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From urban exploration to ruin tourism: a geographical analysis of contemporary ruins as new frontiers for urban tourism

Aude Le Gallou (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (EIREST research team), Paris, France)

International Journal of Tourism Cities

ISSN: 2056-5607

Article publication date: 30 April 2018

Issue publication date: 23 May 2018

1162

Abstract

Purpose

Despite the increasing academic interest for urban ruins and evolutions of urban tourism, research on ruin tourism as an emergent form of urban tourism practice is still lacking. Drawing on existing works on urban exploration, the purpose of this paper is to provide a first geographical insight into ruin tourism and its spatial implications in terms of imaginaries, practices and regulation of urban space.

Design/methodology/approach

Drawing on an urban and cultural geography approach, the research is based on a mix of empirical methodologies. Participant observation of organized ruin tours as well as formal and informal interviews with participants, organizers, institutional actors and inhabitants have been conducted during fieldwork completed in Berlin and Detroit. This paper also draws on the analysis of additional data provided by online material, especially official websites of tour organizers, forum threads and comments posted on different websites.

Findings

The research shows that ruin tourism can be analyzed as a new practice of urban tourism based on the reappropriation and commodification of alternative practices developing in marginalized urban areas. The paper provides evidence of ruin tourism’s contribution to the normalization of urban space through tourism conquest of new urban territories. It also shows that the practice fosters contested material and symbolic appropriations of place.

Originality/value

This paper contributes to current research on alternative tourism practices in marginalized urban areas as well as on tourist appropriation of liminal spaces. It provides a first analysis of ruin tourism and underscores its potential as a geographical object for the investigation of a wide range of urban issues.

Keywords

Citation

Le Gallou, A. (2018), "From urban exploration to ruin tourism: a geographical analysis of contemporary ruins as new frontiers for urban tourism", International Journal of Tourism Cities, Vol. 4 No. 2, pp. 245-260. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJTC-12-2017-0085

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, International Tourism Studies Association

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