for the demand of tourism industry. By understand the demand; Urban Design Components (supply) can be categorized into 3 groups: “Primary Component”, “Secondary Component”, and “Transportation Component”. These Urban Design Components are supplying the demand of Tourism Components. There is another component will be affecting the tourism industry: “Local Community”. These four components are inter-related and they are important in creating successful tourism city.

Primary Component

Primary Component is main product supplied by a city for the demand of tourism. This component is also known as Visitor Attraction. Visitor attractions have the crucial role in the development and success of tourism (Leask 2008 p.3). Boniface and Cooper (2001) cited by Leask (2008 p.3) state that “The attractions are Raison d'être(reason for being) for tourism; they generate the visits.” A well planed city with excellent environment for living without visitor attraction will not be attractive to tourist because tourist seeks for unique experience for a short term living. Therefore, designing a tourism city should be focusing in inserting Primary Component to magnetize visitors.   

Visitor Attraction is usually created by the social lifestyle and tradition of local community and sometime appears by the creation of Mother Nature. However, if the city does not heritage any tourist attraction from ancestor or wonderfully gifted by Mother Nature, it is also possible to be created by Urban Designer. Henderson (2008 p.96-97) states that “modern attributes such as shopping malls, events, theme parks and all inclusive resorts are significant Visitor Attractions, as well as sports and health treatments. Attractions are therefore diverse and not confined to coastal and rural areas and historic urban zone”.  

Edinburgh summer festival is one of the paragons for events designed to supply the demand of tourists. Buchanan, councilor of the Convener of the Economic Development Committee (2008) states that “Edinburgh’s population doubles with visitors each August as the city’s world-renowned programme of summer festivals gets underway”. Buchanan’s statement shows the great impact of “Event” as a primary component in Urban Design. Public open space are usually been use to accommodate Events. This is supported by the example of “Edinburgh Military Tatoo” which has attendance of 217,000 visitor each year (The Tattoo Office 2008) is been held at the public open space in front of Edinburgh Castle. In another words, public open space is flexible for different functions and hence offering a good platform to accommodate huge amount of people for events.  

Figure 2 Military Tattoo at the Open Square fronting of Edinburgh Castle (The Tattoo Office 2008)

Secondary Component

Having only primary component as the magnet that drives visitor coming into a city is not sufficient to sustain the needs of tourist. Referring to the Tourism Components (Demand), visitors need shelter and food for a longer staying. Hence, Secondary Component is needed for providing accommodation and catering, indeed it is important to extend the staying of tourist. Secondary component is as important to ensure satisfactory of tourist. Therefore, secondary component should be easily accessible from the primary component as a supportive element to strengthen the magnetism of primary component.

However, Secondary component is not the main motive of a ‘traveling’ and hence, it should be economical and affordable. However, there are also visitors who desire for excellent experience for both primary and secondary components in their tourist package. Therefore, accommodation services and catering should range from economical to luxurious for accommodating the different visitors’ demands. 

(eTourism Ltd 2009) Scotland for instance, offering different types of accommodation with price ranging from 20 pound to few hundred pound per night. Each types of accommodation is offering different kind of experiences. For example, there are luxurious hotel offering excellent comfort in living. Besides, Bed and Breakfast or Guest house is one kind of accommodation for budgets traveling. Youth Hostel on the other hand, offering opportunities to make new friends. Some country like Scotland is also providing outdoor accommodations such as camping and caravan for visitors who love outdoor activities. There are also other types of accommodation like serviced apartment, eateries with rooms & inns also providing different experience to the visitors. In short, a city should offer variety choices of Secondary Component in supporting Primary Component to cater various preferences of visitors to increase the satisfactory of the travelling experience.

Secondary component is potential to be overlap with primary component. Unique shelter and food are sometime a visitor attraction. Ice Hotel, for example Hotel de Glace at Québec Canada has become a visitor attraction while offering lodging services because of the unique living experience its offering. Hotel de Glace had received 343,000 visitors since operations (Hôtel de Glace 2009 p.1). In another words, with the proper design in secondary component, it is also possible to be part of primary component, magnetizing visitors.


Figure 3 Hotel de Glace (Hotel de Glace 2009)

Local Community

The main objective in tourism is to generate economic incomes for the local community. Primary and Secondary Component is like an engine require energy input to function, Man Power is the Energy. Without the supply of man power from local community tourism cannot be sustained. Though, some people might claims that the possibility of importing man power from the other region, there is still vital in planning to accommodate these “man power” either for short term living or long term living. Inappropriate planning for local community will affect their attitude towards tourism and then create negative consequences to the tourism industry.

            Negative attitude of local community towards tourist will affect the service quality provided in Secondary Component and hence affecting overall satisfaction of the travelling experience. Harrill (2004) states that improper planning and management in local resident, would induce open hostility of local resident toward tourists, eventually contributing to the destination’s decline. Harrill (2004) quoted Jamaica Kincaid (1988) text describing the envy felt by native toward tourists:

            They [natives] are too poor to escape the reality of their lives; and they are too poor to live properly in the place where they live, which is the very place you, the tourist, want to go—so when the natives see you, the tourist, they envy you, they envy your ability to leave your own banality and boredom, they envy your ability to turn their own banality and boredom into a source of pleasure for yourself.”


            Therefore, it is necessary to ensure satisfactory of both party, local community and tourist, in urban planning in achieving successful and sustainable tourism. The solution is to create a buffer zone between these components ensuring that they are separated yet connected. According to Harrill (2004), one of the major factors affecting local community’s attitudes toward tourism is the spatial planning. Harrill (2004) cited Pizam (1978), Tyrell and Spaulding (1984) that the location of tourism facilities and services is the key affecting local attitude towards tourism because of trash and litter, noise and environmental contaminations. In addition, Harrill and Potts (2003) both agree that unsafe traffic conditions, crime, drug addictions and alcoholism is also another factor affecting local attitude towards tourism. In another words, local resident as negative attitude towards tourism because tourism facilities and services has causes negative impact to local community that disturbing the living environment. Hence, by inserting buffer zone between local community and other components to reduce negative impact in local community, win-win situation for both parties is achievable.

Transportation Component

            Visitor attractions will not be functioning if visitors cannot access them (Robbins and Dickinson 2008 p.108). The function of transportation is to connect tourist with the rest of other components. It allows visitor to access all these components and travel within the components. In the design of transportation component, it is vital to identify primary components the city. Transportation component is to connect all this primary components to a center or hub which connected to the terminal (gateway to and from other region). This transportation should offer tourists a pleasant journey.

            The form of transportation come in vary depends on the potential of the city. For example, Barcelona provides various type of transportation form for tourists’ mobility. The city provides a guided tourist bus which is called “Touristic Bus” to cover every primary component in the city. This bus service enhances tourists’ mobility to access every primary component is one of the reason for the success of Barcelona’s tourism industry.

Figure 4. Barcelona Bus Turistic Map (Barcelona Turisme 2009)indicating the linking of visitors’ attractions (Primary Component).

            The form of transportation does not limited to vehicle only. Barcelona is providing bicycle rental service for tourists’ mobility. The city allocated bicycle rental point at every primary component enabling tourists accessing every primary component at the same time experiencing cycling which favor by sports lover.

            Transportation component is also able to overlap with primary component. For instance, La Rambla, Barcelona is a street at the same time, a visitors’ attraction (primary component). The origin idea of La Rambla, is to link retail shops forming the “shopping centre” in Barcelona. However, the wide street provides a platform for events such as public performance, and other artist stall formulate a vibrant street and hence a primary component. In this case, the design of the street is offering visitors a pleasurable walking experience.

Figure 5. La Rambla Street, Barcelona 2009


            Robbins and Dickinson (2008 p.18) agrees that “transportation is neither the sole purpose nor the dominant purpose of the trips, but it may will be a pleasurable experience and contribute to the overall enjoyment of the visit to an attraction”. In term of urban design, although basic transportation such as street, road, bus and train could serve the purpose of primary component, it is vital to offer a pleasurable experience to tourist in this component for the overall satisfaction of travelling.


In conclusion, urban design for tourism city is a challenging issue. It involves planning and designing spaces and places for long term and short term living community. Tourism itself is a non-profit investment for tourist except business traveler. Tourists invest for intangible return such as experience and satisfaction. Therefore, these places created must be attractive so that its create desire in visitors to invest on the tour. Hence, is vital to understand tourists’ needs and demands before the designing process.

In addition, “experience” is the key element offered to tourists. This make up the basic urban design model where events and visitors’ attractions is the Primary Component, supplement by services such as accommodations and catering, the Secondary Component, and by man power supplied from “Local Community” ensuring the operation of Primary and Secondary Component.These components are linked together by Transportation component and then connected to other region so that the city is accessible. This model is illustrated at the diagram below:-


Figure 6. Urban Design Components Model.



From the perspective of tourism marketing, tourists have different choices of city potentially visit. Branding the city involves promoting the unique of a city which answers the question “Why should I visit your city?” (Kolb 2006 p.18). In the design of tourism city, Urban Designer has the definite role in inserting uniqueness in a city. This uniqueness is the branding strategy for tourism marketing. This uniqueness creates the will of travel in tourists, and affecting their decision in choosing desired destination. Urban Designer is responsible to present the uniqueness by creating distinctive setting in the city.

This distinctive setting would make up the image of a city. In addition, this distinctive setting set up the unique experience and mood for tourist when they are using provided tourism facilities such as components as discussed. This distinctive setting is often being set to target specific groups of people. Having a clear image could easily attract the visit of a specific group of people. For example, the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation successfully attracts the visits of young people by developing “Real Fun, Real Young, Real Philly” city package featuring the sites and places that were shown on the MTV show (Kolb 2006 p.18).

            In the city of Aberdeen, the lack of primary component is the major factor affecting its tourism. Aberdeen (The Granite City) being a historic city with a very strong identity, lacks distinctive quality, which in turn does not attract as many visitors as Edinburgh. This is due to the lack of events and visitor attractions within the city. This lack of attraction to tourists alike is what kept Aberdeen behind in the tourism industry. 

            Intervention in urban design could contribute to a successful tourism industry for Aberdeen. Aberdeen’s Beach and The Union Street are potential to be developed to a higher level of visitor attractions.

Firstly, as most leisure type of primary components such as amusement park, beach and promenade are set at the seaside it is in fact a tourist destination. However, the facilities provided are very limited and these facilities are losing the identity of “Aberdeen”. This gives no reasons for visitor travelling to the city to pay for these leisure facilities. It is vital to insert more leisure type of primary component along the sea side. This is because the sea side in nature had offering a relaxing setting. However, the extreme climate in Aberdeen does not encourage outdoor activities. By adding indoor built environment that has strong connection with the sea and beach yet protects visitors from extreme climate, will be rejuvenating the seaside. This built environment along the seaside will be forming an indoor beach which offers visitor a beach vacation during winter.

Next, the unsuccessful of Shopping Street is also one factor affecting tourism industry. The Union Street as a central of the city and hub of transportation especially for buses increase traffic congestion along the street. This traffic congestion is contributing to the death of the shopping street because air pollutant and noise pollutant from vehicle creating an un-enjoyable experience along the street. Besides, the walkway along the street is not wide enough to accommodate the amount of pedestrian which in turn giving a reason for not using the street. Hence, this problem could be resolved by locating transportation hub off the street to reduce vehicle ingress to the street. When the amount of vehicle entering the street is reduced, it gives more space to pedestrian and reducing noises and pollutant gases. Furthermore, this wide pedestrian street is becoming a flexible public space for events such as weekly flea market. By the combining of primary component with the Granite backdrop, Aberdeen is offering a unique Granite Shopping Street that gives reason for a visit.

In order to improve Aberdeen’s tourism industry, it is crucial to connect these two urban interventions into one. This is because tourist accessibility is also one of the key factor to the succeed of primary components. The beach should have easy access by pedestrian from the “Granite Shopping Street” because it is walkable distance. However, present path needs a revamp to offer tourist a pleasurable travelling experience. This revamp could be done by extending the shopping street and seaside to a meeting point.

(Figure 7. Aberdeen Urban Intervention) (Google 2009)

The Castle Gate, being historically significant and flexible usage of space is very potential to be the meeting point for these two Urban Interventions. Meanwhile, The Castle Gate is also potentially contributing a platform for events. With that said, Aberdeen will become one of Scotland’s main tourist destinations.

In short, key success of urban design for tourism city is to offer a distinctive experience to tourist complement with tourism facilities without affecting local residents’ daily activities. These tourism components will be hardly succeed without the distinctive quality in it. Reversely, distinctive quality of a city does not ensure the success tourism industry without adequate tourism components in supplying tourist’s demands. These tourism facilities supply for tourists’ basic needs such as shelter, food and mobility which are the key contributes to overall satisfactory and its distinctive experience. In addition, local attitude towards tourism would also affect the distinctive experience when tourism facilities interferes the local community. In conclusion, Urban Design is the key role in crafting unique supplies for tourism industry and branding the city to offer matchless experience.



Reference List

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