State-of-the-art in European cultural tourism policies and practices: Second SmartCulTour Webinar

It is generally agreed upon that cultural heritage can be an important strategic resource for a destination and provide both economic and non-economic benefits for local communities and visitors alike. However, strategies with regard to cultural tourism development remain somewhat scattered and tangible, readily available evidence on the benefits often remain ideological, anecdotal or local. Within this webinar, we focus on a broader analysis of cultural tourism policies, policy responses to Covid-19 and success conditions of different types of cultural tourism interventions. Lessons learned on both success conditions and barriers of implementation can serve further policy recommendations.

The webinar is jointly organized with the SPOT project and will be held next 20 June from 11:00 to 12:30 (CET). Speakers include Bart Neuts (KU Leuven, SmartCulTour), Milada Šťastná (Mendel University, SPOT), Alun Jones (CIHEAM Zaragoza, SmartCulTour), Claire Wallace (University of Aberdeen, SPOT), John Shaddock (University of Aberdeen, SPOT) and Simone Moretti (Breda University of Applied Sciences, SmartCulTour).

You can register and read all the details here: Webinar

Split Living Lab hosts an exchange visit

From 11 to 13 May, the Living Lab of Split organized an exchange, within the framework of the SmartCulTour H2020 Project, with Lab managers and stakeholders from Urban Leisure & Tourism Lab Rotterdam and Università Ca’Foscari (Venezia) Vicenza Living Lab. The objective of this visit was to exchange experiences and discuss some of the challenges that local stakeholders face. The two-day event included a visit to the beautiful city of Sinj and the fantastic Stella Croatica experience centre in Klis. The next exchange will take place in June organized by Urban Leisure & Tourism Lab Rotterdam.

You can read the details of this experience on Urban Leisure & Tourism Lab Rotterdam

New Workshop: Tools and methods for stakeholder engagement and community-supported development of cultural tourism initiatives: The SmartCulTour project

Cultural tourism has sometimes been seen as a sustainable alternative to the mass tourism excesses that became prevalent during the first growth stages of international tourism. However, many internationally renowned cultural sites have also experienced unbalanced and unsustainable growth. At the same time, there are many underexplored and undervalued cultural resources throughout Europe that could (a) help to alleviate pressure on primary cultural attractions and destinations, and (b) support regional (economic) development. In order to activate the potential of regional cultural resources in a sustainable manner, stakeholder engagement – and particularly community-participation – is essential. Within the SmartCulTour-project, financed through the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme of the European Union, various tools and methods have been developed and tested with the specific view to assist in such stakeholder engagement and support sustainable destination planning and management.

This workshop will be held in Leuven (Belgium) on 2 June 2022, and a team of SmartCulTour experts will present a variety of tools and strategies. The topic and content of the workshop is seen as particularly relevant for regional destination management organizations, strategic planners, and NGO’s in the tourism and cultural sphere who often work on a scale that involves a multitude and variety of actors with varied interests.


8:30-9:30             Coffee and Participant Registration (Location: Zaal Couvreur, AGOR M01.E50)

9:30-11:00           Session 1 : Methods and procedures to support cultural tourism development (Location: SW 02.05)

9:30-9:45              Introduction to the SmartCulTour project (Bart Neuts, KU Leuven)

9:45-10:00           Design process crafting and the double-diamond design model (Bert Smit, Breda University of Applied Sciences)

10:00-10:30         Understanding destination characteristics and visitor motivations through decision-support systems: The SmartCulTour Platform (Dario Bertocchi, UNIVE)

10:30-11:00         Systems mapping and visitor flow mapping (Bert Smit, Breda University of Applied Sciences)

11:00-11:30        Coffee break (Location: Zaal Couvreur, AGOR M01.E50)

11:30-13:00         Session 2: Methods and procedures to support cultural tourism development (Location: SW 02.05)

11:30-12:00         Serious games to support stakeholder interaction: The SmartCulTour Game (Jessika Weber, Breda University of Applied Sciences)

12:00-12:30         Dynamic House of Quality to rationalize decision making (Simone Moretti, Breda University of Applied Sciences)

12:30-13:00        Destination Design Roadmapping (Bart Neuts, KU Leuven)

You can read all the details here: Workshop

Map of central Leuven and workshop locations

Route from Railway Station to Social Sciences Campus (Parkstraat 45, 3000 Leuven)

Auditoria locations on Social Sciences Campus (Parkstraat 45, 3000 Leuven)

Cultural tourism in post-Covid cities

The webinar “Cultural tourism in post-Covid cities” was organized last 3 May as part of the Cultural Heritage in Action sharing stories webinar series with the objective of exploring new trends in cultural tourism in cities after the pandemic. The webinar was moderated by Julie Hervé, Eurocities, with the participation of our partner Prof. Jan van der Borg (visiting professor in tourism management at KU Leuven and professor in applied economics at the University Ca’Foscari of Venice) who shared current trends in urban tourism, Carlotta Viviani (Economic and Tourism Promotion Department Municipality of Florence) who presented the case of study of the city of Florence and Pellervo Kokkonen, (Senior advisor and CEO at Savonlinna Travel Ltd) who presented the case study of the city of Savonlinna.

Here you can watch the recording:

A vibrant local cultural life and the presence of cultural heritage sites encourage people to travel: four in ten tourists already choose their destination on the basis of its cultural offering. Tourism is one of cities’ major economic assets. It contributes to the local economy, and generates jobs and social added value, but can also generate downsides: over-tourism, tensions with locals, pressure on the use of public services and on housing prices. There is a clear need to strike a balance between economic, social, cultural and environmental needs, including the protection of cultural heritage, to ensure the mid and long-term sustainability of tourism. While Europeans are starting to travel again, planning recreational and cultural activities, now is a good moment to reflect on urban tourism and developing practices, to address changing consumer needs and develop local policies and projects for more resilient, digital, and greener practices. How to develop a more sustainable cultural tourism in cities and regions, taking into account sustainability and environmental issues? Are there new practices developing in European cities and regions? These are the questions at the heart of the discussion.

Case study of Florence:

In Florence (IT, 366 000 inhabitants), the Feel Florence experience app brings tourists off the beaten track. Thanks to a real-time detection of the presences in certain areas, the app warns tourists to avoid overcrowded destinations and suggests unusual itineraries in the city centre, in neighbourhoods and in the metropolitan area. The app is a tool to avoid over-tourism in central areas of the city, where the management of crowds is a key challenge. 15.9 million people visited Florence in 2019, most of them focus on the historic centre, which is a 5km2 area in a city of 105km.

Case study of Savonlinna:

In Savonlinna (FI, 36 000 inhabitants), a recovery programme rescued the tourism dependent city and fosters innovation in tourism offers. Local policy makers quickly reacted to counter the effects of the pandemic on tourism in the city and to the need to compensate for the cancellation of large-scale events such as the Savonlinna Opera Festival (60 000 annual visitors). This included micro-grants to support innovative tourism products, more flexible weekly tourist programmes and support for pop- up events. This resulted in an increase overnight stays and national media visibility.

SmartCultour celebrates World Heritage Day: Spotlight on adaptation to climate change through coastal development plans

The H2020 funded SmartCulTour project aims at supporting regional development in all European regions with important tangible and intangible cultural assets, including those located in rural peripheries and the urban fringe, through sustainable cultural tourism.

The International Day for Monuments and Sites 2022 (World Heritage Day 2022) takes place on 18th April, focusing this year on Heritage and Climate. As a project supporting the sustainability of cultural heritage within the sustainable tourism framework, SmartCulTour is working with 6 local community Living Labs to develop sustainable tourism approaches.

One of the goals of the international day is to ‘safeguard all types of cultural heritage from adverse climate impacts’. The local authorities of the municipalities (which are members of our Split Living Lab – see Fig. 1), especially the coastal ones, have been very active in developing measures to adapt to climate change through implementing coastal development plans. Although this activity has neither been financed nor supported directly by the SmartCulTour project, we are reporting on this practice example provided by one of our Living Labs in order to help raise awareness about how climate change is impacting on our cultural heritage and how active solutions are being sought.

Figure 1. The Split living lab area consists of the following cities and municipalities: the cities of Split, Trogir, Kaštela, Solin and Sinj and the municipalities: Klis and Dugopolje.

The impacts of climate change are felt in the whole Split Living Lab (LL) area, in terms of the growing temperatures, longer waves of extreme heat and consequently longer periods of drought, changes in precipitation amount and regime (with occasional strong showers causing flooding) and stronger winds. In addition, Split LL coastal cities, especially their historical centres, are located on a narrow coastal strip and are affected by a significant rise in sea level. Figure 2 shows a significant change in the average monthly sea-level increase in the city of Split from the 1956 to 1997 period (blue columns) compared to 2017 (red line) (Margeta et al. 2019[*]).

Figure 2: Average monthly sea level rise in the city of Split from the period 1956-1997 compared to 2017.

According to Margeta et al., 2019, the city of Kaštela has experienced a 30 cm rise in seal level over the last hundred years and in response has developed a Coastal zone management plan foreseeing several adaptation scenarios to combat climate change.  The plan defines the development of an action plan based on integrated coastal zone management and maritime spatial planning. The goal of the Coastal Plan is the sustainable development of the coastal area based on tourism with a focus on measures to protect the sea coast that is particularly vulnerable to climate change. Some of the solutions proposed by the Plan to strengthen the resilience of the coastal strip and its infrastructure to climate change are already being implemented. These include infrastructure enhancements close to the heritage buildings within the old historical cores of the seven Kaštela municipalities that are the most endangered by the sea level rise (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Seven Kaštela municipalities – historical cores (Photos ©Mr. Boris Kačan, published with permission)

Another interesting solution in the City of Solin aims to mitigate climate change impacts and protect important historical remains (Katić, M., Bucat, M. 2022[*]). The city is rich with monuments from the Roman period and the early mediaeval ages when it was the seat of the early Croatian rulers. One of the most important monuments of that period are the remains of the so-called Hollow church (dedicated to St. Peter and Moses), the coronation basilica of the Croatian King Zvonimir (11th century A.D.). While in the eleventh century, it was above the level of the adjacent river Jadro, the ground level of the church is today situated below the height of the river (Figure 4). The terrain is flooded due to several factors, among others due to underground springs and the rise in sea level, considering that the river´s sea estuary is not far from the remains of the church. Therefore, the city of Solin has developed a plan to displace the course of the river a few meters away to protect this important archeological site from flooding (Figure 5). Although being technically and financially challenging, the project is a good example of partnership and cooperation among different experts and stakeholders, for example archaeologists (from the Museum of Croatian archaeological monuments in Split), architects (from the architectural bureau “Arhitektonski kolektiv” in Split), the City of Solin administration and the Croatian legal entity for water protection “Hrvatske vode”.

Figure 4. The remains of the Hollow Church in Solin
Figure 5. The solution for the flooding problem of the Hollow Church in Solin


Margeta, J.,Baučić, M., Vilibić, I., Jakl, Z. Petrić, L., Mandić, A., Grgić, A., Bartulović, H.,,Popić, N., Marasović, K.,Jajac, N., Rogulj, K., Ivić, M., Jovanović, N., Bačić, S., (2019), The city of Kaštela Coastal Zone Management Plan, Faculty of Civil Engineering, Architecture and Geodesy, University of Split. Document financed by the ERDF, within the Interreg Med project CO-EVOLVE, pg. 16 (retrieved from:

Katić, M., Bucat, M. (2022). Budućnost starohrvatskih lokaliteta Rižinice i Šuplje crkve u Solinu, power point presentation from the 8th International Congress of the Historic Cities, Solin, 29/3/2022-1/4/2022.

Loarre and CIHEAM Zaragoza host a European training event on how to promote sustainable cultural tourism

The training took place in Loarre’s Town Hall on 17 March with researchers and experts from Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain. Representatives of different counties of Huesca took part in a parallel training session to test a tool designed to boost sustainable tourism in the province.

The SmartCulTour project, Smart Cultural Tourism as a Driver of Sustainable Development of European Regions, has organized an internal capacity-building event for representatives of the project’s six Living Labs to test creative tools to boost the tourist sector in each of the regions. The training was organized in two working sessions, one in the town of Loarre on 17 March and another on 18 March at CIHEAM Zaragoza. Participants came from Belgium, Finland, Croatia, Italy, Austria and Spain.

The aim of the first session was to provide the project’s partners with context about the tourist sector in Huesca. They worked on tools to favour engagement of stakeholders related to the tourist sector that would enable them to promote their area from a more emotional perspective, linking their past, present and future to their territory.

The second session was held at CIHEAM Zaragoza. Participants worked on methodologies to help territorial managers improve their decision-making by addressing initiatives that would cover the needs identified for development in European regions – including the province of Huesca – as sustainable cultural tourism destinations.

A parallel session was organized on 17 March for representatives of different counties, public entities, and businesses in the province of Huesca who did a pilot test of the SmartCulTour Game, one of the project outcomes expected to have the biggest territorial impact. The idea is to use the serious game approach to draw up policies and engage stakeholders, and at the same time learn about cultural tourism and potential interventions to make cultural tourism more sustainable for local communities, the environment and the business sector.

This training event lies within the activities of the SmartCulTour project, which aims to promote territorial development through sustainable cultural tourism. This model of tourism requires a redefinition of the classical cultural tourism, considering new demands derived from sustainability and the need for supply and demand metrics and impact assessment. The project intends to review theories and make an empirical validation of good practices in the natural surroundings and seek closer collaboration between the local stakeholders, facilitating the development of joint strategies and creating sustainable cultural tourism experiences.

2022 Winter School on Digital Cultural Tourism and Diplomacy

2022 Winter School on Digital Cultural Tourism and Diplomacy

Indigenous cultural heritage is the legacy of tangible physical objects combining the intangible aspects of a group of society. Objects, artefacts, buildings, places and monuments aside, intangible cultural heritage, also known as “living heritage” or “living culture”, refers to living practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, and skills passed down from generation to generation. This heritage provides communities with a sense of identity and is continuously recreated in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history. It is called intangible because its existence and recognition mainly depend on human knowledge and will, which is immaterial, and is transmitted by imitation and living experience.

The 2022 Winter School of the UNESCO Chair on Digital Cultural Heritage, in collaboration with the UNESCO Chair in ICT to develop and promote sustainable tourism in World Heritage Sites, is dedicated to investigating how ICTs designed to enhance the tourism experience can help in preserving and transmitting living heritage and bring people to work and live closer together, while at the same time promoting forms of tourism (cultural, historic, religious, gastronomy, wine, etc.) that go beyond traditional “sun sea and sand”, and can verifiably serve as a vehicle of cultural diplomacy. Cyprus, with its richness of tangible and intangible heritage, will provide a suggestive background, as well as an ideal place for the event and offer an environment with various case studies.

More info:

Deliverable 1.2 – First-policy-report

This report aims to provide an overview of the specific policy recommendations that originate from two particular tasks in the SmartCulTour project: re-conceptualization of (sustainable) cultural tourism and expectations concerning future trends and developments (WP2), and identification of state-of-the-art interventions in cultural tourism towards sustainable development (WP3).

The report starts by recognizing the potential of cultural tourism in Europe and specifically its framing as a driver for sustainable development and smart regional growth. However, due to an ongoing lack of comprehensive evidence on the benefits of cultural heritage and the observation that, in many countries, cultural tourism is not yet adequately measured, the policy report pays attention to two particular issues:

1. The conceptual fluidity of cultural heritage and, by extension, cultural tourism;

2. The lack of structural evidence on the holistic benefits of cultural heritage for a destination.

In this report we first focus on the question of conceptualization, and through analysis of existing definitional frameworks, propose contemporary definitions to frame cultural tourism in all its aspects as: “a form of tourism in which visitors engage with heritage, local cultural and creative activities and the everyday cultural practices of host communities for the purpose of gaining mutual experiences of an educational, aesthetic, creative, emotional and/or entertaining nature” (Matteucci & Von Zumbusch, 2020, p.19).

Secondly, the policy report presents both workflow and results of an extensive case-study analysis on cultural tourism interventions throughout Europe, both in terms of resources used and in terms of generated (or expected) outcomes in order to provide more robust findings on the multiple benefits of cultural tourism. The five main purposes for cultural tourism interventions that were recognized were: (1) to protect, restore, safeguard and promote, (2) to develop and innovate, (3) to interpret, understand and disseminate, (4) to involve and connect, (5) to manage and influence. While the list does not necessarily need to be considered as exhaustive, and can depend on the non-random case study selection, the typology helps in describing situations and challenges that are typical of each intervention category and can therefore inform policy makers on selecting appropriate cultural tourism projects.

At the end of the report, a number of policy recommendations are given, both on conceptualization and operationalization, and on methodological recommendations that can be followed by Destination Management Organizations and policy makers to collect additional primary research data.

You can read de full report here: Deliverable 1.8

The SmartCulTour Game: Playing for a sustainable Future

The SmartCulTour Game is an integral part of a set of intervention toolkits for the six SmartCulTour Living Labs. With its playful approach to policy making, the game aims to engage stakeholders to learn about cultural tourism and interventions to make cultural tourism more sustainable for communities, the environment, and creative businesses.

The game was developed in 2021 by the Research & Development Lab ‘Cradle’ of Breda University of Applied Sciences. Drawing on insights and outputs of previous WPs such as the ‘state of the art of cultural interventions’ or the ‘Future of cultural tourism for urban and regional destinations’, concepts have been translated into a workshop with playable interactions.

About the SmartCulTour Game

The serious game is a hybrid role-playing game using a combination of a digital dashboard and backend, a mobile app (for iOS and Android), and physical intervention cards. Players take the role of regional cultural heritage stakeholders aiming to achieve their goals and needs by creating interventions or supporting someone else’s intervention.

Login screen of SmartCulTour game on phone app
KPIs on Dashboard

The game can be contextualised and played in any city or region and is designed to cater 10-15 players. The setup of the game can be tailored to any local situation for which different scenarios can be played through. Once, the setting is defined and player-roles are chosen, participants play in rounds and create or select interventions which support their aims. After implementing the intervention, an evaluation and discussion on potential impacts will take place which is supported by a visualisation on the dashboard.

Game Sessions and Afterlife

Within the next months, the SmartCulTour Game will be ready to be played in the SmartCulTour Living Labs. Then, we will be able to share some more insights and learnings. Please stay informed here.


If you want to play the SmarCulTour game also in your area or are interested in the game, please contact Dr. Jessika Weber-Sabil, senior researcher and lecturer at BUAS at

Living Lab Vicenza: Testimonianze dei partecipanti

Giulia Basso, ideatrice di “Itinerari Letterari” ,progetto che si occupa di strutturare passeggiate ed eventi nei luoghi della città  che sono raccontati nella letteratura. Ci spiega come ,per esempio , con Il Living Lab e la sua rete  sia venuta a conoscenza di  un luogo sconosciuto a molti turisti e vicentini: La chiesa di Santa Maria Nova, unico edificio religioso  Palladiano in Vicenza. Per lei LivingLab è un’ opportunità di fare rete  che fornisce strumenti efficaci per condividere in modo interattivo  informazioni e soluzioni innovative per lo sviluppo del turismo culturale.

Caterina Soprana, Presidente Commissione Cultura Comune di Vicenza, creatrice del progetto #cittàbellissima che ha unito architettura, cultura, turismo  ed economia per incrementare l’attrattiva di Vicenza in Italia e nel mondo. Questo progetto è confluito poi nel Dossier di Candidatura di Vicenza2024  a Capitale Italiana della Cultura. Caterina individua 3 componenti chiave del progetto Smart Cultour Living Lab: 1) Cooperazione fra associazioni , università e Comune di Vicenza  per creare un’ offerta culturale innovativa e sostenibile. 2) Cooperazione tra gli altri LivingLab europei per conoscere nuovi modi e progetti di sviluppo del turismo culturale. 3) Collaborazione importantissima con il dipartimento di Economia dell’Università Ca’ Foscari di Venezia ,vero studio scientifico di elaborazione dei  dati ,che trasforma quest’ultimi in strumenti fondamentali per aiutare i partecipanti al LivingLab nella la ricerca e definizione di nuovi sistemi di sviluppo.

Giulio Vallortigara Valmarana, proprietario di Villa Valmarana ai Nani, si occupa della gestione ed implementazione degli eventi, delle visite turistiche, della creazione di esperienze ad hoc, per ospiti italiani e stranieri. Convinto sostenitore del “fare rete” e condividere il più possibile conoscenze ed esperienze per creare una collaborazione propositiva tra tutti gli operatori del settore turistico ricettivo ha abbracciato subito con entusiasmo il progetto di Living Lab. Con il video ci conduce in un breve itinerario della sua splendida Villa sulle colline della Città che ospita. I favolosi affreschi di Giambattista e Giandomenico Tiepolo.