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

Creative workgroup sessions in autumn 2021

In autumn 2021, 4 working group sessions were organized in quick succession in the Scheldeland Living Lab, on 6 September, 13 September, 20 September and 4 October. The flow of the workshops was designed following a double-diamond session model for co-creative ideation.

The first workgroup session took place in-person in CC Binder in Puurs-Sint-Amands on 6 September 2021 and brought together local stakeholders from the three municipalities of Dendermonde, Bornem, and Puurs-Sint-Amands. The main aim of this first meeting was (a) to serve as an ice-breaker, (b) to get acquainted with each other and the project goals of SmartCulTour, and (c) to discuss the context of Scheldeland from the perspective of the three identified domains (‘Heritage & Culture’, ‘People & Society’, ‘Nature & Water’). A sticky notes sorting game was adopted in order to link the particularities (opportunities and challenges) of the three domains with the situation in Scheldeland.

The second  workshop took place physically at the Sint-Bernardus Abbey of Bornem on 13 September 2021. The focus here is on the “What if…” question. As a first step, the living lab participants were given a presentation of the UN SDGs and trends in order to inspire them to work within the framework of the new paradigms and holistic systemic design thinking. Starting from the general context defined in the first workshop, participants now narrowed down the opportunities and challenges to three challenges (one of each domain: ‘Heritage & Culture’, ‘People & Society’, ‘Nature & Water’) to be focused on in the remaining sessions.

In the third workshop, organized in-person at the city hall of Dendermonde on 20 September 2021, the project moved towards the ‘ideation’-phase (“What wows”). At the start of the session, lab participants were given a presentation on a selection of the best practice cultural tourism interventions that were identified in WP3 of SmartCulTour and were deemed most appropriate/of interest to the Scheldeland case. Next, the workshop adopted a serious play approach, in particular Lego © Serious Play, to further entice creative, out-of-the box thinking. At the end of the session, within the three sub-groups of the Living Lab, three bottom-up cultural tourism initiatives were suggested: (a) a sensory parcours for people with visual impairments, with slow modes of transportation, (b) family-focused and group-based active weekends with gamification elements, linking different cultural heritage attractions (c) nature ‘hangouts’ with landmark values, particularly focussing on a lookout platform linked to cycling routes and bird breeding grounds.

In workgroup meeting 4, which took place in Puurs-Sint-Amands on 4 October 2021, the ideas that originated at the end of the previous session were further refined, focusing on specific questions such as: What’s the objective? Who is the target group? Who are primary/secondary stakeholders? What are advantages/disadvantages? For each cultural tourism initiative, a project initiation canvas was completed which outlined further steps to be taken.

Living Lab Vicenza: Testimonials from stakeholders

Giulia Basso is the creator of “Itinerari Letterari“, a project born to organize guided walks and events in city’s locations that are told in literature. In the video, she tells us, for example, how, with the Living Lab and its network she discovered a place unknown to many tourists and citizens: the Church of Santa Maria Nova, the only religious building designed by the architect Palladio in Vicenza. The Living Lab for Giulia is a great opportunity to network with the many stakeholders involved, providing effective tools and interactively sharing information and innovative solutions for the development of cultural tourism

Caterina Soprana is the President of the Culture Commission of the Municipality of Vicenza and creator of the Cittàbellissima project which combines architecture, culture, tourism and economy to increase the attractiveness of Vicenza in Italy and in the world. This project merged into the Vicenza2024 Candidacy Dossier as the Italian Capital of Culture. In this video Caterina identifies 3 key components of the SmartCultour Living Lab project: 1) Cooperation between associations, universities and the Municipality of Vicenza to create an innovative and sustainable cultural offer. 2) Cooperation among other European Living Labs to learn about new ways and development projects of the cultural tourism. 3) A very important collaboration with the Department of Economics of the Ca ‘Foscari University of Venice, a true scientific study of data processing, which transforms those into fundamental tools to help Living Lab stakeholders in research and definition of new development systems. 

Giulio Vallortigara Valmarana is Villa Valmarana ai Nani’s Owner. He manages and implements events, tourist visits, and creates tailor-made experiences for Italian and foreign guests. Giulio is a great  supporter of «networking» and sharing knowledge and experiences , to create a proactive collaboration between all stakeholders in the hospitality tourism sector, he immediately and enthusiastically embraced the Living Lab project. In this  video he takes us on a short itinerary of his splendid Villa, on the hills of the city, which hosts the fabulous frescoes by Giambattista and Giandomenico Tiepolo

The future of urban tourism: SmartCulTour webinar

In the webinar “The Future of Urban Tourism” the SmartCulTour consortium focused on the changing context surrounding urban tourism. After a historic – and to a certain extent – unsustainable growth where increasingly concerns were raised with regard to overtourism, gentrification, and a general loss of quality of life for residents, the Covid-19 pandemic abruptly disrupted society as a whole, and the tourist system in particular, offering a moment of reflection and contemplation. But the question remains as to what future holds and how policies can be designed to build-back better.

The webinar brought together experts from the SmartCulTour consortium, as well as external cultural heritage and destination marketing experts, and representatives of the other European research projects of IMPACTOUR, SPOT and TeXTOUR. Jan van der Borg and Daniel Basulto Garcia-Risco recognized some early disconcerting trends of a quick return to normal, which is unsurprising considering the very real negative economic impacts that were caused by Covid-19. Realistically, overtourism will likely become part of reality to some extent and researchers and policy makers can play a central role in designing about new business models for tourism destinations and entrepreneurs.

From such a policy perspective, Elke Dens and Ko Koens do recognize an increased emphasis among destinations of reframing the economic view of tourism towards a vision that sees tourism as an integral part of the social system where a focus on local quality of life for residents forms the basis of a sustainable and healthy destination. Local grassrooted initiatives and community involvement are happening – as also exemplified by Naja Marot – but a challenge remains regarding the scaling up of such initiatives. As mentioned by Greg Richards, Naja Marot and Elke Dens, there is an increased trend towards hybridization – both in terms of cultural consumption and in terms of urban and economic structures – where boundaries between tourists and residents start to disappear. This might be further accelerated in the Covid-19 pandemic where cultural institutions have at least temporarily refocused on locals.

Finally, as mentioned by Graham Bell and reflected on by most of the other speakers, while there is an opportunity to start a new path and inform policy-makers, there is a need to measure the right things. This remains challenging since progressing from economic impacts towards impacts on wellbeing requires more extensive data collection and the incorporation of essentially qualitative data.

Third working session of Huesca’s Living Lab

The third working session of Huesca’s Living Lab in the framework of the European project SmartCulTour was held on 10 November 2021. The main objective of the session was to present the project officially in Huesca as this had not been possible until now due to the pandemic. For this purpose a press conference was held at the headquarters of the Provincial Government of Huesca where Raúl Compés, Director of CIHEAM Zaragoza, and Fernando Blasco, Manager of TuHuesca, presented the project and spoke of the synergies generated between both institutions.

After the press conference the workshop took place at a winery of DO Somontano and consisted of two working sessions to identify successful initiatives that could elevate sustainable cultural tourism to territorial scale and thus serve as a base upon which to work and make Huesca a point of reference for sustainable cultural tourism. A session was chaired by representatives from UNESCO who presented an overview of the body and explained the different methodologies used for awareness-raising and knowledge transfer to the stakeholders of the tourist sector. Once the most favourable itineraries have been chosen for Huesca as well as the members of the Living Lab, UNESCO will provide personalized training throughout the project.

The meeting was attended by 22 representatives of different counties and tourist areas, centres of rural development, as well as business and agrifood sectors. The methodology was addressed from a participatory approach using facilitation tools to design and select initiatives and for decision-making.

ULAP presenting SmartCulTour in the Lapland Tourism Parliament 2021

The University of Lapland took part in the Lapland Tourism Parliament 2021 to present the SmartCulTour project, which brought together tourism industry players for a hybrid event in Levi, Finland on 28-29 October.

The theme of this year’s Lapland Tourism Parliament is the recovery of tourism and future directions. There were speeches on changes in the operating environment and expectations of recovery, discussing solutions to labour shortages, the future development of domestic tourism and sustainable and responsible tourism. Speakers at the seminar include Mika Salminen, Director of THL, Markku Ollikainen, President of the Finnish Climate Panel, Topi Manner, President and CEO of Finnair, Juha Majanen, State Secretary at the Ministry of Finance, Johan Edelheim, Professor of Tourism and Media at the University of Hokkaido, Timo Kousa, President and CEO of Aurinkomatkat, Visit Flanders Marketing Director Elke Dens and Pentik entrepreneurs Anu Pentik and Topi Pentikäinen.

The event organisers conducted a live interview with the senior researcher Hong Li (University of Lapland), in which she introduced the SmartCulTour project and the six Living Labs – the Utsjoki Lab in particular – in detail. The visibility of the SmartCulTour project was enhanced during this event.

SmartCulTour presentations at the 14th International Conference for Cultural Tourism in Europe

On 21-22 October 2021, Hong Li (University of Lapland), Simone Moretti (Breda University of Applied Sciences) and Bart Neuts (KU Leuven) participated in the 14th International Conference for Cultural Tourism in Europe ‘Regenerating European Tourism through Culture, Heritage & Creativity’, organized by the European Cultural Tourism Network in Athens (Greece).

Hong Li presented some of the tools that were developed under WP7 (Deliverable 7.1) for stakeholder participation and engagement under the title ‘New Tools and Methods for Cultural and Creative Sector and Industries to Engage with Cultural and Creative Tourism Development – Case SmartCulTour’. In ‘Bourdieu’s capitals theory and community resilience: an example in the field of walking tourism’, Simone Moretti focused on some examples discussed in WP3 (Deliverable 3.1 and 3.2), particularly Migrantour and Hôtel du Nord, as interventions to improve community resilience in the sense of Bourdieu’s social capitals theory. Finally, Bart Neuts linked SmartCulTour’s WP4 and WP6 by presenting the theory and methods of surveying resident support as a preamble to tourism development and an initial step towards bottom-up participation via living labs in ‘Resident support for regional tourism development through cultural and natural tourism’.

The presentations were followed live on the event, as well as being streamed and recorded by the organizers for further dissemination.

Presentation at ‘Regenerating & Creating Positive Spaces for our Towns’

On 7 October 2021, Bart Neuts (KU Leuven) spoke at the webinar ‘Regenerating & Creating Positive Spaces for our Towns’, organized by the Irish Walled Town Network (IWTN) and The Heritage Council on the topic of ‘Cultural tourism interventions for heritage-led generation’. The presentation was based on the typology of cultural tourism interventions that was the outcome of SmartCulTour’s WP3 (Deliverable 3.1 and 3.2) and was aimed at providing participants information on the workflow followed to collect the case studies as well as the main lessons learnt from the 107 case studies in terms of their general context, objectives, required resources, impacts and success conditions.

The webinar was streamed online and the recording of this (and other sessions) is available on the YouTube channel of The Heritage Council:

Presentation on SmartCulTour and Scheldeland Living Lab at the ATLAS Conference 2021

On 7-10 September 2021, Vanessa Ágata de Abreu Santos (KU Leuven) presented her working paper on “SmartCulTour and Scheldeland Living Lab, in Belgium: using the systemic design thinking method for stakeholders’ empathy”, at the ATLAS Annual ONLINE Conference 2021. Tourism 21: Re-building Tourism – Continuities and Changes (

This conference was supposed to happen in Prague, but due to the current circumstances of the coronavirus, it happened at the virtual room of LIVETO digital platform, in a room dedicated to Cultural Tourism paper presentations, that were part of the special track 9 on “Cultural tourism re-visited. ATLAS SIG Cultural Tourism”, chaired by Greg Richards. This track was created to celebrate three decades since the launch of the ATLAS Cultural Tourism group. The conclusions of this group’s project are that despite this field is still a relatively new segment of global tourism, it rapidly developed from a niche market into a mass tourism product, and that cultural tourism is in constant change, continuously dividing itself in several other niches. Therefore, seven topics were covered on this special track namely: 1) new forms of cultural tourism; 2) cultural tourism development trends; 3) evolving cultures of tourism; 4) cultural tourism and regional development; 5) new cultural tourism spaces; 6) cultural tourism and the community; and 7) collaboration, and networks in cultural tourism. And the KU Leuven’s researcher focused her presentation on the latter.

It is clear to all of us how the COVID-19 pandemic has been dramatically affecting the way we communicate and interact with each other in the private and professional spheres. These problems demanded systemic and digital solutions, to keep the workflow and the engagement of stakeholders’ networks going, and we had to find ways to encourage empathy in the multi-stakeholder systems and in their cultural tourism network. But it was not an easy task to ask people to connect with each other. Inspired by all this, Vanessa Santos wanted to take a closer look and zoom in at the empathizing process and the relevance of service design tools in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, to develop the multi-stakeholders’ networks within the system of the Scheldeland tourist region.

The work being developed by the Living Labs of SmartCulTour’s project is based on the theoretical approach of systems thinking, which examines the linkages and interactions between the actors involved in the placemaking of each Living Lab’s region. In practice, this theory is problem-based, and its purpose is to encourage the exploration of a specific context and its human connections, as well as perspectives of each stakeholder involved, to better understand the existing boundaries and collectively work on the improvements to be made within the system. As part of this paradigm, design thinking is the iterative and non-linear process used to address and redefine the complex problems found, reframing these with the use of the Double Diamond Model, suggested by the SmartCulTour researchers from the University of Lapland and Breda University of Applied Sciences. This model is implemented to make the conceptual leap from what “is” to what “might be” and facilitate divergent and convergent thinking processes among the actors that participate in the workshops, during the different stages of the design process. The work done so far in Scheldeland’s region has been carried out by Apollo18 Design agency, Visit Flanders, and KU Leuven, through the work and experimentation of its Living Laboratory, and it is now at the first section of the diamond, which starts with the concept phase, in answer to what “is” question, to work on Scheldeland’s context in depth, with the intent of focusing on its system and challenges. Within the systems thinking theory and the design thinking process, empathy is used as a tool to design with, providing insights from users’ needs and informing the overall process. Empathy can be then defined as the capacity of perceiving, sharing, and mirroring bodily experiences and emotions. Until the summer of 2021, the work process was done in one MIRO whiteboard, and included the digital collage of secondary data documents, to inform the LL’s contributors, as well as MIRO’s design tools such as diagrams, and colored sticky notes to organise with color codes the three working groups of 1) Heritage & Culture (yellow); 2) People & Society (orange); and 3) Nature and Water (blue), used as artifacts for group visualization, and interactivity, to facilitate workshop exercises.

However, as the group of stakeholders were geographically scattered, and were physically restricted to meet due to the COVID-19 lockdowns, there was a common frustration and expressed need for a physical encounter to better understand the environment/ context of each stakeholder. So, a field trip was arranged to meet in real life! Real-life workshop exercises then started at the end of September, including various role-playing techniques, for consensus building. This arts-based performative method is considered a core element of this design approach and is commonly used to express the value of the stakeholders’ ideas, and gradually unveiling both functional and emotional layers, to render bodily understandings of environments and its users, and facilitate the perception of in-situ experiences and emotions of others, and how to relate with them.

On this account, this study concludes that design thinking processes require a certain degree of mutuality and locality, meaning that there is some level of physical interaction which needs to happen and be embedded in the stakeholders’ geographical locations, as they make the design process concrete through its physicality.

The fourth hybrid workshop held in the Utsjoki Living Lab

The fourth hybrid workshop was held in the Utsjoki Living Lab on 6 October 2021 by the ULAP team with five online and three on-site participants. The workshop consisted of two main sections, specifically, introducing UNESCO’s capacity-building opportunities for SmartCulTour Living Labs and discussing the Lab-tailored interventions to be further developed.

The UNESCO team was invited to the workshop to present three capacity-building activities:

1) UNESCO World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Programme

2) Intangible Cultural Heritage

3) Historic Urban Landscape Approach

The workshop participants discussed amongst themselves after the presentation and decided to choose the first proposal – UNESCO World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Programme – as the most suitable capacity building activity to be implemented in the Utsjoki Lab, with some tailored contents from the Intangible Cultural Heritage activity.

Both online and on-site participants were involved in the discussion of possible Lab-tailored interventions for the Utsjoki Lab. Making storytelling videos to give essential information to visitors – for example, different aspects of the traditional and modern Sámi culture, some guidelines regarding how to behave in the destination – was chosen as and believed to be the most practical and feasible intervention to be further developed in the Lab.