This is a response to Laura Gorlero’s article: PEGIDA and the social conflict in Dresden: An investigation of the economic, social and cultural impact
The tourism sector is fragile in nature, and is greatly affected by broader natural, economic and socio-political events, which can trigger a tourism crisis (Glaesser, 2006). If a tourism crisis occurs, it may generate a downturn in the image of a destination resulting in a negative impact on the tourism industry and pose a challenge to destination management (Çakmak and Isaac, 2012).
In the tourism literature and practice, much attention has been given to the impacts of progressive events (e.g. sport and cultural events) and various scholars suggest that hosting events boosts a destination in terms of exposure and positive image (Nadeau et al., 2016). However, little academic attention has been paid to the impacts of negative social events such as those arising from regular demonstrations and protests in cities.
Gorlero’s (2018) research addresses an interesting under-researched topic, namely the social impacts of negative events in urban tourism. The research is relevant, and timely. Although tourism scholars and practitioners recognize the impact of conflict on tourism development processes, many stakeholders (e.g. policy makers, aid workers, business owners and so on) at the conflict-ridden destinations pursue their own agendas, which influences the character and duration of conflict (Çakmak and Isaac, 2016). Gorlero (2018) highlighted the importance of social comprehension among the stakeholders and how social movements at urban destinations resulting in social conflicts can lead to a tourism crisis.
The report is fine in terms of its discussion of PEGIDA and the reactions it causes in cities and communities, and makes a contribution to the literature as it states. However, it does not provide much evidence about the actual effect on tourism to Dresden in its current form and remains as a conceptual and suggestive piece of research and not a definitive one, given the lack of evidence. Hence, this research needs to provide some facts (e.g. numbers of visitors to Dresden, before and after, and ideally during, PEGIDA campaigns, stakeholders’ quotes, back up references) to support the assumption that PEGIDA demonstrations are likely to deter some tourists. Have numbers declined? Is there evidence from other cities, which have experienced such demonstrations? Overtourism, a phenomena of unsustainable tourism (Dodds and Butler, 2019), has cause abacklash from residents in many destinations (e.g. Barcelona, Venice, Dubrovnik), which had not happened before on such a large scale. For instance, since 2017 an increasing number of protests have taken place in the streets of many overtourism destinations, where the residents gather together and protest against the increasing number of tourists in their cities (Francis, 2018).
Gorlero’s (2018) research examined the context of Dresden well, since it is essential to first understand the context of a conflict-ridden destination before suggesting a recovery destination management strategy. She argued that the social conflict triggered by PEGIDA demonstrations should not be interpreted as a single abstract but as an integrated part of the ongoing social movements which fuel and deepen social tensions in Dresden. This contextual approach blends different perspectives (i.e. big, intermediate, and small stories) in a multidisciplinary way and can be a basis for a recovery destination management strategy that would come from Dresden’s own people.
Gorlero’s research is connected to one of my own research interests in using a narrative approach to examine different forms of conflict and their resolution strategies with regard to destination management (e.g. Çakmak et al., 2018). Gorlero’s (2018) results offer scope for further research to understand how protests affect the tourism industry and on which aspects stakeholders should be urged to collaborate to decrease this effect and increase the quality of life of their residents.