Touristified city

The touristified town/city belongs to the typology of tourist destinations. For the distinction between city/town and village please refer to the entry Touristified village.

A process of delisting and then reclassification

A touristified town/city or village is a place that has undergone a touristification process that took place in two phases. In the first phase, the traditional functions declined, and either disappeared completely or nearly so, or were not able to sustain the destination’s past dynamism. Moreover, contrary to popular belief, in most cases, the role that gave the place its power had weakened before tourism developed. Tourism does not therefore “kill” traditional activities but it gains foothold when these activities decline or go through major crises.

This situation is due to exogenous causes that are not linked to the new tourism specialisation. The decline of Venice is due to several factors: competition from Genoa, which eventually came out as the winner, the dominance of Austria and the inability of the local society to reform itself, as well as the major reconfiguration of the Rhine route with a new world order being built around the Atlantic. The population of this city dropped from 180,000 in 1790 to 30,000 in 1850. Venice then seemed like a dead city, at a time when romantic travellers were criss-crossing Italy and “appropriated” it to serve their artistic purposes. Another example is Toledo that lost its status as a capital due to Philip II’s decision to establish a new capital in Madrid in 1561 (Ill.1).

Ill. 1. The old city of Toledo standing proudly on its promontory. A car park was dug in the slopes of the hill and an escalator was installed to facilitate access to the city centre (Cl. Philippe Violier, July 2011).

In the second phase, tourism and patrimonialisation become even more dominant since the rich history of the place has delivered impressive legacies. It can therefore be stated that, without tourism, Venice would have ended its brilliant history as ruins and quarries of building stones. In some cases, touristification was even preceded by an identical reconstruction, like in Rothenburg, Bavaria, which was destroyed by an American bombing in 1945 (Ill. 2).

Ill. 2. Rothenburg, a small city in Bavaria rebuilt identically after a bombing in 1945 that caused massive destruction (Cl. Philippe Violier, August 2018).

But also districts

In metropolises, it is possible to identify touristified districts, i.e., neighbourhoods where tourism occupies an essential place and where modernity has not, or not much, penetrated. Montmartre is a good example, where even the waiters at the Place du Tertre may seem patrimonialised in their outfits with wide straps and caps. In Beijing, the hutongs, streets in traditional neighbourhoods located north of the Imperial City, now welcome tourists in old siheyuan, houses with a square courtyard (Ill. 3). These houses, once occupied by prestigious families, were taken over after the revolution by other more modest families. Over time, they deteriorated. Destined to be destroyed during the transformation of Beijing into a modern city, in the wake of economic liberalisation, they could have disappeared completely. The perception of tourists lent support to the stand adopted by Chinese intellectuals in favour of their patrimonialisation. From 1994, blocks of houses were protected and tourism was introduced by means of receptions organised with selected inhabitants, rickshaw or bike rides, and later accommodation for overnight stays.

Ill. 3. Page from the website The China Guide, hosting agency promoting visits to hutongs (source:, accessed 27 September, 2009).

Touristification, a problem?

Touristification is the cause of vindictive speeches that point to all excesses and dwell on the fate of the inhabitants. Besides the fact that some of these inhabitants benefit from hosting tourists, the situation requires adaptation because the place, produced and designed very long ago, is incompatible with intensive attendance. It is even seen as excessive for some observers and analysts, as shown by the surge of expressions about overtourism or others, often applied to touristified, but not exclusive, towns/cities. Narrow streets require the creation of parking spaces on the outskirts, while rules reserve traffic or parking for residents (Ill. 4), impose less strict constraints on them compared to tourists (Il. 5), and organise delivery activity (Ill. 6). Solutions have sometimes been implemented since long.

Ill. 4. Parking reserved for residents near the San Marco Gate in Siena (Cl. Philippe Violier, 21 May 2022)
Ill. 5. Two hours of free parking are allowed only for residents in Volterra in Tuscany (Cl. Philippe Violier, 25 May 2022).
Ill. 6. Touristification forces drastic rules on delivery people, here in Volterra. Compelled to leave their truck at the entrance of the historic centre, they must continue on foot (Cl. Philippe Violier, 25 May 2022).

Philippe VIOLIER