General

Hôtel du Nord (HdN) Cooperative (Marseille, France)

#6 The Hôtel du Nord (HdN) Cooperative operates within the northern districts of Marseille, where the poorest neighbourhoods of the city are to be found. This area is considered the most violent centre of the city’s drug trade and most of the negative stereotypes are becoming self-fulfilling prophecies, weighing heavily on the future development of the area. For this reason, the northern district was excluded from the official and promotional representation of the city, which is why the Hôtel du Nord (HdN) Cooperative decided to take on this challenge. The HdN Cooperative has 80 members, 51% of whom are residents in the area. Its membership policy is open and voluntary, with a democratic decision-making process. Each member contributes to the broader cooperative purposes, and also helps in the organization of both tourist activities and community-empowerment strategies. In fact, in order to provide an alternative narrative for these neighbourhoods, the Cooperative organizes heritage walks, guided tours, accommodation services, and sale of local and artisanal products. Everything contributes to the improvement of the overall poor living conditions, reduction of discrimination and poverty, promotion of the social value of the local heritage and the strengthening of social ties. Indeed, the impacts generated by the Cooperative activity are evident. The intervention primarily benefits the district economically, thanks to the involvement of tourism, but, more importantly, HdN has become a source of local pride and community social cohesion. The social impact is due to the fact that, via the Cooperative, a growing number of residents from other areas are re-discovering the northern districts. They now feel safe crossing the streets and can appreciate the renewed narratives of those spaces. This success was facilitated by strong synergies powered by committed stakeholders. Furthermore, the adherence to the Faro Convention and to its three key principles (right to heritage, sustainable management and democratic governance) has helped to strengthen the entire process.

Brabant Remembers – Living History Augmented Reality App (Brabant Region, Netherlands)

#5Brabant is one of the provinces of the Netherlands. It is located near the Belgian border in the southern part of the country. Its tourism offer mostly involves old and modern cities, monasteries, theme parks, and places connected to Vincent Van Gogh’s artistic expression and the heritage of WWII. In relation to WWII, historic war-related events ranging from mobilization for battles to liberation operations have taken place on Brabant soil. Brabant can therefore provide a very complete war narrative, with various locations or sites focusing on a specific theme. Now that the memory of the War is fading and becoming part of history, the intervention’s challenge consists of finding new ways in which people can still learn from this important and dramatic period. Here, new technology offers great opportunities. It can help produce more pleasurable experiences and create a solid link between WWII and younger generations. Furthermore, the use of personal connections (e.g. hearing personal stories) is a way to produce meaningful and memorable experiences for a wider audience who will easily empathize with the historical protagonists. These two insights form the basis of the intervention discussed here. It centres on the creation of the Living History Augmented Reality (AR) App through which people can visualize 11 personal war stories, at the site where the most important events in this part of history happened. The viewer can experience the story, be confronted with a dilemma/choice, and access additional information. The AR App does not stand in isolation. It is part of the broader Crossroads concept and foundation. Crossroads is a narrative concept that connects several WWII-related cultural institutions in Brabant. Crossroads becomes historical, geographical, and human with the ambition of “touching the people now with the crossroads of the past”. By using stories, emotions and symbolic value, historical events have turned into something memorable. The stories were collected in 13 workshops, organized in 2017 and 2018 at places with historic significance. In total, more than 1,000 stories were collected, of which, 75 were selected to become experiential stories thanks to the support of professional writers and artists. An initial analysis showed how, although the number of App downloads was less than expected (the promotional campaign was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic), all actors stated the overall positive impacts of the intervention. Accordingly, positive consequences were observed in the number of visits and the tourist development of the destinations involved in the project. Meanwhile, a huge social impact was achieved both during the story collection phase and during the community’s final response to it. In particular, culture and collective memory have been greatly enhanced and protected. Here, innovation and memory storage (aimed at its protection) represent an awaited meeting point between different generations who can now engage in dialogue with more accessible and experiential tools.

Brabant Remembers App simulation

Le Rockerill cultural venue (Belgium, Charleroi)

#4 Charleroi is a Belgian city with an industrial history shaped by the steel industry and the coal mines. Together with the challenges of a post-industrial transformation, new opportunities also arise. One of them concerns the conversion of industrial heritage and how it can be used to develop a new vision for Charleroi, maintaining its links with the past and enlightening a new future for its citizens. The intervention intended to protect the industrial heritage of Charleroi by repurposing these sites for a different sort of history, focusing on the creative and tourist sectors instead. Furthermore, the project was intended to show the dynamic and creative side of the city and give the visitors a new and unique experience. For this reason, Charleroi turned some of its industrial sites dating back to the 19th century into fascinating artistic stages. In particular, the forges in the former factories of La Providence have been reconverted into “Le Rockerill”, an urban centre dedicated to popular, social, alternative, and underground culture (music, graphic and digital art, theatre, industrial aperitifs, etc.). The initiative was started in 2005 by a collective of artists and friends. Later, it was supported and partially subsided by the regional organization Fédéracion Wallonie-Bruxelles and by the City of Charleroi. It started as an art collective, a small group of art passionates who needed a place to exhibit their art and organize small cultural events. Now, it has become a place for rock, techno, and pop, attracting people from all over Europe. Due to this intervention, an unused and disadvantaged part of Charleroi’s industrial heritage could be revived, supporting the transition of the region towards a new economic model. The economic impact supported most cultural industries and artists’ jobs and incomes. Tourist impact is also significant, as Rockerill attracts visitors from all over Europe. Moreover, the initiative allows for the preservation of industrial heritage that would otherwise disappear. It promotes a socio-cultural revival of a disadvantaged part of Charleroi and contributes to a new and dynamic image of the entire city. The Rockerill creation sets a useful example for several European cities that are going through a post-industrial transformation and want to experiment with new forms of socio-economic development in peripheral areas. The rich industrial heritage of these cities has a huge potential that can be enhanced by combining the historical meaning of this heritage with contemporary forms of artistic expression.

The European Researchers’ Night – Split LL

On September 30th, the FEBT team leader, prof. Lidija Petrić and Split LL Manager, ass. prof. Ante Mandić participated in The European Researchers’ Night, one of the main activities of the Blue-connect project funded through the Marie Skłodowska – Curie call within the Horizon Europe program.  The event was organized by Split University, a project partner, and held in several locations in the city centre.

The main goal of the Researchers’ Night was to connect science with society by bringing research and researchers closer to the public and strengthening public recognition of science and research education, especially among the young population.

The FEBT team presented the SmartCulTour project in the EU corner, together with other projects financed through the EC calls.

International Festival of Masquerade Games Surova (Bulgaria, Pernik Region)

#3 Pernik, in central-western Bulgaria, is a post-industrial town facing issues of rapid depopulation due to unemployment and lack of opportunities. Despite not being a famous tourist destination, Pernik is well-known for the International Festival of Masquerade Games, the most important event in the region. It takes place every year on the last weekend of January. Nowadays, more than 100 groups from Bulgaria and other countries, with more than 6000 (up to 9000) masked performers take part in the Festival, while national and foreign media actively cover the events. Each edition attracts approximately 250,000-300,000 visitors. It lasts three days and its core attraction consists of the parade of masquerade groups along the roads of the city centre which, ultimately, culminates in the main square where the stage is set up. Today, the Festival can be considered an umbrella intervention, encompassing both cultural tourism interventions and interventions that, instead, mainly target the local community. For instance, during the month of January, museums, art galleries, and cultural community centres usually put on exhibitions related to the Surova tradition. Here, the local community has an essential and active role in the organization of the Festival-related events and takes action voluntarily to support the organization. Local businesses are also involved. Some of them are willing to make financial donations and give their support to strengthen the event and cooperate in its development. In addition, since 2015, the NGO “Local Heritage” has been working in the field of heritage conservation with the aim to support the Festival through communication and dissemination activities. For instance, in 2019, the same association organized workshops to make traditional Survakari masks and created an interactive website to present the masquerade tradition and the Survakari identity. Of course, the overall intervention had a huge impact on the territory. The arrival of approximately 300,000 visitors generates a positive economic impact and, at the same time, enhances socialization among people from different social, professional, and age groups, strengthening social cohesion. In particular, the Festival offers the opportunity to become more acquainted with the cultural specificities of different regions, contributing to intercultural dialogue. There might also be, to some extent, an impact on socio-demographic trends, due to the increasing number of foreigners settling down in the villages around Pernik, attracted by the Festival and the local cultural heritage. Finally, although the Festival has to improve its strategic vision to preserve the sustainability of the entire event, the constant passion, commitment, and resources invested by local administrative entities and cultural institutions have been decisive for the socio-economic benefits generated by the Festival. Their actions have certainly been inspired by the peculiar participatory approach that allows for a continuous flow of inputs from the local community.

City Museum Lier (Belgium, Kempen Region)

#2 Lier is a small town located in a mainly rural region in north-eastern Belgium, in the province of Antwerp. Although it is characterized by a huge potential of historic and cultural heritage, Lier is too small to compete with the cultural centres nearby, or with other tourist players in the region. Moreover, many of the local cultural organizations active in the area have been working just locally, addressing the local community and remaining unknown to tourists from outside. The question raised at the start of this intervention was precisely what role Lier, as a small town, could play culturally. In this regard, the main objective of the intervention was to create a new museum for the town (merging the two that already existed) and, through a bottom-up approach, to select a more authentic characterization of the museum’s cultural offer. In 2015, the board of the (already existing) museums asked the citizens what, in their opinion, was typical of Lier. The survey received more than 1,000 replies. The important findings showed that what most characterized the town were the historic buildings, the atmosphere of the city, and it’s being quiet and green. For this reason, soon after such a great response, an open call selected 30 locals to form the new local community steering committee in order to process and fine-tune all the answers, lead recommendations, and act as museum ambassadors. The impact of the intervention was mostly socio-cultural and the best results concerned the achievement of a greater awareness of the local tangible and intangible cultural heritage. Locals recognized the change that occurred and, consequently, they became more responsible for the museum that they felt as theirs own and for the unique local culture it contained. The entire process has benefitted from the people’s involvement. The participation, engagement, and support of the local community have been crucial for the development of Lier’s tourism.

Historic Villages of Portugal (Beira Interior)

#1The first intervention will take place in the Historic Villages of Portugal in the region of Beira Interior. The area is facing several socio-economic challenges such as declining populations mainly due to a lack of opportunities for locals, especially the younger generations. At the same time, the richly diverse landscape and the quality of the wine-making tradition attract tourists both in winter and in summer, moved by their curiosity to admire a magical snowy or sunny landscape while sipping a glass of good wine. For this reason, tourism could be an important strategy to tackle the issues that have been undermining the area. The chosen intervention was designed by a conglomerate partnership composed of the Federal Government of Portugal, the local region, municipalities, and private agencies, all supported by the funding of the European Union. The initial basic aim was to restore ancient villages and promote heritage tourism in Beira Interior. Subsequently, the project was extended, embracing a more comprehensive strategy to generate more revenues and opportunities for residents through cultural tourism and mitigate depopulation. During the first stage of the project, the implementation followed a more top-down-directed approach which seriously lacked co-creation mechanisms to involve residents in the decision-making process. Consequently, a critical review of the intervention led to a more inclusive approach, recognizing locals as active partners of the initiative. The overall intervention achieved important objectives. First, the tangible heritage was successfully restored and preserved. The quality and diversity of investments in the renovation of historical buildings and revitalization of the villages have had a huge impact on the visibility and notoriety of historic villages and the entire Beira Interior region. Besides, the cultural promotion effect strongly increased the sense of belonging and pride in the community. Also, the contribution to socio-economic development improved living conditions and opportunities for residents. Since 2005, local tourist offices have recorded almost continuous growth in the number of annual tourists which, at the same time, created new jobs, especially in the sector of rural tourism, gastronomy, handcrafts, local products, and tourist entertainment. Although the initial top-down phase did not consider (enough) the needs, constraints, and specificities of the local community, a more inclusive decision-making process will make every intervention more effective.

Historic Village of Portugal, Almeida (Beira Interior)

Cultural Interventions in Europe

Eighteen Cultural Tourism interventions in Europe

A variety of governance settings as well as business investments and ONG planning are aimed at implementing bottom-up initiatives involving local communities in the managing of cultural tourism and destinations. Each intervention contributes to the sociocultural, environmental, and/or economic performance of a destination, and to the dissemination of good practices and experiences to generate even better impacts. For this reason, SmartCulTour identified eighteen Cultural Tourism interventions which were subsequently inserted in a unique Portfolio of Cultural Tourism Interventions to increase their visibility as crucial sources of inspiration for upcoming initiatives. In keeping with their essential purpose, each initiative has been placed in one of five categories:

  • To protect, restore, safeguard and promote;
  • To develop and innovate;
  • To interpret, understand, and disseminate;
  • To involve and connect;
  • To manage and influence.

Read them above 👆🏽 

15th ECTN Conference in Krk, Croatia

From 19 to 22 October 2022, SmartCulTour will present and be a key protagonist of the 15th Conference for Cultural Tourism in Europe. The event will be held in Krk, Croatia, on the Adriatic Sea. The annual theme chosen by the ECT Network is about the relaunch of European Tourism through “Cultural Heritage” and the opportunities offered by the technological advancements of “Digitalisation”. Indeed, SmartCulTour’s findings and studies strongly believe that heritage and culture, as drivers for sustainable tourism, can work side by side in a complementary relationship with innovation, digitalisation, creativity, and tourism product development. The European Cultural Tourism Network “ECTN”, as well as SmartCulTour people, is willing to disseminate and improve sustainable cultural tourism by sharing experiences and encountering different European supporting practices. Finally, at the end of the Conference, the ECTN will award the Prize for “Destination of Sustainable Cultural Tourism 2022”, a special occasion to discover new experiences, research, and practices about tourism.

Exploring Scheldeland during international exchange visits

From 20 to 22 June, the Scheldeland Living Lab received representatives of the living labs of Huesca and Utsjoki as part of the SmartCulTour project. These exchange visits form part of the SmartCulTour goals of knowledge dissemination, cross-border collaboration and the sharing of best practices in sustainable cultural tourism development.

Together with local stakeholders of Scheldeland, Griet Geudens of Visit Flanders and Vanessa Ágata de Abreu Santos and Bart Neuts of KU Leuven welcomed the visitors and guided them around the three partner municipalities of Bornem, Puurs-Sint-Amands and Dendermonde, focusing on particular cultural heritage venues, key natural resources and slow transportation modes that serve as a connector of potential network nodes. The living lab managers and other delegates got to visit these sites and carried out brainstorming sessions to look at opportunities, potential and possible thresholds.

After a challenging arrival due to a security personnel strike at Brussels Airport and subsequent rerouting of flights, on Tuesday 21 June a full day was scheduled. After an introduction to the Scheldeland Living Lab and an ice breaker exercise between the participants, an electric bicycle tour took the visitors via multiple points of interest in Puurs-Sint-Amands and Bornem. Via the bicycle tour, the delegates were introduced to the extensive cycling node network in Flanders. First stop was the Fortress of Liezele, a fortification built in 1908 and now housing multiple recreational and tourist attractions in and around the fortress such as a B&B, an escape room, a museum, an ice skating pond (in winter), a barefeet walking path and various walking routes. Next, the group cycled to castle D’Ursel, built in 1761 and now serving primarily as an event location, and its castle park and further via the Scheldt dykes to the Notelaer, a beautiful pavilion in neoclassical style with a magnificent view on the river Scheldt and also originally belonging to the duke of D’Ursel. In summertime, temporary accommodation is offered at the pavilion in the form of five tree-hung tents.

From there, visitors made their way to the castle of Marnix de Sainte-Alegonde. While the location had been home to fortifications and castle-structures since the 10th to 11th century, the current castle is a romanticized rendition from the end of the 19th century. Closeby, the abbey of Bornem has been renovated and redeveloped to house a museum collection and offer both residential accommodation as event areas, with the immaculate library being a particular highlight of the tour.

After lunch, the group cycled to the village centre of Sint-Amands, on the Scheldt bank. Here they were introduced to the development plans of the village, and its central focus on both the tidal nature of the river and the artistic heritage of Sint-Amands, visible by both its link to historic writers and by some creative architecture in the village centre. From there, the bicycles were loaded onto a wagon of the steam train Puurs-Dendermonde and representatives got to ride on the renovated carriages and visit the steam locomotives and other carriages that are being restored and operated fully by volunteers. Participants were given an introduction to the organization and its working and participated in an exercise to map the sensory experiences of the trip.

On Wednesday 22 June, the representatives visited the city of Dendermonde where they received a guided tour and introduction to the legend of the horse of Bayard which is central to a procession being held every ten years, as well as some notable heritage sites such as the meat halls, the cloth halls (nowadays the city hall of Dendermonde), the justice palace and the beguinage, and the Dendermondse painting school. Afterwards Vanessa Ágata de Abreu Santos ran a workshop inviting the participants to conduct an emotions mapping exercise as part of a cultural mapping methodology.