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Villes et projets urbains en Méditerranée

Jean-Paul Carrière

Urban and regional marketing in the mediterranean area

Paola Somma


The purpose of this paper is to establish whether or not there is such a thing as a model of “Mediterranean marketing” and if so, to highlight the similarities and differences between it and other European situations and amongst the various cities in the Mediterranean area. The justification for this exercise lies in the conviction that, despite the tendency to describe them in a standardized language, concrete examples of urban marketing must also be related to specific local conditions. Furthermore, inasmuch as they enable us to understand better the regional transformation projects that they are an expression of they can provide a useful indicator of the more probable scenarios for the future of our cities.

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  • 1 Professeure au Dipartimento Analisi Economica e Sociale del Territorio. Instituto Universitario di (...)

1Note portant sur l’auteur1


2Over the last two decades, alongside a clear and explicit pro- business attitude, it has become conventional wisdom that cities “must” compete. “Learn how your city can grow and prosper”, the title of the second annual World Competitive Cities congress organised in 2000, with the objective “to assist the world’s largest cities to increase their overall competitiveness in the global economy” exemplifies the pressures exerted to persuade local administrators to adopt market-orientated attitudes and strategies. The urban marketing concept has become an integral part of the approach to regional policy that the great international decision-makers now preach as inevitable and without alternative. In a recent document of the World Bank Urban Development Division, for example, it is repeated for the nth time that “each community has unique local conditions that can help or hinder its economic development. These local attributes will form the seeds from which a local economic development strategy can be grown to improve local competitiveness, to make an area attractive to business, new employees and supporting institutions… local governments have an essential role in creating favourable environments for business success” [World Bank, 2001]. In the same authoritative tone, the World Bank suggests/tells local governments what they must do: actively examine their economic base, understand obstacles to growth and investment, strategically plan projects and programs to remove obstacles and facilitate investment, adopt a holistic strategy to make whole business environments favourable. The rationale is that the economic growth that occurs in some cities is a consequence of strategic decisions taken by city leaders. Local communities are therefore invited to become “masters of their own destiny” and adopt a set of actions: infrastructure investments, public/private partnerships, leveraging private sector investments, highly targeted inward investment attraction.


3The development of urban marketing has been encouraged by academics and public administrators who have made great efforts to present it as an indispensable instrument for the revitalization of cities and regions in any situation or context. Over the years the term urban marketing has been used with many different connotations. Originally restricted to advertising – the provision of information about an area in order to encourage desirable private development and to attract visitors, new residents, businesses and industry – it has quickly been transformed into a set of booster strategies and policies designed to promote growth and to attract, retain and expand investment. The city, it has been said, is “the most undermarketed of products; in order to comply with market requirements, every town or city must offer the widest possible range of advantages to potential investors” [Kearns, Philo, 1993]. As local areas face a number of challenges they must come up with appropriate responses in terms of services and infrastructures to meet the requests of three different groups: the resident citizens, the users of public services, the users of services in support of location decisions, namely businesses. And if they are to attract financial capital efficiently, cities must equip themselves with appropriate managerial instruments, change their administrative structures and create local development promotion agencies able to promote a city’s potential in response to external demand.

4There are now many publications and documents that illustrate the significance and analyse the causes underlying the spread of urban marketing, particularly as regards the consequences for the local communities concerned and with special reference to how priorities are ranked. Several case study reports have also been published, dealing with specific experiments in the United Stated and Europe but also in other “developing” markets. Some publications are propagandistic in tone and intent, others are the result of interesting, in-depth research on the actors promoting the initiatives, on methodologically planned and implemented projects and on the consequences for various population groups. Finally, there is evidence that some cities are questioning the virtue of such strategy, and its ability to reconcile growth with environmental balance and social equity.

5In actual fact there are not many examples of this critical approach but they confirm the fears of those who have sought in vain to attract attention to the fact that repetitive and acritical encouragement to competition between cities, as if they were businesses, often translates into suicidal underselling, with local authorities, in an attempt to offer attractive conditions to investors, placing most of their resources at the disposal of groups representing the strongest interests and ignoring other claims on their attention. It is important, in this connection, to remember that though the advertising vehicle may be an image or a slogan, the product being sold is extremely concrete, a matter of areas up for development, public buildings and other property being sold into the private sector, tax incentives being made available to businesses without taking account of social costs; in general of financial, environmental and human resources being used to maximize the profits of the owners of the capital in the usually vain hope that the city too will derive some benefit from operation. As well as this subordination of welfare goals to the dictates of competitiveness, there is a common tendency to give priority to obviously striking projects, spectacular buildings and mammoth events, that often cost the cities more than they yield, all phenomena that prompt the question of “whether a focus on the reimaging of cities, with the temptation to concentrate on the superficial, is not a distraction from a concern with remaking in a more fundamental way the economies which cities express and on which they depend” [Neill, Fitzsimons, Murtagh, 1995].

6The materials (leaflets, posters, websites) produced by local authorities and businesses in order to promote “their” locality are highly repetitive. They all follow the instructions laid down by the so-called theoreticians of urban marketing, who pride themselves on having provided “scientific” answers the main question: how place buyers, tourists, new residents, factories, corporate head quarters, investors select a location [Ashworth, Voogd, 1990]. Obviously every group of potential purchasers has different priorities, but even when the hierarchy changes the main, decision- influencing elements, they always lie within certain precise categories. According to the urban marketing supporters, towns are assessed against the following criteria: the human capital (a capable, flexible, motivated workforce); the infrastructures (good physical and telecommunication links); a strong economy (a healthy and diversified local economy with enterprising businesses and highly successful industries); knowledge and technology (educational and research institutions); the local institutional pro- business attitude (possibilities of subsidies, “fiscal soundness”); the quality of life (residential high quality amenities, healthy green environment, distinct life style, artistic and cultural attractions).

7Since urban marketing is a demand-oriented technique it is obvious that the same criteria will determine how place sellers compete and cities use the same checklist to define and improve their assets and liabilities. The result of this self-evaluation and the contents of the urban marketing actions that follow from it do not, at first sight, differ greatly from one place to another. All of them claim that “there is no place like our place” and that “no other city offers so much for businesses”, but in reality only places that have broad advantages (often as a result of previous investment) can compete for a wider range of businesses. The importance of this point- a key element if one is to understand the true motivations of urban marketing and its effects- is often underestimated in the abundant literature on the subject.

8It is impossible to make a clear geographical distinction, but some specific features can be recognized and attributed to a different economic base and to a different administrative and political situation. Cities that were flourishing productive centres just a few decades ago now seek to cancel the memory of their industrial past and to project a new image that links their traditional efficiency with the presence of cultural and leisure attractions. The message might be summed up in the formula “Business & Chic”, or in other words “come to us and you will continue to do good business – but you’ll also enjoy yourselves. Cases of this kind are numerous in the US and North Western Europe where most cities attempt to build up an image which differs from that of a polluted industrial centre (Ruhr: the region with the art of good life and business; Edinburgh: business is our culture; Akron, Ohio: the difficult task of changing the perception from a Rust Belt dinosaur to a vibrant, confident city has been accomplished).

9A different approach characterizes the Eastern European cities in “transition” to a capitalist economy, where the main effort is reassuring investors and selling off land and public assets. In Torun (Poland), for example, “the city offers good conditions for development of various kinds of industry and services… factory buildings, warehouses, storage yards and developed land for new enterprises are ready available on favourable terms… local authorities are putting out the welcome mat for companies interested in building new hotels and restaurants”.

10A third category is represented by “developing” countries, where the advertised product is more the whole country than a particular city. Place promotion is related to the national development strategy and strongly supported by the central authorities that emphasize their willingness of sell off their raw materials and natural resources and allow the exploitation of labour force: “There’s one main reason why investing in Senegal makes so much sense, you can make money in Senegal”; “India, a land of opportunities, opens her doors to you: abundant natural and mineral resources, scientific and technical manpower available at highly competitive rates, simplified procedures for foreign investors, rationalized business taxes amongst the lowest in the world”.


11In the Mediterranean area too, many cities have undertaken experiments in urban marketing. Local leaders, businessmen and politicians have chosen public relations as the way to reinforce their city’s image, which often coincides to some extent with their own personal image. Eager to imitate the “successful” cities, we imported the worst examples from the worst models and “selling the city, putting the city in the map, enabling its transformation into an international city” has become part of the new orthodoxy. But not all the cities in the Mediterranean area share the same characteristics. Any attempt to impose a single image on the cities of the Northern Mediterranean coasts (Barcelona, Marseille, Genoa) and those of the south (Algiers, Tunis, Cairo) with their quite different demographic and economic dynamics, or those of the east (Athens) would be misleading. Indeed their differentness is also reflected in their respective urban marketing projects.

12Though it does not pretend to have been exhaustive the empirical survey of the materials produced and distributed by the local administrations, by the chambers of commerce or other specialist agencies has considered a fairly broad sample which includes different situations and tries to take account of ongoing restructuring processes and of any already concrete projects. As expected, the main difference is between cities with a well-founded industrial past, which look for ways of broadening their appeal and generally find it easier to present themselves as credible candidates for an international role, and the others, which focus above all on relaxation of any “control”. The extreme example of relaxation is the explicit fiscal paradise that tends to reassure foreign companies that the extensive range of fiscal and other concessions on offer will not be put at risk. In Malta, for example, the chambers of commerce, the confederation of businessmen, local authorities and regional governments are the most active actors promoting the image of a financial centre with offshore banking facilities. But, with the objective of defending private initiative and the market economy, they attract considerable external investment from international corporations who simply transfer profit back to the parent company rather than feeding them into the local economy (with the exception of gambling and casino activities).

13The cities of the Mediterranean show conclusively that though an urban marketing campaign can theoretically adopt various kinds of image – entrepreneurial, residential, touristic – in actual fact it is only in a few large cities that the three images can co-exist; and only in those cities that integration of the three approaches will contribute to the creation of a “postindustrial business location image”. Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, the region that calls itself “the engine of Europe” is the best example of the ability to devise a complex programme involving an interplay between European integration and national aspirations. Barcelona has developed a competitive strategy culminating in attraction of the 1992 Olympic Games. The Games stood as the insignia of the strategic project of urban renewal, acted as the driving force to obtain public investment and provided a means of mobilizing resources for urban reconstruction, strategic investment in transport and telecommunications. Total expenditure associated with the Olympic revitalization was around $ 9 billion, of which two thirds came from public sources that paid the bill for selling the city’s image world-wide [Lever, 1999]. Since then, Barcelona has consistently pursued a particularly aggressive promotional policy, both alone and as part of a series of networks: Eurocities, the Euromediterranean Cities, Medcities, Metropolis. Different actions are coordinated through the Direction of international relations, which reports directly to the mayor and takes charge of carrying out a political action designed to publicise the city and its economic activity to the outside world. “In the face of the globalisation of the problems affecting our society, Barcelona defends the maximum involvement of the local authorities… acts with particular energy and works for competitiveness, complementarity and cooperation”. The city maintains bilateral relations, development cooperation projects and technical assistance programs that allow the dissemination of know-how in matters of urban environment and TUBSA (Tecnologias urbanas Barcelona) a public-private partnership between the city and major infrastructures and utility corporations, which advises cities around the world on “how they can emulate Barcelona’s successes”, is an example of this “exceptional entrepreneurial style”. Barcelona is indeed the model that other crisis-ridden industrial cities, including most of the ports of the Mediterranean, aspire to copy. In the hope of managing to conserve some productive activity and to add the extra dimension of leisure centre, the leaders and representatives of local communities address their message first of all to the business world: “Investors, entrepreneurs, businessmen, researchers, you have plans to create something, to develop something, to establish something within the boundaries of Marseille-Provence-Métropole? Our experts at the Direction générale du développement économique are there to help you”, but they do not neglect to focus also on climate, facilities and environmental amenities in general when proposing their city as a venue for international conferences and meetings.

14Cities are prepared to do anything to gain the privilege of hosting Expo, trade fairs and political summits, as was the case with the G8 Summit in Genoa, where the local administration presented the meeting of the great powers of the Earth as a means of transforming the city into a destination for increasing numbers of visitors. The prospect is not really very healthy if it’s true, as found by an investigation into urban tourism that “unlike other European harbour ports Genoa does not have a distinct negative image, rather does it suffer from a lack of an image and that extreme touristification does not seem a realistic proposition” [van der Berg, van der Borg, van der Meer, 1995]. Ignoring these warnings – after the celebrations to mark the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ voyage of discovery, which may have been an organizational failure but which nevertheless provided access to huge public funding and gave the city its first big facelift – the local elites have great expectations of the prestigious date for which the city has been preparing with an extensive urban restyling and promotion of its natural and cultural attractions. The slogan is ”hi-tech, harbour port, tourism: Genoa’s route to development” and meanwhile waiting for the miracle, about $ 110 million has been spent for security… surface-to-air missiles will be in place, while fighter jets, naval ships and minesweepers will be use, a red zone will be closed to everyone (the residents will be temporary removed) and a yellow zone will act as a buffer zone around the red zone, rail, road and airports links will be shut, the port cleared and border controls patrolled. But the cost of these measures does not seem to worry the local administration, which is convinced that it has taken “a decisive step towards the real economic and social conversion of the whole port area” and that it is already ready for the next international appointment of 2004, when Genoa will be the cultural capital of Europe and the port area will become “an area dedicated to infotainment. A mixed public/private project financing company has been set up for the purpose; it will have to be helped because “it is difficult to arouse the interest of the investors and for the moment the only body willing to take a risk would seem to be the public sphere”. Similar arguments are used by the majority of waterside cities, which underline their privileged position and their real or presumed excellence in innovation: “Trieste, the most important and strategic crossroads between Western Europe and the east, the biggest scientific park in Italy”. A symmetrical strategy of diversification is followed by several famous tourist resorts in an attempt to generate a more stable visitor-flow and to influence the kind of visitors that come. Nice, “a strategic metropolis on the Mediterranean arch, has learned to adapt itself and diversify its strengths. Not only a land of tourism, culture and leisure; is also a fertile ground for innovation, scientific research, exchange: an ideal place for business… companies have no problem recruiting the best people from anywhere in the world, when they tell them they are located in the French Riviera”.

15The situation is different with the cities on the southern shores of the Mediterranean: here regional marketing is not at an urban scale but refers mainly to the nation as a whole, as identified with its capital. The action is often prepared and publicized by the international financial press. The advertising departments of the International Herald Tribune and of the Financial Times, for example, distribute supplements dedicated to perhaps Egypt or Turkey or Tunisia or to specific investments sectors such as airports, sporting events or waterfronts, defined as “an exceptional opportunity for the local politicians to improve the image of the city”. From Tunisia to Lebanon, the almost exclusive interest in capital cities is largely a consequence of a colonial past or in any case of a consolidated foreign predominance that certainly made no great effort to create a more balanced urban hierarchy. In these countries, too, local governments do not have the requisite administrative apparatus to conduct a city paradiplomacy in a systematic manner. In most cases, the attractive appeal in advertising promotions is based on political stability, which not infrequently is maintained at the cost of democracy, and a policy of special treatment for foreign investors. “Tunisia owes its success to its political stability, its prudent monetary policies, and its professional rigor with its budgetary expenses and the pursuit of internal reforms to join the country firmly to the world economy… When you set up business in Tunisia, you are choosing the serenity of an advanced country, the little dragon of the Mediterranean”. “Certainly, Egypt’s commitment to being part of the global economy remains. Substantial progress in reform legislation has made the country increasingly attractive to investors… there has been no slackening in the commitment to privatization… As Egypt moves faster on domestic reforms and privatization, it should be able to attract quite a bit of foreign capital”. “Morocco: the launch of important privatization programmes and the development of the stock exchange have made the country an emerging market with excellent potential”.

16The underlying motivations derive from an acceptance of the theory of permanent growth, of obligatory, permanent growth to be pursued through processes of accumulation that exploit the favourable conditions of production and consumption of a large mass of low-average-income, urbanized population. The priority, given to actions designed to establish “rigorous” market behaviour reflects the logic of the relationship between experienced and efficient international financial institutions, and single, inexpert countries facing enormous problems of social end economic emancipation and without an alternative behavioural framework.


17Urban marketing in the Mediterranean area includes a clear typology of arguments. Some have a symbolic character:

  • a privileged geographical location; “Tunisia c’est déjà demain”, at the crossroads of Europe, the Middle East and Africa; “Turkey, the key”, now, as in the past, Turkey is right at the center of the world’s trade routes. As the junction of Europe and Asia, at the hub of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea at the threshold of the world’s newest and most exciting markets;

  • the cultural heritage, the past as a matrix for the future or innovation based on tradition; “the hill of the Pnyx, where people assembled to discuss issues of common interest 2,500 years ago, could be considered the world’s oldest convention site. Years later, modern Greece continues to draw crowds to its myriad conference centres”; “Genoa a gateway for Europe onto the open sea and the world that has been for centuries a crossroads for different cultures, where ancient and modern world meet, one of the most important Italian cities”.

18Others are more substantial:

  • a highly skilled, flexible and committed workforce; “a skilled labor force with a surprising aptitude to rapidly master new technologies” (Tunisia); “the skilled workforce is highly entrepreneurial in spirit” (Turkey); financial incentives; “a clear and investment-friendly legislation” (Tunisia); “many of the best known corporate names in the world discovered Turkey’s long-term advantages years ago… now Turkey is a modern and rewarding place to do business and a profitable market of considerable potential… the reinvigoration of the Turkish privatization program will be a key element in reestablishing credibility”;

  • transport infrastructures, both for accessibility and for internal mobility; “new motorways traverse the country and air links to 84 domestic and international destination make travelling a snap” (Turkey); “discover Augusta, the most important business park in Mediterranean Europe, located in a strategic area in terms of economic expansion for Barcelona and Spain, at the most important motorway junction of Catalonia, designed for your corporation”. A good quality of life is also a frequent selfpromotion motif; “to live and work in Tunisia allows one to enjoy a friendly and hospitable environment and most agreeable living conditions. Numerous commodities are offered for sale in the country’s main cities. Modern residential neighbourhoods with excellent quality housing at a reasonable cost, numerous commercial centres offering a wide variety of products, foreign schools, high quality medical services, many leisure activities”, but the quality of life referred to is available to only a few sections of the population, above all foreigners, who should remember that the Corporate Resources Group ranked Tunis 125 out of the least expensive cities and that an average monthly rent for a villa in a residential neighbourhood is only 900-1300 USD.

19References to labour market efficiency and fiscal privileges to attract businesses are nothing new, but the explicit inclusion of a different quality of life for different sections of the population as one of the city’s “competitive advantages” represents a change compared with the marketing campaigns of the past, when the offer was directed not only at industrialists but also at workers. As the brochures producted by the new towns development corporations in England in the 1960s put it: “we are offering to industrialists a wide range of monetary grants, investment allowances, training grants, regional employment premiums and other forms of assistance… we also offer business, with pleasure in close proximity, attractive living and working conditions for the industrialist and his workers, housing for key personnel, first-rate educational facilities, factory sites with main services readily available, loyal labour ready to work”. Nowadays, offering a partial and selective nature of quality of life and enhancing the “productivity” of urban poor is part of a project of regeneration and transformation of cities into playgrounds for the new middle class; “Torremolinos, Europe’s most exciting playground and Spain’s most sought-after modern business and convention centre”; “Tunis 2001, la Méditerranée en fête”.

20A special boost to the festive image of a city and to its prospects for urban tourism can be provided by an important sporting event. “The efforts Tunisia is making for the 2001 Mediterranean Games show its intention to ensure that the event achieves a success and importance that reflects the country’s own prominence in the Mediterranean context”. $ 200 million has been spent on organizing the Games have been spent, a modern Sport City has been built on land donated by the, with well-appointed apartments and well-designed facilities; a new road network connecting the sites has been completed and the airport enlarged and renovated. “Hosting the Games illustrates Tunisia’s political stability and organizational talents”.

21Athens, too, has great expectations on the Olympics Games; “the Games are providing Greece with an excellent opportunity to promote several aspects of its tourism industry… the full potential benefit of the Olympics on tourism will be exploited through a specifically designed advertising program… a marketing plan for the larger Athens area… among other things, the plan will be aimed at reinforcing Greece’s image as the home of convention centers par excellence. With the limelight now on Greece, both the government and private initiatives are increasing efforts to ensure convention centers and state-of-the-art conference facilities and also to put the country firmly on the map as a meeting place to discuss and do business”.

22All great events are presented as opportunities to modernize obsolete or decayed urban organisms, but it always ends up with resources being concentrated on limited portions of organisms at the expense of others. In this sense, also the reconstruction of the centre of Beirut can be considered as an example of modernization of just a part of a city. The rebuilding of BCD Beirut Central District was presented as an opportunity to redirect urban development in a city which witnessed severe destruction during 16 years of civil war. A special agency “Solidere- the Lebanese Company for the Development and Reconstruction”- was created with the aim of “reviving the historic heart of Beirut as a financial, commercial and tourist center”. It has been said it would inject new activity into the city and will help re-establish Beirut’s role on a national, regional, international scale. According to the Solidere reports “land development, along with strict standards of architectural and urban design has made investment in BCD property attractive for end-users and third-party developers. But, while Solidere sees these projects an enhancement to its own property portfolio, a substantial deterioration of both physical and natural environments is taking place outside. Most of the public resources are concentrated into this large development and reconstruction project and the rest of the city suffers from incompatible land uses, heavy traffic, noise, visual and air pollution. In many other parts of the Greater Beirut, in fact, urban and environmental design regulations for open public spaces, squares, parks, playgrounds, streets of various widths and functions, landscaping, pedestrian spaces, beaches, river edges, and other public areas are non-existent and the basic urban requirements and needs of the population are ignored.

23What all these special initiatives have in common is the intention to make “their” zone – whose limits coincide with the frontier of profitability – a “special district”, with specific standards and a better quality in comparison with the “normal” urban environment and to use “tradition and environment” as competitive advantages and valuable assets. The literature available leaves few doubts that publicly financed urban restructuring projects have neither solved nor reduced the growing economic and social problems of the residents. Local administrations are obliged to provide extra incentives in order to guarantee the profits of private promoters. At best, the city gets into debts and for many years is obliged to concentrate investments within a confined area or project. At worst, a scenario that is proving increasingly frequent, the city is unable to honour its commitments and has no alternative but to sell off assets and real estate. In any case the focus drawn on place may draw attention away from the people and existing activities.


24Irrespective of the real situation, all cities emphasize the global nature of their role; “Barcelona is a city which is open to the world. Today it is a Mediterranean, European and world capital of obligatory reference”; “Marseille ville internationale, Marseille and its urban area have, by nature, an international calling”. It is easy to assemble examples of places with world ambitions, much less easy to check the credibility of their claims. However, consultation of the lists of so-called world cities and the various rosters periodically compiled by associations or individual researchers on the basis of comparable criteria, such as the presence of first-rank economic activities or command institutions, shows that no city in the Mediterranean area has world status. For example, the inventory compiled by GaWC (Globalization and World Cities) on the basis of a series of indicators measuring the propensity of multinational corporations to establish operations in 122 cities [Beaverstock, Taylor, Smith, 1999] divides the cities into three categories, the first of which is broken down into four sub-groups, A-B-C-D-. Of Mediterranean cities only Barcelona makes an appearance, and that in the rather lowly context of Group C. The few other Mediterranean cities named are relegated to still lower positions: Athens and Tel Aviv are in the second category , for cities with “relatively strong evidence of world city formation”, while Cairo has “some evidence” and Marseille “minimal evidence” of world city formation. In short, the Mediterranean cities mentioned feature “evidence of world city formation processes but the evidence is not strong enough for them really to be called world cities”; at most, therefore, they can aspire to the role of “regional headquarters”. Anchoring growth visions around vague notions of high technology, command and control is not enough to capture investors.


25The impact and implications of urban marketing initiatives can be seen in different ways, but the main issue is to identify their point if they are unable to change the siting decisions of the multinationals. The most obvious answer is that the marketing campaigns make property speculation operations easier and more advantageous. In most Mediterranean cities where market-oriented exploitation of the urban product has been carried out by local governments jointly with the private sector the resulting real estate development projects, based primarily on public funding, tend to be controlled by well-entrenched public figures. Normally the projects are backed by private investors only after the city and state government have invested large sums from public funds and owing to these investments the risk factor for private investments is substantially reduced. The increasingly clear convergence of the strategies adopted on the one hand by the big private groups, state owned companies and local entrepreneurs and on the other by the public administrators is not confined to certain specific operations but is also true of a more general design for transformation of the city based on the extent and availability of building land, to be exploited for service activities, mainly in the tourism sector. This is in fact the real unifying feature of the various projects, though it is consistently masked by a declared pursuit of so-called modernization, a buzz-word intended to dignify land and property speculation operations which differ from those of the past only inasmuch as they are now directed mainly at publicly owned land. Nothing innovative indeed, on the contrary the mesh of interests of financial groups, political parties and individual politicians, has given rise to a sort of “assisted market” with consequences which are fundamental to the future of the city, for in a situation of this kind not only does the producer of projects ignore the interests of the city but the summation of the projects for a city which is apparently without a plan inevitably becomes “the plan”.

26It is undeniable that the present moment appears to be particularly propitious for the simultaneous emergence at both local and national levels of a series of conditions which we shall merely note here briefly: a general belief that public authorities are incapable of controlling territorial development and that private bodies are highly efficient in this area. In actual fact, public administration is now demonstrably more efficient that it has ever been. Its efficiency is however limited to contexts in which the objectives being pursued coincide with those of private enterprise; this consists in accelerating the economic changes which are the underlying prerequisite for the territorial changes planned, above all the destruction of industrial activities and their replacement with activities connected with tourism. This situation provides the context for the second and more interesting explanation of the success that seems to smile on urban marketing. Since these ideas area promoted by elite segments, which ultimately become political initiatives, a rationale must be developed to mobilize public support. A wide consensus is needed for these operations to be carried to a successful conclusion and to this end they have devised an efficient propaganda strategy. While attempting to ensure a receptive attitude on the part of the public by adopting and exploiting a common strategy, urban marketing induces public and private decision-makers to review internal relations and influences conflicting social relations within a given city:

  • as the instruments of democratic control weaken and the lack of adequate evaluation criteria continue, there is a generalized attempt to promote redevelopment projects and to obtain acceptance and publicity,

  • the great development schemes are not preceded or followed up by any assessment of their environmental or social impact,

  • the urban transformation process is underlain neither by an overall design nor an adequate response to social needs but rather by opportunities for use or public resources and by emergence of particularly strong interests.

27The effects that urban marketing policies orientated towards the setting up of flagship projects have had over the last few years in the US, UK and other European countries are well and extensively documented. In the Mediterranean area too, where the purpose seems to lend scientific authority to the attempt to construct a consensus (the shared vision) around occasions, such as the Olympic Games, exhibitions, large-scale investments of public capital and the transfer of extensive decision-making powers (and profits) to the private sector, it should be necessary to set up urban marketing in relation to urban planning and the property market. Genoa has appointed a municipal Director of Communications, with the task of devising an effective marketing strategy, the point of which is to support the administration’s image essentially in terms of “political visibility and consensus building”. “One of my tasks, ” she declared on taking up the post, “is to promote Genoa in the rest of the world, also for the market opportunities it offers”; and she added, “I am confident, because Genoa has rediscovered the will to build”.


28In actual terms, as with many terms (governance, flexibility) that have become fashionable and used as symbols of new, modern, efficient methods of government, the spread of urban marketing features a marked component of ambiguity and distortion. It has become a commonplace, a slogan as abused as it is unproved, to state that in the so-called global market the erosion of the role of national states by various forms of supranational power will be accompanied by a rebirth of the cities, which are destined to become pivotal actors on the new economic stage. In reality, urban marketing is an effect of the territorial fragmentation. Territorial fragmentation is not an administrative question nor an assertion of regional autonomy, but just as flexibility requires the removal of labour control and protection regulations, so territorial flexibility requires new relationships between financial operators, citizens and institutions.

29While the free movement of capital might encourage belief in a sort of deterritorialization of economic activities, the spatial dimension is in fact returning because businesses press the regions and cities to offer a wide range of advantages. The real greater flexibility in siting productive activities does not of itself make all points on the globe interchangeable. It is not true that all places can compete for any role, and certainly not for command functions. Serious economists know that growth of territorial economies is largely governed by factors over which local agencies have little influence [Cheshire, 1999]. In a market characterised by many sellers and few buyers, the main thing that sellers can do is compete on place inducements, but this form of competition can generate substantial costs for local communities. Cities with tremendous internal needs and demands are obliged to allocate funding to transform themselves into the type of locale which is globally attractive.

30The most likely role of Mediterranean cities in the international division of labour is to become centres of consumption. Despite a different “mix” in the presentation of competitive advantages, there is a lack of originality, in their marketing campaigns, the most frequently used motives being a favourable situation, a suitable entrepreneurial climate, pleasant housing and environment, low land prices, businesslike attitude of the municipal authorities. What is striking, and should give rise to concern, is the absence of forms of marketing that promote a different idea of the city and therefore of programmes based on alternative, less crude hypotheses that take account of the medium- and long-term effects of the lack of social equity and of the destruction of non- renewable environmental resources. A few cities have recently discovered Agenda 21, but in general the priority is still to attract economic activity, almost at any price.



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VAN DER BERG Leo, VAN DER BORG Jan, VAN DER MEER Jan (1995), Urban Tourism, Avebury, Aldershot.;;;;;;;;


1 Professeure au Dipartimento Analisi Economica e Sociale del Territorio. Instituto Universitario di Venezia.


© Presses universitaires François-Rabelais, 2002

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