Literary Tourism Destinations

Jordi Arcos-Pumarola (CETT Barcelona School of Tourism, Hospitality and Gastronomy, University of Barcelona, Spain)

Tourist destinations seek to distinguish and differentiate themselves from other destinations in order to attract beneficial tourism to the territory. In this context, culture is undoubtedly a decisive factor, as it is intrinsically related to the character and history of the specific territory. Destination managers assess cultural heritage as a valuable resource for the creation of a tourist image. Thus, literature and literary heritage are elements with great potential to develop new attractions in destinations, as literary events are unique. This is because the relationship of literature with a territory is unique and cannot be reproduced (Çevik, 2020). The literary landscape generated by literature owes its entity to the relationship that either the literary authors or their works have with the territory. For example, Shakespeare's relationship with Stratford-Upon-Avon is found in no other destination and cannot be recreated in any other way; likewise, James Joyce's Ulysses is closely linked to the city of Dublin. This uniqueness offered by literary heritage is therefore a strategic factor for destinations that have a literary landscape and wish to enhance it as a tourist attraction.

The creation and development of a literary destination contemplate a variety of actions. However, the creation of a literary tourism offer is key to have an attractive base for the potential visitor, as well as the collaboration with stakeholders that go beyond the purely literary sector for the construction of a territory image and brand (Hoppen et al., 2014). These two elements, the existence of literary tourism products that are attractive to potential visitors, as well as a positioning of the destination that singles it out in the eyes of the tourist market on the basis of its literary appeal, are key to generating interest and motivation for the visit and, thus, for attracting a specific segment of visitors. They specifically tackle those with cultural and literary interests who are curious about learning and exploring the literary landscape of the destination.

Beyond specific examples of successful literary tourism destinations, such as Shakespeare's Stratford or Brontë's Yorkshire (Squire, 1994), there are currently two frameworks that approach the creation of a literary destination from two different points of view, one related to urban destinations and the other related to rural destinations or smaller towns. These two frameworks are the UNESCO Creative Cities of Literature in the first case, and booktowns in the second.

The "City of Literature" sub-network of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network is composed of cities that have different relationships to literature and the literary industry. Their approach and objectives to become a network member are various, so their strategies might vary between valorising their literary heritage, strengthening their literary industry or attracting literary events (Patricio Mulero & Rius-Ulldemolins, 2017). To gain access to the network, cities must meet different criteria linked to the publishing industry, the presence of literature in the education system, the literary environment of the city, etc. This means that the cities, once members of the network, carry out diverse actions for different purposes. However, being part of the network means that literature is an attribute of the city's brand which, if so decided, can facilitate the creation of a literary destination through the development of a competitive literary tourism offer.

An example of actions to create an interesting literary tourism offer within the framework of creative cities of literature can be found in the city of Edinburgh, a pioneer in the network of creative cities of literature. Its broad campaign to place literature in the urban space through its “Words on the Street” programme and its integral approach to generate literary tourism by offering tools, training and funds to incorporate private business in this strategy have produced numerous literary tourism products (Arcos-Pumarola, 2019). Likewise, the city of Barcelona has opted for the creation of a literary map with a clear touristic aim to make its literary landscape visible, an action similar to those conducted by other cities in the network (Arcos-Pumarola, 2019).

It should be noted that, in the case of the creation of a literary destination in cities where there are already consolidated tourist flows and which suffer from problems linked to overtourism or the overcrowding of certain spaces, the commitment to generate an alternative offer focused on attracting segments and audiences with specific cultural interests is coherent with tourism redistribution policies (Arcos-Pumarola et al., 2018).

Another alternative model for creating a literary tourism destination, in this case in non-urban contexts, is found in the booktown movement (Driscoll, 2018). This model differs from other strategies for the creation of literary destinations as it is not linked to specific authors or works, but rather these towns simply seek a link to literature through the concentration of second-hand bookshops, cultural facilities, creative tourism activities or small-scale festivals. The original booktown model is the Welsh town of Hay-on-Wie which, since 1961, has concentrated a multitude of second-hand bookshops, becoming a specific destination for people interested in finding books that are hard to find in large urban shops. From Hay-on-Wie, this model has spread and been adapted to the rest of Europe, with Montolieu in France standing out for its holistic understanding of literature, including the publishing arts as a creative tourist attraction (Merfeld-Langston, 2013).

The booktowns, therefore, have the aim, through the adoption of a cultural tourism of varied concreteness, of economically dynamising the towns, placing them on the map and attracting a very specific cultural tourist profile, even without having a basic literary heritage with which to develop an offer of literary tourism.

In conclusion, beyond those literary destinations with a clear literary heritage that acts on its own as an attraction for literary tourists, the creative cities of literature and the booktowns show two different models of literary tourism development in urban and non-urban contexts. Exploring the actions of both models might serve as a basis for other territories aiming to promote this type of tourism.

How to cite this dictionary entry: Arcos-Pumarola, J. (2023). Literary Tourism Destinations. In Baleiro, R., Capecchi, G., & Arcos-Pumarola, J. (Orgs.). E-Dictionary of Literary Tourism. University for Foreigners of Perugia.

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