TOURISM IN CAPITAL CITIES
C. Michael Hall
Draft manuscript published as
Hall, C.M. 2002, Tourism in capital cities. Tourism: An International Interdisciplinary
Journal, 50(3): 235-248.
TOURISM IN CAPITAL CITIES
The article presents an overview of some of the tourism dimensions of capital cities, a
specific form of urban tourism which has received little explicit recognition in the
tourism literature. The article discusses the nature of the capital city function and its
potential relationship to specific forms of tourism. Different administrative
arrangements for tourism are also discussed. Examples from Canada and Australia also
highlight potential difficulties in integrating capital city functions with that of tourism.
The article concludes that the capital city function has enormous benefits for heritage
and culturally related tourism as well as business travel and that the capital city function
deserves greater recognition in the urban tourism literature than what has hitherto been
KEY WORDS: Capital cities, urban tourism , heritage, Ottawa, Canberra.
TOURISM IN CAPITAL CITIES
Capital cities are an important component of the national fabric of almost every
country in the world yet, surprisingly, very little has been written about their tourism
significance beyond a city by city basis (e.g., Law 1996; Richards 1996; Mazanec
1997). However, capital cities represent a special case of urban tourism (Page 1995;
Page & Hall 2003), even though some recent works (e.g., Law 2002) fails to
acknowledge their unique role in attracting visitors. As Canada's National Capital
Commission (NCC) observed, “The combination of political, cultural, symbolic and
administrative functions is unique to national capitals” (NCC 2000b: 9). In the case of
Ottawa, the national capital of Canada, the NCC argues that “the capital functions as
'the political centre and symbolic heart of the country. It is the site of crucial political
decision-making, yet it is also a setting for the nation's culture and history, where the
past is highlighted, the present displayed and the future imagined” (NCC 2000b: 9).
Although such statements are obviously significant in terms of national politics, identity
and culture the wider significance of capital city status for tourism has been grossly
under researched and, perhaps, under appreciated. Nevertheless, capital status is
important. Given that capitals provide an administrative and political base of
government operations there will therefore be spin-off effects for business travel in
terms of both those who work in the capital and those who are seeking to lobby
government or influence decisions. Indeed, when some of the capital city functions are
devolved or are shifted away from the capital, substantial economic revenues may be
lost. For example, when Australian Prime Minister John Howard decided to make
Sydney's Kirribilli house his official residence rather than the Prime Ministers Lodge in
Canberra, the national capital, Mr. Howard's actions were not only regarded as
significant in their affect on the symbolic status of Canberra and the location of political
power but it was also interpreted as having a small though significant affect on the
travel behaviour of public servants and lobbyists. To a city the size of Sydney such a
shift was not significant, although for Canberra, less than one-tenth the size of Sydney,
it was substantial given that the city hosts approximately 300 industry and professional
bodies that located there because of the access it provides for lobbying purposes
In addition to business related travel, capital cities are also significant for tourism
because of their cultural, heritage and symbolic roles. They frequently host major
national cultural institutions while they also have a significant wider role in the
portrayal, preservation and promotion of national heritage and the showcase national
culture (Therborn 1996). Such a concentration of arts and cultural institutions will
therefore have implications for the travel and activity behaviour of culturally interested
tourists as will as contributing to the image of a city as a whole. Indeed, given increased
place competition between cities the ability to harness positive cultural images may be
regarded as a major asset by municipal governments (Hall, C. 1997; Law 2002; Page &
Hall 2003). However, while the cultural opportunities available in capital cities may be
seen to be a tourist advantage, their political dimensions may not. For example, Totally
Wellington, the regional tourist organisation for the city of Wellington, the capital of
New Zealand, stated in their media information material:
[Wellington] has transformed from a dull government centre into a vibrant urban
destination - but Wellington's not stopping there… Visitors have been lured by
attractions such as Te Papa, the amazing interactive national museum of New
Zealand - which had over 3.5 million visits in less than two years. Supporting Te
Papa is a whole myriad of other New Zealand heritage attractions, the arts, shopping,
restaurants and cafes and a plethora of events that provide an ever-changing face to
Wellington. (Totally Wellington 2000)
Similarly, in the case of Canberra, a new marketing strategy (Canberra Tourism &
Events Corporation [CTEC] 2000) sought to highlight “that priority should continue to
be given to communications that seek to change the personality of Canberra from ‘cool,
stuffy, reserved and closed’ to more open, welcoming and approachable” (CTEC 2000:
3). CTEC also sought to reposition Canberra “to ‘our national capital’ rather than
‘Canberra’” (2000: 3).
The present article seeks to provide an introduction to tourism in capital cities. The
article first discusses the nature of the capital city function and how it is related to
tourism, it then goes on to discuss tourism as a component of capital city planning with
the National Capital Commission (NCC) in Ottawa providing an example of how
broader capital city planning can influence tourism. The article then provides a number
of observations regarding the role of capital city planning agencies in tourism before
providing a more general set of conclusions with respect to the relationship between
capital cities and tourism.
THE CAPITAL FUNCTION
Given that designated capital cities exist in nearly every country in the world, it is
“reasonable to suppose that the capitals do have some conditions and features in
common in the way they have developed, which justify their being treated as a single
group” (Hall, T. 1997: 2). “Capital cities are places where authoritative and legitimate
decisions are taken, capitals are most often the seat not only of the political institutions
of government, but of administrative ones as well” (Andrew & Taylor 2000: 38).
Nevertheless, Peter Hall (2000) has recognised a number of different types of capitals:
• multifunction capitals - combining most of the highest national-level functions, e.g.
Paris, London, Stockholm;
• global capitals - representing supernational roles in politics, commercial life or both,
e.g. New York, London, Tokyo
• political capitals - created as seats of government, often lacking other functions or
only gaining them over time once the political function is established, e.g. The
Hague, Washington, Ottawa, Canberra, and Brisilia;
• former capitals which have lost their role as the seat of government but which retain
other historical functions, e.g. Leningrad, Philadelphia;
• ex-imperial capitals - former imperial cities which have lost their empires but which
may still function as national capitals or retain other functions which may also give
them a preeminent gateway function, e.g. Lisbon, Madrid, Vienna, London (see
Clark & Lepetit 1996; T. Hall 1997; Driver & Gilbert 1999);
• provincial/state capitals, e.g Montreal, Munich, Melbourne, Vancouver; and
• super-capitals - functioning as centres for international organisations, e.g. Brussels,
Strasbourg, New York.
Peter Hall's classification does offer some insights into the function that capital cities
may have but to this list we can also add to other forms that the notion of a capital
• cultural capitals - particularly in Europe where a formal structure of declaring
cultural capitals has been developed within the framework of the European Union;
• brand capital - this is where a places describes itself as a capital in terms of a
particular product, e.g. Zurich in Ontario as the bean capital of Canada.
The use of the notion of a capital in terms of branding and culture is significant for
tourism both in terms of place promotion but also attracting high-yielding cultural
tourists (Page & Hall 2003). Indeed, given the growth of place marketing in an
increasingly competitive global economic environment such a development is logical in
terms of branding places and place competition. However, for the purpose of this
discussion the notion of a capital is related primarily to political, administrative and
symbolic functions which operate at a national or provincial level. As Dubé and Gordon
(2000: 6) observed, “Planning for cities that include a seat of government often involves
political and symbolic concerns that are different from those of other urban areas”. They
may also be substantial in terms of scale. For example, Canada's national and provincial
capital cities account for over 30% of the population and nine of the nineteen largest
metropolitan areas while in Australia the figure is closer to 70% of the population (Page
& Hall 2003). While their economic significance may be substantial, “there is no rule
that that a political capital automatically attracts concomitant economic functions” (P.
Hall 2000: 8), although a capital may be deliberately located so as to fulfill economic
roles. For example, in the case of Brasilia, which was inaugurated as Brazil's capital in
1960, “By transferring the federal political structure to a location in the centre of the
country, it integrated the national territory at the same time that it allowed for national
economic development” (Roriz 2000: 17). It should also be noted that in tourism terms
the establishment of Brasilia has had a substantial impact on domestic travel flows
within Brasil. Similarly, if capital status is lost it can have a significant affect on visitor
numbers, as in the case of the transfer of the German national capital from Bonn to
Berlin after the reunification of Germany where Berlin has witnessed a dramatic
increase in overnight stays and Bonn a decline (see Table 1).
TABLE 1 HERE
In addition, the historical development of capital cities may also provide them with a
significant transport gateway or hub function. Particularly with respect to European
imperial powers the assumption of capital status meant that capital cities were often at
the centre of a web of transport networks, many of which exist to the present day. In the
case of London for example this gateway and hub function exists to the present day and
is extremely significant for international visitor arrivals (Page & Hall 2003). In addition,
in the case of London the hub function combines with the clustering of national
institutions to give London preeminence in the visitor arrivals. For example, nine of the
top twenty attractions in the United Kingdom which charge for admission are located in
London (Table 2) with a tenth, Windsor Castle, being on the outskirts of the city.
Similarly, London also has a high share of the top free attractions in the United
Kingdom (Table 3) (the abolition of museum admission charges may have had some
impact on rankings although Law (2002) and Page and Hall (2003) also note the
dominance of London in terms of British world-class visitor attractions). In the case of
London the number of significant visitor attractions are a by-product of capital city
status which may have been a function of the size of the city and its gateway function
rather than a direct response to its role as a capital. However, in a number of other
jurisdictions tourism is an important component of capital city planning.
TABLE 2 HERE
TABLE 3 HERE
TOURISM AS A COMPONENT OF CAPITAL CITY PLANNING
The planning of capital cities, along with the planning of tourism in capital cities
may be somewhat problematic given potentially competing agendas and demands
between the national, regional and local level. As Peter Hall (2000: 6) noted, “capital
city issues dominate planning in Canberra and Brisilia, and yet are often minor concerns
in London, Paris and Tokyo”. In great part this relates to the institutional arrangements
which have been established to undertake capital city planning as well as the cultural
and political framework within which capital cities exist. For example, Washington,
D.C. in the United States and Canberra in Australia have national government mandated
authorities specifically established to reinforce the capital city symbolic function while
Wellington in New Zealand does not. In addition, some capital cities have specific
spatial boundaries within which capital city planning authorities may operate in addition
to any municipal government function.
The national government of the Commonwealth of Australia, for example, has
established a National Capital Authority (NCA) in addition to the functions of the
government of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) in which the capital Canberra is
located. The capital territory is completely surrounded by the state of New South Wales.
The Commonwealth, through the NCA, and ACT Governments share responsibility for
the planning and development of Canberra. According to the NCA
The planning and development of Canberra must achieve a balance between the
interests of the nation and the interests of the local community.
On behalf of the Commonwealth, the National Capital Authority administers and
implements the National Capital Plan. The object of the Plan is to 'ensure that
Canberra and the Territory are planned in accordance with their national
The ACT Government, through the Territory Plan, is responsible for ensuring 'the
planning and development of the Territory to provide the people with an attractive,
safe and efficient environment in which to live and work and have their recreation'.
The Territory Plan is required to be 'not inconsistent' with the National Capital
The National Capital Plan and the Territory Plan are established under the
Australian Capital Territory (Planning and Land Management) Act 1988.
The vision of the National Capital Authority is for a National Capital which
symbolises Australia’s heritage, values and aspirations is internationally recognised,
and of which Australians are proud (National Capital Authority 2000).
Similarly, in the United States the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC)
has been established to undertake planning and development of Washington in keeping
with its capital city function. As the NCPC states, “Washington is the seat of
government and symbolic heart of the nation, and planning for the Nation's Capital is
different from planning for other cities” (National Capital Planning Commission
2001a). Indeed, its most recent strategic plan for the capital district explicitly recognises
the relationship that tourism has with the political, cultural and symbolic functions of
Washington's core area and the contribution it makes to economic development. The
plan seeks to redefine “Washington's Monumental Core by creating opportunities for
new museums, memorials, and federal office buildings' and preserve 'the historic
character and open space of the Mall and its adjacent ceremonial corridors while
accommodating growth and new development' in relation to the visitor demands that are
being placed on Washington” (NCPC 1997):
The National Capital Planning Commission, working with leading planning and
design professionals and with business, community, and federal and local
government partners, developed the plan in response to the anticipated demands on
the Nation's Capital in the 21st century. Tourism is expected to double over the next
50 years, automobile traffic could increase by a third during the next 20 years, and
sites for many new memorials, museums, and federal buildings must be found
(National Capital Planning Commission 1997).
In addition, in Washington substantial monies is being invested in urban
redevelopment by the National Capital Revitalisation Corporation (NCRC) (2000) “an
independent corporate instrumentality of the District of Columbia charged with a
specific mission: improving District businesses, promoting real estate development, and
infusing economic development into the District of Columbia” as well as the NCPC
itself. For example, 'The Federal Capital Improvements Program for Fiscal Years 2000-
2004 contains 130 projects from 14 departments and agencies at an estimated cost of
$4.2 billion. In addition, the FCIP includes 18 other projects for future consideration by
federal agencies in the region. These recommendations are intended to improve the
character and quality of the region for visitors and residents' (National Capital Planning
Within federal systems, planning bodies may also be established for provincial or
state capitals. For example, in British Columbia in Canada the Provincial Government
established a Provincial Capital Commission (PCC) for the capital of Victoria.
Established in 1956 and given extra powers in 1979 (Morris 2000) the “Commission's
mandate is to protect and enhance the unique character and surroundings of British
Columbia’s Capital”. The scope of the Commission's powers is indicated in Section 8 of
the PCC's Act in reference to its coordination powers:
1.The commission shall coordinate construction and development work in the Capital
Improvement District in accordance with general plans approved from time to time
under this Act.
2.Proposals for the location, erection, alteration or extension of a building or other
work by or on behalf of the Province by any person on land owned, leased or
otherwise controlled by the Province in the Capital Improvement District shall be
referred to the commission prior to the commencement of the work.
3.No building or other work shall be erected, altered or extended by or on behalf of
the Province in the Capital Improvement District unless the site, location and plans
have first been approved by the commission.
4.No person shall erect, alter or extend a building or other work on land in the
Capital Improvement District owned, leased or otherwise controlled by the Province
unless the site, location and plans have first been approved by the commission.
5.In any case where the commission does not give its approval under this section, the
lieutenant Governor in Council may give approval.
6.This section does not apply to interior alterations in a work or building. (British
Columbia Provincial Capital Commission 2000).
In the case of Victoria the work undertaken in the Capital Improvement District has
assisted in creating an attractive waterfront environment for visitors as well as
reinforcing the province’s identity through the support of attractions such as the
provincial museum (Morris 2000). These examples from Australia, the United States
and British Columbia illustrate the important planning functions that capital authorities
may have and their potential influence on tourism. The following section provides a
more detailed examination of the planning activities of the Ottawa National Capital
Commission and their impacts on tourism as a means of illustrating the relationship
between tourism and capital cities.
The National Capital Commission, Ottawa, Canada
Ottawa is an excellent example of Gottmann's (1983) observation that “capital cities
often act as hinges between different regions of a country”. Ottawa lies at the border
between French and English speaking Canada, a history of interaction between labour
and capital, as well as being at a location where different ecological regions also
coincide (NCC 1999). The main avenue for Canadian government actions to reinforce
the role of Ottawa's capital city status is the National Capital Commission (NCC),
which has the mission “To create pride and unity through Canada's Capital Region”
(NCC 2000a: 5). Established in 1959 the Canadian Parliament created the NCC giving
it the mandate to develop a capital that would reflect Canada as the country evolved into
a modern state. The NCC is a Crown corporation governed by a national board of
directors (the Commission) and reports to Parliament through the Minister of Canadian
Heritage. The National Capital Act of 1958, amended in 1988, directs the NCC:
• to prepare plans for and to assist in the development, conservation and
improvement of the national Capital Region in order that the nature and character of
the seat of the Government of Canada may be in accordance with its national
• to organize, sponsor or promote such public activities and events in the National
Capital region as will enrich the cultural and social fabric of Canada, taking into
account the federal character of Canada, the equality of status of the official
languages of Canada and the heritage of the people of Canada (NCC 2000a: 6)
The NCC's mandate also includes coordinating the policies and programmes of the
Government of Canda with respect to the organisation, sponsorship or promotion by
federal departments and agencies of public activities and events related to the National
Capital Region (NCR). In addition, it is responsible for approving the design of
buildings and land use, as well as any changes in use relating to federal lands in the
NCR (NCC 2000a). According to the NCC (2000b) the political function of the capital
is fulfilled through the accommodation of those institutions, facilities and events that are
required for the parliamentary process to function.
the cultural function of the Capital is to represent the achievements, cultural
identities, customs and beliefs of the Canadian people. It has the institutions, events,
attractions, symbols, landscapes, pathways and associated facilities that are required
to present the nation's human and natural resources, and to display Canadian history,
creativity and knowledge. It also exhibits the various cultural values, aspirations and
traditions of Canadians (NCC 2000b: 10).
Although the NCC is clearly not primarily a tourist organisation its actions and
policies over the years have created substantial tourism resources for the region in the
form of attractions and events, imaging the city through its promotional and marketing
campaigns, as well as directly encouraging Canadians and overseas visitors to learn
more about Canada by visiting Ottawa. The significance of the NCC for tourism cannot
be overestated. As Tunbridge (1998: 95) observed, “In an unmanaged state Ottawa's
tourism resource would be modest: a physical environment recreationally attractive, but
unexceptional in Canada; a historic ambience with distinctive elements, but weak by
international standards; and an overall cultural environment which was in the 1960s the
butt of jests… and a non-place to most further afield”. Instead, Ottawa is now one of the
main urban tourism destinations in Canada.
According to the NCC it “exists to promote national pride through the creation of a
great capital for an increasingly diverse body of Canadians” (2000a: 8). A key focus of
achieving its strategic goals since the early 1990s has been the theme of renewal and the
development of a core area vision for the NCR. The core referring to the central area of
Ottawa in which the main national institutions are located. In order to achieve its goals
it has “fostered the re-development of the By Ward Market, where a mix of commercial
and residential uses has restored life and preserved the character of a unique heritage
neighbourhood” and is looking to regenerate the Sparks Street mall area “only a block
from Parliament Hill… It forms the interface of the 'civic' and 'capital' realms. It is an
expression of Ottawa and, as such, of Canada. The revitalization of Sparks Street is
therefore an important symbol of Canada's commitment to a vibrant future that is solidly
rooted in the past” (NCC 2000a: 3).
Significantly, a future tourism focus is the development of the NCR “as an
ecodestination…. However, to respond successfully to the needs of future travellers –
not just eco-tourists, but also increasing numbers of business people, convention-goers
and seniors – the NCC must support the development of new Capital services and
infrastructure” (NCC 2000a: 9). In addition, the NCC has developed a series of
parkways in the Ottawa region that have an historic role as recreational and leisure
corridors for motorists and cyclists. The parkways also link into the transitway system
and act as “gateways” to the NCR which remain “influencing the perception of visitors
and to communicating the image and landscape of the Capital” (NCCC 1998: 52).
The extent to which the NCC had made a financial commitment to urban renewal in
the NCR is substantial. Until 2000 over Can.$109 million had been spent as part of the
capital construction program with the NCC estimating that over Can.$44 million would
be spent in 2001 and Can.$27 million in 2005 (NCC 2000a). Over Can.$13 million a
year is allocated to promoting and animating the NCR while over Can.$50 million goes
into real asset management and development and Can.$1.6 million into the planning
process itself. Examples of the planning function of the NCC which influence the tourist
attractiveness of the city include development of urban land master plans, transportation
planning, and completing a policy for and identifying cultural landscapes in the NCR
Given the desire of the NCC to create a meaningful “Capital experience”
programming activities have been established in recent years thereby creating a
substantial events package for visitors. The annual Winterlude festival is now promoted
internationally by the Canadian tourism industry while the annual Canada Day
celebrations have considerable national profile. For example, the televised events of the
Canada Day program in 1999 had a total of 876,000 viewers for the noon show and
1,338,000 viewers for the evening show (NCC 2000a).
One of the hallmarks of a capital city is the extent to which it enables national
institutions to be clustered in a relatively small area. Table 4 indicates the number of
visits to national institutions and attractions in Ottawa between 1992 to 1999.
Parliament Hill is also one of the most visited heritage sites in Canada with 1.5 million
visitors each year. Tourism now contributes well over a billion Canadian dollars to the
Ottawa region economy and makes a substantial contribution to employment as well as
government taxes. Clearly, there are a number of primary benefits of visiting Ottawa
that are unique to a capital city. In a survey conducted in 1991 85 per cent of
respondents agreed that it was a good way for young people to learn about their country,
while the opportunity to learn about Canada was cited as important by 57 per cent of
respondents (NCC 1991). Indeed, “a unique characteristic that is shared among all
visitors to Ottawa-Hull is the desire to visit national cultural institutions and physical
landmarks that symbolize and reflect all of Canada” (NCC 1991: v). According to the
NCC (1999: 63): 'The function of a national cultural institution (e.g., museum) is to
display, protect and explain past, present and future national phenomena and human
achievements. National cultural institutions are also used to communicate social,
cultural, political, scientific, technical, or other knowledge through various media'.
TABLE 4 HERE
The extent to which the NCC's objectives and strategies influence tourism in Ottawa
are indicated in Table 5. As the table illustrates tourism relevant strategies cut across all
the core activities of the NCC even if tourism might not be explicitly mentioned.
Indeed, in reviewing the NCC's official documents it is worthwhile noting that tourism
is hardly mentioned at all although 'visitors' remain a key focus of NCC activity.
However, to complicate matters further in terms of tourism planning and development,
there are a number of regional, municipal and private sector bodies which also have an
interest in tourism and which may be at odds at times with the NCC’s goals and
objectives. In one sense this also reflects Rowat's observation that “residents of a capital
city want to control decision-making in the city, while at the same time acknowledging
that the amenities of the capital add to the quality of life there” (Rowat 1993: 38). But
perhaps as Tunbridge (1998: 104) more cogently observed, “Locally fragmented
jurisdictions create the further complication of local and regional priorities, which may
be irrelevant or even contrary to the national priority or to each other. However, in
practice… the common economic interest mutes any centrifugality and gives rise to a
high degree of season-to-season cooperation”. Nevertheless, the tension to be found
between the activities of a specific body primarily established to further the symbolic
functions of a capital and organizations with a specific tourism mandate are not isolated
TABLE 5 HERE
The Influence of Capital City Planning Agencies on Tourism
The establishment of a specific planning development agency for a capital does not
necessarily mean that it will embrace tourism, although arguably the creation of a
specific organisation to promote national or regional identity and symbolism must have
an influence on place promotion strategies and the attraction of visitors. In a number of
capital city jurisdictions, such as Canberra in Australia, tourism was actively
discouraged in the past as some planners perceived it at odds with the 'cultural' aspects
of the capital (Hall 2003). For example, in the case of the marketing of tourism in the
Australian Capital Territory (ACT) in the 1990s, the Standing Committee on Tourism and
ACT Promotion noted that there was “a degree of uncertainty in sectors of the industry about
its long and short term goals”, which, “may well reflect an industry involving a wide range
of large and small enterprises as well as governmental institutions” (1993: 9). The
Committee believed that it was imperative that the ACT Tourism Commission (ACTTC),
“in consultation with the tourism industry”, develop “an integrated tourism strategy for the
ACT which incorporates regional factors and interdependence” (1993:10). Nevertheless,
significant problems emerge in such a strategy, because while national institutions are a
significant tourist drawcard to the ACT, “it is regrettable that a number of them do not
appear to regard themselves as part of the tourism industry”, and do not appropriately cater
to the needs of visitors, particularly during the summer months (Standing Committee on
Tourism and ACT Promotion 1993: 22). However, more recently it is apparent that because
of both reduced national government funding for national cultural institutions and increased
emphasis on levels of visitation as a performance measure, and greater emphasis on the
economic benefits of tourism at the Territory government level that greater cooperation
between different organizations has ensued.
More recently established bodies in other jurisdictions have also actively embraced
tourism because of its contribution to the symbolic status of capital cities and the
economic development values of the tourist dollar. In these situations organizations are
not so encumbered with institutional arrangements and cultures which did not value
tourists and which often had a more elite focus in their activities. For example, the
Capital Commission of Prince Edward Island in Canada which was established in 1996
has a specific mandate to promote tourism and business opportunities for
Charlottetown. According to Cumming (2000: 24), “the commission has capitalised not
only on the city's historical significance but on its waterfront setting, its heritage as a
microcosm of Canadian immigration and settlement, its cultural diversity, its unique
mixture of Georgian and Victorian architecture, and the story of its social, religious and
One of the most important contributions that capital planning organisations do make
to tourism is the extent to which the funding they provide acts to establish tourism
attractions, such as museums and galleries, in specific locations as well as providing an
overall attractive environment for visitors. For example, in the case of Canberra four of
the top five tourist locations (Clack 2000): Parliament House, the Australian War
Memorial, Old Parliament House, and the National Gallery of Australia, were
deliberately located there because it was the capital city and were built and maintained
through national government funds. Similarly, with respect to the built and natural
environments of Ottawa which have been developed to reflect capital status as well as
providing events and programs, they "educate, instil pride, please the senses, and enrich
the quality of life for residents and visitors. They contribute to the memory of
Canadians and international visitors alike, as integral parts of the Capital's symbolic
image” (NCC 1998: 114).
As Milroy (1993: 86) noted, 'capital cities were recognized as doubly bound to be
good physical environments where people live out ordinary lives, as well as
symbolically-rich cities that captures the qualities a state wishes to portray to the larger
world'. By its very nature, the capital city function therefore exerts a substantial
influence on tourist flows. As host to major national institutions which embody a
nation’s heritage, capital cities can be attractive to both domestic and international
visitors. Furthermore, their political status can also influence flows of business travelers
because of the extent to which government decisions also influence business as well as
the location of government departments and agencies. For more established cities, the
capital city function may also have influenced the location of transport networks
therefore also influencing travel flows.
This article has also highlighted the extent to which capital city planning agency
functions may also impact on tourism even if such functions are not a direct or formal
component of agency goals. It has been argued that the act of reinforcing capital identity
and image and ensuring that capitals act as an appropriate “showpiece” for a nation or
province has positive spin-offs for tourism. It is also suggested that more recently
established capital city planning agencies may have a more overt goal with respect to
attracting tourists than those established prior to the recognition of the economic
significance of tourism in urban areas (Page and Hall 2003). However, further research
clearly needs to be undertaken on the extent to which national capital agency goals are
congruent with those of the tourism industry and what happens when they are not.
Similarly, there are also significant research opportunities to be raised with respect to
issues of identity and representation of heritage in national capitals and the extent to
which it may exclude certain groups within society or offer a particular interpretation of
historic events (Ashworth & Tunbridge 2000). Finally, another clear research task is to
examine the differences in tourism that may exist between capitals which have a
specific agency responsible for the capital city function and those that do not.
Miesel (1993: 4) commented that 'capital cities are an important index to the
dominant political values of their countries', to this we should perhaps add that they are
significant barometers of urban change at a global scale. Capital cities have come to be
subject to the same forces of economic restructuring and reduction in government
funding that has affected so many other cities in the western world over the past 20
years. Indeed, it may be possible to argue that because of their traditional administrative
functions capital cities have been even more dramatically affected by changes in the
role of the state and the subsequent changes in government expenditure in some cases
than many other urban centres. This therefore leads us to Drewe's observation that the
future of capital cities “depends as least as much on their functioning regularly as cities
as on their being capitals… it may indeed be possible to achieve a more or less balanced
development; coping successfully with economic-technological change, respecting both
ecological limits to urban growth and cultural imponderabilia, and reducing distributive
injustice” (Drewe 1993: 368-372). If Drewe is correct then one can anticipate that the
function of tourism in capital cities will become even more important as capital cities
not only seek to meet their symbolic functions but also increasingly compete for capital
in a competitive global place market.
This paper is partly based on a presentation given to the Canadian Centre for the Study
of Capitals, University of Ottawa, Canada in March 2001. Research on which this paper
is based was partly undertaken under the auspices of an International Council for
Canadian Studies (ICCS)/National Capital Commission (NCC) National Capital
Scholarship. However, the views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author
and not of the ICCS or NCC. The author would also like to gratefully acknowledge the
assistance of François Lapoint of the NCC and John Tunbridge of Carleton University
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Table 1: Overnight stays in accommodation units* in German cities 1997-1999
City 1997 1998 1999
Berlin 7.99 8.27 9.48
Munich 6.43 6.88 7.28
Hamburg 4.35 4.51 4.65
Frankfurt upon Main 3.45 3.64 3.92
Cologne 2.74 2.81 2.96
Düsseldorf 2.19 2.32 2.29
Dresden 1.80 1.96 2.14
Stuttgart 1.69 1.95 2.03
Nuremberg 1.55 1.77 1.83
Leipzig 1.24 1.15 1.31
Bonn 1.13 1.10 1.07
Hanover 1.12 1.09 1.13
Münster 1.14 1.13 1.13
Bremen 0.91 0.97 1.04
Wiesbaden 0.90 0.93 0.98
Rostock 0.82 0.86 0.97
Heidelberg 0.77 0.85 0.88
Essen 0.80 0.81 0.83
Lübeck 0.80 0.79 0.82
Freiburg in the Breisgau 0.77 0.78 0.82
* In accommodation units with nine or more guest beds.
Source: Federal Statistical Office of Germany 2001
Table 2 Most Visited Paid Attractions in the UK
Attraction Location Number of Visits 2000 Number of Visits 1999
Millennium Dome London 6,516,874 N/A
London Eye London 3,300,000 N/A
Alton Towers Alton 2,450,000 2,650,000
Madame Tussaud`s London 2,388,000 2,640,000
Tower of London London 2,303,167 2,428,603
Natural History Museum London 1,577,044 1,696,725
of Adventure Chessington 1,500,000 1,550,000
Legoland Windsor Windsor 1,490,000 1,620,000
Victoria & Albert Museum London 1,344,113 1,251,396
Science Museum London 1,337,432 1,483,234
Flamingo Land Theme
Park & Zoo Kirby Misperton 1,301,000 1,197,000
Canterbury Cathedral Canterbury 1,263,140 1,318,065
Westminster Abbey London 1,230,000 1,260,000
Edinburgh Castle Edinburgh 1,204,285 1,219,720
Cruises Newby Bridge 1,172,219 1,140,207
Windsor Castle Windsor 1,127,000 1,280,000
Chester Zoo Chester 1,118,000 1,065,000
St Paul`s Cathedral London 937,025 1,068,336
Roman Baths Bath 932,566 918,867
Note: Excludes 1 attraction where operator did not authorise figures for publication.
Source: Statistics on Tourism and Research UK 2002
Table 3 Most Visited Free Admission Attractions in the UK
Attraction Location Number of Visits 2000 Number of Visits 1999
Beach Blackpool 6,800,000 7,100,000
British Museum London 5,466,246 5,460,537
National Gallery London 4,897,690 4,964,879
Tate Modern London 3,873,887 N/A
Park Southport 2,600,000 2,500,000
Adventure Island Southend-on-Sea 2,500,000 2,000,000
York Minster York 1,750,000 1,900,000
Pleasure Beach Great Yarmouth 1,500,000 1,500,000
Tate Britain London 1,204,147 1,822,428
National Portrait Gallery London 1,178,400 999,842
Kelvingrove Art Gallery
& Museum Glasgow 1,003,169 1,051,050
Chester Cathedral Chester 1,000,000 1,000,000
Clacton Pier Clacton-on-Sea 1,000,000 1,000,000
& Art Gallery Birmingham 735,994 714,613
World Famous Old
Shop Centre Gretna Green 697,226 651,005
Tate Liverpool Liverpool 653,789 674,929
Note: Excludes 4 attractions where operators did not authorise figures for publication.
Source: Statistics on Tourism and Research UK 2002
Table 4 Ottawa museum and attraction attendance 1992-1999 ('000s)
Attraction 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999
Museum of Nature 242.1 281.3 343.5 267.4 282.6 258.6 260.0 278.7
Aviation Museum 135.2 150.5 157.8 139.6 145.4 158.8 160.9 162.9
National Gallery 379.8 394.6 515.4 548.8 532.2 758.3 633.6 514.0
Royal Canadian Mint 34.9 39.5 38.2 43.6 79.7 96.5 102.3 125.6
Photography Museum 48.2 36.2 35.5 39.2 43.8 43.1 36.6 44.6
Science & Technology M. 403.7 388.0 402.5 371.6 410.5 406.5 411.8 415.0
Museum of Civilization 1 213.11 236.51 198.51 191.31 297.21 205.21 409.01 361.1
War Museum 337.5 111.6 189.7 232.4 111.3 114.6 145.8 115.4
Agriculture Museum 121.2 96.6 122.0 111.0 112.3 140.1 147.8 165.9
Parliament Hill 523.8 542.0 514.4 516.2 467.8 491.6 494.6 503.2
Rideau Hall 41.7 36.0 27.4 45.9 69.3 77.9 122.5 124.8
Currency Museum 18.1 20.2 20.4 23.0 28.5 24.5 26.3 37.6
Supreme Court 24.0 27.4 30.9 34.0 34.2 30.0 33.0 34.3
National Archives 27.3 24.9 20.4 19.1 12.6 11.7 9.1 8.9
National Library 9.9 9.5 16.4 15.4 13.0 7.4 11.2 5.3
Source: Ottawa Tourism and Convention Authority 2000: 86, 88, 89.
Table 5 NCC's objectives and strategies.
I. PROMOTING AND ANIMATING THE NATIONAL CAPITAL REGION
• To foster Canadian pride and contribute to • Complete the implementation of
awareness and understanding of, and millennial activities and develop a
participation in, Canada's Capital and its region post-millennial plan for high
impact, four-season programming that
will give Canada's Capital a higher
profile amongst Canadians and on the
• Solicit continued and increased
collaboration of partners and sponsors
for integrated Capital programming and
• Reach potential audiences through
targeted marketing, outreach and
II. PLANNING THE NATIONAL CAPITAL REGION
• To plan the orientation, use and development • Position the Plan for Canada's
of federal lands in the NCR in consultation as the overriding vision for the future
with other planning jurisdictions, to ensure that development of Canada's Capital
their evolution is consistent with the image, the framework for the completion of
character and quality of life in the capital various supporting plans.
• To coordinate development and ensure that • Participate in studies led by the Region
uses, plans and designs for federal lands in of Ottawa-Carleton and the
the NCR are appropriate to their national urbaine de l'Outaouais to deal with inter-
significance, natural environment and provincial transportation issues in the
• Implement federal plans, legislation
and policies to safeguard and enhance
the NCR's built and natural environment
through the Federal Land Use, Design
and Transaction approvals process.
III. REAL ASSET MANAGEMENT AND DEVELOPMENT
• To provide opportunities to enhance the rich • Protect natural lands and built assets
cultural heritage and natural environment of the through cost-effective maintenance,
NCR. management, development and
rehabilitation programs and through the
• To optimize the contribution of lands and implementation of appropriate quality
buildings in supporting the programs and standards and service.
mandates of the NCC.
• Manage the life cycle of NCC lands
and buildings by ensuring the
preservation, protection and sustainable
use of natural assets in Gatineau Park
and the Greenbelt, and on Capital urban
• Manage an appropriate range of parks
services and outdoor recreational
facilities to enable visitors to enjoy a
green Capital experience and to support
the promotion and animation of the
• Fulfill role as 'Capital builder' through
revitalization of the Core Area of the
• Develop the recreational pathway
network and associated services as a key
component of the 'green Capital strategy'
• manage the Payments in Lieu of Taxes
payable by the NCC
IV. CORPORATE SERVICES
• To provide corporate-wide strategic, financial • Take steps to rebuild the NCC's
and human resource advice, as well as resources foundation to promote a
technological tools and expertise, to ensure the committed and motivated workforce and
effective and efficient operation of the NCC. to develop and implement an action plan
during the planning period.
• Exploit information technologies that
provide a strategic advantage for the
Corporation and facilitate effective and
• Ensure that revenue generation
activities allow for public access to
federal lands while generating
appropriate sustaining revenues.
• Implement measures to increase the
public's awareness and appreciation of
the NCC's achievements and activities.
• Conduct strategic and tactical research
to inform decision-making for purposes
of strategic planning and to support both
concept testing for new programs,
services, and products and the
assessment of program effectiveness.
• Strengthen the federal presence
throughout NCC activities, published
materials, programs and properties.
Derived from NCC 2000a