Main Article Content
Local development, Urban growth, Southern Europe, Venice, Benidorm, Mykonos
Cities everywhere, and especially those located in coastal areas, grow and change rapidly, reconfiguring in many cases through successful urban development strategies. Tourism specialization is considered a driver of urban transformation and environmental change. A key challenge facing cities for years to come will be understanding the critical role that tourism plays in urban policies and planning process. Our study focuses on Urban Political Ecology (UPE) as an emerging framework for analysis of socio-environmental change in metropolitan areas. Specifically, it allows to examine political, social, and ecological processes together with interests, power and relations shaping patterns and processes of urban change. After providing a brief review of UPE and how it expands toward tourism issues, the article examines Benidorm (Spain), Venice (Italy) and Mykonos (Greece) as representative examples of fast-growing, tourismspecialized Mediterranean urban areas. The case studies illustrate how tourism specialization has been for a long time a driver of change closely linked to urban processes. We conclude that UPE allows a comprehensive analysis of tourism's role, problems and potentials in the context of complex socioeconomic dynamics, contributing to identify effective policies governing future urbanization processes in coastal cities.