Why Singapore is best for city tourism

Summertime - time for city breaks. Thomas Eggensperger reports on an ecumenical study conference on city tourism, which was organized in June 2016 by the "Catholic Working Group for Leisure and Tourism" (DBK) and the section "Church in Leisure, Recreation and Tourism / Church in the City" (EKD).

The urge to go into the cities

The sociologist Helmut Berking (TU Darmstadt) started very early in his introductory statement with his reflections on the history of the city and, with a view to biblical findings, sees quite negative connotations in the mention of cities. Nineveh, Sodom, but also Rome were considered places of sin. Nonetheless, the trend towards urbanization remains a phenomenon to this day. The 21st century will even be a "century of cities" (Berking). The highest growth rates in tourism can be found in Asia and Africa, with a total of 1.1 billion arrivals for 2014. Cities such as Hong Kong, Singapore and London achieve peak numbers of incoming tourists today. This has consequences for tourism as well as for the cities themselves. In principle, the city is a network of space and social relationships. It is precisely the unity of spatial urban design and mental urban culture that makes it so important. The urban way of life manifests itself in its intellectuality and indifference, as well as in its blasé (G. Simmel).

Unknown boom cities

Last but not least, in this conference itself, debates about the city, in my opinion, currently tend to use the criterion of European urban concepts in the assessment of cities. Far too little consideration is given to the fact that modern, developing cities with high economic and cultural potential can hardly be found in Europe (at best Berlin and London). Instead, urban space is revolutionizing in the explosively growing cities of Latin America, Africa and Asia. Most of the time, we Europeans hardly know the names of these booming cities.

For tourism, places - even if they are not at home - are made artificially meaningful. The foreign is practically brought into shape and declared nostalgic in a way that amazes (Lübeck's old town is declared a World Heritage Site, the old town on the Czech island of Český Krumlov (Krumlov) is operated by private entrepreneurs and is completely prepared for tourism , a Potemkin island with about 50 real locals, prepared for the nostalgic tourist!

Not every tourist is seduced in this way. The so-called post-tourist refuses classic city tourism, analogous to the typical cruise traveler, who passes the place of culture and history for a few hours and then goes back to a completely different location. The post tourist is much more enthusiastic about shared communities (e.g. B&B or couch surfing)in order to be well embedded - at least for a short time - in the real life of the city visited. Instead of hotel guests, you get to know “real” locals!

What does the tourist want in the churches?

“Who is the unknown guest in our churches and what would they like?” Was the question from Berlin's culture and tourism manager Lara Buschmann. On the basis of relevant surveys, she made it clear that the motives of city tourists for visiting church are mostly cultural tourism and religious motives are of secondary importance. Churches are therefore faced with the challenges and framework conditions of tourism, like other cultural institutions, if they want to receive tourists as their guests and meet their needs, such as bspl. due to the above-mentioned post-tourist tendency. However, this means that providers (such as church parishes) must respond more professionally than before to the needs of visitors. Knowledge of the target group needs to be improved, and not just to be guided by personal feelings and experiences about needs and motives. (Test question: Do you really want to be approached by nice people all the time when you enter a church?)

Five guys

In addition to the latest findings from the cultural tourism study with regard to the target groups, Buschmann also presented the study-based typology of cultural tourists to her study partner Yvonne Pröbstle and described the five types of cultural tourists (Kulturtouristen. Eine Typologie, Wiesbaden 2014.). The types have a different level of experience in terms of cultural reception and accordingly culture and art also have a different status for them. In the group of “passionate specialists” there are those who are willing to spend a lot of money to visit highly cultural special offers. Not dissimilar to them are the “knowledgeable traditionalists” who also like to take part in study trips. It looks a little different with the “dutiful sightseers”. They mainly focus on the "obligatory" objects (Mona Lisa, Tower of Pisa, etc.) that the travel guide refers to. In addition to the “entertainment-oriented day trippers” (who are more concerned with the route than the goal and who are more economical with spending) there are also the “open-minded explorers” who look beyond the tourist streams in search of beautiful things and little experiences walk.

In addition to getting to know the target groups, accompanying the visitors from the moment of their interest to the journey home ("customer journey") and addressing local tourists and residents, it is particularly important to integrate tourism, church, culture and media in a targeted manner to be respected by multipliers such as local residents. The latter have to accept some disadvantages due to the large number of visitors, but mostly also benefit from tourism, as the quality and variety of the offers improve through target group orientation and cooperation with other institutions.

Example: Salisbury Cathedral

At the conference in Frankfurt / M. The Anglican Bishop of Salisbury, Sarah Mulally, took part, who impressively described the attempt at her cathedral in her lecture, from the 800th anniversary of the “Magna Charta” - one of the few originals still in existence there Museum is exhibited - to make a properly prepared exhibition. This in itself is nothing unusual, especially since the previous exhibition concept in the Kathredralmuseum was perceived as a little dusty. But in this case they agreed to hold the event in cooperation with Amnesty International in order to shed light on the interrelationship between culture and social justice with this association, which is not at all firmly established in terms of religion and ideology. The author of this article was particularly impressed by the poorly targeted missionary impetus of this project, which nevertheless seemed very coherent because the topic of social justice was taken up and reflected on with a relevant and competent actor.

Ask the customer

Hilke Rebenstorf (Sociological Institute of the EKD) and Christopher Zarnow (Research Area Church and City) presented the preliminary results of an ongoing survey that deals with the relationship between the city, tourism and religion. The quantitative part of the survey examined the relationship between people and the church they visit. Churches are in the city, but when you step into them they are a special space. It turns out that most tourists usually enter the churches unprepared, only to be impressed not only by the room itself, but also by the church services and devotions taking place. On the other hand, they seem to be reluctant to take up offers of conversation, but they like to take part in guided tours. The feeling of space clearly dominated - space is perceived as an event.

Typology of the church goers

The qualitative part of the survey looked at the religiosity of church visitors and methodically asked whether tourist behavior says anything about religious culture. Different types of visits were identified, which are classified in a very differentiated way: This is the tourist visitor, the historically interested visitor, the aesthetically interested or the religiously reflective visitor, the Christian practicing visitor, the diffuse religious visitor as well as the so-called type X, the There is no apparent interest in the Church and it is still present.

Such interviews are, in my opinion, of great importance if one really wants to know what types of visitors can be found in the church and what they ultimately expect. This is the only way to determine the target group that is really there and not only remain trapped in the vague assumption of who might be there, or who one hopes to meet in the church.

Church, City and Tourism - Further Considerations

Five theses for the (theological) evaluation of the discussed relationship between church, city and tourism:

  1. It is not the city itself that is attractive, but rather the lifestyle of a city, connected with urban structures and an appealing space, among other things. The city is not simply the “Moloch”, it has something special about it. Berlin is not "beautiful", but it is extremely attractive. Rome is a historical place, but has little to offer beyond tourists or theology students. Everyone dreams of Manhattan, regardless of the noisy traffic and the horrendous prices ...
  2. There are many attractive cities with attractive locations. That is why professional tourism needs certain niches that are interesting for certain types of visitors, i.e. something special that goes beyond the usual paths. These can be small museums, picturesque streets, a small chapel, quaint restaurants. (A good example is the book series “101 German Places That One Must See” by Konrad Theiss Verlag, which refers to localities in certain cities that tourists would come across only by chance.) In short - it takes courage To be a niche and to position yourself accordingly!
  3. The question of the target group is of great importance. It would be too optimistic to think that such a group would turn out ideally, i.e. a conglomerate of calm and level-headed visitors who more or less understand everything that is shown to them and, in case of doubt, ask the right questions. If you insist on it, you will most likely address classic educated citizens. No less, but no more either ... A good starting position for those who want to offer something is the search for the suitable niche. What do I offer special? Which types of visitors will this affect? Sometimes the search is very simple: What would I like myself? If I were a tourist, what would I think of my “product” and its marketing?
  4. Sometimes it is not enough to simply offer attractions “just like that”. It makes sense to link the marketing to a specific topic (see the above example of the Magna Charta exhibition in Salisbury). This creates something like identity for those who set out conceptually.
  5. With regard to the expectations of the church and space, it makes sense to take a differentiated look at ecumenical diversity, interreligious references and extra-religious assessments. Expectations and impressions differ. Catholics have a different feeling for churches than Protestants. For some it is a sacred space (possibly with a tabernacle), for others it is a meeting place. Religiously unrelated people sometimes do not even know how to deal with the room, are sometimes even unsure whether they are allowed to enter the church at all - and if so, how they should behave adequately, since they do not want to attract attention.

Thomas Eggensperger OP

Image source: Wikipedia.