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festivals 'pretexts to discover culture, gastronomy
or the communities of these countries implanted
here', thus reducing these to the other, setting
them on display as the exotic to be watched,
tasted and discovered but never close enough to
be really part of the project and shaping it.
As a summary, is not exactly the tourist gaze
that plays a role in image construction here but
a solipsistic integrated gaze on the part of the
decision makers, combined with attempts to
make the right moves to receive funding. Mons'
'requalifi cation', seems to rely mainly on the
tastes of the higher people, something that
refl ects the composition of the people responsi-
ble for its strategy, their vision of heritage, their
tourist expectations and sources of funding but
not really the diversity, history and reality of a
socio-economic position of a region that has
received European structural funds to recover
from a decline of industry. 9 The taking up of the
expected tourists' views by the authorities 'sell-
ing culture' produces a 'reifi cation of the urban
space according to strictly defi ned lines'. This
reifi cation consists in creating a superfi cial link
between a signifi er (appearance of space) and a
signifi ed (a history, a people, a culture) (Massart,
2004). This imposition of a dominant history
works as a form of acculturation and coloniza-
tion of the subject (Croal and Darou, 2002).
Moreover, since this link is presented as the
authentic, true expression of cultural identity
while it in fact results 'from complex social inter-
actions and power relations' (Massart, 2004) or
'determined instances of production and
control', 10 erasing some aspects and highlight-
ing some others can lead to a dangerous oblit-
eration of other cultures and alternative histories.
Moreover, one non-elected offi cial in Mons
points out that some choices might prove good
in the long term but are not implemented for
fear of losing voters or not bringing enough
money. One way to avoid this would be to
develop more audience surveys, thus surveying
tourists but also locals and decision makers
regarding heritage values and buildings, and
make sure they fi t and confl icts do not arise.
This has for instance been done in Ávila.
The city of Ávila is located in the central
part of Spain, about 100 km west of Madrid. It is
the capital of its province, and belongs to the
'Castilla y León' region. According to the popu-
lation services, the town counts 52,000 resi-
dents. The economies of the city have been
traditionally based on the primary sector, though
in the last half century Ávila has known some
industrial and tourism development. The origins
of the city date to the fi rst Vetton and Celtic
settlements in the area, between the 4th and 2nd
centuries BC . The current urban setting is the
result of Roman occupation; the Romans were
also probably the builders of the fi rst defensive
perimeter that, centuries later, would be modifi ed
and improved as the Medieval Walls. Ávila lived
its period of splendour as a border city, between
Christian and Muslim territory, in the 11th cen-
tury, when the current walls were built. As the
re-conquest of the territory pushed the Muslims
further south, the city gradually lost its strategic
importance and declined, abandoned to a poor
primary-sector economy and to a conservative
church-administration. The situation essentially
remained the same until the 1950s when immi-
gration from the countryside started to revitalize
the city and to shift its economy to the third sec-
tor. In 1985, following a gradual growth of tour-
ism, attracted by its rich built heritage, Ávila was
included in the list of World Heritage Cities.
Nowadays the tourism sector is mature, and
especially focuses on cultural issues.
The actual tourism strategy was adopted in
1999, as a part of a Plan de Excelencia (devel-
opment plan) designed, managed and fi nanced
in partnership by the Ministry of Economy, the
Region of Castilla y León, the Municipality of
Ávila and the representatives of the private
sector of the city (Chamber of Commerce and
Federation of businessmen of Ávila). Its planned
length was of 3 years, and the total budget
amounted to 4.06 million. The generic goals of
the Plan were the creation of tourism manage-
ment structures to complete the existing ones,
and the consolidation of the city as an important
Cultural-Religious Tourism destination. From the
fi rst moment, it appeared that the success of the
9 The whole area, called Borinage, suffered such a bad reputation that the term 'borain' (coming from Borinage)
has actually turned into an insult in French.
10 From Delgado Ruiz (2000). Original text in Spanish, author's translation.
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