Historical Cities 3.0: 24-hour city [publication]

In historical cities, there is a growing problem related to uncontrolled and unsustainable tourism development. The tourism offer is based on cultural heritage, which is a resource whose marketing value depends on its protection against degradation resulting from increased tourist traffic. This paradox related to tourism management in historical cities gains an additional meaning in the context of the change in tourism supply resulting from globalisation. A dense network of hotels in the historical ur- ban fabric has recently been supplemented by hostels and apartments rented via online peer- to-peer platforms. The long-term effect of touristification of historical cities is their residential and commercial gentrification, which results in the gradual outflow of the previous residents, who are economically and socially pushed out of attractive historical districts. This process leads to conflicts between the residents and the tourists. In Venice, Barcelona, Dubrovnik, Lisbon or Amsterdam, the residents organise street protests, happenings, and blockades of transport routes. Hence the question: what role should Destination Management Organisation (DMO) play in the face of overtourism? Are the contemporary DMOs feel up to the challenge and what measures do they take or should they take to ensure that tourism development is as conflict free as possible? 

In the context of the above mentioned problems there is a need to consider the issue of night-time economy, which to an increasing extent affects historical cities. Despite their attractiveness for tourism, the development of night-time cultural, entertainment, catering, commercial and recreational businesses and the accompanying industries, creates and attracts conflicts resulting from the divergent interests of the night-time city, and the day city, which sleeps and night and wants to rest. Night-time economy is hedged about with many regulations that order and prohibit certain actions, starting with the prohibition of noise nuisance at night or the working time regulations. Furthermore, it is not coherent and strong in terms of capital. Such activities are often undertaken by enthusiasts, artists and creative people who create the atmosphere of the city. Taking account of the fact that in recent years, many cities have appointed night mayors, whose task is both to support night-time industries and to mitigate their negative impact. In this context, a question arises: do historical cities need night mayors and to what extent? How to they help the residents in the process of tourism development in historical cities? What experience, instruments and competence can DMO be supplied with by the institution of night mayor?


The discussion on the issues was preceded by the case study of Amsterdam, which focused on coordination of night-time economy, presented by M. Milan, the night mayor of the city.

The debate was divided into two parts. The first one was dominated by the topic of challenges faced by historical cities due to overtourism, the second one was dominated by the debate on the impact of night-time economy on tourism. At the beginning of the debate, the need arose to define a historical city. R. Pawlusiński stated that, in the broadest sense, it is a city that originated before the modernist era, so we can perceive it not only as a separate unit, but also as a historical district surrounded by modernity. What is also important here is the marketing context, which uses historical resources to create offers for various target groups, primarily tourists, which exposes those resources to the risk of commercialisation and leads to the debate on the right to the city from the perspective of particular target groups. A. Mikos von Rohrscheidt pointed to the coexistence of various types of historical cities on the tourist market: large palimpsest cities, cities of a single theme, cities of a single man, and small historical cities. They all have to develop their own system for managing tourism development.

M. Manente made a reference to the marketing context by describing the current state of tourism development in Venice. The greatest problem of that city is the fact that its renown surpasses the renown of the most popular attractions located there that form the core of the tourist product. A survey carried out by the CISET, the International Centre for Studies on Tourism Economics has shown that the visitors are attracted by the St Mark’s Square (81%), the Doge’s Palace (76%), while other attractions draw attention of much fewer people (from 31% to 42%). As a result, thousands of people go sightseeing around Venice in the same way they surf the Internet, and they are content with the general impression.

The social and economic costs cannot be deemed superficial. They include: pollution of the city and physical degradation of historical locations, increase in consumer goods prices and rents, replacement of tourists interested in the cultural heritage of the city with mass arrivals of one-day visitors, spatial and temporal congestion of tourist traffic (70% of all visits focus on a few attrac- tions during 4 hours of a day).

I. Carević Petković emphasised the maladjustment of the historical architecture and tech- nical infrastructure of historical cities to their intense use by an excessive number of visitors who have greater and greater demands. The day- to-day life of the historical part of Dubrovnik involves such events as sewer blockages, transformer and voltage station malfunction, low water pressure in taps, continuous ren- ovation of flats, excessive amount of waste, collapsing street surface, and increased air temperature due to the use of air conditioning. The social consequences are also important. The cost of living in the Old Town is 30% high- er compared to other districts. The problem is the privileged position of tourists in relation to the regular residents, whose symptoms include leniency of the police, legally undefined functions of immovable assets, uncontrolled modification of building interiors, or the ease of trading historical houses.

Both discussant pointed to the negative role of cruise ship operators. Large cruise ships bring 7,000–8,000 visitors for a few hours every day. Despite the economic benefit, they generate congestion, pollution, and noise. The long-term effect of overtourism is the outflow of residents and the ageing of the local communities. The Old Town Venice has 54,000 residents, which is 120,000 fewer than in the 1950s. On average, that population drops by a thousand every year. In Dubrovnik, their total number is 1,500, with 30% being over 65.

Taking into account of the scale of problems accompanying tourism development in both cities, other participants in the debate were surprised to hear that there were no DMOs that could confront the interests of entities offering services for tourists with the needs of the residents and which could form centres of action mitigating the effects of overtourism.

An important element of the debate was the attempt to answer the question whether Euro- pean cities should develop a common policy in regard to the peer-to-peer accommodation or transport platforms. P. Zmyślony presented a range of possible regulations regarding their activities including fines for unlicensed apartment rental (Barcelona), tourist tax (Paris, New York), limited rental time (Amsterdam, Paris), limited rental space (Berlin), and development of regulations concerning the provision of statistical data to city authorities. In this context, the panellists stressed the diversity of historical cities in terms of the development of available accommodation infrastructure, the sharing economy market, and the resultant problems. At the same time, they stated that a proposal of such a common policy would be an interesting option for cities. Everyone also agreed that Airbnb and other online platforms complement the cities’ quality and spatial offer of accommodation services and strengthen the spirit of enterprise in the residents. It is therefore very difficult to define a unified urban policy in re- gard to such services, but there is a need to take care of their quality. A. Mikos von Rohrscheidt proposed a solution consisting in introducing classes of restrictions depending on the state of a city’s accommodation infrastructure to date. Cities where peer-to-peer services fill the gap on the accommodation services market would “turn on” the appropriate higher standards and more restrictive regulations. A. Miszalski pointed to the absence of relevant tax regulations regarding apartment rental in Poland.

The debate on the opportunities and risks related to the development of night-time economy and its regulation was dominated by the cases of Amsterdam and Toulouse. M. Milan emphasised the fact that night-time economy is part of every city’s DNA. Night should be treated as the time when highly creative and talented people meet. Support for night-time economy cannot aim at facilitating hedonistic attitudes and simple entertainment, but its goal should be to increase the opportunities for creative industries. Amsterdam has introduced 24-hour licences for music clubs active in strictly defined space outside the city centre, and there is a strictly enforced requirement of diverse cultural and entertainment activities (discussion centre, exhibition space, cultural incubator, catering services, etc.). In the streets, night-time volunteers (square hosts) have appeared, and they admonish people whose behaviour is too loud and aggressive. A three-year strategy has been drafted in order to support festivals and cultural events, and a system for monitoring available space for music in the city has been introduced for the purpose of that strategy. This has led to a 25% drop in aggressive be- haviour and a 30% drop in night-time nuisance reports by residents.

Ch. Vidal stated that establishing and maintaining the institution of night mayor makes it possible to identify weak points of the cities’ policies regarding night-time economy, which in most cases, focuses on restrictions and prohibitions, and does not take their long-term effects into account. In their stead, Toulouse started developing integrated policy concerning night-time public transport, support for catering services, illumination of buildings, longer museum opening hours, protection of rights of workers working night shifts, and a night-time emergency line. All the measures, however, should be preceded by relevant studies on the current state of affairs and forecasts of the effects of specific solutions. Therefore, the “White Paper on Night-Time Economy” has been prepared in Toulouse, and it contains a description of night-time services supply and results of a survey on the residents’ expectations in regard to the development of cultural, transport, health care, security services, etc.

The panellists paid attention to the organisational structure and the origin of the institution of night mayors. In Amsterdam, M. Milan is the head of a non-governmental organisation co-financed by businesses and city authorities, which employs 20 people and has a management board and an advisory board. The institution presided by Ch. Vidal is also based on the cooperation of entities involved in night-time economy as part of the Toulouse Nocturne association. On one hand, both night mayors are ambassadors of service providers who carry out their activities in the evening and at night and promoters of cities’ nightlife, while on the other, they cooperate with local authorities to ensure that nightlife is as harmonious and sustainable as possible. In their opinion it is important to both support night-time economy and mitigate its negative impact. The night mayors work during their terms on the basis of the election by the night-time economy sector and the approval by city authorities. In this con- text, P. Zmyślony noticed similarities in the organisational structure of the night mayor and DMOs, but the different purpose of their establishment. The original purpose of the DMO is to promote the tourism offer of the city and ensure quantitative and qualitative growth in the tourism function, while night mayors were appointed to minimise the nuisance and problems related to activities carried out after dark. Therefore, they could be compared to “night DMO”, whose aim is to strive for sustainable development of the city.

In the face of problems related to tourist economy that affect Dubrovnik and Venice, it is hard to speak of any acceptance of the development of night-time economy, which, in those cities, is identified with conflicts. It is also technically difficult. In Venice, there is no street lighting after dark, and pubs and restaurants are closed at 11 p.m. In Dubrovnik, buildings have no basements, and nightlife is allowed only outside the Old Town.

In Ch. Vidal’s opinion, the experience of night-time economy can help tourism is contained in strategic planning that takes into account interests of all stakeholders, including those who do not participate directly in the benefits of the development of such tourist and/or night-time activity. In such a case, there is a need to consider such aspects as provision of security, forecasting of negative effects of current actions, and guarantee of appropriate working conditions. M. Milan stressed that sustainable development is very important for young residents of historical cities who should be provided with enough time to become convinced that they made the right decision to stay in that particular city for the future. J. Mazurczak pointed to the role of good development of night-time economy in support for a city’s academic function.

A. Miszalski stated that the introduction of the institution of night mayor cannot be unaccompanied by a relevant informational campaign in order to avoid the unnecessary and unequivocally negative associations with the name. In Krakow, there are more and more signals that tourism is a nuisance, and thus that there is a need for an institution that could reasonably solve or minimise the development problems. J. Mazurczak noticed that DMOs are the first point of contact that naturally attract problems related to night-time economy, while tourism is the first area that shows the problems experienced by the residents in their day-to-day life. Representatives of Polish cities stated that it is important to ensure that regulations regarding night-time economy, including rules governing night clubs, club visitors’ behaviour, sales of alcohol, parking, and other aspects, are supported by good quality law. In Poland, one can speak of a need to civilise and restrict night-time economy and not its coordination and support for it.

The elements that are combine night-time economy with tourist economy in a favourable manner are evening events. A. Mikos von Rohrscheidt explained that these are events that start in the late afternoon, or even in the evening, and continue late into the night. These include great and regular (even everyday) light and sound shows organised in the vicinity of the most important historical monuments (Avignon, Giza, Strasbourg, Malbork), and the smaller forms, such as thematic guided walking tours that offer their own atmosphere, evening location-based games, extended suppers, thematic concerts, evenings of legends, film screenings, or organised social games.

R. Pawlusiński observed that the way the people go sightseeing around and live in historical cities has changed, and thus the development of night-time offer is forced by the modern tourists, but also by the new residents. There is a need to notice not only the increase in the popularity of hedonistic lifestyle, but also the change in the model of night-time “recreation” – previously, many of the events took place in private flats, and nowadays, this is becoming rarer. Instead, the people search for a night-time offer in the city.

Conclusions and recommendations

Historical Cities 3.0: Residents and Visitors – in Search of Quality and Comfort, B. Walas, M. Kachniewska, A. Mikołajczyk, P. Zmyślony (eds.), Municipality of Krakow, 1-2 March 2018, 14-22 [PDF].


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