Co-organization of International Conference on Cultural Tourism Advances

On 27 and 28 of June, 2023, the SmartCulTour consortium collaborated with the European Research Executive Agency and its 5 Horizon 2020 sister projects IMPACTOUR, SPOT, TeXTOUR, Be.CULTOUR and INCULTUM in the organization of the International Conference on Cultural Tourism Advances. KU Leuven served as the host institution for the conference.

The first day of the conference programme consisted of academic sessions in which the state-of-the-art in cultural tourism advances was highlighted, as supported by the findings of the six projects. The conference was happy to welcome keynote speeches by Prof. Greg Richards (Tilburg University) and Ms. Milena Popova (Europeana).

The second day started with a keynote speech of Dr. Ronald de Bruin (COST – European Cooperation in Science & Technology) and focused on policy sessions. Apart from demos on the developed tools and methods of the six projects, the day introduced a panel session with valuable contributions by Oriol Freixa Matalonga (UNESCO), Iulia Niculica (ETC), Manos Vougioukas (ECTN), Graham Bell (Europa Nostra), Christina Sarvani (DG RTD), and Mariachiara Esposito (DG EAC).

More information on the conference can be found at

To download the conference proceedings with presentations, click here

Participation in final conference of IMPACTOUR

The SmartCulTour project was happy to contribute to the final conference of its sister project IMPACTOUR in Madrid on 20-21 June 2023. The SmartCulTour project coordinator Bart Neuts, provided a presentation on «Data collection for sustainable cultural tourism – Experiences from SmartCulTour» in the panel on «Good practice in data gathering – beyond the Impactour Tool.»

More information on the conference and the IMPACTOUR project in general can be found at

Policy Recommendations by Horizon2020 Sustainable Cultural Tourism Projects

This report is the direct result of the policy workshop of 5 July 2022 in Lisbon and Brussels’ round table of 11 October 2022, organized by DG RTD and REA and involving six research projects on cultural tourism funded under the recent Horizon 2020 calls (Be.Cultour, TexTOUR, SPOT, IMPACTOUR, SmartCulTour and INCULTUM. The report contains the main findings and outcomes regarding three main areas: (i) EU Policy and Europeanization, (ii) Research and Innovation, and (iii) Sustainability and Infrastructure.

Within the area of EU Policy and Europeanization, the authors highlight the tangible and recognized potential of cultural tourism but note that additional steps are needed in order to make Tourism a full-value policy sector, also being more specifically recognized within the Green Deal and Structural Development Fund programmes. European routes and joint ticketing systems are identified as important programmes to create linkages around common themes, instigating a sense of ‘Europeanization’ which can further be supported through education, particularly via Erasmus and Erasmus+ programmes.

On the area of Research and Innovation, main policy recommendations relate to the consolidation of new and developed technologies, calling for a Cultural Tourism Cluster to aggregate already developed tools in order to avoid dispersion and reduced usage. Furthermore, within the EC Research & Innovation coordination policy, non-research partners could be asked to deliver credible business plans for measurable and tangible exploitation of results. Innovation is seen as having a crucial role for the further (sustainable) development of cultural tourism and continued support in the form of funding is of particular importance. This also entails providing clear and accurate congregated information on funding possibilities and guidelines for optimal usage. At the same time, in order to make innovations work for local communities, support training for local communities and business should be a central focus.

Finally, within the reflection on Sustainability and Infrastructure, the focus is placed primarily on strategies and policies to support sustainable cultural tourism development. Active heritage communities, included via participatory methodologies are seen as valuable approaches to more effectively integrate potential stakeholder conflicts and overcome these. Furthermore, action-training mechanisms can not only activate local heritage communities in co-developing methods but also in adapting these to local contexts to further facilitate the spread of good practices. Furthermore, in an economic sense, the characteristics of tourism as often consuming – for large part – public goods and leading to an uneven spread of costs and benefits, require a rethink of possibilities to sharing (pooling) costs and benefits of territorial development in more equal fashion. Lastly, even with best intentions, modern innovations, digitization, etc., certain marginal territories do 5 remain limited by important material problems such as lack of infrastructure and mobility. Methodologically analysing such situations, including searching for good practices, and conditions for locally implementing least costly solutions might help to overcome these deficits, particularly when combined with potential financial mechanisms.

Final Huesca Living Lab report

Sustainable cultural tourism policies can significantly support the development of the European regions. Cultural tourism, especially in rural areas but also in the urban periphery, can emerge as a factor of economic growth. The EU-funded SmartCulTour project has intended to redefine the concept of cultural tourism to provide European regions with strategies that engage stakeholders in co-creating smart cultural tourism practices. The project has developed a decision support system that enables comprehensive monitoring of regions through a combination of traditional and non-traditional data sources.

One of the main objectives of SmartCulTour has been to facilitate community-led rural development through field experiments in 6 living laboratories: the Scheldeland region in Flanders (Belgium); the municipality of Utsjoki in Lapland (Finland); the province of Huesca (Spain); the county of Split-Dalmatia (Croatia); the city of Vicenza (Italy); and the metropolitan region of Rotterdam (the Netherlands). The living labs have tested creative and novel approaches to stakeholder engagement, including arts-based methods, serious games and the design of services that help provide local context and support.

Huesca was selected as a laboratory because it aspires to be a world class destination and has all the tourist infrastructure available, including both cultural and natural beauty sites. Outside of Spain, Huesca is almost an unexplored paradise of cultural heritage. There is definitely room for growth in terms of numbers of tourists, but this growth would need to be carefully managed to preserve the integrity of both natural and cultural sites. Ironically, Huesca experiences saturation during the peak summer months and this would also be one of the challenges, where it would need help in sustainably managing growing volumes of flows.

In addition to depopulation, other socio-economic and environmental challenges include the abandonment of farming as an economic activity, the impact of climate change, environmental sustainability of the rural landscape and the degradation of natural resources through human activity.

This document, «Huesca’s Sustainable Cultural Tourism Development Strategy «, summarizes the results of the 7 meetings held by different stakeholders in the province’s tourism sector and aims to serve as a guide to boost tourism and make it a preferred destination for those seeking quality cultural and sustainable tourism.

Empowering Stakeholders: From House of Quality to Educational Programs

In our recent stakeholder meeting, we utilized an effective tool called the House of Quality to evaluate and prioritize interventions based on the needs of critical stakeholders, including communities, businesses, cultural institutions, policy makers, and the environment. By employing this method, we aimed to develop a comprehensive understanding of the pros and cons of each alternative. Our objective remains to empower stakeholders and institutions to take the lead in the development of educational programs. In this blog post, we will explore the key areas of interest that emerged from our analysis: Entrepreneurship based on cultural heritage, Cultural heritage valorization through sustainable tourism development, Marketing in cultural tourism, and the Role of cultural heritage in the sustainable development of local communities.

Entrepreneurship Based on Cultural Heritage:
Through the House of Quality evaluation, we thoroughly examined the intervention of promoting entrepreneurship based on cultural heritage. This intervention received positive feedback from stakeholders, particularly in terms of its potential to foster economic growth, empower local communities, and preserve cultural traditions. However, challenges were also identified, such as the need for capacity building, access to funding, and addressing potential conflicts between commercialization and authenticity. By addressing these concerns through educational programs, stakeholders can harness the benefits of cultural heritage entrepreneurship while mitigating associated risks.

Cultural Heritage Valorization through Sustainable Tourism Development:
The House of Quality analysis shed light on the intervention of cultural heritage valorization through sustainable tourism development. Stakeholders recognized the significant opportunities presented by this intervention, such as increased visitor engagement, economic benefits, and enhanced cultural awareness. However, concerns were raised regarding potential negative impacts on local communities, overtourism, and environmental degradation. To address these concerns, educational programs should focus on responsible tourism practices, community involvement, and sustainable development strategies to ensure that cultural heritage is valued and protected while promoting a positive tourism experience.

Marketing in Cultural Tourism:
The evaluation of the intervention focused on marketing in cultural tourism highlighted its potential to attract visitors, promote cultural experiences, and stimulate economic growth. Stakeholders emphasized the importance of effective marketing strategies tailored to the cultural tourism sector. However, challenges were identified, including limited marketing knowledge among stakeholders, budget constraints, and the need for collaboration between different stakeholders to create cohesive marketing campaigns. Educational programs should address these challenges by providing stakeholders with the necessary skills and knowledge to implement successful marketing initiatives that align with the unique characteristics of cultural tourism destinations.

The Role of Cultural Heritage in the Sustainable Development of Local Communities:
The House of Quality analysis enabled stakeholders to assess the intervention regarding the role of cultural heritage in the sustainable development of local communities. Stakeholders recognized the potential of cultural heritage to foster community pride, social cohesion, and economic resilience. However, concerns were raised regarding the need for community engagement, equitable distribution of benefits, and the integration of cultural heritage into local development plans. Educational programs should focus on empowering stakeholders to actively participate in decision-making processes, promoting inclusive development, and facilitating collaboration between different stakeholders to ensure that cultural heritage contributes to sustainable and holistic community development.

By employing the House of Quality evaluation, we gained valuable insights into the four interventions and their alignment with the needs of critical stakeholders, including communities, businesses, cultural institutions, policy makers, and the environment. It is now the responsibility of these stakeholders and FEBT, as Lead of SmartculTour living lab, to take the lead in the development of educational programs. By prioritizing Entrepreneurship based on cultural heritage, Cultural heritage valorization through sustainable tourism development, Marketing in cultural tourism, and the Role of cultural heritage in the sustainable development of local communities, we can collectively work towards preserving, promoting, and sustainably leveraging our cultural heritage. Let us seize this opportunity to empower stakeholders and shape a future where our heritage thrives, and our communities flourish.

Final Scheldeland Living Lab meeting

On the 1st of June, the final Scheldeland Living Lab meeting took place at Fort Rozenbroek in Dendermonde. Together with the steering committee of the Living Lab, the conclusion of the project was celebrated and a final project plan was drafted, focusing on the operationalisation of the ‘Scheldeland in Beweging!’ product proposal that was developed within the working group. The project proposal discussed modular connections and attraction linkages, accessibility, limitations and opportunities, prospective market demand, competitive positioning, and marketing approaches. This project proposal (written in Dutch to serve the local stakeholders) can be found here.

Culture as catalyst: New tourism trends to be explored in the EU-funded SmartCulTour Final Conference in Brussels

Stakeholders of the cultural tourism sector in Europe are invited to join the Final Conference of the EU-funded project SmartCulTour on 24 May in Brussels. The event will bring together international experts to explore emerging tourism trends and identify priorities to redefine cultural tourism for sustainable destinations.

The conference will tackle the importance of harnessing the power of culture and local values to redefine the visitor experience. The lineup of confirmed speakers will include UNESCO, European Commission (various DGs), MEPs István Ujhelyi and Marcos Ros, ICOMOS and leading EU and National cultural and tourism bodies as we debate the future of cultural tourism in Europe.

Since SmartCulTour started in January 2020, the project has supported the development of European regions by providing them with a set of strategies to engage with stakeholders and co-create sustainable cultural tourism experiences.

The project has been deployed through six living labs across Europe (Belgium, Croatia, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain). The project’s tools and the different experiences of the SmartCulTour Living Labs with key target audiences will be shared during the closing conference of the project.

DATE: Wednesday 24 May 2023
TIME: 09:15 – 18:30 h
VENUE: Herman Teirlinckgebouw building (Havenlaan 88, 1000 – Brussels, Belgium)
REGISTRATION: Register on the SmartCulTour website to attend the event (

Planning for the future of Hoek van Holland & Bospolder-Tussendijken – Rotterdam LL intervention

The Urban Leisure & Tourism Lab Rotterdam is one of the six Living Labs (LLs) participating in the European project SmartCulTour. The aim of the Living Labs is to encourage networking between stakeholders in the tourism sector in order to develop best practices and innovative solutions for sustainable cultural tourism, which can also be exchanged with other European regions. The Urban Leisure & Tourism Lab Rotterdam focuses on two Rotterdam neighbourhoods: Hoek van Holland and Bospolder-Tussendijken. The LL’s goal is to (further) develop cultural tourism in these two districts in order to contribute to their sustainable development as a whole.

During the project, several meetings were held with stakeholders from both areas to discuss various tools to further stimulate cultural tourism. One of the sessions focused on the SmartCulTour Serious Game, which enabled participants to understand what kind of influence possible interventions would have on other actors. Stakeholders and researchers then worked with these possible interventions during the ideation washing machine & roadmapping session. The goal of this session was to come up with a creative mix of interventions that could be implemented in the future, along with a realistic planning to actually carry them out.

Currently, based on this last session, researchers from both neighbourhoods are writing a report that can be presented to the municipality of Rotterdam and other stakeholders involved in the development of the concerned areas. It is expected that these reports, including recommended interventions, will be able to guide and uphold the sustainable development of both neighbourhoods. A major advantage here is the fact that the interventions were designed through a bottom-up approach, and that there is a clear planning that can be adhered to. In addition, the reports identify all stakeholders that could possibly help realise the interventions. Finally, whom should take ownership of each intervention is mentioned. This ensures that, with the help of funding, concrete steps can be taken for the benefit of targeted neighbourhoods.

The Somontano Wine Route: a resilient strategy for Huesca – Huesca LL intervention

The Ruta del Vino Somontano (or Somontano Wine Route) territorial project concerns the area of Barbastro (Huesca), identified as the county of “Somontano de Barbastro” in the region of Aragón, Spain. It is an exemplary process of diversification of the local rural economy. The intervention leverages the socio-economic and cultural assets of the area by promoting linkages between civil society and businesses, the individual and the collective spheres, as well as harnessing the potential arising from the alliance between public and private actions. The binding element used by the Somontano Wine Route development project is wine, which has become an identifier (or identificador) of the area, bringing together several productive and cultural sectors.

For this reason, the wine industry under the Somontano Designation of Origin, together with the Barbastro City Council and the County of Somontano, created the Ruta del Vino Somontano in 2006. The Ruta takes advantage of the territory’s resources and considers wine as an “active agent”, something well internalized and identified by the local community. The Somontano Wine Route initiative is not only a tourism product, but also a high-quality strategy managed within the Wine Routes of Spain project, led by the Spanish Association of Wine Cities (ACEVIN).

Two dedicated websites, “” and “”, publicise the project’s mission and proposed experiences. The websites tell the history of the territory and recommend a multitude of eligible experiences offered by the Ruta. Wineries, urban spaces, festivals, locally-sourced food, restaurants, natural parks, hiking and sports activities, religious tourism, cultural parks, are all available with one simple click. Moreover, with the special Somontano wine bus, visitors can easily reach rural destinations from urban centres such as Zaragoza, Barbastro and Huesca, thereby enjoying a touristic programme that offers different seasonal itineraries. The wine bus also helps bypass the structural transport barriers that characterise rural areas and widens the project’s impact by involving another economic sector in the development strategy.

Finally, the strong promotional campaigns put in place throughout the territory and on the Internet contributed to making the Somontano Wine Route the ninth (out of twenty-nine) preferred enotourism destination in the country. According to a 2019 study carried out by ACEVIN, 16.8 % of the enotourists around Spain would like to visit the route in the future.

Vicenza: the city of Palladio – Vicenza LL intervention

The “City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto” is a serial World Heritage property that includes the city of Vicenza and twenty-four Palladian villas scattered throughout the Veneto region. Vicenza presents itself to tourists as the city of Andrea Palladio, but surveys and interviews show that only a few know Vicenza as the city of Palladio or choose the destination for its Renaissance architecture. Although perceived as a cultural destination, Vicenza is rather preferred by people who love immersive and slow tourism and wish to visit other Italian cities beyond the most renowned ones (e.g. Venice, Rome, Florence, Milan and Naples).

Visitors in Vicenza find themselves immersed in a city that lives its daily life surrounded by the beauty of its architecture, urban backdrops and Renaissance stages among squares, theatres, villas, and hills. Vicenza is still able to amaze enough to take the tourist beyond the imaginary. However, such wow effect is not to be taken for granted but to be enhanced through new narratives and cultural events capable of animating the city.

Today the tourism market tends to be specialized, in order to offer a customized product to consumers. The process of globalization thus pushes every tourism destination to build a strong and recognizable identity in the collective imagination, so that it can be clearly distinguished from other proposals. Therefore, when devising new strategies to attract tourists to Vicenza, it is necessary to maintain the «Palladian wow effect», while seeking new claims capable of intercepting new audiences.

In this perspective, the Lab members pursue to improve skills and knowledge of tourism operators, including restaurateurs, hoteliers, shopkeepers, event organizers, travel agencies, managers of UNESCO designated sites, museums and theaters, etc. The Living Lab also provides a space for training and research: researchers and operators meet to analyze the trends of the cultural tourism market at a global and local level, learning to interpret data and use them to make decisions and design innovative marketing strategies and new cultural-creative tourism products.