Selling the 'City of Art'. Urban tourism and the advent of city marketing in Belgium (1880-1980). 01/10/2021 - 30/09/2025


"Selling the City of Art" places the genesis of urban tourism marketing and branding strategies in a long-term perspective for Belgium between c.1880 and c.1980. It does so by focusing first and foremost on the 'orgware', i.e. stakeholders, organisations and institutions involved in city branding, by questioning and explaining historically changing motivations and rationales behind tourist promotion using growth coalition theory. Secondly, the project analyses how these different urban power groups actually sought out various media ('software') to create a specific brand for the Belgian 'Cities of art'. Finally, it considers how the heritage infrastructure of cities ('hardware') was gradually adopted to accommodate for urban tourism and mediate a specific urban tourist brand. The current project innovates in its trailblazing use and combination of underacknowledged historical sources of both a visual and textual kind, and by applying a new in-depth DH-approach for qualitative and quantitative analysis. Hitherto a neglected field in international research, the study of Belgium from a specific long-term historical perspective will break new ground in the interdisciplinary field of Tourism Studies and open up new discussions relevant for Heritage Studies and the field of Urban Studies more in general.


Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project