Tourism, Events & The City of Derry.

MAR 31 2016 | TOM STEWART | B00296257 | POLITICS and POLICY | MARK 11025

This blog aims to illustrate how the mixed economy of a large event can be central to a city and regional destination management and tourism strategy that powers positive and lasting change and the essential role of key stakeholders.

Derry~Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013. A city that needed change and regeneration with a goal to create a strong economic base that acts as a magnet for young talented people and removes the deprivation and inequalities that co-exist with economic malaise and social deprivation.



Defined as a mega-event (Hall, 1992), major cultural or sporting events that have “assumed a key role in urban and regional tourism marketing and promotion” and tourism strategies, UK City of Culture was born out of the success of the Glasgow 1990 European City of Culture  (Van den Borg, 1994) that recognised cultural activity as a catalyst for regeneration. Gaining tourism related visitors through increased marketing  to promote a favourable image (Ritchie & Beliveau, 1974) is a key role of hosting mega events in parallel with enhancement of the place. This generates increased “visitor expenditures; publicity, leading to heightened awareness and a more positive tourism image; related infrastructural and organizational developments which substantially increase the destination’s tourist capacity and attractiveness.” (Getz, D. 1998)

The Derry City of Culture Bid was part of a wider Destination Tourism strategy that encompassed a new regeneration plan including construction of the ‘Peace Bridge’, transformation of 2 major former military sites along with key items of inclusion, equality, ambition and sustainibility with heritage and culture at its core. The mission was to grow the tourism economy annually not only to benefit Derry but the Governments tourist revenue growth targets for the region. There was also a promise of legacy project funding to continue the publicity and marketing needs of the area. However the Culture Minister confirmed that National Government funding would cease in March 2015 leaving the City to a more recognisable neoliberalism mode.

Neoliberalism :The rhetoric is that neoliberalism means less state intervention. The reality is that it represents a reorganised management or changed understanding of Government systems and state economy relations with engagement with all interested parties to produce and promote, for example, events and marketing of a place. (Peck and Tickell, 2007: 33). “Neoliberalism promotes market-led economic and social restructuring” and offers “passive support for market solutions” (Jessop, B. 2002).  Responsibilities have shifted to overlap with the free market or private sector but more often large amounts from the public purse are required to prime the process which can be seen as hegemonic (Harvey, 2005). The City of Culture process is almost entirely promoted, funded, developed and guided by the public sector in the initial stages to the point of delivery of the event. It is Government sponsored. Inward investment as a result of the event bid is where the free market starts to make an impact and this can be seen where the private sector is investing and building Hotels in Derry and demand is seen to develop the local airport, for example. So the process is very much one of partnership and cooperation with the private sector willing to invest for the long term provided they are convinced of the success of the outcomes.   Urban entrepreneuraliasm will prevail under ideal conditions of intensity brought about by a successful bid process that recognises the connection by citizens to consumers (Lowes, 2004)


Stakeholders : defined as “persons or groups with legitimate interests in procedural and/or substantive aspects of corporate activity” (Donaldson and Preston, 1995). City of Culture is promoted by  the national development agency for the arts and culture sponsored by the UK Government Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The event is therefore promoted by Central Government as a competition and Cities enter a bidding process with the winning Local Government or City team hosting and funding the event. The City Council then engaged over a period of time with its own community of stakeholders including other government regional and local agencies such as Northern Ireland Tourist Board, private sector, external professional advisers, local cultural forum and others. A Tourism Development Strategy was developed for 2009-2012 which clearly sets out the intent for heritage and culture to lead the way to a better economy and the objectives and stepping stones to achieving this.

The process can fail as evidenced to a greater or lesser degree by non-successful bidding cities whom have expended great amounts of public money with little return. Even in Derry the culture company that ran the City of Culture year had problems with a shortfall of a pledge from Derry City Council who paid only £4 million of £14 million promised.

References :

Derry City Council. (2009)  Cracking the Culture Code-Derry~Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013 PDF Bid Document.

Hall, C.M. (1992) Hallmark tourist Events: Impacts, Management and Planning. London: Belhaven Press.

Borg, J. Van Den (1994) Demand for city tourism in Europe: Tour operators’ catalogues. Tourism Management 15 (1), 66-9.

Ritchie, J.R.B. & Beliveau, D. (1974) Hallmark events: an evaluation of a strategic response to seasonality in the travel market. Journal of Travel Research 14 (Fall): 14-20.

Getz, D. (1998) The impacts of mega events on tourism: Strategies and research issues for destinations.Conference Paper, Australian Tourism and Hospitality research Conference. Canberra A.C.T.417-439.

Peck, J. and Tickell, A. (2007) Conceptualizing neoliberalism, thinking Thatcherism, In Leitner, Contesting Neoliberilism: Urban frontiers. New York: The Guilford Press.

Jessop, B. (2002) Liberalism, neoliberalism and urban governance: A state-theoretical perspective. Antipode 34: 452-472.

Harvey, D. (2005) A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lowes, M. (2004) Neoliberal power politics and the controversial siting of the Australian Grand Prix Motorsport event in an urban park. Society and leisure 27 (1): 69-88.

Donaldson, T. and Preston, L.E. (1995) The stakeholder theory of the corporation: Concepts, evidence and implications. Academy of Management Review, 20: 65-91.

Derry City Council.(2009) Focus on the Future-Tourism Development Strategy 2009-2012 Derry~Londonderry. PDF Document.

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