Light festivals, policy mobilities and urban tourism

Emanuele Giordano*, Chin-Ee Ong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Accounts on how creative strategies and paradigms have been copied and circulated from one city to another are not new in tourism studies. However, they are traditionally characterized by arguments of serial reproduction that tends to conceptualize the process of policy circulation like a linear adoption of exogenous prescriptions copied by another city. As such they tend to share a negative viewpoint on the results of this strategy of policy emulation. Yet, the emergence of light festival events at a global level does not conform to such theorization. Largely inspired by few ‘best practice’ cases, like Lyon's Fête des Lumières, more than 100 light festivals are nowadays active around the world, experiencing a constant growth both in revenues and number of visitors. To examine how mechanisms, actors, concepts, strategies and artefacts related to the successful global circulations of light festivals, a ‘policy mobilities’ perspective has been adopted and semi-structured interviews were conducted with key personnel to track the relationships fostered through international networks of experts and lighting professionals. The results show how, even if the circulation of light festivals reflects a strategy of policy emulation, these events are not replicated in a serial and unproblematic way, but are selectively acknowledged and appropriated by local actors. This process of adaptation allows them to be successfully transplanted from one city to another, escaping the problem conventionally related to the ‘serial reproduction’ process. Yet, most of these events do not conform to models of tourism based on endogenous creative capital. Light festivals are often big-budget events, driven by commercial imperatives, characterized by a strong top-down approach and endorsed by international networks and agreement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)699-716
JournalTourism Geographies
Issue number5
Early online date17 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Light festivals
  • policy mobility
  • serial reproduction
  • tourism cities
  • urban tourism, Lyon


Dive into the research topics of 'Light festivals, policy mobilities and urban tourism'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this