Interview Shirley Nieuwland - How to stimulate sustainable tourism?

Shirley Nieuwland, doctoral candidate within the Erasmus Initiative Vital Cities and Citizens, studies sustainable tourism in cities. What is the impact of tourists on the quality of life in the city? What do residents think? Can they still find houses? Or did the city become a theme park? Shirley also immerses herself in the various strategies cities deploy to stimulate sustainable tourism. She mainly studies cities where relatively few tourists visit, like Rotterdam and Valencia. Her key question is: how to stimulate sustainable tourism?

What research methods do you use?

My study is qualitative: I conduct interviews and do content analyses. During my research in Rotterdam I interviewed several creative entrepreneurs. In Valencia the respondents were more diverse: I spoke with various stakeholders in the field of tourism in the city, like policymakers, resident groups and entrepreneurs. In Spanish, which was a challenge at times.   

How interdisciplinary is your research?

I completed the International Bachelor of Arts and Culture Studies (IBACS) and the master Urban Geography at the Radboud University. Both disciplines can be found in my dissertation. I am also in contact with scientists of other universities with a lot of knowledge of tourism, since there is no specialization at the EUR. When you try to bring together these three disciplines, it will quickly become a long and extensive story. I find this challenging. What works for me is to start out, to give serious thought on what is most relevant and subsequently also crossing out a lot. 

How does your research impact society?

As a part of my master thesis I conducted comparative research on problems surrounding AirBnb and the associated policy that is pursued in 11 different cities in Europe and the United States. In November last year, I was invited to a small gathering of lawyers and policymakers in Bern, Switzerland. They wanted to know more about how AirBnb can be regulated. I elaborated on my paper and advised them what steps they could take. 

In the first year of my PhD I started the website ParadiseFound. . I share blogs and research findings about sustainable tourism for a broad public. As a traveler, what can you do to make sure that a found paradise does not become a lost paradise? And what can you do as a policymaker to prevent mass tourism? I was recently interviewed by Erasmus Magazine about my website. 

I have been asked to give an interview for the Podcast Uit de Ivoren Toren, in which I talk about my research and my blogs. This podcast has been created by the Centre for Sustainability (a collaboration between Leiden, Delft and Erasmus university), to place scientists in society concerning the theme of sustainability. 

Furthermore, I wrote a chapter of a book for students on the process towards the upcoming tourism policy in Rotterdam, together with a researcher of the Utrecht University and someone working at Rotterdam Partners. This textbook will be published around January.  

In what way would you like to make an impact in the future?

I would like to share my future findings for a wide audience in a shortened and practical form on a website like Vers Beton. I would also like to inspire people more with regard to sustainable tourism on my website. This concerns both travelers and policymakers. In the future I want to possibly make an impact by accepting consultancy assignments.   

Vital Cities and Citizens

With the Erasmus Initiative Vital Cities and Citizens Erasmus University Rotterdam wants to help improve the quality of life in cities. In vital cities, the population can achieve their life goals through education, useful work and participation in public life. The vital city is a platform for creativity and diversity, a safe meeting place for different social groups. The researchers involved focus on one of the four sub-themes:

•    Inclusive Cities and Diversity
•    Resilient Cities and People
•    Smart Cities and Communities 
•    Sustainable and Just Cities

VCC is a collaboration between Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences (ESSB), Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication (ESHCC) and International Institute of Social Studies (ISS).

PhD student