RTS Sessions

2019 Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers, April 3rd – 7th

Sponsored Sessions of the Recreation, Tourism, & Sport Specialty Group (further details below):

1. Sports, Spectacle and (Soft) Power

2. Tourism analytics: social media, spatially distributed data and data mining in tourism research

3. China, Tourism and (Soft) Power

4. Mountain Tourism in a Rapidly Changing World: International Perspectives

5. Tourism and the Transformation of Rural and Peri-urban Landscapes

6. Towards a Geographical Political Economy of Tourism: Critical, Relational, and Evolutionary Approaches to Place-based Development

7. Rethinking Engagements with Nature via Tourism

8. Local Actors, Global Implications: Rethinking Tourism and Communities in Development

9. Modern day slavery in global tourism supply chains

10. Digital Technology, Tourism and Geographies of Inequality

11. “Bridging” Remote Regions of the Arctic and Beyond

12. Critical Animal Studies/ Animals in Tourism

13. Urban Games in the Smart, Sustainable and Creative City

14. The future of tourism in Small Island Developing States: seeking sustainable development

15. Emerging Tourism Economies: Impacts on Place and People

16. Heritage Tourism and (In)Authenticity: gentrification, spaces of imagination, interpretation and placemaking



1. Climate Change and a New Economic Geography of Tourism

2: Recentering Tourism Geographies in the ‘Asian Century’


Please contact the session organizers directly to inquire about including your paper.

Note: The AAG accepts all submitted abstracts and organized sessions for presentation. The registration fee must be paid prior to abstract submission. You may only submit one abstract for presentation and be a panelist in one panel session. If you opt not to submit an abstract, you may be a panelist twice. There is no limit on how many sessions you may organize. More info at: AAG submissions



PANEL 1: Climate change and a new economic geography of tourism

Organizers: Dimitri Ioannides (Mid-Sweden University, Östersund, Sweden) & Keith Debbage (University of North Carolina, Greensboro, NC)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently stressed the necessity for society to act immediately to avoid the critical threshold of surpassing a 1.5 degree Celsius temperature rise in the next few years. The long-term implications of climate change are increasingly likely to profoundly reshape the economic geography of tourism. The purpose of this panel discussion is to articulate the broad parameters of these changes in the near future. Some of this discussion will include:

  • Impacts on the economic geography of the airline industry. Air transport remains the main challenge given the intense carbon emissions associated with air travel. Discussion could focus on the best ways to mitigate environmental impacts through emissions trading, carbon offsets, incentives and taxes or simply decreasing air travel frequency or the number of connecting flights
  • Impacts on the geography of origin-destination tourist flows.  Changing climate and ‎weather patterns at tourist destinations and ‎tourist generating countries ‎will likely lead to changing demand patterns and tourist flows will have impacts on tourism ‎businesses ‎and on host communities, as well as knock off effects on ‎related sectors, such as agriculture, ‎handicrafts or construction.
  • Impacts on the economic geography of resorts and accommodation patterns. Discussion could focus on how sea-level rise and more acidic oceans will threaten coastal tourism infrastructure and natural attractions. Rising temperatures will shorten winter sport seasons and threaten the viability of some ski resorts. Climate change will lead to changes in biodiversity, affecting eco-tourism.

How these potential macro-scale environmental changes re-shape the economic geographies of tourism literature is of crucial theoretical importance? What does this all mean for neoliberal tourism, an evolutionary economic geography of tourism, innovation and tourism entrepreneurship, and other related theoretical interests?


PANEL 2: Recentering Tourism Geographies in the ‘Asian Century’
Co-Organizers: Mary Mostafanzehad, Harng Luh Sin and Joseph Cheer
Participants: Alan Lew (Northern Arizona University), Regina Scheyvens (Massey University), Chris Gibson (University of Wollongong), Sanjay Nepal (University of Waterloo), Tim Oakes (University of Colorado-Boulder), Xiaobo Su (University of Oregon)




16. Heritage Tourism and (In)Authenticity: gentrification, spaces of imagination, interpretation and placemaking

Session organizer: Dr Jane Lovell, Canterbury Christ Church University, Jane.Lovell@Canterbury.ac.uk

Participants will assess the issues involved in the authenticity and inauthenticity of historic places, for example through processes of cultural gentrification, re-heritagisation, reconstruction or reenactment.
This discussion explores the geographies of authenticity. Acts of authentication, both tangible and intangible, occur on granular and meta scales in a variety of locations, ranging from marked heritage sites to theme parks, ruins, new waterfront developments, trails and hipsterised cityscapes. Staged authenticity (MacCannell, 1973) is an international concept, providing a wide-angled lens through which performed authenticity can be explored, including the use of heritage sites and cities as stage sets. The session identifies how providing an authentic backstory is increasingly germane to placemaking through everyday acts of interpretation,  for example by interpreting the production processes behind locally distinctive food and drink. New narratives and traditions such as connectedness to film locations show how phenomena such as “Harry Potterisation” develop in historic cities. In addition, the experiential consumption of events at historic sites may incorporate transformative aspects of inauthenticity and authenticity by inventing traditions, constructing identity politics, preserve indigenous values and objects, or commodifying the past.
Papers are welcome on the following (and other) topics:
• Imagined geographies
• New narratives of urban heritage
• Memorialisation
• Gentrification
• Theming
• Heritage interpretation
• Theme park heritage
• Film location tourism
• Nostalgia
• Literary sites and memorialisation
• Re-enactment events
• Invented traditions
• Hyperreality
Revisiting the topic of authenticity in the heritage environment has never been so relevant. New research develops different discourses and perceptions of the authentic and inauthentic (Lovell and Bull, 2017; Rickly and Vidon, 2018).The term post-authenticity (Labadi, 2010, p.78) has been used to describe the inseparable mix of fake and real styles in the built heritage environment and postmodern theories suggest that we are beyond separating the real from the copy. With the rise of post-truth, ‘authentic’ politicians, fake news and the concept that we live in a world of hyperreality and spectacle, there has been what amounts to a popular ‘authenticity turn’ or, more accurately, an ‘inauthenticity turn’. Discussing these issues in the context of heritage sites will ensure a highly stimulating session.



15. Emerging Tourism Economies: Impacts on Place and People

Organizers: Kelsey Brain (Penn State University) and Karly Miller (University of California Santa Barbara)
Specialty Group Sponsors: Cultural & Political Ecology, Development Geographies, Latin America

Both short-stay (vacation) and long-stay (residential) tourisms have increased significantly in the past two decades, and this growth is most dramatic in low-income countries. Globally, international tourist arrivals more than doubled between 1995 and 2016, and the number of international arrivals to the United Nation-identified ‘Least Developed Countries’ grew more than six fold (World Bank, 2018). This significant increase in short-stay and long-stay tourism over two decades has led to the emergence of ​new tourist destinations​ around the globe, places that are marked by the rapid creation of tourism-based economies, construction of resorts and/or residential communities, and an influx of short- or long-stay tourists who are often more privileged in terms of socio-economic class, racial group, and/or home country than local community members (Hayes 2015).

Although the World Tourism Organization promotes tourism development as one of the best ways to increase wealth and improve well-being for impoverished areas (2010), geographers and other scholars have demonstrated that ​emerging tourism economies ​impact local communities in complex ways, both positive and negative (Telfer & Sharpley 2015). Critical scholars have argued that the emergence of new short- and long-stay tourist destinations is embedded in colonial and postcolonial systems (Benson 2013; Mollett 2016) and patriarchal and racialized hierarchies (Christian 2013; Williams 2013), which shape the positions and experiences of locals and tourists.

We invite paper contributions for a session at the 2019 AAG in Washington D.C. to address the recent emergence of economies and landscapes built for short-stay and/or long-stay tourism. ​We particularly encourage papers that approach this topic from critical perspectives using political ecology, feminist, critical race, or postcolonial theories, among others.

Papers could address any of the following topics. How does the emergence of tourism economies shape the everyday lives and experiences of local community members? How are emerging tourism economies related to changes in livelihoods, natural resource use, governance, well-being, inequality, or violence in local communities? How do the emergence of short-term tourism and long-term tourism (e.g. residential tourism, amenity or lifestyle migration) relate to one another? How does state power and control influence the emergence of tourism economies? What are the connections between emerging short- and long-stay tourisms, illicit activities, and state response?

Dr. Lise Nelson, Associate Professor of Geography and Women’s Studies at Pennsylvania State University, will be a discussant for this session, so we will ask you to submit either your full papers or a short version of your paper ten days before the AAG in order to give Dr. Nelson time to prepare her remarks.

If you are interested in participating, please email your abstract to Kelsey Brain, ​kjb5816@psu.edu​, and Karly Miller, ​karly.marie.miller@gmail.com​, by October 18, 2018. We will notify participants of acceptance to the session by October 23.


Works Cited:

Benson, M. 2013. Postcoloniality and privilege in new lifestyle flows: The case of North Americans in Panama. ​Mobilities 8​ (3): 313-330.

Christian, M. 2013. ‘…Latin American without the downside’: Racial exceptionalism and global tourism in Costa Rica. ​Ethnic and Racial Studies, Special Issue: Rethinking Race, Racism, Identity, and Ideology in Latin America, 3​ 6(10): 1599-1618.

Hayes, M. 2015. Introduction: The emerging lifestyle migration industry and geographies of transnationalism, mobility and displacement in Latin America. ​Journal of Latin American Geography14(1).

Mollett, S. 2016. The power to plunder: Rethinking land grabbing in Latin America. ​Antipode, ​48(2): 412-432.

Telfer, D., & R. Sharpley. 2015. Assessing the impacts of tourism. In ​Tourism and Development in the Developing World 2nd ed., 1​ 74-204. London: Routledge.

United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). 2010. Tourism and Poverty Alleviation. step.unwto.org/content/… (Accessed 9/6/2018).

Williams, E.L. 2013. Racial hierarchies of desire and the specter of sex tourism. In ​Sex Tourism in Bahia, 44-63. Champaign: University of Illinois Press.

World Bank. 2018. International tourism, number of arrivals. data.worldbank.org/indicator/ST.INT.ARVL?view=map (Accessed 9/6/2018).



14. The future of tourism in Small Island Developing States: seeking sustainable development

 Organizer: Regina Scheyvens (Massey University)

Tourism continues to be a major economic driver in many Small Island Developing States (SIDS), and its growth is thus relentlessly pursued by many donors and most host governments. Statistics readily proclaim the economic success of the industry, whether in terms of export revenues earned, job creation, contribution to GDP or overall growth in numbers of arrivals. Simultaneously, tourism is often positioned in our imaginaries as a ‘soft’ or ‘benign’ industry that is environmentally sustainable while also one that can deliver on guest pleasures and bring multiple benefits to ‘hosts’. It seems that much is expected of tourism. Indeed, in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which are guiding global development through to 2030, tourism is one of the few economic sectors that is mentioned across a number of the goals with SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), 12 (responsible consumption and production) and 14 (life below water), referring directly to tourism in their targets. From a critical perspective, it could be suggested that tourism, and its potential to contribute to sustainable development, receives excessive – and overly positive – attention in development discussions and in planning for development in the Global South, particularly in SIDS.

In attracting tourists, island states of the Pacific and Indian Oceans and the Caribbean Sea trade heavily on images of pristine sandy beaches and crystal clear tropical waters teeming with marine life. The reality, however, is that tourism places enormous pressure on waste management systems on islands and that vulnerable coastal ecosystems are often degraded in the process of resort construction and operations (McElroy 2003). The strain of ‘overtourism’ is evident too in popular island destinations such as Bali, Indonesia and Maya Bay in Thailand (the latter made popular via the filming of the movie, The Beach) (Milano et al. 2018). In other locations it is claimed that friendliness and traditional hospitality towards tourists is declining, largely because residents are dealing with the negative impacts of tourism while not getting a fair share of its benefits (Cook Islands News, 2016).

This session thus aims to bring together researchers who take a critical perspective on the sustainable development potential of tourism in SIDS. Relevant topics could include, but are not limited to:

  • overtourism in SIDS with respect to, for example, degraded environments, pressure on infrastructure, and the socio-cultural burden
  • critiques of growth-based discourses around tourism development in SIDS
  • the potential and limitations of tourism in SIDS in terms of delivering on specific Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  • threats to the viability of tourism in SIDS due to climate change-induced sea level rise, more frequent and severe storms etc.
  • measuring sustainability of tourism in SIDS
  • positive examples of strategies for ensuring sustainable development of tourism in SIDS.

If you are interested in participating in this session, please send an abstract of up to 250 words to Regina (r.a.scheyvens@massey.ac.nz) by 21 October. You will hear back from me within two days. NB the abstract submission and conference registration process with the AAG must be completed by October 25, 2018.


Cook Islands News (2016) Call for locals to get more from tourism. 17 November 2016. Retrieved from http://www.cookislandsnews.com/item/61755-call-for-locals-to-get-more-from-tourism

McElroy, J.L. (2003) Tourism Development in Small Islands across the World Geografiska Annaler. Series B, Human Geography 85 (4), pp. 231-242

Milano, C., Cheer, J. & Novelli, M. (2018) Overtourism: a growing problem. The Conversation. 18 July 2018. Retrieved from http://theconversation.com/overtourism-a-growing-global-problem-100029.



13. Urban Games in the Smart, Sustainable and Creative City

Session Organizers: Dale Leorke, University of Tampere (Finland), Marcus Owens, University of California-Berkeley

Session Sponsors: Digital Geographies, Urban Geography

This session seeks papers that examine intersections between game studies and urban geography. Specifically, we seek papers that explore the ways urban games can serve as a conceptual link between contemporary urban discourses including the economic exigencies of the “creative city” the environmental strategies of “the sustainable city,” and the technological optimization of “smart city.” This may include comparative case studies, such as those that examine the ways in which urban games complicate, contradict, or complement visions of the near-future smart city as seamless, responsive, and adaptable to the challenges of urban life and infrastructural management. In addition to comparative case studies, this might also include genealogies of urban games that reveal intersections between the gamification of the city and smart, creative and sustainably discourses. For example, the relationship between play the integration of games in mid-century plans for Silicon Valley office parks, and the increasing prominence of “playful” tech office landscapes. What is the historical relationship between games and urban discourses surrounding sustainability, creativity and “smartness?” How are games both assimilated within urban governance – through investment in game development and startups, civic games, and gamification tools – and mobilised as a counter to it?  How might urban games reflect broader transformations of labour within the digital era, and how can game studies contribute to a better understanding of contemporary processes of urbanization?
Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words to Dale Leorke dleorke@gmail.com and Marcus Owens (mowens@berkeley.edu) by Thursday Oct. 20th so that papers can be submitted to the AAG before the Oct. 25th deadline. We have been contacted by a publisher about producing an edited volume from this session, so please indicate in your abstract whether you would be interested in such a project.



12. Critical Animal Studies/ Animals in Tourism

Session Organizer: Carol Kline at klinecs@appstate.edu

The aim of this call is to cultivate awareness on ethical and sustainability issues related to the use of animals within the context of tourism. Ideally, paper sessions would encompass international and/or geographical perspectives and provide a mix of theoretical and applied knowledge, as well as case studies. Animal welfare within the tourism industry was illuminated in 2012 with Fennell’s book Tourism and Animal Ethics. A growing body exists within peer-reviewed journals, however the majority of these published works address the topics of zoos, marine animals in tourism (the majority on whale-watching), with some but still less attention paid to elephants and primates. Many other topics are missing from the literature. For example, the specific issue of animals as food for tourists has been neglected until most recently [Animals, Food & Tourism (2018) and Tourism Experiences and Animal Consumption, 2018)].

The paper sessions, while making a contribution to the increased importance being placed on socially responsible and sustainable tourism development, also joins a broader interdisciplinary social science trend that examines the entangled relationships between humans and other species, with particular attention being devoted to non-human animals. This “animal turn” in social science recognizes that animals are more than the reflection of human values and meanings. Rather, as scholars suggest, human-animal relations are much more complicated and there has been significant attention devoted to the ethical dimensions of multispecies encounters. An analysis defining, treating, and commodifying animals in the context of tourism would be a provocative extension of geography studies, as well as encompass concepts from a range of other disciplines (e.g. management and marketing, sociology, animal science, supply chain management, communication, philosophy and ethics).

Specifically, paper topics might address the environmental effects of animal production, animal agency and sentience, the supply chain for animal experiences, the cache of exotic or endangered animals, political-economy views of animals, the imagery or portrayal of animals in media and marketing, methods of demand reduction, and cultural interpretations of animals within tourism. The triple-bottom line of economics, society, and environment should provide a connective thread throughout the topics. Also papers may explore contradicting and paradoxical ethical perspectives, whether those contradictions exist between government and industries, between tourism and other industries, or whether they lie within ourselves. Examples of the many ways that animals are leveraged in tourism include:

  • Wildlife-watching/ photography
  • Hunting
  • Fishing
  • Entertainment (circuses, zoos, Seaworld, etc.)
  • Sport or racing (e.g. dog sledding, cock fighting)
  • Pack animals (e.g. donkeys, llamas, elephants)
  • Animals parts within souvenirs and art
  • Animals as food (e.g. regional specialities, business celebrations, festivals)
  • Religious ceremonies
  • Sanctuaries: both legitimate and debased
  • Agritourism
  • Hawkers and street vendors
  • Wildlife trafficking
  • Tourism-based conservation programs
  • Last chance tourism

Paper session abstracts of 500 words are due by November 1, 2018 and should be emailed to Carol Kline at klinecs@appstate.edu


11. “Bridging” Remote Regions of the Arctic and Beyond

Organizers: Vera Kuklina, George Washington University; Jeremy Tasch, Towson University

Other Specialty Group Sponsors: Eurasian, Polar, and Transportation SGs

Remoteness from centers of political authority and finance remains one of the key characteristics associated with Arctic regions (Berman & Howe, 2013; Huskey & Morehouse, 1992) and is considered an articulation of state power or, rather, lack of it (e.g. Ardener, 1987; Scott, 1998). In geographical studies it is often placed in opposition to accessibility, which in the latest work by Weiss et al. (2018) is considered a function of distance, transport infrastructure, and the spatial distribution of cities. Anthropologists have enumerated the variety of other factors that facilitate and limit mobilities in remote communities (Aporta, 2004; Argounova-Law, 2012; Konstantinov, 2009; Schweitzer, Povoroznyuk, & Schiesser, 2017; Vakhtin, 2017 to name a few) but very rarely by geographers (see Kuklina & Holland, 2018). While most mobility practices remain hidden from official statistical data, with the application of new technologies and the chase for natural resources, remote regions—in the Arctic and elsewhere—are experiencing a boom of industrial development.  The common lack of state resources to provide mobility for local communities, together with unreliable data regarding the mobilities of extractive companies operating in remote regions has led to a proliferation of different transportation strategies and practices which we propose to examine, using the notion of “informal transport” (Cervero, 2000).

This session aims to advance the geographical study of remoteness and accessibility based on theoretically and empirically grounded studies of in/formal transport not only in remote Arctic regions but indeed invites case studies from other non-Arctic regions. The range of possible themes is broad and includes:

  • “Bridging” (as in bridging two ends that may not otherwise meet; the formation of a mediated space between different sets of values; and/or a conscious effort to connect individuals and groups of people through the creation of common groundliterally and/or metaphorically);
  • Movement off and beyond official roads, and reconceptualization of the notion of “road,” including “Sea Routes,” “River Roads,” Railroads,” “Communication Networks,”  and so forth;
  • Non-motorized and motorized vehicles operating outside of state regulations;
  • Cooperative transport services beyond the state;
  • Mediating local environments for mobility;
  • Informal mobilities in local communities;
  • Arctic Tourist Routes.

Interested participants should submit abstracts (under 250 words) to Vera Kuklina (Jtasch@towson.edu) and Jeremy Tasch (vvkuklina@gmail.com)by October 05, 2018.



10. Digital Technology, Tourism and Geographies of Inequality

Organizers: Julia Giddy and Fabian Frenzel

Tourism is undergoing major changes in the advent of social media networks and other forms of digital technology. This has affected a number of tourism related processes including marketing, destination making, travel experiences and visitor feedback but also various tourism subsectors, like hospitality, transportation and tour operators. Largely overlooked, however, are the effects of these changes on questions concerning inequality. Therefore, the aim of this session is to chart this relatively unexplored territory concerning the influence of technologically enhanced travel and tourism on development and inequality.

In the wake of the digital revolution and its emerging possibilities, early debates in tourism studies have been dominated by a belief that new technologies are able to overcome or at least reduce inequality. These technologies, arguably, have emancipatory potential, inter alia, by increasing the visibility of neglected groups, neighborhoods or areas, by lowering barriers of entry into tourism service provision for low-income groups or by democratizing the designation what is considered valuable heritage. They also, however, may have homogenizing effects, for example by subjecting formerly excluded spaces to global regimes of real estate speculation or by undermining existing labour market regimes and standards in the transport and hospitality industries. These latter effects have played a part in triggering anti-tourism protests in a range of cities across the world.

In this session we aim, specifically, to interrogate these phenomena along two vectors: mobility and inequality.

We invite contributions that analyze platform economy companies such as Airbnb, TripAdvisor or Uber with regards to urban transformation, neighborhood development, inequality and social justice. We also welcome papers that investigate a wide range of social media relating to the representation and reproduction of livelihoods and struggles. Methodologically we hope to attract applications of new tools for research, by working with big data analysis, netnographic approaches, but also more conventional qualitative research methods. Conceptually, the session is open for a range of perspectives to study tourism geography, by linking organization and business studies with geography, sociology, and media studies expertise.

PLEASE SUBMIT YOUR ABSTRACT TO Julia Giddy (juliag@uj.ac.za) or Fabian Frenzel (ff48@le.ac.uk) BY 31 OCTOBER 2018.


9. Modern day slavery in global tourism supply chains

Session organisers: Joseph M. Cheer, Monash University, Australia, joseph.cheer@monash.edu; Harng Luh Sin, National University of Singapore, hlsin@nus.edu.sg; Jarkko Saarinen, University of Oulu, Finland, jarkko.saarinen@oulu.fi

The association between modern day slavery practices and global tourism has rarely been made explicit. This is in contrast to attention given to the sweat shops of the Global South as seen in textiles and clothing manufacture, and agricultural supply chains where human exploitation and precarity are commonplace. In defining modern day slavery (the terms new or contemporary slavery are also assumed), conceptualising it in political economy and legal terms is implicit and necessary. As van den Anker (2004, p. 15) outlines, “Contemporary forms of slavery exist in all regions of the world, in the form of dangerous and exploitative types of child labour, trafficking, bonded labour and chattel slavery”. Moreover, where in comes to the prevalence and persistence of modern day slavery, “there is a historic consensus that justice requires the end of slavery (van den Anker, p. 18). In providing a baseline for modern slavery, Allain (2012) highlights that according to “Article 1(1) of the 1926 Slavery Convention: Slavery is the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised.” Importantly, as Allain (2012, p. 218) is at pains to point out, “whether a practice is called slavery or forced labour or serfdom, is of no legal importance, instead what is important is whether, in substance, the practice manifests the exercise of any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership” (2012, p. 218), and that “the only imperative is that legal certainty be established by drawing a line as between what is and what is not, in law, slavery” (2012, p. 219).

The implications for aligning modern day slavery with tourism is profound because although tourism has become ever more prominent across the global landscape, it has largely evaded scrutiny where connotations of modern slavery have been made. Where linkage has been made, these have been attributed to more visible manifestations as seen in human rights abuses in sex tourism, breaches of labour rights in building and construction and the hospitality and services supply chains. This has persisted despite the push for more sustainable, resilient and responsible tourism, and the presence of modern day slavery in global tourism supply chains, especially that which is hidden and less obvious, is largely under acknowledged. This is mirrored in relevant scholarly discourses, most noticeably in tourism geographies where geographies of compassion (Mostafanezhad, 2013), responsible geographies (Saarinen, 2014), moral geographies (Sin, 2010) and geographies of marginalisation (Cheer, 2018) have gained momentum, but these have largely neglected placing global tourism within the constructs of modern day slavery.

One exception to this is orphanage tourism where the links to modern day slavery practices have been made recently on account of the extent to which children have become subjected to underpinning tenets of what constitutes modern slavery (Cheer, Mathews & Guiney, 2019; Cheer, Mathews, Goldsworthy & Kanodia, 2017). In broad terms, this includes the deprivation of freedom, deception, unfair work and bondage, among other transgressions. One example that showcases the accepted urgencies to rid tourism of modern day slavery are measures in Australia that are being taken to enact legislation that will make partaking in or promoting orphanage tourism illegal. This is already having an impact in tourism supply chains with leading companies Intrepid Travel and World Challenge no longer including orphanage visits on itineraries.

The aims of this session are to:

  1. Draw scholarly attention to modern slavery practices in tourism
  2. Articulate more clearly the occurrence of modern slavery practices and describe it as such rather than have the phenomena obfuscated as something less intense
  3. Outline modern slavery practices in critical tourism geography terms
  4. Develop a journal Special Issue on modern day slavery practices in tourism

We welcome presentations and papers that encounter research contexts where modern day slavery practices are evident in the global and/or local tourism supply chain. Additionally, we urge contributions that may be at the margins of what might constitute modern day slavery practices in tourism and are cognisant that the related fields of research are still emerging.

Abstracts of 250-300 words should be submitted to joseph.cheer@monash.edu by Monday October 8 for consideration. Please ensure that at the very least, abstracts outline context, methods and research materials (if applicable), key findings and conclusions.



8. Local Actors, Global Implications: Rethinking Tourism and Communities in Development

Organizers: Sanjay Nepal, University of Waterloo (Canada; Jarkko Saarinen, University of Oulu (Finland)/University of Johannesburg (South Africa)

Involvement of communities in tourism development and practices have long been of interest to geographers. However, the idea of “community” is complex and challenging for research and it has been often conceptualized in rather confusing and inconsistent manner. Often times interpreted as territorially bounded, and somewhat homogeneous in their characteristics, underlying tensions of ethnicity, class, and gender have been ignored or less emphasized to offer an ideal, standard, nostalgized or even sanitized interpretations of what community means as a concept or as a unit of analysis. Similarly, it is acknowledged that tourism industry has a great potential to provide major benefits to its destination communities, but that costs of tourism may outweigh benefits is less acknowledged, or at least attempts are not made to disclose likely negative consequences of tourism to local communities. For example, recently the World Bank Group published a report titled ‘Tourism for Development: 20 Reasons Sustainable Tourism Counts for Development’, which demonstrates the developmental promise the tourism industry has in global and national policy-making arenas. However, development policies and plans do not always succeed or serve all the key stakeholders which may result negative consequences. In relation to local communities and ethnic groups these negative consequences can include land use and access issues, commodification of natural and cultural resources, and marginalization of communities’ needs. This is the case especially in peripheral regions, where tourism systems often are characterized by dependency, inequalities, enclave development, and leakages. Local community protests of tourism development are now reported widely, both by mainstream media and tourism researchers.

This session aims to provide renewed focus on communities as the cornerstone of successful tourism development strategies. The potential for sustainable livelihood strategies through tourism is often acknowledged in the literature; however, very few concrete and successful examples of symbiosis between tourism, livelihoods and community engagement have been reported. Some of the challenges relate to conceptions of community, while others relate to tourism development perceived as “either/or” alternative. Tourism may often be problematic given the contested and entrenched nature of its development, diverse stakeholder groups with differing perspectives, interests and positions, and historically embedded issues of race and class differentiation, for example. We seek papers which aim to provide new perspectives on community identities and meanings, local resistance, tourism ethics and social and environmental justice.

If you are interested in participating in the session: Please send abstract (max. 250 words) to Sanjay Nepal (snepal@uwaterloo.ca) or Jarkko Saarinen (jarkko.saarinen@oulu.fi) on or before October 20, 2019. 



7. Rethinking Engagements with Nature via Tourism

Session Organizers: Dr. Elizabeth Vidon, SUNY-ESF, USA; Dr. Jillian Rickly, University of Nottingham, UK 

Tourism has changed the way we engage with nature. It can facilitate new experiences in different environs and alter the way we interact with familiar ones. Tourism marketing presents nature, wilderness, and wildlife as accessible, and experiences within them as available for purchase. As tourists, we capture photogenic moments and share encounters with nature via social media. Collectively, this seems to suggest that while tourism may offer the potential for greater interaction with nature, this engagement is increasingly mediated on several fronts.

This session casts a wide net. We are interested in creating a dialogue that (re)considers engagements with nature via tourism, either corporeally or virtually – to wit, the ways our engagements with nature have been mediated, filtered, enhanced, or changed in some way by tourism. While engagements with nature may take the form of anything from a walk through one’s backyard to an intense climb in the Himalayas, tourism has informed and impacted even the most prosaic of these activities through expectation, experience, image, and embodiment. Indeed, while tourism has in many ways collapsed the extraordinary and the everyday, new questions arise as to the implications of our engagement with nature via tourism. Most notably, we must ask about our responsibility to the places we visit and how our behavior in both the real and virtual world affects the resilience of such destinations.

We welcome relevant papers in various stages of completion for this session. If you are interested in participating in the session: in addition to registering your abstract for the conference on the AAG website, please submit a copy of your abstract along with your AAG PIN to Elizabeth Vidon (esvidon@esf.edu) and Jillian Rickly (Jillian.Rickly@nottingham.ac.uk) no later than 10/25/18 If you have any questions or need further information about the session, please do not hesitate to get in touch.



6. Towards a Geographical Political Economy of Tourism: Critical, Relational, and Evolutionary Approaches to Place-based Development

Organizers: Salvador.Anton@urv.cat, Jarkko.Saarinen@oulu.fi, & Patrick.Brouder@viu.ca. 

Under the broad umbrella of tourism studies there is a great section of research which has been lambasted for lacking a critical approach. This includes studies of the tourism economy, which are often regarded as being applied, industry-oriented, uncritical exercises that are mainly designed to describe the economy and track its most basic economic impacts. Within tourism geographies, however, there is a pro-active approach to critical studies of tourism in a place-based context, including critical studies of tourism destination economies. This session connects these studies, which are most often conceptually refined and empirically supported, and calls for a movement of tourism economic research towards a geographical political economy of tourism. Geographical political economy is an approach where ‘the spatialities of capitalism co-evolve with its economic processes and economic, political, cultural and biophysical processes are co-implicated with one another’ (Sheppard, 2010, p.319). Any geographical political economy of tourism should be fully cognizant of the uneven geographies of tourism development (Mosedale, 2015), and how destination development is a multiscalar and continuous process (or set of processes) co-evolving with any socio-economic, political, cultural and ecological processes at play in the destination region. In this session, we will discuss the conceptual and empirical potential of a geographical political economy of tourism.

We welcome papers covering, but not limited to:

  • political economy and ecology approaches to tourism development
  • evolutionary studies of tourism destination economies
  • resilient regions and tourism development
  • critical tourism geographies of place-based development
  • green economy and other transitions in tourism
  • adaptive approaches to destination transformation
  • relational approaches to destination development
  • cultural economies and community economic development

Draft abstracts should be submitted to us by September 30th, 2018, and once accepted they must be uploaded to the AAG system by October 25th, 2018, (and registration must be completed and paid for in order to do this, for more info please visit: annualmeeting.aag.org/register). This session is jointly sponsored by the AAG Recreation, Tourism & Sport Specialty Group and the IGU Commission on Geography of Tourism, Leisure and Global Change.


Mosedale, J. (ed.) (2015). Neoliberalism and the Political Economy of Tourism. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

Sheppard, E. (2010). Geographical Political Economy. Journal of Economic Geography, 11(2), 319-331.



5. Tourism and the Transformation of Rural and Peri-urban Landscapes

Organizers: Tsung-chiung  (Emily) Wu, National Donghua University, Taiwan, tcwu@gms.ndhu.edu.tw and Alan A. Lew, Northern Arizona University, alan.lew@nau.edu

The traditional rural countryside holds unique natural and cultural conditions that are clearly differentiated from the hard and busy nature of modern city life. The rural landscape and atmosphere offers respite from the shackles of urban life and an opportunity to enhance one’s well-being and spiritual connections to the earth. However, as part of a postmodern shift in the relationship between the rural and urban, we can no longer isolated the rural from the overall stimulus of a global economic environment. Rural landscapes today are transforming into pluralistic models of development, in which traditional industries (such as agriculture) are diversified to create new, value-added rural supply, with new entrants emerging in many economic sectors, including tourism, food, nature conservation, holiday/second/vocational homesteads, and “New Agriculture” (organic and other alternative farming methods). These influences are forming a new economic system that is interweaving urban and rural values, moneys, peoples, and politics. Tourism has come to play a crucial role in the transition from traditional systems to a countryside that is integrated with urban consumptions patterns in far more diverse ways than ever before. What was once rural is now a peri-urban leisure and recreation playground, that is becoming as diverse as the complex, multi-cultural cities that have been the core of modern power since the industrial revolution.

This session seeks papers that contribute to our understanding of tourism as a leading tentacle of urban power that is changing the political, economic and built landscapes of peri-urban rural places. We hope to raise questions as to what/who/why/how today’s tourism/leisure/recreation is motivating/compelling/benefiting and not emerging rural landscapes, recognizing that there are both optimistic and pessimistic perceptions, discourses and understandings of this phenomenon.



4. Mountain Tourism in a Rapidly Changing World: International Perspectives

Organizers: Dr. Rudi Hartmann, University of Colorado Denver, USA;  Dr. Marius Mayer, University of Greifswald, German;  Dr. Sanjay K. Nepal, University of Waterloo, Canada

Mountain areas worldwide are often inhabited by marginalized people, and are especially vulnerable due to the impacts of global change. For many predominantly rural and peripheral mountain regions, tourism has become an important source of income and job creation, and social and cultural revival. However, the nexus between tourism and global change in mountain areas shows a Janus face: Tourism is both one of the major drivers of change in these areas, and at the same time it is subject to the consequences of global change, for instance global warming and its repercussions on snow reliability or natural hazards.

Thus, mountain tourism is an ideal topic for geographical analysis due to its inherent and complex intermingling of economic, social and environmental factors shaping its experience and influencing its development. In addition to the usual multi-scalar perspective in geography, research on mountain tourism always has to consider the vertical as well as seasonal dimension. Both show often strong influences on tourism development in terms of the range of possible leisure activities.

The mountains of the world are nevertheless highly diverse in terms of climate, geomorphology, population, culture, land use, tourism development, etc., and are consequently confronted with a wide array of often completely different problems and trends. For example, if one compares valleys in the Himalayas, the Andes or the European Alps, challenges and opportunities in those valleys are as diverse as their topographic and landscape forms. From a human geography perspective, recent approaches such as resilience, evolutionary economic geography, choice modelling, amongst others, are relevant to mountain tourism issues.

This session aims to (a) identifying current international trends in mountain tourism (climate change adaptation, migration and demographic change, changing social and cultural practices connections of ski areas, technology diffusion etc.) and their often intermingling consequences, (b) analyzing disparities in mountain tourism development on different spatial scales and (c) assessing and discussing impacts of mountain tourism development for spatial planning, nature protection, regional economies and local livelihoods.

We invite papers focused on the above themes in the context of mountain tourism. Please send your expressions of interest or abstract on or before October 20, 2018, to one of the organizers: Rudi Hartmann (Rudi.Hartmann@ucdenver.edu); Marius Mayer (marius.mayer@uni-greifswald.de); Sanjay Nepal (snepal@uwaterloo.ca).


3. China, Tourism and (Soft) Power

Organizers: Michael O’Regan, PhD, Bournemouth University, United Kingdom, and Jaeyeon Choe, PhD, Bournemouth University, United Kingdom.

While there has been considerable scholarly work on soft power and the Belt and Road initiative (BRI) in China, the political and economic investment in tourism deserves greater attention. Whereas the number of trips abroad taken by Chinese citizens was in the tens of thousands in the 1980s, the current figure is well over 130m. While it may remain a marginal phenomenon in demographic or trade terms, tourism is a crucial issue in contemporary China, a major object of governmentality and a means to push soft power initiatives to receptive countries. As China exercises soft power using outbound tourism (and arts and culture more broadly), the growth of Chinese tourism has on the surface benefited the economies of Southeast Asian countries, who were traditionally reliant on long-haul, seasonal travellers from the west.

However, the confluence of tourism with nationalism and soft power agendas in China has seen recent ‘unofficial’ boycotts and tourist ‘bans’ in Palau, South Korea and Taiwan. Tourism has also been used to enforce the construction of borders and boundaries in the South China Sea. Just as many countries have eased their visa requirements for Chinese tourists, China has increasingly sough to police ‘low-end’ tourists who might undermine the Chinese authorities as they attempt to boost their influence on the international stage. The authorities have sought to attract members of the overseas Chinese community to Chinese through Root-Seeking Tour Summer Camps, organized by the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council, so as to teach the Chinese language and culture. Meanwhile, overseas Chinese ‘Tuidang’ (meaning “quit the CCP”) volunteers and Falun Gong practitioner’s interact with Chinese tourists in popular tourist locations around the globe. Questions have emerged about the linkages between tourism and politics, tourism and human rights, tourism and international migration patterns, and the impact of Chinese tourists on Chinese society.

These questions place the landscapes of Chinese tourists into a broader context. It demands geographers consider transregional dynamics and politics, to explore tourism’s broader links to Chinese strategic interests. Chinese media increasingly highlight the growth of outbound tourism to particular counties, potential revenue and links to BRI. While pitched as tourism projects, China has been accused of hiding its search for political and military influence through tourism. Tourism project have been seen to embed infrastructure that supports the development of trade routes (global network of rail, roads, ports, pipelines, fibre-optic cables). Does Chinese investment bring wealth, or is it mainly kept within a closed loop of overseas Chinese communities and businesses?

In Forest City, Johor Bahru (Malaysia), Chinese tourists are encouraged to buy Chinese-built apartments in a US$100 billion development mean to boast international schools, shopping malls, hotels and an immigration center for approximately 700,000 Chinese residents. The construction of the $1.4bn (£1.1bn) Port City project in Sri Lanka by the state-owned Chinese engineering firm China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) on 665 acres (2.6 sq km) of land is been marketing as a new Dubai, with luxury hotels, shopping malls and a marina. In Koh Kong’s Botum Sakor and Kiri Sakor districts in Cambodia, Union Development Group (UDG), a subsidiary of state-owned Chinese real estate developer Wanlong Group control around 20% of the Cambodia’s total coastline, as they develop the US$3.8 billion Dara Sakor project. It is expected to offer a port, an airport, hotels and a golf course. Others projects include the ‘Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone’ in Laos and MNC Lido City in Indonesia.

While China pledges that BRI will be open, transparent and environmentally friendly, many of these projects lack transparency and accountability. There are concerns that the standard 99-year leases for these project will lead to social, economic and environmental challenges, such as opaque funding, exorbitant claims of their tourism potential, corruption, and population displacement. Questions are emerging as the differences between these projects and the past/current ones dominated by the West? For example, the involvement of the Asia Infrastructure and Investment Bank (AIIB) in tourism projects, such as the Mandalika Urban and Tourism Infrastructure Project in Indonesia has been questioned.

While the BRI spans 65 different countries, Chinese tourism, more broadly, holds the potential to redefine tourism, infrastructure, economies and even the governance of many more countries, as Beijing establishes its own norms, rules and institutions. We invite scholars to submit theoretical, case studies and empirical research to address the above questions, for the purpose of expanding our understanding of Chinese outbound tourism. This session seeks papers that address Chinese outbound tourism of all kinds, which might include:

  • Chinese outbound tourism and migration.
  • Discourses around the ‘Chinese tourist’ in the west and China.
  • Case studies on BRI linked tourism projects.
  • Tourism and the construction of borders and boundaries.
  • The Political Economy of Tourism Development.
  • Political Geographies.
  • Anti-Chinese rhetoric.
  • Historical evolution of Chinese tourism policy.
  • Key themes within China’s tourism policy narratives.
  • Opposition to specific forms of Chinese tourism e.g. Casinos.
  • Chinese Tourism Development and Sustainability.
  • Chinese Tourism and Geopolitics (bans, boycotts).
  • BRI projects and intercultural communications.

Interested participants should submit an abstract (under 250 words) to the organizers for consideration by October 15, 2018: moregan@bournemouth.ac.uk; jchoe@bournemouth.ac.uk


2. Tourism analytics: social media, spatially distributed data and data mining in tourism research

Organizers Andrei Kirilenko (Andrei.Kirilenko@ufl.edu) and Jin-Won Kim (JinWonKim@ufl.edu).

Based on a successful Tourism Analytics session held within AAG2018, we are inviting oral presentations on data intensive and spatial analysis in tourism with particular interest in data mining, text mining, image recognition, user-generated content, GIS analysis and similar application outlined in Description section. This session is targeting innovative advanced data intensive research in tourism with the goal of exchanging ideas, new approaches, and potential collaborations.

The data revolution, which started during the past decade, brought new possibilities for decision making and innovation based on the novel methods of analysis of (typically) vary large sets of data. Tourism Analytics is a new area in tourism research and education. Evidentially, the field is highly fragmented, the methods to analyze data are not firmly set, are still evolving and very fluid. However, the following common key areas, and methods emerge:

  • Spatial data analysis and visualization with GIS. Includes mapping of tourist routes, travel photo locations, geo-locations of tweets, and other spatially distributed social data.
  • Analysis of social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and similar platforms), online customer reviews, tourist experiences reported online and other user-generated content. Involves network analysis, data mining and text analysis.
  • Analysis of unstructured data: text analysis, analysis of photos and videos
  • Sentiment analysis: one of the most active research areas in natural language processing, web/social network mining, and text/multimedia data mining.
  • People as sensors (digital traces, big data from sensory experiences, Google glasses and such)

Please e-mail paper titles and abstracts to session organizers Andrei Kirilenko (Andrei.Kirilenko@ufl.edu) and Jin-Won Kim (JinWonKim@ufl.edu) prior to the deadline of November 8, 2018. Abstracts may not exceed 250 words.



1. Sports, Spectacle and (Soft) Power

Organizers: Natalie Koch, Syracuse University, New York and Glen Norcliffe, York University, Toronto

This session highlights the intertwining of sports, spectacle, and (soft) power, with a focus on contemporary case studies from around the world. We invite papers that address sport as a major cultural industry that unites the political, the economic and the cultural at multiple scales. Sport has always been deeply commodified, but the political, social, and cultural geography of the divides wrought and sought by sports entrepreneurs and athletes themselves are clearly in flux, especially as global media connections more tightly bind spectators and the spectacle. Across North America, for example, public sports facilities are increasingly replaced with private facilities or public-private partnerships, where “governmental austerity” is used to justify tax dollars being invested in often overly-optimistic boosterist schemes around major new sporting venues. Large metropolises, for instance, frequently subsidize the construction of major sports league stadia. These endeavors have become subject to pushback in some cities, but elsewhere they are actively embraced as sport has become interwoven with local tourism and activities geared to the growing cohorts of active retirees, and spectator tourism based on major sporting brands. Training and scouting for promising youngsters is also reaching to ever younger cohorts and recruiting at a larger geographical scale – both within countries and across state borders. Qatari recruiters, for example, are now going straight to Jamaican high schools in search of talented youth to run for their national team, when they stand little chance of doing so at home.

The confluence of commodified sport with nationalism and soft power agendas in many countries has historically played a major role in state-led doping schemes, with the recent Russian doping scandals suggesting that these issues cannot be relegated to a Cold War past. Meanwhile, the intersections of commodified sport and nationalism/state-building agendas have defined new international migration patterns, as well as creative new legal schemes for fast-track citizenship – working through and around the regulatory frames of international sporting bodies and the ideals of state sovereignty and territorial belonging. Those same Jamaican recruits to Qatar are, for example, offered only temporary citizenship – stripped of its benefits once the state is itself stripped of the benefits of the prestige they are imagined to endow the country’s image-conscious leaders. The recent proliferation of populist rhetoric and exclusivist identity politics has further complicated the situation, with high-profile athletes like Mesut Özil, Diego Costa, and Marcus Stroman becoming lightning-rods for public rancor and debate about the meaning of national identity, fueled by social media, demagoguery, and the spectacle of sensational media surrounding sport.

How should geographers approach sport, spectacle, and power – soft or otherwise – in the wider context of resurgent nationalism, populism, and exclusivist identity politics around the world? Does the increasing marginalization of former sporting seedbeds in rural hinterlands in favor of metropolitan sports dominance exacerbate regional disparities? Is there resistance to the exploitation of the human body in the name of winning? Sport is a bellwether activity that illustrates and often leads the major socio-cultural shifts of our times – a dynamic that this session aims to engage through rich theoretical and empirical case studies from around the world.

Interested participants should submit an abstract (under 250 words) to the organizers for consideration by October 15, 2018nkoch@maxwell.syr.edugnorclif@yorku.ca