New report offers guidance to events industry partners on managing risk in the time of unexpected crisis: COVID & Innovation within Edinburgh’s Festivals

The COVID-19 pandemic imposed significant social and economic losses on festivals globally. Government imposed lockdowns prevented socialising and meant that events were cancelled, paused, or redeveloped into a virtual format. Event organisers turned to creative problem-solving and accelerated innovation to manage the crisis.

Edinburgh Napier academics – Prof. Jane Ali-Knight, Dr Gary Kerr, and Hannah Stewart MSc – have created a report in collaboration with Prof. Kirsten Holmes from Curtin University (Perth, Australia) examining the impacts of COVID-19 on festivals in eventful destinations and the response of festival managers to the ongoing pandemic, using the case study of Edinburgh’s Festivals.

First, the team reviewed policies and practices relevant to the safe opening of festivals and events up to the Autumn of 2021. Second, they used a mixed methods approach to collect a range of data between June 2021 to November 2021, including participant observation of events, and in-depth interviews with key Edinburgh Festival Directors, managers and city stakeholders to identify how they initially responded and continue to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 situation. The fieldwork data are supported by content analysis of key media narratives focusing on festival and event cancellation and post COVID-19 recovery.

Key Findings revealed that since March 2020, 10 out of 11 of Edinburgh’s major festivals have successfully delivered programming in a live or digital format; all participants reported having to restructure their organisations’ business and delivery models in response to COVID-19; festivals were forced to shift their primary funding avenues from a ticket sales and revenue-based focus to securing funding from sponsorship, donations and COVID-19 recovery support with several organisations trialled a digital ‘pay what you can’ model for access to online events, championing and maintaining financial accessibility in an economic crisis.

The research team used the data to develop a new framework (please see below) for industry partners to approach risk management within festivals and events. This new model provides a tactical response to unexpected crisis events, such as a global pandemic, acts of terrorism, natural disasters, and other unique disruptive scenarios beyond the sector’s control.

illustration of the framework developed by Ali-Night et al. The framework has 3 components: Respond, Reassess, Reimagine with a fourth component: Communication sitting in the middle, interlinking the other components

The framework consists of three components. The first one, response, refers to organisers first assessing the situation, then reacting to evolving customer needs and behaviours by offering new types of experiences, products, and services, and lastly, strategically planning the next steps to cope with high levels of uncertainty.

The model’s second element, resilience, describes the critical importance of business model innovation that can be done through establishing new partnerships, as well as adjusting and adapting business and delivery models and supply chains to manage risk in the long term.

Lastly, the reimaging component touches on dynamic recovery through the reviewing of organisational successes and areas for opportunity, the development of potential future scenarios and how they can be prepared for, as well as the building of flexible and dynamic strategies that are stress-tested against various scenarios.

The importance of effective communication and support between festival stakeholders in times of crisis is emphasised by the researchers, and it appears in the centre of the framework interlinking all elements.

To download the full report please click here.

Hosting a European colleague for a month: Alicia Orea-Giner’s eventful research stay at ENU

Alicia Orea-Giner – Associate Professor in Tourism at Rey Juan Carlos University in Madrid – has recently spent a month at Edinburgh Napier University after being invited by Dr Louise Todd. The two academics have related research topics that focus on Sustainable Tourism, Events and Technology. Alicia told us about her research and experiences at Edinburgh Napier University.

I believe that technology is not an isolated element or a tool that only facilitates processes but rather a part of the environment. In addition, that technology should be analysed from the perspective of technology itself, with its human connection and the way it creates, manages, and promotes relationships between human beings and between human beings and technology. I am currently working on analysing the stakeholders’ perceptions about events, among other topics, and decided to contact Edinburgh Napier University because of its research impact and the themes covered by the Tourism Research Centre.

During this research stay at Edinburgh Napier, I have participated in different activities and felt part of the staff. The first week I took part in the CHME conference. I had the opportunity to attend numerous presentations and meet researchers from different parts of the world at various stages of their careers. It was also an exciting experience as it was my first face-to-face conference since 2019.

The VM&E seminar took place in my second week at Edinburgh Napier. This symposium broadened my knowledge of visual and ethnographic methods with excellent keynotes and work presentations based on these methodologies. It was a highly fruitful meeting and discussion point.

In the third week, as well as continuing to work on a future project with Dr Louise Todd, David Jarman and I were fortunate enough to present at the tourism group’s research seminars. My presentation focused on qualitative methodologies, specifically, virtual ethnography and big qualitative Data.

Finally, the last week I ran a seminar and workshop entitled Young in Academia and Mental Health: Publishing, Lecturing and Surviving. This talk explored what it is like being a young woman in academia: doing a PhD, publishing papers in top journals, lecturing (many hours a year), obtaining an academic post after finishing a PhD, and surviving, all at the same time.

During the weekends, I walked the streets of Edinburgh, enjoying what it has to offer, and I also visited the Highlands and other areas of Scotland. Activities such as these are important when your career revolves around tourism.

I want to thank the whole team for welcoming me and having me as part of the team. Being part of Edinburgh Napier for a few weeks has been a pleasure. I hope to be back in the future!

It was a great pleasure for the TRC to host such a respectable academic, and we hope to see Alicia again soon too.

Alicia Orea-Giner has a PhD in Tourism from Universidad de Alicante, Universidad de Málaga, Universidad de Sevilla and Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid; as well as a PhD in Geography from Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne.

If you too are an academic and interested in a research stay at Edinburgh Napier University, please email

VM&E (Visual Methods & Ethnography) Future Visualities Symposium draws leading interdisciplinary academics and maps agenda for future research

by Dr Ashleigh Logan-McFarlane

An interdisciplinary team of researchers from Tourism and Marketing launched the Edinburgh Napier Visual Methods and Ethnography (VM&E) in Interdisciplinary Research Group with their first face-to-face symposium, ‘Future Visualities’, on 1st June 2022.

The sold-out event attracted more than 50 leading academics from UK and international institutions, including an array of established, mid and early career researchers and international PhD students from France and the Netherlands. ‘Future Visualities’ was financed by Edinburgh Napier Researcher Development Fund and sponsored by the Tourism Research Centre. The day featured 3 keynote presentations showcasing innovative interdisciplinary visual and ethnographic methods including: screencast videography, photography, poetry and (auto) ethnography, arts-based methodologies, visual representations, and mappings (ethnographic, archival, pedestrian and psychogeographic). The symposium showcased an array of visual methods and ethnography across 16 paper presentations and 7 posters, which demonstrated application of these methods in a variety of contexts, including linguistics, work, identity, education, leisure, law, touristic landscapes, semiotics, and the digital realm.

A panel discussion led by Dr Ashleigh Logan-McFarlane and Dr Kat Rezai on the challenges of publishing visual research featured keynote speakers Dr Fatema Kawaf, Dr Brett Lashua, Dr Terence Heng and our own Dr Louise Todd (VM&E Research Group Lead), who reflected on and outlined how to navigate the publishing process.

The launch of the Edinburgh Napier VM&E research group was a great success. Not only has it helped to establish new projects with external colleagues, but plans are underway for an edited publication on VM&E research. Watch this space for the call for contributions!

Link to VME Future Visualities Schedule and Book of Abstracts


a collage of pictures taken at the symposium, each showing a speaker showcasing their research on the topic

Dark tourism symposium attracts international interest, and the major authors in the discipline

by Dr Craig Wight

The Tourism Department (The Business School) and the School of Arts and Creative Industries hosted the first ever blended contact research symposium on dark tourism on Thursday 5th May.

Whilst the symposium steering group had modest ambitions in terms of the scale of the event, we we delighted to be joined by a host of delegates from nearby Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, but also a number of contributors that travelled some distance to be at the event, including Brianna Wyatt, Lindsay Steenberg and Simon McFadden from Oxford Brookes university, Tony Seaton, one of the two official ‘godfathers’ of dark tourism (along with John Lennon who presented), from Luton, and Philip Stone and Hannah Stewart from UCLAN. Jeff Podoshen from Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster Pennsylvania, USA even made the trip across the pond to be with us. The event attracted an audience of some 60 remote delegates from as far afield as Lithuania, the USA and Canada.

It was particularly pleasing that such a diverse range of researchers contributed to the event, from those considered to be the pioneers of dark tourism to its current leading authors, and some early career researchers and PhD students who are taking up the challenge of producing the next row of books in the library that focus on some of the contemporary research contexts that were explored, including tours, exhibitions, digitality and the the role of film and the big screen in dark tourism.

The event received some really positive feedback, and facilitated some new research collaborations on areas such as ‘drowned villages’ and supernatural tours.

Abstracts and recordings of the proceedings are available here