5th Corfu Symposium on Managing & Marketing Places

Held on the beautiful Ionian island of Corfu between 16-19 April 2018, this year’s 5th Corfu Symposium on Managing & Marketing Places, organised by the Institute of Place Management, attracted over 60 participants and presented the research of 52 authors from 34 institutions across 16 countries: Australia; China; Croatia; Egypt; Finland; Germany; Ireland; Israel; Italy; Netherlands; Norway; Russia; Slovenia; Thailand; Turkey; and the UK.

Monday Corfu

 

The theme of this year’s Symposium ‘Changing places: Visions of utopia or dystopia?’ enabled delegates to explore the utopian or dystopian visions associated with the place practices we study, promote or enact. SMART growth, inclusive growth, degrowth, devolution, revitalisation, placemaking, place branding and destination marketing are common place practices or ambitions. But what future do these bring to the towns, cities, regions or nations in which they are adopted? In her keynote address to the Symposium Professor Cathy Parker, Chair of the IPM, challenged delegates to consider these issues in light of what it means to manage places in a ‘placefull’ manner, and to consider what placefullness actually means not only in theory but in practice. Many other papers that directly addressed these issues were presented by our student, academic and practitioner delegates.

Not surprisingly, for a place management event, the issue of power, politics and stakeholder engagement was also explored by many delegates. A number of our delegates raised the issue of conflict between place stakeholders as potentially offering a positive rather than negative opportunity for making places better. For example, the very first presentation of the Symposium, delivered by IPM Fellow Dr Tore Omholt of the BI-Norwegian Business School, Norway “Changing Places: On the use of Utopia and the role of a Place Alarm System”, stressed that:

“a social system has to learn how to deal with contradictions and conflicts, not only to eliminate the current ones, but also to identify and produce contradictions and conflicts to function as a basis for alarm, which as early as possible can warn about future problems and challenges for place development ….. The purely technological perspective based on future present, dealing with contradictions sequentially, is in itself a utopia. Conversely, every utopian view of the future appeals to the need for action”.

 

That conflict can produce positive rather than negative solutions for places was also proposed by the IPM’s Dr Costas Theodoridis and Dr Javier Lloveras from Manchester Metropolitan University in their paper “Supporting local shopping provisioning through the creation of a sense of place: The role of weak and strong ties in networks”. The results of their research examining how networking affects the competitive advantage of local SME retailers found, quite surprisingly, that it was the weaker rather than stronger ties between members of these networks that actually better contributed to positive place development.

 

The Symposium’s furthest-travelled delegate was IPM Fellow Viriya Taecharungroj from Mahidol University International College in Thailand. His paper “User-Generated Place Brand Identity: An Articulation of Place Brand Identity from Social Media Platforms” examined what visitors to two famous metropolitan areas in Bangkok famous for their street vendors and nightlife posted on social media following the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration’s announcement in April 2017 that it would remove street vendors from these places in an attempt to return the pavements to the pedestrians. This announcement caused uproars from the locals, the domestic and international press who revere the Bangkok’s distinctive street food scene. Later, the officials reprieved the remark and stated instead that the street vendors will be strictly regulated. The public outcry following the announcements by the BMA is an example of the dissonance between the “conceived” place identity by the public and the “desired” place identity by the officials.

 

Continuing the issues of conflict and power, which it was agreed by delegates to the Symposium has a major effect on place development, the paper by PhD candidate Juha Halme from the University of Eastern Finland “Discourse and power – Case study of discursive construction of stakeholder’s positions in regional place marketing collaboration” was awarded the prize for the Best Paper in the Symposium. This research was based on multiple case studies of regional level place marketing projects from Eastern Finland. As Juha Halme explained, the significance of this work is that:

“the collaborativeoutcomes of place marketing or branding projects, and power relations reflected in these, can potentially have far reaching impact to the development of the place. This is because as a result of place marketing activity certain symbolic and geographic aspects of the place get biased representation in development of the place. This bias can lead in spread of the economic wealth to the place, where collaboratively agreed strengths of place are utilised for common good. However, it can also lead to a development trajectory, where existing power relations of place are not only reproduced, but actually enforced through place marketing activity, ultimately advancing the interests of few. Although not as black and white matter in reality, this study provides insights to the potential construction of these outcomes at the grassroots level of communication in place marketing projects”.

audience corfu.jpg

 

The way tourism utopias have taken a dystopian turn was also introduced by the Symposium Chair Dr Heather Skinner, a Senior Fellow of the IPM, in her opening address to delegates on “Utopias, Dystopias, Heidegger, and Homer: Considering the essence of Greek Island destinations”. The heart of her presentation focused on the notion that those pursuing their own utopian ideals may be creating dystopian environments for others.

“Santorini tourists cramming into the island’s tiny streets to experience the utopian beauty of the place may be creating dystopia for local residents, similarly the Kavos partygoers’ behaviours can have negative effects not only on local residents, but also on other tourists. Those who rent out their homes may be offering more authentic island experiences for tourists to local villages, and may be providing themselves much needed additional income, but it is having a negative effect on the hotel industry. Furthermore, tax evasion can be seen to also have an overall detrimental effect on Greek society in a time of on-going financial crisis. Some media reports focused on tourists who claimed their vacations were spoiled by the vast numbers of refugees on their utopian Greek island holiday destinations, but it must be questioned if these refugees pursuing a utopian dream, or simply fleeing dystopian environments”.

 

Other papers on tourism utopias and dystopias included the following:

  • IPM member Aggelos Panayiotopoulos from the University of Brighton, UK; Carlo Pisano from the Università degli Studi di Firenze, Italy; and Ivan Jurić University of Split, Croatia, in their paper “Welcome to Dubrovnik: Overtourism Dystopias and Socialist Utopias” that explored the case of Dubrovnik’s overtourism dystopia and turns to the utopian socialist resorts in a quest for a radical paradigm. This research was inspired by the work these authors carried out at the Overbooking the City: An International Urban Design workshop, which took place in Dubrovnik between the 20-26th of August 2017.
  • Travel company Balkan Campers is a Slovene-based retro campervan rental company offering nostalgic travel adventures in campervans named after seminal icons of former Yugoslavia. The paper “Yugonostalgia: In search of a retrospective place brand. The case of Balkan Campers” authored by IPM members Jenny Kanellopoulou of the University of Salford, UK and Nikos Ntounis from Manchester Metropolitan University, sought to address the relationship between the phenomenon of Yugonostalgia and the creation of a post-socialist, retrospective place brand for Yugoslavia. The paper reflected on the tourist gaze to appreciate the authenticity sought by the tourist, consumer of the ‘Yugonostalgic’ place brand, and asks whether this authenticity ever existed in the first place.
  • “Trash, Waste and Tourism: Cultural Interactions and Social Considerations”. This paper, by IPM Fellow Amos S. Ron from Ashkelon Academic College, Israel, introduced the concept of ‘trash studies’ to delegates, recognising that the links between waste, trash and tourism have yet to be researched in depth and systematically, even though it is clear to all that this is an important topic, given the increasing volume and impact of tourists and tourism.
  • IPM Fellow Nicholas Catahan of Edge Hill University, UK, discussed some of the challenges facing the UK’s Botanic Gardens that have been under threat of decline for some decades. In his paper Marketing Heaven & Hell: Botanic Garden’ Cause-Related Narratives Nick began to conceptualise a strategic marketing model for Botanic Gardens that could act as a means for their greater visibility, funding and support.
  • IPM Fellows Maria Lichrou from the University of Limerick in the Republic of Ireland, and Aggelos Panayiotopoulos of the University of Brighton in their paper co-authored with Lisa O’Malley and Maurice Patterson from the University of Limerick also considered the narratives associated with the “Embodied Heritage Experiences of a Dystopic Event: ‘Living the History’ of the Titanic in Cobh”.
  • And as a first for the Corfu Symposium, one delegate, IPM Fellow Natalia Belyakova from the Higher School of Economy, St. Petersburg delivered her paper “Brave New Year’s world: as a children's utopia develops places” on the subject of the theme park residences of the New Year’s Wizards and Father Frost, a child’s utopian fairy take place, not in person, but via Skype from Russia.

 

That Utopia is a non-existant condition was a strong theme that emerged overall from the Symposium. As Utopia is often considered to be a perfect vision of a future world, it does not exist in the present. Thus Utopia may be seen either as something for which to strive for, or as a condition that always implies change or improvement to places. However, identifying something as Utopian can also draw mainstream attention to it. This attention can also lead to a temporal problem in that what was once considered Utopian can then never change or develop, but rather gets frozen in time, set in stone, or calcified. This interesting notion was presented by IPM Fellow Dr Jan Brown of Liverpool John Moores University in her paper “Marketing the Underground – the Calcification of Creativity? This research focused on the way many cities adopt and promote music that has become special to a specific place in order to shore up their roles as UNESCO Cities of Music. Her key question was on the problem that “if place marketers are using ‘snapshots in time’ to communicate grass roots culture are the marketers doing this culture justice and in extreme examples is the appropriation of local culture by place marketing actually inhibit its growth?”

 

The temporal aspect of dystopic and utopic places was also considered by IPM Fellows Dr Chloe Steadman and Gareth Roberts, both of Manchester Metropolitan University, who presented their paper “(Un)making places: Dystopic/utopic places, time, and atmospheric ruptures” on research they had undertaken initially commissioned by Manchester City Football Group to ascertain MCFC fans’ perceptions of Etihad Stadium atmosphere, why fans are failing to deliver an atmosphere befitting of the club’s standing in the game, and how this can be addressed.

Cathy Speaking

Each year we have taken delegates around the island to connect with the place that hosts our event. However, in another first for this year’s Symposium we undertook some sessions ‘on the move’, not only visiting sites of interest around Corfu, but actually presenting a number of papers outside of our usual conference room.

 

IPM Fellow Professor Peter Varley of the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences delivered a fascinating keynote address to delegates on the subject of “Disgust and Delight – Place Gastronomy”. Peter considered the association of food and place through an autoethnographic account of his memories of food experiences both at home and abroad. Peter then chaired our first series of presentations on the move that were delivered in the function room of Corfu Beer. This is an organic micro-brewery situated in the North West of Corfu. The brewery’s owner, Mr Spyros Kaloudis, established the company and named the beer’s product lines and brands as a specific attempt at imbuing his products with an authentic sense of place, as a way of gaining market share in light of the dominance of the Greek beer market by HeinekenNV and the Carlsberg Group. Indeed, it was the dominance of these global brands in the local market that inspired Mr Kaloudis, the brewery’s owner, to establish the company, asking himself “why would anyone come to Corfu to have a Heineken?” At this session, Utopian Associations of Food, Drink, and Places, papers were delivered by Professor TC Melewar Middlesex University and Heather Skinner on “Beer Consumption and Perceptions of Utopic Authenticity”; Caroline Whitfield of the Scottish Rural Agricultural College on “Beyond the Bucolic Gaze from Afar: A Potential New Paradigm for Exporters in Food & Drink Branding”; and Dr Robert Bowen of Swansea University on “Consuming Place: Towards a regional logo for promoting Welsh food”.

 

Digital technologies are prolific and widely used by many place stakeholders. Towns, cities, and many other types of places can use these technologies to enhance experiences. Digital technologies also empower communities, give them a voice, and provide platforms for all stakeholders to engage on a variety of place issues. From augmented and virtual reality applications that allow people to gain further knowledge of and immersion in various real and virtual places, through to web portals, grassroots social media campaigns, and applications such as BlindSquare that is pioneering accessible navigation indoors and outdoors so people with a visual impairment can travel with confidence, there are plenty of examples of how digital and social media is used in relation to places. Our next session on the move was presented by IPM Fellow Dr Brendan Keegan of Manchester Metropolitan University on Finding a better way to understand the role of Digital and Social Media in Place. At this session Dr Keegan also launched a new Special Interest Group of the IPM that will focus on Digital Placemaking. The launch event took place at Archontiko Restaurant in Chlomotiana in the South of the Island. The south is less developed, less populous, and less visited by tourists than the north of the island. However, this particular restaurant located in the South offers an authentic local Corfiot dining experience in an extremely fine dining venue and is rated as one of the very best restaurants on the island. Here in this session, Dr Keegan informed delegates that that his aim for the Special Interest Group is to consider digital placemaking “as a digital space, aligned to a specific location, that supports and facilitates public life, community interaction, place attachment, and place efficiencies”.  This new IPM Special Interest Group will therefore focus on a better understanding of how digital and social media enhances or detracts from placemaking.

 

Our final keynote address to the Symposium was delivered by Professor TC Melewar on the subject of “Ranking, Reputation and Research (3Rs): Voyage, Vista and Viewpoint (3Vs)”. This presentation considered the role of delegates as academic researchers who are shaping the field of knowledge of the interdisciplinary subject area of place management and development, and extending the boundaries of our disciplines, locating our work in the academic space. Delegates were also encouraged to submit the results of their research as papers to the IPM’s official journal, the Journal of Place Management and Development.

TC Mele Speaking

 

As well as having an international academic and practice-based impact, we also aim for the Symposium to have a real impact on the island that hosts this annual event. Each year we have engaged with local businesses and policy makers. This year we developed this engagement even further by holding an Open Business Forum as part of the Symposium where we aimed to help address local issues and put place first. In November 2017 the Corfu Tourism Forum held an event where business people and local policymakers could come together to discuss some of the main problems facing tourism development on Corfu. The Open Business Forum held as part of the Corfu Symposium on Managing & Marketing Places, in co-operation with the Corfu Municipality and our official partners Green Corfu, took some of those issues and exploring them further. As a result of discussions with various local organisations and tourism businesses we identified the following main problems the island faces right now. In general, these problems fall into three main categories: Infrastructure; Information and Technology; Types and Numbers of Tourists. At this event Professor Cathy Parker introduced delegates to the methodology used in the HSUK2020 project undertaken in the UK to identify the priority factors that can promote the vitality and viability of a town or city centre. She proposed that the same methodology could be transferred to Corfu to help identify the factors which the island should prioritise from the issues already identified. Led by Professor Parker delegates worked with members of the local business community to address the key issues from the above that could have the most impact on the island and over which the local business community could have the most control. Results from this exercise will be disseminated back to the business community via Green Corfu, and representatives of the Institute of Place Management will work with Green Corfu and the local community to try to put in place some of the suggested improvements, to put the place first, and in keeping with the aim of the IPM, to make places better.

 

The Symposium was rounded off with a final interactive session also led by Professor Cathy Parker that asked delegates to consider what it means to be truly Placefull in the way we approach not only our research but also our practices into managing and marketing places.

 

You can read the full proceedings of the 5th Corfu Symposium on Managing & Marketing Places online here.