‘Moments’ and ‘Butterflies’ in the Geographical Political Economy of Tourism Destinations

Authors: Salvador Anton Clave*, Department of Geography, Faculty of Tourism and Geography, Rovira i Virgili University, Julie Wilson*, Faculty of Economics and Business Studies, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya / Open University of Catalonia, Cinta Sanz-Ibáñez, Department of Geography, Faculty of Tourism and Geography, Rovira i Virgili University
Topics: Tourism Geography, Economic Geography
Keywords: Evolutionary Economic Geography; Tourism, Regional Development, Moments, Butterfly framework, Socio-Ecological Resilience, Cultural Political Economy, Tourism Spaces
Session Type: Paper
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This paper responds to the general lack of a critical approach in tourism studies and calls for new interpretative frameworks capable of understanding tourism destination evolution in the context of geographical political economy. Recent research on tourism destination evolution has put forward the concept of ‘moments’ as a possible lens through which to analyse the key inflection points, paths, processes, scapes and flows underpinning tourism destination evolution (Anton Clavé and Wilson, 2016; Sanz Ibañez, Anton Clavé and Wilson, 2016). The ‘moments’ concept is embedded within current thinking on socio-ecological resilience in tourism and evolutionary economic geography (EEG). Importantly, it also embraces the Cultural Political Economy (CPE) approach, whereby political economy and culture are seen as inseparable elements in the geographies of evolving tourism spaces. Taking a predominantly theoretical standpoint, this paper takes the ‘moments’ idea one step further by developing a conceptual framework for visually representing multi-scalar tourism evolution processes – punctuated by ‘moments’ and engulfed in its respective context of scapes and flows. We refer to this representational framework as a ‘butterfly’, due to its visual resemblance to a butterfly’s shape, as well as its metaphorical resonance with the ‘butterfly effect’ in complexity and chaos-related theoretical constructs also present in tourism evolution research. We argue that the ‘moments’ / ‘butterfly’ framework represents a pro-active, critical lens through which to interpret a multitude of destinations, as a major departure from both the Tourism Area Life Cycle and the Urban Restructuring approaches to conceptualising change in tourism places and spaces.

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