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 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, “rutadelvinosomontano.com” and “dosomontano.com”, 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.
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.
“Traces in Utsjoki” is a concept for managing and influencing Utsjoki visitors’ behavior and actions in nature and raising environmental and cultural awareness. The concept consists of three parts, which are the bingo game for tracking traces in nature, the photo gallery for collecting and combining photos of the traces in the public online-based photo gallery, and informative posters for guiding the tourists’ behavior in nature. The main purpose of the concept is to increase the awareness and respect of natural surroundings and demonstrate the problems of misbehavior in nature and littering to the visitors and locals in Utsjoki in a participatory and playful way.
Visitors and locals can spot different traces in nature that do not belong to the local ecosystem, but also traces that do belong to it and should be treated with respect. The bingo game aims to increase tourists’ awareness through the observation of nature in both good and bad conditions. The bingo paper-based game board can be picked up from the tourist info in Village house Giisá. Hikers and visitors can play the bingo, document their found traces by taking pictures, and then upload the pictures on the Traces in Utsjoki gallery, which could be published on Utsjoki municipality’s webpage.
The Traces in Utsjoki gallery is a browser-based real-time photo gallery of the pictures taken by people walking or hiking around Utsjoki’s nature. The idea of the gallery is that, when you find a trace in nature, either negative or positive, you take a picture with your mobile phone and upload it to the photo gallery accessible through the Utsjoki municipality’s website. It is also possible to mark the exact location where the trace was found when uploading the picture. This allows monitoring the areas that have the biggest littering problem or many piles of stones, for example. Every month the statistics of «Traces of the months» are visible on the webpage, as well as displayed on the tourism info screen, which could be placed in the Village House Giisá. The administration rights of the photo gallery would belong to the Municipality of Utsjoki.
Traces in Utsjoki posters are part of the concept aiming to draw the attention of hikers and visitors to traces that do not belong to nature. The posters show evocative images of, for example, litter or other waste in nature and can be displayed in places where littering problems occur the most (identified, for example, with the help of the Traces in Utsjoki gallery). Posters should be located in places where they do not cause visual harm to the scenery. A poster with pictures of human waste in nature can be placed, for example, on the wall of the inside door of a public toilet, where visitors can be kindly reminded that toilet paper should not be left in nature either. In the picture in the middle of the poster, on the one side, misbehavior could be depicted, while on the other side the ideal situation of how to deal with waste could be displayed. Using creativity and humor in posters helps send the message in positive ways.
The Municipality of Utsjoki and the residents benefit from this concept since it improves the general well-being of the local people and the attractiveness of the area. The gallery helps collect data related to behavior in nature, which can potentially be used for different purposes such as arranging bins in some specific spots or informing tourists. The game can also be an educational tool for children: indeed, spotting different animal tracks gives a positive and playful aspect to the exercise. Identifying different traces in nature, including animals’ ones, may help learn about the local nature and its diversity. The goal of the game is to reduce the environmentally negative traces and collect the most positive ones in the gallery while increasing tourists’ appreciation for nature. Collecting litter and reporting it with pictures can uplift tourists’ feeling that they have done something good for the local community during their travels. It supports the development of more sustainable and balanced tourism, where both local people and tourists can enjoy and preserve nature.
The gallery could serve other purposes as well, such as providing information about the local Sámi culture, which was one of the needs identified by the Utsjoki Living Lab in order to develop sustainable cultural tourism in the municipality. In Sámi cultures, nature and culture are intertwined, hence the gallery could be used for providing correct information on the Sámi culture as well and the nature relations, which may also help uphold locals’ ownership and cultural identity.
For local communities, intangible cultural heritage (ICH) can be a valuable tourism resource. It can assist managers from the culture and tourism sectors in deepening the heritage experiences of locals and visitors, as well as in encouraging visitors to stay longer and increase their expenditure at the destination rather than coming and going without truly connecting with local people and places. The town of Sinj has a rich cultural heritage, and since the 18th century, it has hosted its trademark event, namely the annual chivalric tournament Sinjska Alka. The event is inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity since 2010. To promote the preservation of the tradition, the entire community participates in the creation, conservation, restoration, and reconstruction of weapons, clothing, and accessories. During this process, Mrs. Liljana Vojković plays an essential role, as she is the only person who possesses the skills of weaving opanci oputari, the shoes used by the Alka knights. To preserve this skill and transmit it to future generations, it is needed to enhance its valorization in a sustainable way. There are plenty of opportunities to do so. For instance, heritage interpretation workshops could be organized in collaboration with the Alka Museum or the Sinj Tourist Board, thereby offering both tourists and locals the opportunity to learn about the process of making opanci oputari, as well as get involved in it. Furthermore, the samples of opanci oputari, in their standard or smaller size (for souvenir purposes), could be produced and sold in collaboration with the local businesses. The most appropriate places to sell them would be local marketplaces, souvenir shops and local fairs, the so-called the derneci (sg. dernek, parish folk fête) at Sinj, Trilj, Split, Trogir, Kaštela, Solin, Omiš, Imotski etc.
Bornem Castle (also known as Castle Marnix de Sainte Aldegonde) has a more than thousand year history, starting with a wooden guard tower, evolving into a motte castle and finally a stone castle. The current castle was completely rebuilt at the end of the 19th century and has been the property of the family de Marnix since 1773, currently still being occupied by count John de Marnix. Given that the castle is under private ownership, opening up the castle and castle grounds for visitors is not straightforward. The project that is the focus of this practice abstract was the development of a visitor centre, and the improvement of the museal exhibits of the castle, with an eye on improving visitor accessibility and linking the castle of Marnix de Sainte Aldegonde with a wider network as part of the «Castles of the Scheldt» project. The project coordinator worked in close collaboration with the local destination management organizations and the private owner of the castle, with project subsidies coming from the Flemish policy level, in order to balance project objectives with private interests and respect for privacy of the castle occupants. The Philips de Marnix-exhibition, focussing on the history of the family’s ancestor that was the right-hand man of Willem of Orange in the 16th century, and the private collection of Brueghel the Elder engravings, were updated to modern interpretation standards and through the new visitor centre, visitors receive the historical information of the castle, the wider region of Bornem, and the other sites of the project. The information centre also serves a starting point for guided tours that are offered from the 1st of April to the 15th of November. Importantly, the visitor information centre also serves as a central node in another tourism-recreational product: the prospective National Park «Valley of the Scheldt» (i.e. «Rivierpark Scheldevallei»). Bornem Castle serves as one of the access gates to the prospective national park, thereby linking this unique cultural heritage site with a nature-focused tourism experience as well. The intervention shows how collaborative efforts between private-public partners, supported by a shared higher-level vision can overcome initial difficulties to open up accessibility to cultural heritage. Furthermore, by envisioning the visitor information centre as a node in both a larger castle route and as an entrance gate to a prospective national park, the attraction becomes elevated and the potential positive impacts for the region increase accordingly by creating routes, rather than singular point attractions.
The European H2020 project SmartCulTour held on 15 December in Breda (The Netherlands) its third annual meeting in hybrid format (online and face-to-face) with the participation of all project partners.
The meeting was divided into two distinct sessions: during the morning, topics of interest for all project partners were discussed, such as the main achievements and milestones, the current and expected tasks and results, a summary of the communication activities and an overview of the budget and the PMs of each partner.
In the afternoon, the session, led by UNESCO, focused on the Living Labs and addressed the main findings of the LL evaluation, lessons learned and good practices, as well as co-designed a draft for the final Living Labs report and the LL afterlife strategy. At the end of the session, the agenda and speakers for the final conference of the project to be held in May 2023, as well as the 3rd regional workshop (18 April) and the afterlife strategy were discussed.
Huesca Living Lab, with the collaboration of CIHEAM Zaragoza and Fractal Strategy, held yesterday the ‘Second workshop on co-design of tourism services and co-creation of the Sustainable Tourism Development Strategy for the territory of Huesca’, which is the seventh and last working meeting of the Living Lab.
After the training provided by UNESCO and the experiences of exchange and sharing of the best European strategies for the development of sustainable and cultural tourism, the objectives of this meeting were to explore together and individually the vision of tourism in Huesca, to define the goals and strategic lines, to conceptualise the strategy for cultural and sustainable tourism in Huesca and to list the first key actions of the strategy.
In the meeting, which had three different sessions, we conceptualised the strategy, established the vision by setting out three possible scenarios for the future as well as the objectives in terms of tourism in the province and presented, assessed and formalised different initiatives aimed at attracting tourists. We also worked on the objectives, target public, strategic lines and proposals for actions that will be contained in the ‘Sustainable Tourism Development Strategy for the territory of Huesca’.
The Danube is the second longest river in Europe, after the Volga River. It flows westwards through Central and Southeastern Europe and flows into the Black Sea after 2,829 km in the border area of Romania and Ukraine via the Danube Delta. Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest and Belgrade are located on the Danube. Thus, this long river traverses more countries and landscapes than any other river in Europe and, as an important axis of transport and travel, it connects various cultural and economic areas. For this reason, an intervention centred on the Danube’s networks needs to comprehend several cultural areas and different countries. Those involved are Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Luxembourg.
The aim of the CultPlatform21 intervention is to “work against forgetting and to create awareness of cultural diversity and history in the Danube region”. In fact, in the course of history, the Danube area has experienced a chequered past resulting in a culturally and historically rich but fragmented history. The (im)material cultural heritage is the (in)visible testimony to this and, as a non-renewable and irreplaceable resource. It forms people’s collective memory. Accordingly, the project is dedicated to the hidden, forgotten, invisible cultural heritage of the Danube region. The aim was to create a large platform for culture and tourism in the Danube area and initiate the development of some form of cultural tourism in an innovative way in order to involve and connect communities, organizations and tourists within the region. It sees hidden heritage as an interdisciplinary field contributing to the development of new cultural narratives. Eight pilot projects to create spaces of remembrance have been developed and implemented. Three used digital and technological methods, four were more artistic and creative interventions and one applied both tools. Among the main activities we highlight the (a) innovative strategy proposal for cultural routes and the creation of a Policy Learning Platform as a network for stakeholders; (b) the discovery of hidden heritage along the Danube, making the invisible visible through artistic and technological (3D applications) pilot projects; (c) contributing to narrate historic places and events in a contemporary innovative manner. More importantly, the core of the project is the Policy Learning Platform, a cultural policy network of the project partners that well represents the cooperative behaviour between culture and tourism.
The main issue was to discover places of history, find old and new stories to tell and develop artistic and technological pilot projects for descriptive mediation and support existing cultural routes by developing contemporary aspects. The overall intervention had a duration of 2.5 years (from 2017 to 2019). The Federal Chancellery of Austria, the Arts and Culture Division lead the project and the other nineteen partners (from eight countries within the Danube area) developed cooperation on culture and tourism. It was included in the Interreg European Strategy for the Danube Transnational Programme. The ideas that have been generated and tested during the project’s activity showed huge potential in the existing routes along the Danube. It had a positive impact on the local community. The intervention demonstrates that sustainable cultural tourism development requires collaboration and partnership between a variety of stakeholders from both culture and tourism. Working separately leads to missed opportunities and a waste of resources. Through the development of the Policy Learning Platform, CultPlatform21 showed how such a missing framework could be generated. Nevertheless, the project showed the beneficial outcomes of using art-based methods, such as storytelling, for interpreting cultural heritage and connecting it to people.
#12 The chosen cultural tourism intervention involved seven heritage venues in the Belgian region of Flanders; each of them was selected due to their important cultural heritage. Some of them have a more tourism-related profile and are well connected to tourism markets (being a castle, fort, towers, etc.) while others do not (e.g. stations). The chosen venues where the events took place are Saint-Rombold’s Tower (Mechelen), Central Station (Antwerp), Fort Napoleon (Ostend), Saint Peters’ Abbey (Ghent), Gaasbeek Castle (Brussels), Liege-Guillemins Station (Liege), ZLDR Luchtfabriek (Zolder). For this reason, such a structural disparity leads the intervention to be achieved through multiple modalities. For example, the stations of Antwerp and Liege-Guillemins, while being impressive architectural buildings, and well-photographed and appreciated, have mainly a public transport function and not tourism-related. On the contrary, Fort Napoleon and Saint-Rombold’s Tower are actively managed by municipal tourist organizations, with a clear link between culture and tourism.
The intervention arose first as a passion project of the three central stakeholders: the Dj Nico Morano, interested in increasing his community/reputation further, the “CityCubes” experiential marketing agency, interested in building a portfolio of innovative marketing initiatives, and the “Arrowminded” project by Jeroen Bryon, a consulting business for heritage locations. They were all interested in expanding their network among cultural heritage venues and establishing a proof-of-concept for attracting younger people to local heritage. Since those three initiators are commercial enterprises, the main objectives were not necessarily linked to the disinterested development of cultural heritage sites. The focus of the cultural programme had a more commercial purpose. Indeed, the overall initiatives, if examined in the long-term, contributed to attracting younger people to the heritage attractions without renouncing a more business-minded strategy. The intervention consists of free Dj-sets played at selected heritage locations for a (randomly) selected group of people. The performances were captured via camera operators and were live-streamed, providing valuable footage for marketing purposes. The core of the intervention was very much aimed at marketing and branding. Accordingly, during the intervention, they provided high-quality live streams and after-movies that were promotionally used to shine a different light on the destination and its heritage.
The initiators agree on considering the initiative a success based on their initial objectives. From a heritage destination standpoint, Ontourage was considered successful for its novel way of connecting cultural heritage with younger generations, attracting the attention of national media. Another success factor was the driving passion of the initiators that, together with their complementary skills and expertise, make the intervention accessible and community-serving. Indeed, larger funding opportunities and a more long-term-oriented vision and strategy could strengthen the potential impacts of the artistic events. In the current case study, private businesses base their own existence on developing connections with people. Therefore, when it comes to connecting people to cultural heritage, it is possible to identify interventions where private businesses pursue their own interests and, intentionally or not, also play a role in getting people closer to a cultural heritage that would otherwise not be accessible or not even considered by specific groups of people. In the case of Ontourage, this happened unintentionally. Each cultural destination with an innovative designed intervention might create new opportunities for the community.