Project justification and contribution

Conclusion from the Academic Research Paper

The end result of this project is the publication of an urban green tourism guide for Hamilton. More precisely, it is an exploration guide promoting sustainable local economic and community development in the amalgamated city. The tagline "Brutal Beauty | Hidden Heritage" is being used to encompass the main themes of urban green tourism in the city. Brutal Beauty refers to the industrial landscape and infrastructure in harmony with the Niagara Escarpment, waterfronts and rural countryside. Hidden Heritage refers to the built and cultural history of the city, alongside the natural environment waiting to be rediscovered.

The concept of travel and exploration within and around an urban area offering residents and visitors the enjoyment and appreciation of the city's built heritage, neighbourhoods, natural areas and cultural resources, while inspiring physically active, intellectually stimulating and socially interactive experiences has been around for over 15 years. As established by the Green Tourism Association in Toronto, urban green tourism supports our city's long-term ecological health by promoting walking, cycling, and public transportation; promotes sustainable local economic and community development and vitality; celebrates local heritage and the arts; is accessible and equitable to all. Cities and regions around the world are recognizing sustainable travel and its potential for local economic development spinoffs.

Urban green tourism does not stop at the urban boundary. The Green Tourism Association's publications make clear connections between a city's urban core and the surrounding suburban rural and natural environments. Hamilton, as a region-wide city, encompasses this diversity of environmental experiences within its city limits, extending from the intensive heavy industry along the city's waterfront to the serene beauty of its remote agricultural pastures and forests.

Through the review of other urban tourism guides for this project, it was established that Hamilton's traditional forms of tourism marketing in the city do not to promote its potential as an urban green tourism experience destination, and overlooks many of the unique things that make it interesting. Promoting the economic development potential of Hamilton involves highlighting its strategic assets that have endured through its history. Other sustainable initiatives in Hamilton, such as urban revitalization, greening and upgrading of infrastructure, energy recovery, harbour remedial action, and alternative transportation can also be promoted. By influencing environmental perception and cognition of the city through this process of collective learning, the disconnection between urban (old city) and suburban/rural communities that make up the "new" City of Hamilton can start to be addressed. The Hamilton Book is a step in achieving these objectives, which contributes to establishing an identity for the City and may ultimately lead to a much needed place brand and marketing strategy.

Production of an urban green tourism guide is a new idea for Hamilton, which has primarily relied on traditional forms of tourism promotion through brochures and an emerging use of electronic media. Hamilton does not have an outside reputation as a desirable urban tourism destination, due to its longstanding reputation as a heavy industry city and its economic hardships.

Many people within Hamilton also seem quick to discount its virtues, perhaps because they are unaware or unappreciative of the unique things their city has to offer. Although it lacks the flashy attractions of Toronto or Niagara Falls, Hamilton is attractive to people seeking an alternative from the big crowds. If one simply starts thinking in less traditional ways about tourism, and dives into the local creative and cultural undercurrents, there is a lot going on here. Local residents can be a place's the most influential marketers if a desirable emotional connection and sense of ownership is established.

This project is a feasible, practical, niche application of place marketing in local economic development. Post-industrial cities are a relatively new phenomenon. The concept of urban green tourism is also relatively new, as are the community planning ideologies behind resilience and revitalization. Places need to differentiate themselves from one another, promote their unique strengths, and not be afraid to show imperfections as real, livable communities in order to stay relevant, resilient, and competitive in a continually changing global economy and environmental climate. The Hamilton Book contributes to connecting people with Hamilton, and increase awareness of how resilient this city can be.

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© Copyright Ian Dunlop, University of Waterloo, 2013
Published by Strategic Interchange (Div. of Dun-Map Inc.)