Gentrifiers Against Gentrification: Tourism Gentrification in Algarve, South Portugal

Gentrifiers Against Gentrification: Tourism Gentrification in Algarve, South Portugal

Jorge André Guerreiro (Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra, Portugal) and João Filipe Marques (Faculty of Economics and Research Centre for Tourism, Sustainability and Well-Being (CinTurs), University of Algarve, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3156-3.ch001
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This chapter presents a case-study of tourism gentrification in a fishing town in Algarve, South Portugal. Olhão is a former industrial city that saw much of its fishing industry disappear since the 1980s. Over the last few years, hundreds of foreigners have moved into its historic centre. This rapid influx of citizens to derelict neighbours mostly comprised of old retirees and few active fishermen prompted a gentrification process. Olhão now faces the threat of mass displacements of its older and most vulnerable citizens, a fact that is worrying the foreigners that criticize the touristification of the city, with rents at historical highs and landlords forcing out the Portuguese residents in order to promote short-term rentals to tourists. The chapter presents the results obtained from an extensive mixed-methods research, ending with some notes about the future of the city and the implications that can be taken from this case.
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The initial stage of an invasion has to do with the point of entry, the resistance or inducement offered the invader by the prior inhabitants of the area, the effect upon land values and rentals. The invasion, of course, may be into an unoccupied territory or into territory with various degrees of occupancy. The resistance to invasion depends upon the type of the invader together with the degree of solidarity of the present occupants. The undesirable invader, whether in population type or in use form, usually makes entry (that is, within an area already completely occupied) at the point of greatest mobility.

Park, Burges and McKenzie (1967[1925], p. 75)



At the end of the XX century, the renowned British sociologist Anthony Giddens (2000) wrote that modernity advanced like a runway train, a juggernaut that spared nothing and no one. Arguing that globalization has brought forward a series of transformations that resulted in what Ritzer described as a “set of processes involving increasing liquidity and the growing multi-directional flows of people, objects, places and information as well as the structures they encounter and create that are barriers to, or expedite, those flows (2011, p. 11).”

The terms here and now have thus gained a different understanding, just as our understanding of time and space has changed as a result of these transformations. While the physical world remains much the same, the social world and the meaning attached to it have greatly changed over the last decades. This space/time compression that globalization represents has affected the lifeworld and all of its dimensions and cities are no exception (Bauman, 1998).

The study of modernity has since long focused on cities as the unit of measure to grasp social change, transformations, progress and conflict. One needs only to consider the streets of Paris in the XIXth century (Benjamin, 1969); the British industrial towns and advent of unions; the death of the Romanovs or the transformations of Chicago during the 20s and 30s. If history is told from the point of view of nations, then cities are the playing fields where it actually happens.

Understanding cities nowadays is no longer solely a spatially bound exercise, since much of what happens in a specific territory, happens for reasons often extrinsic to that territory. Transnational capital, as much as the flows of people, potentiates change and affects everything. And while butterflies batting their wings cannot cause a hurricane, a piece of legislation created in China or in the United States can greatly affect cities on the other side of the globe. If anything, this is a testament to the global financial and economic markets and how integrated the world economy has become. But while such transformations are often looked at a nation-state level, they happen at city levels as well (Wallerstein, 1999).

Gentrification as a social phenomenon perfectly encapsulates these ideas. Once a very specific process characteristic of industrial towns, it evolved as much as the cities themselves. As gentrification became more complex and began to occur in global cities as much as industrial towns, its theory expanded to accommodate these novel forms of spatial change (Sassen, 2002). Today, gentrification is mostly found in post-industrial settings and is driven by other factors, while also becoming highly imbricated in the processes of social and spatial change at local levels that themselves result from complex dynamics of mobility and transnational movements of people and capitals.

This chapter focuses on a case-study of Olhão, a fishing town that was once part of the industrial centre of Algarve, South Portugal, to argue that novel forms of gentrification, such as tourism gentrification and transnational gentrification, are tightly linked to contemporary forms of mobilities. Having recently experienced a gentrification process, the transformations in Olhão are a microcosmos of what spaces of hypermobility can lead to, as well as of the lifestyle mobilities that prompt such processes as much as public policies or state legislations.

The chapter analyses data collected from interviews, focus-groups and ethnography, using a phenomenological approach to recount how the gentrification process began, how it evolved and ends with some guesses to where it might go in the near future. Emphasis was put on the displacement of the original residents of the historical centre and how the gentrifiers see these process and the transformations occurring in that part of the city.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Transnational Gentrification: Gentrification process caused by the influx of individuals from another country, with higher income than that of the original residents of the area. It is closely related to mobilities and differs from tourism gentrification in the sense that these are either new permanent inhabitants or individuals that acquire housing for temporary stays. Both forms lead to increasing housing and cost of living costs, thus leading to the displacement of the original inhabitants.

Mobilities: Mobilities (not to be confused with social mobility) refers to the movement of people, objects, capital and information, and to the social meaning, implications and contexts of such movements. It distinguishes itself from movement because of this aspect: movement does not require meaning, while mobilities have meaning attached to them (what does it mean to go to one place instead of the other, what some places represent to some people and how these meanings change according to the individual, etc.).

Lifestyle Mobilities: Consists in the voluntary relocation of individuals to places they perceive as allowing them to adopt or manifest a different lifestyle. Can also encapsulate frequent movements (circular residential patterns) or lifestyles based on frequent residence changes (such as backpackers or neo-nomads).

Anti-tourism: Negative or even hostile attitudes towards tourism, tourists and the touristic industry. Often begins as sentiments and can develop into social movements when tourism begins to have a perceived negative impact in the resident’s lives. Often closely related to touristification, overtourism, and tourism gentrification.

Gentrification: A transformation process caused by the influx of middle and high income individuals to urban areas previously inhabited by the working classes with lower income, resulting in higher living and housing costs, which results in the dislocation of the original inhabitants from the affected area.

Touristification: An increase of the number of tourists and tourism businesses in a given territory the impact created by it. The term has lately been used in conjunction (or interchangeably) with overtourism to designate the overcrowding and excess of tourism, as well as its impacts to the local population and to the tourism industry itself.

Platform Tourism: Tourism goods or services offered by private individuals to visitors through digital platforms, such as Airbnb. It is also referred to as Platform Tourism Services.

Super Gentrification: Process that occurs when previously gentrified areas begin experiencing a new wave of gentrification that affects not only the original inhabitants, but also the previous gentrifiers. It is often caused by individuals with even higher economic capital (often transnational elites) move to gentrified areas.

Tourism Gentrification: Gentrification process not directly caused by the influx of new residents with higher income, but rather by the touristification of areas and the ensuing escalating housing prices inflation. Lately it has become closely tight with platform tourism.

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