Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Culture and Heritage Versus Alcohol and Sex in European Urban Destination Development

For the purposes of this article, the themes of sustainability and responsibility in relation to urban tourist destination development will be examined, particularly in relation to urban destinations, which have an entertainment offering that attracts cultural / heritage tourists and alcohol / sex tourists (predominantly British stag parties). Apthorpe (1970) warns of the difficulties and inaccuracies of attempting to compare developmental impacts in geographically diverse regions, due to the complex differences that may exist between them, therefore this study will be limited to several European urban areas. Sustainable development is defined using the United Nation’s World Commission on Environment and Development (1987) as ‘meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’


The word ‘development’ can have a wide variety of meanings. At a very generic level, development can mean ‘the process or fact of developing; the concrete result of this process’ (OED, 2009), this definition suggests that development involves change, which supports the work of Escobar (1995) who states that development is the result of a number of change processes. From a physical location or ‘regional’ perspective, OED (2009) also consider development as ‘the economic advancement of a region or people, esp. one currently under-developed’, which ties in with Apthorpe (1970) who views development as a tool by which social inequalities can be redressed and evened, thus bringing into the fray both economic and social benefits of development. Sen (2001) states that ‘development requires the removal of major sources of unfreedom: poverty as well as tyranny, poor economic opportunities as well as systematic social deprivation, neglect of public facilities as well as intolerance or over activity of repressive states’ (p.3), and presents the majority of development as being positive and beneficial to the host population, which is challenged by Clammer (2005) due to the wider social impacts of development.

Schech and Haggis (2000) state that culture (incorporating economic, political and social change) is ‘central to our understanding of development processes and their impacts upon societies across the globe’ (p.xi). All of the above demonstrates that three key linkage factors that intersect with development are economics, politics and the host population who occupy the area under development, which is supported by Clammer (2005) who states that ‘not only is development seen as (rightly) as much a political process and a politically tested terrain as it is an economic one, but also development is viewed as pre-eminently a social and cultural process’ (p.102). For a host population the advantages of economic development (referred to as ‘freedoms’) by Sen (2001) is ‘being able to avoid such deprivations as starvation, under nourishment, escapable morbidity and premature mortality’ (p.35), all of which are amiable ‘achievements’ for development, although Clammer (2005) notes that such social injustices ‘will not miraculously disappear’ with development (p.102).

Development must also be sensitive so that it does not adversely impact upon the local population, Schech and Haggis (2000) identify ‘development with material progress and improved living standards’, in doing so they also link development with industrialisation and modernisation, which Sen (2001) sees as a positive impact of development. Clammer (2005) raises the very validity of the term ‘development’ in this context, drawing parallels between it and ‘colonialism’ and ‘globalisation’ (p.101), which may come with some positives in terms of the freedoms highlighted above, but culturally can lead to a lack of identity and homogeneity within destinations, and a loss of local meaning and identity (Gullestrup, 2006; Moss, 2009a; Ritzer, 2004). Development needs to be sensitive to the culture and the immediate and future needs of a host population (Cooper et al, 2008; Font and Buckley, 2001), this is known as sustainable development. Sustainable development is in itself is a huge topic with many different facets, it is very often associated with the environment and numerous ‘green’ concerns, including the interlinked topical debates around: carbon emissions; recycling of waste materials; and global warming. Noman (2007) states that regional sustainable development, that fully takes into account its economic, political and social impacts and attempts to manage developmental change in a way that will maximise positive and minimise negative impacts is also often referred to as responsible development, which takes into account these wider concerns beyond the ‘green debate’ alone, although there is still a great deal of linkage and commonality between them.

Tourism Development

Tourism ‘is not just pleasure travel. It encompasses travel for education, religion, meetings, conventions, conferences, trade shows and general business travel’ (Smith, 2007, p.124). Tourism development is for the benefit of more than the local population and is also designed to benefit temporary visitors to a specific location, who are there for the purposes of tourism (Cooper et al, 2008). The 1960s were known as the United Nations development decade, with a great international focus on undeveloped regions of the world, and at the same time the development of a greater leisure infrastructure in industrialised regions and countries (Burkart and Medlik, 1981). In the United Kingdom (UK), the 1960s signalled a ‘new’ era beyond the previous decade of post-war financial struggle and food rationing. This coincided with a rise in personal disposable income, increased leisure time and increased mobility. Through the media an image was portrayed of growing youth cultures and young, trendy, adventurous Britons (Donnelly, 2005). This helped fuel a rise in the number of people who both had the financial freedom and the desire to visit and explore new places for the purposes of leisure, in other words tourists, which ‘are people who travel to destinations outside the places where they normally live and work with a view to returning within a few days, weeks or months; tourists may be variously defined and classified according to purpose, duration of travel or visit, and other criteria’ (Burkart and Medlik, 1981, p.320).

Modern day ‘mass-tourism’ is considered a post Second World War phenomenon (Hughes, 2000). In Britain this lead to; a re-discovery of traditional seaside resorts such as Blackpool, Bournemouth, Brighton and Great Yarmouth; a rise in countryside recreation activities; and ‘pilgrimages’ to cities such as Birmingham, Liverpool and London to experience the ‘vibe’ in areas from which popular culture icons (particularly music) originated (Carr, 1997). Visitation of towns and cities by tourists is referred to as urban tourism, which is ‘a major economic activity in many of Europe’s capital cities’ (Hall and Page, 2006, p.205). Whilst this increase in tourism came with economic benefits for destinations, it also came at a price, particularly when groups of ‘young adult’ tourists (typically aged under 30) would ‘descend’ on a destination, and proceed to drink alcohol to excess, the results of which could range from isolated incidents of vandalism or violence, to mass brawls involving 100s of people, as was often the case during the late 1960s and early 1970s when ‘gangs’ of rival youths would clash. This is typified by the now infamous scenes on Brighton Beach (UK), between the ‘mods’ and the ‘rockers’ (two rival youth culture groups), which made national headline news. It became clear that as well as economic benefits being derived from tourism, that there was also a clear downside, and ‘there was a growing concern about the potential and real negative impacts of tourism on destination regions’ (Mason, 2003, p.22), as exactly who was visiting destinations came under focus.

In the 1950s and 1960s a growth in civilian commercial aircraft operators, keen to take advantage of a surplus of military aircraft from World War Two lead to an increase in the number of tourists from the UK who travelled abroad. By 1967, 5 million Britons were taking foreign holidays, with the most popular destination being Spain (Page, 2003). The economic impacts of tourism were immediately felt in Spain, and the development of bustling resorts has been ongoing for over 50 years along the Spanish coastline, turning once sleepy fishing villages such as Torremolinos into busy conurbations as their once distinct borders merged with other fast developing neighbouring towns and villages (, 2004), economic boosterism was the prime rationale for such development, making tourism Spain’s biggest industry (Tarveinan, 2009). Apthorpe (1970) notes that in less developed countries (which Spain was in the 1960s) that ‘domestic affairs between town and country…are waged more like foreign policies between alien powers’ (p.vii) thus supporting the notion that an improved economy is often more important politically to government, than the sensitivity to cultural issues amongst rural and fragile communities. The cultural ‘village’ origins of resorts such as Torremolinos have now been largely hidden by an infrastructure that has been developed to cater for a mass international tourist clientele, who by day seek the sun, and at night are looking for entertainment, often involving restaurants, bars, pubs and clubs, and often the consumption of alcohol. Nightlife is one of the key reasons for tourism in locations with an urban infrastructure (Smith, 2003).

Leiper (1990) identified the tourism industry as a ‘system’ with three distinct regions, these comprise of: a tourist generating region, this includes mainly tour operators and travel agents; a transit route region, this includes all forms of transportation for moving tourists to and from their destinations; and a tourist destination region, which includes accommodation and all visitor attractions, leisure and entertainment amenities, see figure 1 (below).

Figure 1 - Leiper’s Tourism System Model, source: Mason (2003, p.11).

Community stakeholders within the tourist destination region have much wider social aims than organisations within the tourist generating and transit route regions of Leiper’s tourism system where the majority of stakeholders are primarily concerned with financial gain (McKercher and Du Cros, 2002). The majority of physical tourism development takes place in the destination region, where the aforementioned infrastructure is provided to attract and cater for tourists. Swarbrooke (1995) states that visitor attractions are the single most important facet in the tourism system, as it is the motivation to visit them that is responsible for the majority of tourism journeys.

It can be argued that all tourism is cultural (to varying extents) as it involves interaction and experiences outside of the visitor’s own cultural environment (McKercher and Du Cros, 2002; Robinson and Smith, 2006). Culture includes ‘values, systems of belief, material artefacts, expressive and performative practices, modes of livelihood, kinship patterns and strategies’ (Clammer, 2005, p.102). Culture can also relate to the lives of past and present generations incorporating play, recreation, arts, sports, festivals, religion, gastronomy, architecture, health, language, traditions, travel and tourism (Ryan, 2001; Torkildsen, 2005). According to Sigala and Leslie (2005) the terms cultural tourism and heritage tourism are often used interchangeably. Tighe (1986) and Hall and Zeppel (1990) consider cultural tourism as being experiential from the perspective of the tourist by being absorbed in a culture that is largely different to what the tourist’s own culture. Poria, Buttler and Airey (2001) state that ‘heritage tourism is a subgroup of tourism, in which the main motivation for visiting a site is based on the place’s heritage characteristics according to the tourists’ perception of their own heritage’ (p.1048).

Cultural tourism has a greater financial impact than other forms of tourism (Hughes, 2000), making it a favourable option for those responsible for the management of destinations, particularly in terms of urban regeneration boosted by tourist revenue (Bellini et al, 2007), and there are numerous examples of where this has been utilised including: Covent Garden in London; The Clarence Dock development in Leeds; and the Albert Dock area in Liverpool. All of these areas have at one time been utilised for industry which has since gone into decline, and have been re-modelled and redeveloped to encourage visitation of tourists for local economic benefit, with the provision of entertainment based amenities such as bars, and restaurants, as well as visitor attractions such as museums. 30% of destinations in Europe are visited due to their cultural heritage sites (Bellini et al, 2007).

Whilst the tourism under discussion in this paper so far has been mainly cultural and heritage focussed, many European urban destinations that are favoured by cultural tourists are also favoured by both alcohol and sex tourists, due to the availability of bars, pubs, clubs and adult entertainment venues within these destinations. An alcohol tourist is one who travels to a destination with the intention of consuming alcohol, this may be due to the type of alcohol or an associated novelty of it, or due to cheaper prices, or relaxed ‘rules’ around its sale and consumption - in relation to the region where the tourist has travelled from (Õhtuleht, 2007), Bell (2008) refers to this as ‘alcotourism’ which is ‘the practices of travelling to drink, drinking on holiday, drinking to travel and drinking while travelling’ (p.291). A sex tourist is one who travels to a destination ‘to have sex with a stranger at the destination’ (Bauer and McKercher, p.4) or to experience sexual desire from the adult entertainment on offer at the destination (Griffiths, 2009). The motivations of tourists differ, Ryan (1991) placed tourist motivations under the following categories: escape; relaxation; play; strengthening family bonds; prestige; social interaction; sexual opportunity; educational opportunity; self fulfilment; wish fulfilment; and shopping. These have been mapped against cultural, alcohol and sex tourists in figure 2.


Figure 2 – The motivations of cultural, alcohol and sex tourists.

It is clear from figure 2 that there are many similarities in motivations between cultural tourists and alcohol and sex tourists, however the resultant behaviours of fulfilling these motivations, and the impacts of them upon the host community and wider society differs greatly between the three groups.

‘Stag parties’ typically consist of groups of young men who travel to a specific destination to celebrate the impending marriage of the ‘stag’ (the groom to be), they often exhibit the behaviours of alcohol and sex tourists. ‘Drinking is used to mark rites of passage, a liminal experience necessarily marked by excess, as it symbolizes the start of ‘living responsibly’ as part of a married couple (Bell, 2008, pp.299-300). Edensor (2000) states that tourists are continually seeking new destinations as markers of distinction, stag parties are no different to other tourists in this sense. Rohrer (2006) states that the trend with stag parties, is to go for an extended time period, from what was originally a stag night, to a stag weekend and often longer periods than this. As well as travelling greater distances from what traditionally was the local pub, to other towns and cities, and now to foreign destinations. Rice-Oxley (2005) backs up this point by reporting that ‘the Foreign Office recently published a survey which found that 70 percent of young British people now prefer stag parties with an international dimension’ (p.4) In the BBC Three documentary ‘Stag Weekends: The Dirty Secrets’ journalist Simon Boazman stated that over 3 million Britons go on stag and hen parties every year, with more than 70% going abroad (many to Eastern Europe). The onset of cheap flights from so-called ‘budget-airlines’ such as EasyJet, FlyBe, and Ryanair has exacerbated this. More than £500m is spent each year by stag groups, which leads to jobs and investment. Stag parties are a tourist market segment who often seek both alcohol tourism and sex tourism. Boazman points out that this is simply supply and demand, and that destinations that seek to bolster their economies are more willing to cater for stag parties. The ‘darker’ side to this, is that the demand created by this increase in sex tourism is creating demand for trafficked women from European regions where there is poverty. Boazman also states that most users of prostitutes are men aged between 25 and 34, which is a highly similar profile to the majority of those in stag parties. Bell (2008) and Hickman (2008) associate excessive alcohol consumption with ‘casual’ sex and ‘risky’ sex practices, particularly not using condoms, which Boazman also highlighted.

European Urban Destinations for Cultural, Alcohol and Sex Tourists

From the supply perspective, drinking and the night-time economy is an expected part of urban destination promotion, in order to showcase destinations as a whole (Gold and Ward, 1994). European urban areas that were or are popular cultural tourism destinations, which have witnessed an increase in alcohol and sex tourism through a swell in groups of young British males (which are mainly stag parties) include:
Krakow - where tourism has trebled in the last six years, but there is now a lack of visitation to museums and art galleries, which is perhaps an indication that ‘cultural tourists’ are now visiting in fewer numbers;
Prague – where liberal legislation has lead to the opening of over 70 brothels and numerous strip clubs;
Riga – where prostitution is illegal, but is booming due to the demand from British stag parties, Watson (2009) stated that in Riga ‘rowdy behaviour from groups of celebrating tourists went from excusable boisterousness to anti-social excess’ in the same article, it was also stated that the cities ‘Freedom Monument’ a sight of cultural significance and a draw for tourists, was being climbed upon by sometimes naked drunken tourists. The city’s Mayor Nil Ushakov is quoted as saying ‘We do need to get the ratio of stag parties down, but we want to get this ratio down by attracting tourists from other countries and with other interests. The city has so much else to offer and we want people to come for that and less the beer’.
• and Amsterdam – where 500 trafficked woman were rescued in 2008, in an attempt to make the area easier to police, local authorities are buying up half of the 482 brothels and closing them down.
(Bell, 2008; Hickman, 2008; Stag Weekends: The Dirty Secrets, 2009; Watson, 2009).

Tallinn, Estonia is another example of a European city that has seen the nature of tourists to the city change greatly during the last five years. In October 2004, EasyJet commenced operations to the city from the UK, making it much more accessible and affordable to Britons. Prior to this date, the average British visitor to Tallinn was aged over 50 and there for the architecture and culture (Hickman, 2008). Tallinn’s medieval old town is a UNESCO world heritage site. The downtown area of Tallinn, which encompasses this is less than a mile wide, and is where the majority of the city’s bars are concentrated, today Tallinn experiences ‘hundreds of drunk, leery men each weekend, singing and stumbling their way from bar to strip club in search of alcohol and sex’ (Hickman 2008, p.314), which has caused disquiet amongst many destination stakeholders such as the authorities, residents and business owners. The image of Tallinn as a cultural tourism destination has also suffered as a result of this, although Broad (2009) indicates that the city has seen a decline in stag parties over the past year due to a strong Euro, weak Sterling and a UK recession. Rice-Oxley (2005) reports that a number of bars, hotels and restaurants in Tallinn are no longer accepting British stag parties. are an example of a tour operator who specialise in organising trips to Eastern European cities for groups of UK alcohol and sex tourists, their website carries the company motto of ‘Beers, Babes and Bullets’, it also proclaims ‘It’s a Stag Night! You will need Tits and Ass. Each Pissup city has a variety of ways to see top quality babes!’ (, 2010). Company founder Mark Robinson is interviewed during the ‘Stag Weekends: The Dirty Secrets’ documentary. He states that in 2008 he organised trips for 35,000 UK tourists (all groups), of which 70% were for stag parties, Robinson doesn’t consider that they are damaging their destinations, but benefiting them through boosting tourist numbers to help the economy (Stag Weekends: The Dirty Secrets, 2009). According to Rohrer (2006), the average stag weekend attendee spends £365, this money undoubtedly does help local economies, although it does not take into account the cost to local economies in terms of policing and the social impacts.

Figure 3 – Extract for Tallinn from the website, source: (, 2010).

Club 18-30 are an example of a more main-stream tour operator who specialise in holidays for young adults, and who in the past two decades have gained a reputation for encouraging alcohol tourism through organised bar crawls in holiday resorts (Nicholas, 2008), although these are no longer officially practiced, in favour of less conspicuous ‘party boats’ (Hickman, 2008). Thomas Cook are the parent company of Club 18-30, and in 1841 Thomas Cook himself organised the first ever package tour, which took 570 people on a round trip from Leicester to Loughborough – ironically to hear temperance speakers in Loughborough talk about the evils of alcohol (Burkart and Medlik, 1981). In this example, it does seem that either company values have changed over time, or that economic gain has eroded them.

One of the destinations promoted by Club 18-30, as well as numerous other tour operators and budget airlines is the Mediterranean island of Ibiza, which has also seen a dramatic rise in ‘club tourists’ during the past two decades. The hedonistic behaviours of club tourists including drinking to excess, taking drugs and behaving in a sexually ‘provocative’ manner, have angered residents of Ibiza (Hickman, 2008). These behaviours also share many commonalities with both alcohol and sex tourists. This has caused the Ibizan authorities to clamp down upon the nightclub industry on the island, and they have now brought in a 6am closure rule for clubs (Moss, 2009b). NME (2009) reported that ‘Spain's tourist board has decided that, after a decade of the debauched UK clubbing featured in TV documentaries like 'Ibiza Uncovered', the island must clean up its image. They want the island to appeal to families and a smarter, international clubbing set’. In the same article Privilege Club manager Juan Medero is quoted as saying that they want to attract more German and Italian tourists, and that British clubbers do behave like hooligans. How successful the island’s authorities will be to make real changes is largely down to how committed they really are, and whether or not they want to make the financial gamble of attempting to ‘put-off’ British clubbers (Moss, 2009b). A near identical article to the NME (2009) one was published five years previously on the BBC News website by Heard (2004), yet little progress seems to have been made since, if anything the island’s club scene has actually grown during this period. Ibiza is home to several UNESCO world heritage sites including D’Alt Villa, which is a fortified town originally built by the Carthaginians over 2,500 years ago, D’Alt Villa overlooks Ibiza Town (one of the island’s clubbing and major residential areas), so interaction between club tourists, cultural / heritage tourists and local residents is inevitable.

‘When travelling away from home, tourists come in contact with the places they visit and with their inhabitants, and social exchange takes place’ (Burkart and Medlik, 1981, p.59), it is important that this social exchange is not considered harmful or an ‘irritant’ (Doxey, 1975) by the host population of areas that are developed for tourism purposes, as the presence of tourists ‘and their social background affect the social structure and mode of life at the destination (Burkart and Medlik, 1981, p.59), for tourism to be considered responsible, these impacts should be either minimal or beneficial to the host population.


Figure 4 – Doxey’s Irridex, source: Mason (2003, p.22)

According to (Watson, 2009) negative interactions between stag parties and locals in Riga are creating tensions, he quotes Brigita Stroda from the Latvian Tourism Agency who said ‘unfortunately the impression created about the English and Englishmen is not very positive and there are people, Latvians, who ask why are the English so awful?’. Rice-Oxley (2005) states that ‘three-fifths of stag parties make no effort to read up on their destination's customs and laws’ (p.4). Interaction between tourists and residents is not always negative, and indeed can be extremely positive, in South Africa, cultural tourism to townships has helped to boost a local sense of pride and community confidence, as well as providing employment opportunities where before there were none (Briedenhann and Ramchander, 2006). However, whilst 81% of UK tourists state that they want to experience local culture when they visit a destination, only 37% of them hold any importance to interaction with the host populations in the destinations that they are visiting (Chafe, 2005).

Case Study: Blackpool

Blackpool is a town of 141,900 residents, of which almost a quarter are aged under 20, and just over a quarter are aged over 60 (Blackpool Council, 2009), the town is situated on the Lancashire coast, in the North West of England. Since the early eighteenth century, Blackpool has attracted visitors, who at first made the association between sea water bathing and health (Burkart and Medlik, 1981). In 1846 the railway arrived in Blackpool, which linked the town directly with other Lancashire and Yorkshire towns, as a result of this, tourism to the town flourished and the population rose rapidly from the hundreds into the thousands (Walton, 2000). In 1863 the North pier was built, which was the first large-scale development specifically aimed at tourists (Palmer, 2008). At the time it was considered godly to walk over water, and piers held religious symbolism (Gray, 1998), so the pier attracted many more visitors to the town who wished to experience this, the Central Pier followed in 1863, and the Victoria Pier (now South Pier) in 1893. In order to facilitate the movement of increasing numbers of visitors the first tramlines were built in 1885. Other developments aimed at enticing tourists to the town were: the Pleasure Gardens with boating lakes and theatre auditoriums; the Winter Gardens and Pavilion with a 6,000 capacity concert room; the iconic Blackpool Tower (built between 1891 and 1894) and featuring a ballroom and circus; the Grand Theatre; the Alhambra Theatre; an extension of the seafront promenade; from 1896 onwards a collection of rides that would eventually become the Pleasure Beach; and to extend the tourist season and bring visitors to the town in the Autumn, the illuminations were created in the early 20th Century (Palmer, 2008).

Aside from the lull of the war years, Blackpool consistently attracted in excess of 16 million tourists each year throughout the twentieth century, from mainly Northern Britain, many of whom were families who by the 1960s had been having their holidays in Blackpool for generations. It was not uncommon for a family to spend two weeks on holiday in Blackpool, and there was consequently a high amount of repeat visitation (Palmer, 2008; Walton, 2000). In the 1960s, aside from the beach, piers, tower and pleasure beach, the town’s coffee bars and theatres were popular with visitors. The town began to experience a decline in visitors in the 1970s, with the rise in popularity of the foreign package holiday – particularly to the Spanish Costas (Carr, 1997), in an attempt to combat this, Blackpool was marketed with the tongue-in-cheek slogan ‘Costa Notalota’.

According to a representative of Blackpool Council Towards the end of the 1970s, nightclubs began to be built in Blackpool, three were originally built, which enhanced the resorts night-time entertainment offering. The resort attracted many young people, including those in groups, although up until the 1980s, large groups, were less noticeable, as there were many other tourists around of all ages, groups then were seemingly better behaved. From the 1980s until the 2000s overall visitor numbers to Blackpool have continued to decline, although the resort (like many other coastal resorts) has continued to attract groups of young people, keen on enjoying the night time entertainment offering. The media have been keen to exploit this, and there is a general feeling amongst the Council that television programmes such as ‘Booze Britain’ have helped to create an image of the town, which is skewed from reality, by grossly exaggerating this. Not surprisingly, the local council and tourism office, are keen to shed themselves of this image, particularly as many of the more problematic (particularly same-sex) groups, which are often stag and hen parties, are no longer visiting Blackpool, instead favouring foreign destinations via ‘budget’ airlines.

The media does provide some indicators that the town still suffers from such problems. In the local daily newspaper ‘The Gazette’ Robinson (2010) under the banner ‘Council tackles drunken behaviour marring popular gala event’ (p.4) reports how all-day drinking has lead to violence and anti-social behaviour at a local community event. In the same article, local Councillor Fulford Brown is quoted as saying ‘popular community events are being ruined by drunken louts’. Whilst there is no evidence to suggest that the people involved in these incidents are tourists, it does provide an example of where excessive alcohol consumption has resulted in problematic behaviour in the town. A further interrogation of online news articles, and local discussion forums, provides further indicators of this. On a website for the Blackpool Marathon and Half-Marathon (2009) a number of participants in the race have left their views on the experience of participating, in relation to alcohol consumption in the town, the following comments have been made:
• ‘The audience was almost nonexistent (and drunk when there), but well, this is Blackpool, so I guess it's normal’;
• ‘Just a pity about the abuse handed out to the runners by small groups of drunken male youths, staggering about with beer bottles in their hands at 9.00 a.m. But that's Blackpool for you’;
• and ‘It's a shame about the louts who come to Blackpool to get drunk all weekend and spoil it all. About 1 mile from the start, 3 hooligans, well tanked up at 09:00, jumped into the mass of runners and tried to pick fights with runners who pushed them out of the way’.
(, 2010)

The Internet is a tool that has also been utilised by commercial organisations who actively promote Blackpool as a destination for ‘stag and hen parties’ involving alcohol-tourism. Whilst Blackpool Council are keen to distance themselves from the stag and hen image, and any associations with alcohol tourism, an information search for ‘stag parties Blackpool’ using the Google search engine, which is the world’s most used search engine (Burns, 2008), provides dozens of results for companies who specialise in bringing groups of people to Blackpool to participate in various day-time activities including air-rifle shooting, go-karting, paint-balling and quad-biking. Night-life in the town is promoted on the majority of these websites, as is the visitation of the town’s lap dancing venues, the town’s cultural heritage attractions are noticeably absent from the majority of these sites. The Stag and Hen Company (2010) state on their website ‘Blackpool really knows how to party with great nightlife along the promenade’, the same web page offers a number of stag deals, with the basic package including a visit to a lap dancing club and a lap dance, as highlighted in figure 5.

Figure 5 – Blackpool stag weekend advert, source: The Stag and Hen Company (2010)

Blackpool Stag Parties (2010) offer a ‘steak-n-strip’ package, which includes a steak dinner with ‘free’ bottles of lager or alco-pops, followed by live strip-tease shows, and entry to various bars and nightclubs. The Stag Company (2010) state on their website that Blackpool is ‘the original stag weekend destination that guarantees a one off experience of wild, reckless pleasure…with an abundance of…bars bursting with happy hours and promos – you’re guaranteed to have a laugh! Tacky-tastic Blackpool is one never ending roller coaster ride’.

Parkinson (2010) stated in the town’s local newspaper that ‘Chubbys’ lap dancing club, which is situated in the heart of the town’s tourist area, on the sea front promenade opposite the historic North Pier has been bought by the town council, and is to be demolished and turned into a high quality 66 bedroom hotel. In the same article Claire Smith, Vice President of ‘StayBlackpool’ refers to this area of the promenade as a ‘grim area of the town centre’ (p.5).

The Blackpool Council representative who was interviewed mentioned a number of moves that are being made to improve the town and its image, these include:

• The introduction of laws to ban drinking on the streets, and to curb the sale of cut-price alcohol.

• Buying and closing down the town’s lap dancing clubs, and then redeveloping them for other use.

• Capitalising upon the town’s tourism heritage – this includes plans to buy back Blackpool Tower, The Winter Gardens (a large theatre and multi-purpose venue in the town centre), and the town’s piers from their current owners, as there is a general feeling that these have been under invested in, and could be rejuvenated. The Blackpool tram system is also 125 years old in 2010, and to celebrate this, trams from all over the UK will be brought to Blackpool in September 2010 to run on the town’s tram lines.

• Promoting a wide range of artistic and cultural events and festivals that attract visitors from many different market segments, some of these include: Shazam – a festival celebrating traditional side show seaside culture; dance festivals including the world street dance championships (Blackpool is known as the ‘spiritual home of ballroom dancing); a pigeon racing festival; the World Firework Championships (designed to help support the towns illuminations during their first two opening weekends); and as well as these a number of conferences and exhibitions.

• Remodelling of the town’s sea front, this has included the inclusion of new steps down to the beach, and the creation of five themed festival headlands each of which will have a unique feature. These will include; a large-scale skate-park that will be modelled upon world-class skate parks, in the hope that when in use it will create a spectacle to attract onlookers, and also may be used for international competitions; a 20,000 capacity open-air concert arena; a ‘comedy carpet’, a piece of artwork which will be emblazoned with famous comedy catchphrases, such as ‘shut that door’ and ‘garlic bread’; a restaurant; a new tourist information centre; and a wedding chapel with a picture window of Blackpool Tower as the back-drop; and by 2012 extending the tramlines into the town from the sea front, and introducing more efficient ‘super-trams’ (some old trams will be kept, and others put in museums).

• Improving the overall quality of the Blackpool ‘product’, this includes the physical infrastructure of the town (as highlighted above), and also from a marketing perspective having a clear and transparent brand that is consistent across all media forms. The official 2010 Blackpool brochure has only permitted accommodation providers in Blackpool to advertise if they have official national quality recognition accreditation.

The goal of the council in doing the above is to encourage visitors from a wide number of segments to the town and capture people who might not normally visit Blackpool – and challenge their perceptions of the town.


Du Gay (1996) highlights that tourists are susceptible to a drunken loss of control and values as tourism itself is an escapist activity. ‘The idea of holidays as a time to relax ‘normal’ rules of conduct certainly frames many accounts of alcohol consumption on holiday’ (Bell, 2008, p.293). NME (2009); Hickman (2008); and Rice-Oxley (2005) all identify that ‘problem groups’ of alcohol tourists (drinking to excess and behaving in a socially unacceptable manner) are predominantly made up of British males. ‘This impact is characterised as an emerging area of concern as binge drinking socialites travel to new destinations, spreading a new ‘English disease’’ (Bell, 2008, p.299). It is apparent that for many European destinations, the phenomenon of large numbers of groups of British alcohol tourists visiting them is a relatively recent one, that has been exacerbated by the development of budget airlines and in some cases the expansion of the European Union.

Many established tourist destinations in the UK have experienced this for decades, Moore (1995) identifies that ‘alcohol consumption has long been a prominent feature of tourism’ (p.301). In the case of Blackpool, the role of the council in having the best interests of the town as a priority may lead them to present a bias in their perspective of the impacts of alcohol tourism to the town, and to ‘play it down’. The recollection that groups of drinkers were less noticeable and better behaved in the 1970s and 1980s could be an example of ‘an idealised view of the past’ (Haralambos and Langley, 2003, p.70), which is a common recollection of a golden age of values, which never actually existed (the aforementioned Mods and Rockers fighting on Brighton Beach being a prime example of alcohol leading to anti-social behaviour in the 1960s).

Hughes (2000) states that a large proportion of cultural tourists with an interest in visiting destinations for their arts and heritage are of a post-retirement age. It is highly likely that even if cultural tourists and stag parties have travelled from the same destination, that the age difference will mean that there is a significant ‘culture gap’ between them in terms of their behaviours, norms and values. Therefore when both groups meet in a confined destination it is possible that offence could be caused by stag parties.

The addition of bars, pubs and clubs in destinations, provided for tourists can also alter the social fabric of destinations. Moore’s (1995) study of the Greek town of Arachova, demonstrated that over time drinking practices brought to the town through tourism actually changed the habits of young people (particularly men) in the town, by giving them a taste for world beers which they had largely never experienced before, and forever changing the social structure of the town with an increased visitation by the town’s young people to bars and nightclubs that had been provided as part of the tourist infrastructure.

In Blackpool, the admission by the Council that their intentions are to challenge the perceptions of tourists to the town, is perhaps a recognition that visitor perceptions may not be what the Council would like them to be. It is evident that the remodelling measures currently being undertaken (and planned) by the Council are designed to benefit the long-term future for the town as a tourist destination, and also to benefit residents by giving them an improved transport infrastructure (the proposed tram extension and newer faster trams) as well as a town that they can appreciate and be proud of. The buying of iconic cultural heritage monuments such as Blackpool Tower, the Winter Gardens and the town’s piers is an attempt to take control of them so that they can be invested in, in an attempt to restore them sympathetically for the purposes of cultural heritage, and in a way that is consistent with the Council’s image for the rest of the town. ‘Ever-increasing numbers of people are participating in arts and heritage based forms of cultural tourism’ (Zeppel and Hall, 1992, p.49). The utilisation of festivals by the Council is also an attempt to attract additional tourists to the town that have specialist interests, and is considered a positive move by Hughes (2000) who states that festivals and the arts can help to re-invigorate destinations by bringing people to them who may not have ordinarily visited.

In terms of destination promotion, the Internet is an open resource, which anybody with access to can potentially add information. It can be potentially harmful for tourist destinations when negative publicity can so easily be made available (Chol, Lehto and Morrison, 2007). It is evident that there is a mis-match in the portrayal of destinations by local authorities and by various online sources that have been mentioned, particularly in the case of tour operators for Tallinn and Blackpool. Promoting ‘beers, babes and bullets’ in Tallinn and Blackpool as ‘tacky-tastic’ is evidently not what the local authorities would like for the global image of either destination. In terms of the comments on the (2010) website, the comments made are largely anecdotal in nature, could very easily be isolated, and do not provide any real evidence of ‘problem drinking’ in Blackpool. However, what these comments serve to do, is give negative publicity about Blackpool to a potential global audience. Chol, Lehto and Morrison (2007) identify the problems that can be caused for destinations through their representation (and mis-representation) on the WWW, and the challenges of managing this for destination authorities to ensure that the desired destination image is presented online. Frias, Rodriguez and Castaneda (2008) identify that the WWW has opened up the number of avenues by which tourists can seek information about a destination, and found that this contributed to a rise in negative perceptions of destinations amongst tourists before they visited. Marathons are community events, which have a healthy image and often charitable focus (Craythorn and Hanna, 1998), so for Blackpool to receive such negative associations could be potentially harmful for its image and reputation as a tourist resort. The other point to note from the statements made by Blackpool Marathon participants is that two of them express the sentiment that this is what should be expected in Blackpool, further perpetuating a negative image of the town in terms of alcohol consumption and anti-social behaviour. This kind of publicity could easily serve to dissuade cultural tourists from visiting the town.


There is absolutely no doubt that tourism development brings change to destinations. Destinations that develop to attract more tourists do not only change their physical structure (the ‘Macdonaldization’ effect) where destinations take on more internationally recognisable and fewer local ‘brands’, but also their social structure. This can include negatives such as increases in alcohol consumption by local people; increases in crime; and rises in sexually transmitted diseases as well as positives such as: employment opportunities; and language learning and education about other nationalities by host residents. Tourism is a process that involves physical movement of people – the tourists bring with them wealth, which can often help the economies of destinations, but tourists also bring with them their own cultures and values.

Tourism involves interaction with host communities, be that through direct face-to-face or in-direct ‘sharing pavement-space’ contact. Doxey’s Irridex demonstrates that in the early days of tourism, tourists are often welcomed by residents, but their presence can cause irritations as numbers rise, this is likely to be exacerbated by behaviour that may be deemed unacceptable, this is more likely in destinations where there is a concentration of tourists and locals in a physically confined area, particularly when tourist behaviour is deemed unacceptable. Where there are concentrations of stag parties and cultural tourists, such as Riga’s Freedom Monument a similar level of irritation may be felt by cultural tourists towards the stag parties. British stag parties are identified as a particular group in several destinations that are no longer as welcome as what they might once have been, through the irritation that they have caused.

It is evident that the motivations of a number of players in Leiper’s tourism system, particularly tour operators and budget airlines are financial. They are less concerned with what actually happens at destinations, often failing to see the social harm that they are contributing to, instead pointing out the good that they are doing for destination economies. Some publicity by particularly stag party tour operators is potentially harmful to destinations, and may serve to build disrespect among stag visitors to the destinations that they are visiting before they have even arrived, meaning that in the escapist tourist experience, their behaviour in destinations could be worsened.

Tourism has been (and is) viewed by government as an effective way to help bolster economies, and there have been numerous incidences of insensitive tourist development when the economic value of it has been realised by government – almost the entire Spanish coastline being a prime example of this. More recently Eastern European states, wanting to compete on a more global stage in terms of image, and to be seen as ‘equals’ by Western European counterparts have ‘boosted’ tourism development in order to quicken the pace by which their economies grow almost with a ‘get rich quick’ mentality. The majority of Eastern European destinations that are now vying for European Union membership were members of the Soviet Union until the collapse of Communism in Europe 20 years ago, many are still ‘fledgling’ nations in terms of identity and their economies.

Cultural tourists are often amongst the first to new destinations, and once the economic value of tourism has been realised other means are often utilised to boost tourist numbers – an attractive nightlife offer being one of these, without considering the ‘actual’ value of such tourism in terms of the costs associated with it, as well as spend per capita. Anecdotally it seems that per capita, cultural tourists are more valuable to destinations both economically and socially than alcohol or sex tourists – although there is no ‘hard’ evidence of this.

Cultural heritage attractions and festivals are important drivers in the tourism system, and investing in these with an emphasis upon quality in order to attract potentially high spending diverse markets is a strategy that is now being adopted in Blackpool. It is likely that in a number of other European urban destinations where alcohol tourism and sex tourism (particularly from British stag parties) is now considered an irritant, that a similar higher quality heritage and arts / festivals based focus will be adopted to attract cultural tourists. An increase in the quality offering, will undoubtedly lead to an increase in prices, making some destinations less accessible to the ‘masses’, meaning that fewer high spending tourists could be attracted, where the economic and thus political benefits will be felt, and the negative social impacts will be lessened.

Tourists are continually seeking new destinations, and as destinations recognise that British stag parties are problematic and put measures in place to dissuade stag parties from visiting, it is likely that the stag parties will find alternative destinations - where there is demand, there is likely to always be supply.



Minimising the negative impacts of urban tourism upon destinations should form a central part of any tourism strategy for destination authorities. Whilst the boosterism approach can provide quick short-term gains to urban destination economies, it’s negative impacts should be accepted, so that long term sustainability is more achievable. Heritage, arts and festivals can all be incorporated into destination marketing strategies and this can include drinking as part of a wider heritage based gastronomic offer, which may provide a bridge between alcohol and cultural tourism. Beer and wine festivals are examples of this, as are brewery tours where there is an appreciable heritage education component to the experience.

Changing what is ‘on offer’ to tourists at destinations, does not necessarily mean closure of venues. The feminization of particularly bars and pubs (Moss, 2009c) by making them more open and less intimidating brighter venues with a culinary and wider entertainment offering including (for example) live music, theatrical performances, literature readings and poetry recitals may help to attract higher-spending cultural tourists with an interest in food and drink as part of their cultural heritage experience. At the same time, a door policy of not allowing in large groups of drinkers would reduce the chances of cultural tourists and stag parties meeting. This would of course require the co-operation of local venue owners, but if enough venue owners adopted this strategy, it could potentially make the destination less attractive to groups of stags and hens, and have the knock-on effect of supplying fewer customers to clubs and adult entertainment venues, which in the long term would make them more likely to be redeveloped for other more sustainable purposes, benefiting the destination as a whole.



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