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News Article

Journal Issue: Slow tourism

Dos Algarves publishes seven papers in Slow Tourism Special Issue

Among the many labels for different types of tourism, that of ‘slow tourism’ is perhaps among the least understood. Often said to have developed from the slow food movement that emerged in Italy during the late 1980s, both slow tourism and slow travel are terms that are now used, but without a generally agreed definition. But many of us have holidays which include the kind of practice generally held to be components of slow tourism – staying in one location, perhaps in rented accommodation, eating and drinking local produce while exploring the area on foot or by bike. A special edition of the Portuguese journal Dos Algarves: A multidisciplinary e-Journal attempts to advance the literature and understanding of slow tourism, and includes seven papers – five in English and two in Portuguese – as well as an introduction to the topic.

The journal issue was initiated by a meeting of the International Tourism Masters Network - ITMN (in Heilbronn, November 2014) when it was noted that there was a lack of literature about destinations offering slow tourism. What the papers in the issue suggest is that many tourists unwittingly practise slow tourism, and many providers also unwittingly offer holidays and attractions that include many aspects of’ ‘slow’. Thus it has been suggested that following the growth of ‘slow’ concepts in other fields such as slow food, then there is potential for using ‘slow’ in tourism branding. This appears to have been done in a cross-border project between Slovenia and Italy. The Slovenian Tourist Board in fact offers a description of what it regards as slow tourism, saying that it is “a type of tourism allowing tourists to spend their free time and take to the road liberated from the worries and stress caused by today’s fast-paced way of life.” Tourist activities such as hiking, mountain biking, water sports, caving and birdwatching are all listed as coming under their definition of ‘slow’.

The special issue of Dos Algarves brings together a number of papers with different perspectives to examine how slow tourism is constructed, represented and performed. A variety of theoretical and methodological approaches (including quantitative surveys, interviews, discourse analysis and self-reflection) grounded in different disciplines (geography, tourism studies, sociology) present their findings from a wide range of locations (Brazil, Spain, Hungary, France, Italy, Denmark).

The first three papers are conceptual, giving representations of slow tourism from different perspectives, and contributing to understanding of what slow tourism entails. The first paper, by Jo Guiver and Peter McGrath, compares discourses from academia and websites relating to slow tourism and travel. It concludes that whilst there is some overlap (in particular relating to investing and savouring time in the destination place), academic texts tend to focus more on the perspective of destinations and how the slow movement might benefit them in terms of sustainable tourism development, whilst the ‘real world’ texts collected from websites stress the benefits to tourists and travellers themselves. The paper also questions whether ‘unwitting’ slow tourists, those who take on some of the behaviours associated with slow travel and tourism without actually calling themselves ‘slow tourists’, can be considered as practising slow tourism. This issue is taken up by Larsen in the following paper, who finds aspects of slow tourism in otherwise conventional holidaying. In research using Danish tourists, Larsen suggests that while tourists were not consciously doing ‘slow travel’, some of their most valued holiday memories are linked to slow travel behaviours.

A personal perspective is given by sociologist Pierre Lannoy, who reflects on his own holiday experiences, and says that his slow holidays include activities that would not be classed as slow tourism by purists. It is argued that rather than attempting to define slow tourism as a ‘stand-alone’ type of niche tourism, it might well be more fruitful to consider how ‘slowness’, as both philosophy and practice, can be integrated into other types of tourism.

The remaining four papers present case studies. Lorenzo Bagnoli gives a study from the Italian-French Roia Valley, and explores to what extent a tourist exploitation of the local railway line, through a slow tourism programme, could transform the promising Roia Valley into a new tourist destination closely connected to the mature Riviera and Piedmont regions. Brigitta Pecsek, from Hungary, examines the potential of revitalizing small town tourism through folklore-driven slow tourism. Other case studies come from Spain and Brazil.

The Leisure Tourism Database search "slow travel" OR "slow tourism" currently brings up just 55 bibliographic records and three news articles. The first analysis of slow tourism comes from alpine regions in 2004, when a book chapter by Matos presents examples from Switzerland, where slow tourism around antiquated pleasures, such as walking and flower-viewing excursions, has been introduced as an antidote to fast and stressful (mass) tourism products. An overview of slow travel was given by Lumsdon and Mcgrath in 2011. Features of slow travel were listed as: slowness and the value of time; locality and activities at the destination; mode of transport and travel experience; and environmental consciousness. While a Mintel report (Millington, 2011) regardsd slow travel simply as ‘trips made to a destination using non-aviation methods and the exploration of that destination’, interviews in this paper show a lack of consensus about the eligibility of car travel and high-speed rail, and regard slow travel as a group of associated ideas rather than as a watertight definition.

Slow travel and slow tourism were compared by Conway and Timms in 2012. Dodds (2012) argued that slow tourism or slow travel is just a sub set of a larger, broader concept of sustainable tourism - not a replacement. The concept and meaning of slow tourism is discussed by Khan (2015).

Article details

  • Author(s)
  • David Simpson
  • Date
  • 21 June 2016
  • Subject(s)
  • Tourism
  • Travel and Technology