Salvador Anton Clavé was a Visiting Research Scholar at the International Institute of Tourism Studies during the past academic year when he was on sabbatical from his position as a Full Professor of Regional Geographical Analysis at the Rovira i Virgili University in Catalonia, Spain. He also serves as director of the Doctoral Program in Tourism and Leisure at the university, and he served as director/dean of the Tourism and Leisure School/Faculty of Tourism and Geography at the Rovira i Virgili University between 2002 and 2014. His research concentrates on the evolution of tourist destinations, urban and regional tourism planning, the analysis of the globalization of leisure, the impact of information and communication technologies in tourism destinations and issues concerning tourism policies and local development.
1) What initially drew you to GW’s International Institute for Tourism Studies and Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis?
I first met Professor Don Hawkins nearly twenty years ago, when he was the Executive Director of the International Institute of Tourism Studies. Recently, he introduced me to the idea of exploring the relationship between the walkable conditions of metropolitan areas—particularly Washington D.C.—and the visitor experience. I was intrigued and decided to spend my sabbatical leave from my own institution working on the project.
2) What are some high points of the research you’ve been conducting?
During this last academic year, we expanded an analysis of Washington D.C.’s walkable urban places that was previously conducted in 2012. We sought to account for the changes that have occurred in the city over the past five years as well as to incorporate measurements that capture the ways in which walkable urban places bolster the regional tourism economy. The methodology analyzes the influence of walkable urban places on economic development and social equity. It also measures how walkability enhances the city’s overall attractiveness and can lead to the growth of sustainable tourism.
3) How are your conclusions influencing tourism planning?
Our findings demonstrate that tourism activity and hotel performance in Washington D.C. is closely associated with local walkability. For instance, walkable urban places in the metro area represent the 0.8% of the total land but 61.4% of the city’s total hotel revenue. While we’ve come up with a host of ancillary findings, our basic conclusion—from a practical point of view—is that the tourism and visitor experience industry needs to be more involved in the design, development and management of urban places and that developers should take into account the requirements and needs of the tourism industry and visitor economy. This conclusion highlights the need to rethink the current tourism management practices of many cities, recognizing the need to expand beyond marketing to place management, place making and place governance.
4) Are there specific destinations that are already applying your findings?
Until now the project has focused on metropolitan Washington D.C. Planning and research organizations in other cities are considering the usefulness of these types of measures and how they can be applied to better understand and plan tourism activities and development. This is for the New York metropolitan area, for example.
5) What is your involvement with tourism planning in Cuba?
During this past year I have been a member of a team of researchers, consultants and practitioners led by the current Executive Director of the International Institute of Tourism Studies Seleni Matus. We have been defining a vision for sustainable tourism in Cuba and designing potential support activities that the institute could provide as the country continues to grow its tourism infrastructure. Our goal has been to help Cuba use tourism as means of reducing social, gender and racial inequality; creating prosperous business opportunities; developing healthier communities; preserving and maintaining the county’s cultural and natural heritage; and supporting mutually beneficial exchanges between locals and foreigners. I am now involved in several educational and research initiatives that the institute is planning for Cuba for this next academic year.