Cultural and historical tourism is a growing global phenomenon [1
]. The World Tourism Organization, in its sectorial study “Panorama 2020”, notes that the anticipated growth in tourism is largely a response to the human need for contact, together with the pursuit of cultural authenticity and sustainability [2
]. Individuals need to explore their emotions in a controlled manner and the search for immediate sensations and affective experience are trends in today’s society [8
Long journeys are expected to increase, but in parallel, short trips to global city destinations will maintain their appeal, especially in Europe, reflecting tourists’ deep interest in culture and history [9
]. Several studies affirm the gradual increase in the influx of visitors to European and Spanish urban centers where the main attraction is their historical heritage [11
The community of Madrid broke its record of tourists in 2017, reaching 12 million visits. According to data provided by Exceltur [15
], Madrid is the Spanish community where tourism increased the most in 2017: 10.2 per cent. The latest survey by the public company Madrid Destination (2017) draws a profile of the tourist who comes to the capital, a tourist interested in culture, museums, gastronomy, night life, and Spanish hospitality [16
Therefore, according to both Madrid Destination and Turespaña [17
], the attraction of new market niches has been set as a goal: a cosmopolitan tourist wanting to soak up culture, history, traditions, and uniqueness. It is this offer of culture, tradition, and uniqueness which plays an important role in the different neighborhoods of the capital, such as in the Barrio de las Letras in Madrid. Currently, to Madrid, these tourists provide growth through the revitalization of neighborhoods, restoration of buildings, boosting trade, and targeting new market segments, among other things.
Barrio de Las Letras represents an example of revitalization of historic districts in which those new visitors are increasingly interested: they seek to move away from the crowds and prefer the alternative historical, cultural, culinary, artistic, or social activities within a particular space, along with a social system that offers a unique identity.
Noting such trends of revitalization of historic town centers and neighborhoods, scholars involved in community based tourism research since Murphy’s book [18
], “Tourism a community approach” (1985), have called for studies that develop appropriate management models for cultural and historic tourism that at the same time respect authenticity and sustainability in such city centers [19
]. The present research responds to this call by reconceptualizing and proposing a management model that can aid town centers looking for competitive cultural and historic tourism ecosystems [28
], while still preserving the sustainability of their local social and commercial fabric. This work is thus relevant in several respects. First, historic urban centers have extraordinary growth potential, considering the vast increase of cultural and historic tourism in recent years [30
]. Secondly, old city centers are more complex and challenging than commercial town centers; not only for the presence of small retailers, but social, historical, and cultural entrepreneurial activities are integral elements of these districts. Leadership and management in such environments emerge from the local actors and is about serving a diverse community with different interests rather than leading a company with profit-oriented goals [32
], so novel models must acknowledge this distinctive reality. Thirdly, large populations live in these districts, together with the presence of cultural and historic tourism, creating a prominent challenge in terms of developing sustainable models that integrate local communities with economic activities, without expelling them from their natural environment [27
To build the present model, this study considered research into town center management (TCM) [37
], cultural and historic districts [24
], social network theory [36
], and the in-depth case study of Barrio las Letras, in Madrid [46
]. By combining these sources, several components were identified that are critical to managing successfully cultural and historic tourism ecosystems. The model integrates components, such as the relevance of a geographically limited space, the role of business associations and social relations, and the potential for collaboration among all the stakeholders involved.
This study is focused on reconceptualizing the management models for creative city centers with historical and cultural identities.
Two main lines of research detail models of urban management [39
]. Cohen and Applebaum (1960) introduce the concept of business improvement districts (BIDs), known as the American model [49
]. Their evaluations of store locations mainly refer to sales and profit potential, such that the model delineates and identifies areas with greater sales capacity. These BIDs generally overlap with town centers, so in this view, property owners should be charged taxes, with these revenues used to improve the quality of the public services and make the commercial areas more attractive [37
]. For this study setting, this line of research is limited though, because it only considers retail as a productive activity and is focused on profit oriented goals ignoring the interests of other stakeholders as Valente, Dredge, and Lohmann (2015) pointed out [32
As town centers gradually lost their commercial appeal [25
], public and private actors have implemented different practices in recent decades to regenerate urban centers. With a broader perspective, Kotler, Haider, and Rein (1993) offer the concept of TCM, also known as the European model [51
]. They seek a more complete and comprehensive view, involving the management and promotion of both public and private areas within town centers, for the benefit of all stakeholders. This definition addresses concerns beyond retail, including sustainable development, local administrations, community engagement, services, and regeneration [25
To address the variety of issues in the stewardship of cultural and historical resources and the impact of tourism on host communities [18
], four models of TCM have been identified based on the sectorial affiliation and the extent of formality: the private-informal (e.g., trader association led schemes), the public-informal (voluntary/community led schemes), the private-formal (e.g., limited company, chamber of commerce led schemes) and the public-formal [38
]. The TCM models thus overcome some of the limitations of the BID model, yet they remain focused on the “commercial city,” without considering other levels that overlap in town centers, such as the “cultural and historic city” [1
]. These levels usually intersect in the same geographically delimited area. Cultural districts have been defined as systems of interdependent entities—including public and private institutions, businesses, entrepreneurs, individuals, and local communities—situated within a limited geographical area, aimed at achieving sustained value creation and driven by the unifying role of culture and creativity [53
Cultural districts evolve from a mixture of top-down planned and emergent activities involving a large set of stakeholders belonging to different value chains. Within such a context, local culture, museums, and traditions are fundamental ingredients to create the idiosyncrasy of the culture and tourism products of a district [40
]. Focusing on these ingredients, creative tourism bonds people to places, promoting tourist immersion into the local culture and the active participation in cultural and creative activities [55
] and rediscovering regions’ identities—something that cities could use to create sustainable offers for tourists.
Networks of stakeholders are key instruments for building collaboration, as well as for shaping and developing a tourism cluster [44
]. Several empirical studies identify social networks as key for developing collaborations and creating benefits, in terms of the development and sustainability of a tourist destination [56
Previous studies on collaboration networks in the tourism industry based in countries such as Australia [59
], Italy [60
], or Spain and Chile [61
] support these arguments. Additionally, in the United Kingdom, Novelli, Schmitz, and Spencer (2006) analyze how social networks help improve the performance and sustainability of small tourism enterprises [62
], and Czakon and Czernek (2016) analyze the Polish tourism industry and highlight the importance of establishing trusting relationships to generate cooperation in the networks [63
]. In the case of cultural and historical tourism, it is argued that it is necessary to include into the picture a tourism network approach [43
] to capture the mechanism of collaboration to help develop cultural and historical tourism.
These studies show how collaboration networks improve the competitiveness of the sector, which is now more necessary than ever [64
]. Cooperation and networks are a true multiplier of opportunities in the tourism sector [65
] because they help to enhance the transfer of knowledge and experiences and innovation [36
On the other hand, in contexts of technological change and turbulence such as the one we are experiencing, networks are key to developing trust, and transmitting information and knowledge that facilitate adaptation to new technologies and knowledge [66
]. Collaboration is also a crisis survival strategy, as it involves coordination, communication, cooperation, and knowledge transfer [35
Accordingly, this article is organized as follows: Firstly, the study presents a review of the literature on TCM, cultural and historical districts and social networks in tourism and describes a novel model of management for cultural and historic tourism environments. Secondly, the research explains the methodology. Then, a precise description of the experimental results is provided.
Finally, the study discusses the results describing Barrio de Las Letras and its cultural and leisure services and products and, finally, this research presents a management and organizational model based on the case of Barrio de Las Letras in Madrid. This study concludes with the theoretical and practical implications and suggestions for future research directions.
This article sheds light on the importance of reconceptualizing the management models for creative city centers with historical and cultural identities (such as Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, Amsterdam Noord in Amsterdam, Norrebro in Copenhagen, Gracia in Barcelona, East End in London, Sodermalm in Stockholm, Le Marais in Paris, Capucins in Bourdeaux, Palermo in Buenos Aires, Barrio Italia in Santiago de Chile, Chūō-ku in Osaka (Japan), Banglampoo in Bangkok in Thailand, or Xintiandi and the French Concession area in Shanghai). It contributes to a better and more detailed understanding of networking in creative and cultural cities, integrating, as key stakeholders, not just commercial stores and entrepreneurs, but also cultural institutions, such as museums and scientific, literary, and artistic centers.
The model that is presented was motivated by an analysis of secondary sources, interviews to key respondents and 187 questionnaires of entrepreneurs and owners of stores located in a recently invigorated cultural and historical neighborhood, Barrio de las Letras in Madrid. Inductive analysis of the sources revealed the importance of the elements included in the model and suggested initial ideas about how it might promote the successful development of historical and cultural tourism.
However, given some limitations of the data, this study engaged in deductive theory-building to develop a model encompassing both insights from prior research and those that first caught our attention through the interviews and surveys. Our aim was to build and test the proposed model, but we recognize that it can be further refined and empirically validated in future studies.
First, the model was tested by reviewing secondary sources of information about this urban area. Secondly, primary sources are solicited to obtain first-hand information about the characteristics of its cultural, commercial, and historic offers. The open-ended interviews included key respondents from Barrio de Las Letras such as:
The president and founder of the Asociación de Comerciantes del Barrio de las Letras (The Association), a 66 year-old man, who has been an entrepreneur in the neighborhood for 35 years and owns one of the oldest shops. The topics addressed in this interview were trade in the neighborhood, local entrepreneur’s profiles, historical changes in neighborhood stores, goals, and commercial actions of the association.
The general manager of The Association, a 49 year-old woman with a university degree. The subjects addressed were the goals, activities and commercial actions of the association, the responsibilities, and main managerial challenges of her position.
Two additional founders of The Association: both male entrepreneurs, 45 and 48 years old, owners of a sports specialized store. The topics addressed with them were the reasons for the creation of the association, historical changes in the profiles of the entrepreneurs in the neighborhood, and the activities of The Association.
These interviews revealed the importance of the development of cultural tourism, the social dynamics, and the processes that take place in Barrio de las Letras. Guided by the insights provided by the interviews and the information collected from secondary sources, this study developed a 2-part questionnaire. The first part gathered information about the characteristics of the entrepreneurs and small retailers and the commercial actions they conducted. The second part, using the approach developed by Cross and Parker (2004), sought to understand the articulation of the small shops and entrepreneurs’ network [67
] and the extent to which collaboration existed among them, small shops, and cultural institutions of Barrio de Las Letras.
The questionnaire was administered to the members of the Association during November–December 2015, in the district of Barrio de Las Letras. 187 completed questionnaires were collected from the target population of small and medium retail, lodging, services, hospitality, cultural, and historic organizations. The technical details of the data collection are in Table 1
. Social network analysis was applied [68
] to calculate centrality and structural measures, and Gephi software was used to generate graphs and estimate individual network measures, such as degree and betweenness centrality, as well as structural measures such as cohesion.