Academic journal article Journal of Urban and Regional Analysis

High-Speed Railway and Tourism: Is There an Impact on Intermediate Cities? Evidence from Two Case Studies in Castilla-La Mancha (Spain)

Academic journal article Journal of Urban and Regional Analysis

High-Speed Railway and Tourism: Is There an Impact on Intermediate Cities? Evidence from Two Case Studies in Castilla-La Mancha (Spain)

Article excerpt

Introduction

Transportation and tourism are closely related economic activities. In fact, promoting transportation infrastructure and guaranteeing efficient mobility are usually seen as contributing to the development of tourism industry (Albalate and Fageda 2016). Amongst the multiple determinants of the attractiveness of a particular location from the point of view of tourism, accessibility usually ranks in the first two or three positions. A beautiful landscape, a historical monument or a sunny and fine sandy beach hardly becomes a clear successful tourist destination if transport infrastructure does not allow a convenient, comfortable and safe way to get there and return. This issue is particularly relevant for Spain, a country that shares the feature of being one of the world's favourite tourist destinations while having Europe's largest high-speed rail network (second in the world after China) (Albalate et al. 2015). Furthermore, city size appears to be a major determinant of high speed rail's (HSR) impact on tourism (Delaplace 2012b). Thus, Bazin et al. (2013) reported that the increase in the number of tourists attributable to a new HSR service was minimal in many small and medium-sized European cities, although positive effects were detected in those places with good tourist amenities.

This article aims, first, to debate the theoretical impact that new HSR infrastructure has on tourism. Secondly, it analyses the effects on tourism of such infrastructure in two selected cities, Cuenca and Toledo, from several different perspectives - improved accessibility; growth in both visitor numbers and tourism-related businesses; improved image of tourist attractions; and the emergence of development strategies among stakeholders to market and enhanced visitor experiences, and therefore greater patronage. Nonetheless, any conclusions drawn from this article must take into account the short period of time since the completion of the HSR network to Cuenca and Toledo and its likely lagged effects on tourist visitation. In addition, HSR's impact is likely to be affected by such extraneous events as the global financial crisis and its aftermath. After explaining the development of Spain's HSR network and the development of our theoretical and methodological framework, we will briefly characterize the selected cities' contrasting tourism models both before and after the completion of the HSR. This section will focus on their defining features and the range and quality of attractions. Finally, we will consider the potential future impact the new infrastructure might have in the light of various assumptions.

The development of Spain's high-speed rail network

The main reason behind the birth of HSR in Europe, over and above other economic and political factors, was to unite large metropolitan centres and to realise the commercial benefits arising from the speed and efficiency of transport between them (Troin 1997, Vickerman 2015). This is particularly important for cities between 400 and 600 km apart (Vickerman 2016), where operating speeds of 250 km/h or higher between their commercial cores could generate substantial advantages over air transport, with travel times of less than three hours (Hall 2009). Subsequently, in both France (Troin 1998) and then Spain, which largely adopted the French model and network structure, intermediate stops appeared along HSR routes. For example, when the second generation of French HSR routes commenced back in the 1990s, the TGV-Mediterrannée and TGV Atlantique, the intermediate territories defended their interests claiming that they would suffer all environmental costs involved in the construction of a new line, but they would not receive any of the alleged benefits associated with greater accessibility through the HSR stations (the well-known "tunnel effect"). Railway managements accepted the claim that intermediate stops on the new lines could expand the potential market (Facchinetti-Mannone et al. …

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