Immediate success for ‘slow’ research project

Published: 23 December 2015 at 15:25

Michael Duignan and Dr Marion Stuart-Hoyle, Chair of ATHE

Anglia Ruskin tourism academic wins ATHE Award, sponsored by VisitEngland

An academic from Anglia Ruskin University’s Lord Ashcroft International Business School has received a national award for his research on “slow tourism” in Cambridge.

Michael Duignan, a Lecturer in Tourism Management, was presented with the Association for Tourism in Higher Education (ATHE) Award, sponsored by VisitEngland, for Leadership in the Visitor Economy (research award) at ATHE’s annual conference at St Anne’s College, University of Oxford. 

Since March 2014, the tourism department at Anglia Ruskin has been working with a network of European universities, including the University of Bergamo in Italy and the University of Girona in Spain.

The network has been analysing how slow tourism, which focuses on spending more time in a destination and prioritising quality, environmentally sustainable and locally-focused visitor experiences, can help the development of a new type of tourism in historic-university cities.  Slow tourism is an extension of the slow food movement that began in Italy in the 1980s.

Cambridge, Bergamo and Girona are all overshadowed by neighbouring global cities (London, Milan and Barcelona, respectively) and all face the “eight-hour tourist” problem, where visitors arrive for the day, visit the main, traditional city-centre attractions and spend their money in chain shops and restaurants, rather than independents. 

The project has been focusing on how tourism chiefs can encourage people to stay longer, and whether specific focal points, such as festivals or food events (the academics studied the 2014 Tour de France visit and EAT Cambridge) alongside specific tourism markets such as visiting friends and family can encourage and support the slow tourism approach.

Duignan said: 


“The ATHE award, sponsored by our national tourism organisation VisitEngland, is a huge honour but the project as a whole is still at an early stage. 

“The emphasis on new ‘slower’ tourism perspectives are important as we continue to see the standardisation of inner-city tourism experiences, due to the corporatisation of the high street. 

“There is a concern that the growing shift toward multinational companies in these spaces may in future damage the cultural identity of such historic cities.  Will tourists in years to come want to visit such clone spaces?  Only time will tell.

“However, only by considering the needs and roles of local stakeholders, ranging from festival directors to small business owners, can cities such as Cambridge properly begin to embed slow tourism and provide a unique, locally-focused authentic visitor experience. 

“Experiences that showcase the quirky, individual backstreets of such magnificent historic spaces, and drive continued visitation and longer stays, are necessary for stronger sustainable social and economic growth.”