Hypotesis and Background

The project

The MOVETUR project aims to develop an innovative analytical, conceptual and methodological framework for analysing how tourism destinations are transformed by the multiple mobilities inherent in contemporary societies, as well as understanding the effects of these mobilities on the development, attractiveness and inter-place / urban competition of places of different scales. The project stems from the general hypothesis that human mobilities at different scales, along with their interconnections and links to other physical and immaterial mobilities, are catalytic factors in processes of change in tourism destinations. Such transformations are produced not only from within urban structures, environmental conditions and technologies but also in institutional, socioeconomic, cognitive and cultural domains, generating new information, images, perceptions and discourses of places, while provoking stakeholder and agency-based decision-making processes and triggering tensions, solutions and redistribution dynamics that in turn shape the evolutionary trajectory of destinations in terms of path plasticity effects.

This conceptual framework makes the assumption that the existence of different tourist profiles, with overlapping elements such as economic, spatial, temporal and cognitive behaviour and their respective complexities, all imply the development of other types of human, material and immaterial mobilities that generate a diversity of organisational and strategic political decisions from a multitude of different agents that cannot be considered as extraneous to any changes in the urban structure of tourism destinations. The proposed project approaches these questions from a multi-scalar perspective that includes regional and local spaces at the destination level (in both the urban and coastal contexts) and micro-local spaces such as tourism districts, tourism attractions, urban sectors and tourism centres. As such, the interconnection between these different scales of analysis, geopolitical and economic contexts, environments and diverse mobilities and differential destination typologies permits an advancement of the following dimensions:

•A complex conceptual and analytical framework that situates the study of tourism in a wider mobilities context and that places the analysis of tourism destinations at the intersection between the most recent advances in economic geography and urban geography.

•An applied focus on analysing the interrelationships between mobilities at a global scale (en route to and from the destination) and a local scale (within the destination) in placemaking processes that allows understanding of dynamics of change and the evolutionary trajectory of destinations.

•An understanding of the role of networks, the relationship between stakeholders – both global and local –  geopolitical, economic and environmental contexts in the urban transformation of tourism destinations.

•An innovative take on destination evolution trajectories in terms of morphology, functions and urban relationships as determined by complex local micro-processes and their prior evolutionary dependencies.

•An analytical methodology that combines and integrates various advanced quantitative and cartographic techniques with qualitative methods.


The MOVETUR project is based on previous conceptual frameworks and results obtained in earlier funded projects led by different researchers in the team. It aims to build on previous work by the research group in terms of advancing epistemological approaches, spaces and scales of analysis and expanding on prior lines of scientific enquiry.



The forerunner of the MOVETUR project was the GLOBALTUR project, funded by the Plan Estatal de Investigación (2011-2014, Lead researcher: S. Anton Clavé). GLOBALTUR (See http://www.globaltur.com) had similar aims in terms of studying the role of mature coastal tourism destinations as spaces of social innovation, spatial competitiveness and the development of as responsible tourism policies, analysing the effects of tourism-led residential mobility on destination competitiveness and evaluating the role of spatial, sectorial, environmental and development policies in destination dynamics. This earlier project, which analysed a selection of tourist destinations in different spatial contexts at a global scale (Anton Clavé et al, 2012), confirmed its central hypothesis that the growth and transformation of mobility within the population has generated new complex urban structures (González and Anton Clavé, 2014) leading to new social, territorial and environmental dynamics (Rovira, 2013; Santos and Saladié, 2014).

Based on analysis of the documented, the research concludes that, apart from the evolution of tourism activity, it is important to understand destination path dynamics in terms of them being complex urban places with specific urban, regional and metropolitan pathways (Rovira and Anton Clavé, 2014; González et al, 2014).

The project draws upon complex conceptual, analytical and methodological frameworks that allow integration of different perspectives. This facilitates an analytical dialogue between the dynamics of tourism processes and contemporary geographic thought, such as the new evolutionary economic geography and relational geography (Sanz Ibáñez and Anton Clavé, 2014).

ATTREG (2010-2012, Lead Researcher A. Russo) is the second project developed and led by members of the current research team that has informed the design of the MOVETUR project. It was conducted under the ESPON 2013 Programme of the European Union on the ‘attractiveness of European regions and cities for residents and tourists’ (see http://www.espon.eu/main/menu_projects/Menu_AppliedResearch/attreg.html). This project focused on diversity of population flows within and to the different regions and cities of the European Union in relation to the traffic generated by economic and labour motives and the types of mobility dictated by lifestyle, the self-improvement, studying, health or other reasons.

The results obtained showed the existence (and the increasing importance) of hybrid forms of mobility in terms of permanency and underlying motivations, the interrelationship between different mobilities and the fragility that such mobilities can generate in labour markets, especially in the case of regions that have been very attractive in the early 2000s for foreign workers and lifestyle migrants as an attraction point for mature tourist destinations (Russo et al., 2014). Likewise, this evidences the role of spatial policies at different scales in terms of the regulation of mobility and migratory flows of different labour market segments (Servillo et al., 2012).

Two other funded projects led by members of the research team also informed the research design for MOVETUR. These include a project funded by the AECID (Lead Researcher  M. Nel.lo, 2010) on diagnosing tourist activity in Viñales (Cuba) and sustainable development trends, and a project funded by AGAUR (Lead Researcher  A. Gutiérrez, 2013-2014) on citizens’ participation and new forms of governance in the local development politics of small and medium-sized cities. The former focused on the geopolitical, economic and environmental context of the processes of the destination transformation process, whereas the latter analysed the strategic role of social agents evolutionary paths.

In terms of other previous research projects, the research team also undertook a project on new tendencies in the production and the consumption of tourist spaces on the Spanish Mediterranean Coast (Project BP-B00185), on mobility en route to destinations (Project PBR 00035 in collaboration with researchers of the University of Nottingham, 2010) and also on mobility within the destination (Project 2007PIV10033 in collaboration with researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem). The results showed that knowledge of visitors’ spatial mobility is crucial for destination competitiveness and sustainability and that fundamental links exist between tourist/consumer space-time behaviour and the system of spatial organisation of the mobility between visitor origins and destinations (Saladié et al, 2014; Bernadó et al. 2013).

From these earlier projects arose new opportunities of conceptualization, analysis, discussion and interpretation of tourist destinations as having a complex mobilities relationship between the global and the local scales. Therefore, considering the catalytic mobility factor in processes of change, MOVETUR raises questions as to the active role of public and private agents in destination evolution on the global-local stage.  Taking into account the urgency of such mobilities, the project defines topic related to the role of economic, political, social and environmental context of destinations in the dynamics of evolution and transformation. It also aims to define the limits to tourism’s capacity to redefine those opportunities, limitations, risks and conflicts experienced by destinations that have emerged as a transformation of behaviour, decision-making and use of the space on the part of tourists. In other words, the project will investigate the following themes:

  • To study the space-time behaviour of tourists en route to and within destinations.
  • To analyse the functional and structural changes that mobilities can generate within urban destinations structures and the Dynamics of their construction and continual reconfiguration.
  • To establish the roles of different agents in destinations in terms of knowledge generation and strategies designed to ensure competitiveness and sustainability in a changing context.
  • To evaluate the role of the geopolitical, economic and environmental context of tourism destinations and their capacity to respond to the challenges posed by the emergence of new mobilities in a context of global change.



Initial hypothesis and overall aims

The MOVETUR project incorporates important innovations into the analysis of tourist destination evolution that are linked to the intensification and diversification of different types of mobility en route to and within the destination. It also aims to study of the effects that such mobilities have in terms of the construction and development of places. In this sense, MOVETUR has the following general scientific objective:

  • The development of an innovative analytical, conceptual and methodological framework for analysing and understanding the transformation of tourism destinations as induced by the multiple mobilities that act in contemporary society and their effects on the development, attractiveness and spatial and urban competitiveness of tourism places of different scales.

This approach builds on the epistemological assumption that the tourist destinations construct complex mobilities linkages between the global scale and the local. Destinations attract flows of visitors and this active ‘physical’ mobility is possible due to the generation of other flows of people, commodities and energy supplies, among others, in addition to non-material flows of information, knowledge and financial capital. The approach understands flows not only as having a functional basis but as being ‘mobilized in some way,  allowing information, perceptions and values of the place to become known in holistic terms and at the same time,  allowing the development of the destination’s particular endogenous, evolutionary path.

At a regional scale, the project will analyse the complementarity between complex derivative operational processes of the tourism system, in terms of flows of goods and resources as well as, in the case of polycentric tourist regions with a diversity of tourism spaces of varying hierarchies. The analysis will also take into account the fact that tourists move around while maintaining an economic and cognitive link with a concrete place, in terms of making an overnight stay there.

Taking into account these considerations the MOVETUR project takes the following incial hypothesis:

Human mobilities at different scales – as well as their interconnections and links with other physical and immaterial mobilities – are all catalytic factors of change in tourism destination processes. These transformations impact just as much upon urban structures, environmental conditions and technology as on institutions and in the socioeconomic, cognitive and cultural domains, generating new information, images, perceptions and narratives of the place and influencing decisions made by the different agents and giving rise to various tensions, solutions and redistribution dynamics that configure the destination’s evolutionary path and its relative ‘plasticity’.

The project also centres on the analysis of structural dynamics in today’s society, in terms of tourism mobilities, their impact on other types of mobilities (such as permanent migration to tourism destinations) and the effects on economic development and sustainability in destination and their regional surroundings. The aim complements the Challenges of Change and Social Innovation programme put forward by the Spanish State’s Scientific Investigation, Technical and Innovation Plan 2013-2016. This links directly to priority III of the project on social change and its impact and, in particular, to questions on the individual characteristics, social values and collective dynamics and migratory movements, as well as linking to priority II (design, evaluation and impact of public policies and the analysis of the effects of the public policies on economic and social development).

In accordance with the State Plan, the project will contribute (from a tourism analysis perspective) to improve understanding of the reality and quality of public policies and strategies as dictated by economic and social actors. The multidisciplinary character of the project’s research team allows links to be made to firms, organizations and in responding to the challenges posed by contemporary society (as determined in the State Plan 2013-16), as well as situating the project firmly at the forefront of research in tourism geographies.

In a complementary sense, the project responds to the research needs identified by the Spanish Strategy of Science, Technology and Innovation for 2013-2020, in that the strategy confirms the need to identify and promote new research measures in strategic fields (among which tourism is mentioned, in addition to health, energy, the agricultural sector, the aerospace industry and the IT sector.



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