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Beyond Fordism and Flexible Specialization in Antalya’s Mass-Tourism Economy

Pieter Terhorst and Hilal Erku^-Ozturk


In political-economic literature on tourism, it is widely argued that the Fordist model of tourism has gradually been transformed into one of flexible specialization (Ioannides and Debbage 1998a; Poon 2003). The Fordist model stands for mass-consumption, absence of class- and lifestyle distinction, economies of scale, standardization, predictability of quality, sellers’ markets (controlled by tour operators), passive consumers, and a loss of authenticity of place whereas flexible specialization stands for distinction according to class and lifestyle, small-scale production, niche markets, economies of scope, quality uncertainty, buyers’ markets, active consumers, and respect for authenticity of place. In tourism literature, flexible specialization is considered to be superior to the Fordist model because it is assumed that mass-tourism yields lower profits than flexibly specialized tourism, generates much more environmental degradation, has no consideration of local norms and culture, and destroys the authenticity of places, and its mass-consumerism is associated with alienation. Thus, the switch from Fordism to flexible specialization is generally seen as progress. No wonder that policy makers in mass-tourism cities such as Antalya attempt to diversify their urban tourism economies.

This article is the outcome of a TUBlTAK-funded 1001 Project, titled ‘Economic Homogenization and Diversification in Tourism Cities: The Case of Antalya’ (Project Number: 112K443).

P. Terhorst (H)

Geographies of Globalization Group, Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands e-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

H. Erku§-Ozturk

Department of Public Administration, Urbanization and Environmental Problems,

Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences, Akdeniz University, Antalya, Turkey e-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

© Springer International Publishing AG 2016

I. Egresi (ed.), Alternative Tourism in Turkey, GeoJournal Library 121, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-47537-0_18

The general aim of this paper is to critically reflect on the dualism of Fordist mass-tourism and flexibly specialized tourism on the basis of our empirical research on Antalya and to go beyond it. More specifically, we argue, first, that mass-tourism without a Fordist mode of regulation has not much to do with Fordism and that flexible specialization differs from post-Fordism (a term not much used anymore). Despite their apparent similarities, the theory of flexible specialization differs from the approach of the French regulation school. That is why it is somewhat curious to speak of a switch from Fordism to flexible specialization. Secondly, based on our work on Antalya—a mass-tourism city parexcellence—we aim to show that Antalya’s mass-tourism deviates from the Fordist model in several ways. Antalya’s mass-tourism began to grow after the decline of Fordism in western Europe and Turkey, and the capital-labour relations in Antalya’s tourism are at a far distance from Fordist ones. In addition, the political-economy of Antalya’s mass-tourism is highly variegated. There is a lot of variety in the tourism value-chain from the Netherlands to Antalya, and in the larger Antalya region two different forms of tourism capitalism can be distinguished, namely enclave tourism capitalism and disorganized tourism capitalism. The variety of how Antalya’s mass-tourism is organized suggests that the distinction between Fordism and flexible specialization is too crude. Thirdly, mass-tourism and flexibly specialized tourism should not be equated with stagnation and progress, respectively. Antalya’s tourism economy has not shown signs of stagnation up to now. It has become ever more diversified over the last 25 years, and the growth of Antalya’s mass-tourism is accompanied with a lot of innovations in the city’s hotel and restaurant industry.

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