Second sub-regional SmartCulTour Workshop in Krk, Croatia on 20 October

From October 19th 2022 to October 22nd 2022 Krk, Croatia, was the host of the 15th International Conference for Cultural Tourism in Europe, organized by the European Cultural Tourism Network (ECTN) around the topic “Relaunching European Tourism through Cultural Heritage & Digitalisation”. Within the framework of this conference, on Thursday October 20th the SmartCulTour consortium organized its second sub-regional workshop on the tools and methods developed within the Horizon 2020 programme to support stakeholder engagement and community-supported development of cultural tourism initiatives.

Bart Neuts of KU Leuven presented the design process crafting stages and the double-diamond design model, Jessika Weber of Breda University of Applied Sciences gave a presentation on the SmartCulTour Game, Simone Moretti, also of Breda University of Applied Sciences, presented the dynamic House of Quality for supporting decision-making. Finally Blanka Šimundić of the Faculty of Business, Economics and Tourism of the University of Split, presented the process of indicator selection and impact measurement in order to measure and monitor the sustainability of cultural tourism.

was presented live and also streamed online by the organizers and was framed within other sessions organized by colleague Horizon-projects IMPACTOUR and ReInHerit. As such, the SmartCulTour tools and methods could be discussed within wider academic achievements of European research projects and useful synergies were created with other participants. The public included many important professional networks such as the European Travel Commission, Europa Nostra, the European Association of Archaeologists, interpret Europe, Europeana, the Centre for Industrial Heritage, representatives of the European Commission and a number of academics from various institutions.

The Pakruojis Synagogue (Lithuania)

#11 Pakruojis is a small town in the north of Lithuania, mostly known for Pakruojis Manor and the Pakruojis Synagogue, two buildings with strong cultural and artistic importance. Although nowadays there is no Jewish community, in 1710 Jews settled in the town and for a long time they contributed to the economy and social life, becoming part of the village’s heritage. In particular, the Lithuanian Jewish Community owned the synagogue building but they left it abandoned and unsafe. After some years of talks, the building was sold to the municipality with a 99-year lease under only one condition; that it should not be used for business and only for cultural purposes. The acquisition of the property enabled the municipality to invest in the renovation of the building and create a full cultural design inside. The main motivation was to combat antisemitism and preserve Lithuanian Jewish cultural heritage for the next generations, making it more accessible to the public at the same time. After the building restoration, the municipality organized sessions with the local community to include them in the design of the new cultural offer: to combat antisemitism, restore heritage, increase the number of visitors, and address social problems by providing education and cultural opportunities. Several benefits came about. Firstly, although no specific study had been conducted previously, there seemed to be certain economic benefits for local entrepreneurs, such as restaurants and fast food outlets due to the increasing number of visitors. Moreover, thanks to this intervention from the Pakruojis municipality, the history of an extinct community has been recovered with the restoration of the building. The synagogue has become a place for education, aggregation and cultural encounter and now plays a crucial role in the socio-cultural development of the local community. The availability of financial resources granted by the EEA Norway Grant has been fundamental for the final result. In fact, preserving and restoring tangible cultural heritage is not only about renovating a building. It is about interpreting the complex socio-cultural values that a place carries from the past and giving them new functions in contemporary society, possibly balancing its value between the local community good and its potential as a tourism resource.

The “Crazy Guide” of Nowa Huta (Krakow, Poland)

#10 Nowa Huta is a district of Krakow, created in the 1950s as a utopian socialist city. After the change of the political system in 1989, the town experienced unemployment, poverty, and socio-economic struggles with a communist heritage weighing on the social cohesion and dividing those inclined to reject and forget the communist past and those willing to value it. Today, with its unique architecture, Nowa Huta is the most populous district in Krakow and is home to 250,000 residents. The current intervention was initiated by a local entrepreneur in 2004. He got the idea of providing historical tours in Nowa Huta generating new tourism experiences from the communist past. He established a local tour agency called “Crazy Guides” aimed at offering alternative tourism experiences. By exploring the local environment, the Crazy Guides narrate ironically everyday life during the communist past, combining education, entertainment and experiences of iconic stereotypes, such as driving an old Trabant (an East German vehicle reminiscent of the communist period), eating cucumbers, drinking vodka or attending a communist disco. Nowadays, the entrepreneurial challenge has 11 employees, mainly young locals who are working as guides. Several small-business owners have been supporting the tourism strategy by adapting their own products to the historical identity of the place and/or providing the same atmosphere of “the old days”. Over time, its success triggered other entrepreneurs that started offering similar products for the city. Anyone interested can easily access the agency’s website ( and read more about the different selections of the available tour programmes, the presentation of the team and the story of the agency, the several testimonials from all over the world with coverage of international media. One of the important resources of this intervention is the distinct human capital of the guides. Their personal involvement and performance give exceptional character to the tours. The overall impact of the intervention is huge. It has managed to create a profitable product and job opportunities for young locals, boosting economic revitalization through tourism. Moreover, the initiative promotes the conservation of cultural heritage and manages to find an appropriate interpretation of a dissonant local heritage that is causing friction and divisions among residents. Cultural tourism interventions based on edutainment (which combines education and entertainment) supported by appropriate storytelling skills and narrative techniques – as demonstrated here – configure a possible solution for the interpretation of discordant and divisive heritage. They might even help to heal profound fractures within a community.

International Living Lab exchange in Huesca

From 26 to 27 October 2022 the international Living Lab exchange took place in Huesca. During the two days, the participants discovered the Aragonese province of Huesca with a specific focus on its cultural and sustainable tourism strategies aimed at promoting its rural landscapes and economies, the eno-gastronomic identity and all the best practices that are contributing to the development of the territory. Participants were accompanied by key actors from the regional tourism sector. Accordingly, representatives of regional tourism agencies as well as local mayors and private companies guided the activities towards the Province’s most peculiar tourism strategies.

Soon after becoming acquainted with Alquézar and its history of courageous revenge against phenomena of depopulation and isolation, the participants experienced the historical and cultural heritage of the centennial local olive varieties preserved in Buera. Likewise, the Alquézar walkways in the Vero River Canyon (Cañón del Río Vero) and the routes that reveal the Neolithic rock paintings, demonstrate how accessibility and protection could work hand in hand to define innovative strategies that do not diminish a destination’s intrinsic value of sustainability. Finally, participants learnt the entrepreneurial ideas of the “Ruta del Vino Somontano”, and heard more about the local eno-gastronomic identity. The latter, when properly communicated and valued, demonstrates the strong influence of the relationship between tourists and the territory.

All the activities have been coordinated to drive the progress of SmartCulTour forward. Each best practice proposed by the Living Lab exchange has been crucial to share innovative local examples that return new visions and knowledge to the international participants.

We thank you CIHEAM Zaragoza and TuHuesca (Turismo Provincia Huesca) for the event coordination.


#9 The first steps of Migrantour took place in Turin, a city in the north-west of Italy with a long history of migration and industrial production. Then, through different stages, Migrantour grew into a network that involves several European cities in Italy, Portugal, Slovenia, France and Belgium. All of them are experiencing challenges in the sociocultural integration of migrants and most of the time, this led to neighbourhood segregation. Therefore, specific ethnic groups became marginalized together with their values and traditions. Even the sociocultural heritage of these groups of “new locals” is often neglected by a mainstream view that, in the best case, is associated to a stigma and considers these areas dangerous, unattractive, and populated by the disadvantaged. Consequently, the culture of these groups of residents is rarely valued by socioeconomic initiatives that bring real value to their living conditions and to their sociocultural recognition in society. The idea that tourism could play a positive role in changing this situation is not new and examples of “ethnic neighbourhoods” becoming tourist destinations are reported by literature (Aytar & Rath, 2012). Nevertheless, these experiences have sometimes been controversial as, besides concrete opportunities for migrants, they were also promoting forms of “folklorization” of cultural differences, reducing migration to an object of leisure consumption. A spontaneous initial encounter between an anthropological perspective and the entrepreneurial vision of a tour operator in responsible tourism (Viaggi Solidali) sparked the interest in experimenting with a new type of responsible tourism. The idea focused on discovering the culture of specific areas of the city while increasing the knowledge of how migrations and several generations of migrants contributed to the evolution of the city and specifically to the transformations of certain neighbourhoods. Along this path, Migrantour offers “intercultural walks” facilitated by a new figure, the “intercultural companion”, who is a local resident with a migrant background. Migrantour routes let participants explore themes and narratives representing the story of the migrations that have transformed the area over time and the contribution that different generations made in terms of enriching the tangible and intangible heritage of the city. After the first experience in Turin, the experiment was successfully replicated in a few other Italian cities. Then, the expansion continued thanks to the support received from other international projects, local associations and tour operators. The impact of the intervention is economic because it creates a number of part-time jobs and the consequent increase in the monthly income of intercultural companions. The training received also contributes to their professionalization, which might help in getting other jobs. It also has some impacts on the neighbourhoods, specifically on the small businesses that are involved in the itinerary of an intercultural walk. Finally, it is “dramatically” increasing the number of tourists visiting certain zones. More vigorous are the social impacts. Intercultural companions reported that through Migrantour they were able to achieve results in terms of professional growth, social integration, self-esteem and self-realization of their capabilities. Their professional path within Migrantour makes them active citizens, more participative and more involved in society. Migrantour fights stigmas. It promotes relational dynamics between migrants, visitors and native residents. It allows territories to narrate and express themselves. Having a bottom-up approach, both in terms of content and organisation, helps to ensure flexibility, adaptability and replicability of the intervention in different contexts and the successful creation of a network.

Bibliography: Volkan Aytar & Jan Rath, Selling Ethnic Neighborhoods: The Rise of Neighborhoods as Places of Leisure and Consumption, eds, Routledge, New York, 2012.

The Huesca Living Lab benefits from the UNESCO capacity-building workshop on “Rethinking Cultural Tourism at your Destination”

On 17 October 2022, within the framework of UNESCO’s capacity-building programme on sustainable cultural tourism destination management for the benefit of the SmartCulTour Living Labs. The Huesca LL met with Peter Debrine, Senior Consultant to UNESCO on Sustainable Tourism. The workshop was held at the “Diputación Provincial de Huesca”, with 15 participants from the Huesca tourism sector representing local tourism promotion agencies, government delegates, entrepreneurs and tourism and cultural operators.  

The event opened with welcoming remarks by Alun Jones, Head of the Project Office of CIHEAM Zaragoza, and Costanza Fidelbo, Assistant Project Officer at the Culture unit of the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe (Venice, Italy).

Participants benefited from the comprehensive training on new approaches and strategies for sustainable tourism promotion. In particular, Peter Debrine provided insights into the Destination Management Approach and the integrated benefits deriving from its use, particularly when transversally embedded into cultural tourism interventions.

Participants co-designed innovative cultural tourism routes across the region through tailored storytelling, to boost local tourism promotion. As a result, the 3 groups presented different yet interconnected cultural tourism itineraries that illustrate the complexity of destination thinking as well as its potential positive impact.

It is evident from Post-COVID that tourists are continuously seeking authentic, sustainable experiences. Therefore, selecting and communicating the right messages are crucial to the strategic development of the entire sector and can help make a destination «desirable».

The workshop also supported participants in drafting a tourism promotion strategy inspired by the destination approach. This strategy incorporated unprecedented cultural narratives and innovative ways to communicate them through digital media and marketing.

Participants in the UNESCO capacity-building workshop have inspired and developed an entrepreneurial vision. Understanding how tourism can be more sustainable and strengthen ties between tourists, nature and local culture through their collective efforts.

We are grateful to Peter Debrine for such an enriching training opportunity. To UNESCO for tirelessly perpetuating its vital mission, including upholding sustainable forms of culture-based tourism and to all the participants.

Storytelling Festival – Alden-Biesen (Belgium)

#8 Alden-Biesen lies in the eastern part of Limburg, a province in Flanders (Belgium). The environment is mostly rural and peaceful, attracting walking visitors and bike tourists. The Castle of Alden-Biesel (Vertelkasteel) is part of the cultural heritage of the area. Although it was built in its current form between the 16th and the 18th century, the castle actually dates back to the 11th century. Unfortunately, because of its border location, Alden-Biesel and its castle cannot easily be reached from Flanders. Accessibility is also limited. There is a train station in Bilzen, but the castle site is about 3 km from the town. For this reason, the main objective of the intervention was to promote the castle and make it feel more familiar to visitors, with an exciting cultural programming in the rooms inside. The focus chosen was education, targeting primarily schools, from kindergarten through to secondary schools and adult education. The most important activity that the castle organizes and that has become its brand image is the annual International Storytelling Festival. The festival started in 1996 and has become one of the biggest multilingual storytelling festivals in Europe thanks to the promotion of storytelling as an art and technique. It includes two events per year, one in January (for kindergarten and primary schools) and one in April (for high schools and adult education). What is special about the event is the fact that it is a pure storytelling festival: it is about the narrative, the spoken word, and the transmission of the unique artistic tradition of storytelling. It also addresses foreign languages, becoming the biggest multilingual storytelling festival in Europe. Over the years the castle has become a creative hub where imaginative people can meet and share knowledge with an enthusiastic audience in a wonderful historical setting. The impact of the event’s promotion is huge. The festival receives 12,000 visitors per year. Each of them generates an economic return and similarly, the art promoted by the storytelling leads to a cultural development for the whole region. The only drawback is the limited involvement of the local community, which of course can be improved easily in future editions. The importance of the intervention is that it teaches how rural areas are often rich in extraordinary, hidden pieces of cultural heritage. When used coherently and respectfully, they can provide unique opportunities to innovate the cultural offer of a region and position it in a specific niche of cultural tourism, thus improving its specificity and attractions.

Strengthening Capacities for Tourism Changes in the Western Balkans (CULTURWB)

#7 The CULTURWB Project involves three Western Balkan (WB) countries: Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro. Despite being very rich in cultural heritage, none of these countries is realizing their cultural tourism potential. There is a lack of adequate institutional frameworks and cooperation among stakeholders. The cultural sector lacks knowledge in project management, marketing, finances and tourism, while the tourism sector lacks knowledge in culture and heritage management. For this reason, the inspiration behind CULTURWB comes from the well-recognized need identified by all project partners of the region: to strengthen the cultural tourism industry and create and improve strategies for the further development of cultural tourism in these countries. The key stakeholders for the intervention were universities, cultural sites and institutions, tourists, non-profit organizations, students, cultural and tourism entrepreneurs, and managers. In the first phase, universities develop a Lifelong Learning programme (LLL) aimed at the skill enhancement of professionals from the cultural sector and an interdisciplinary Master’s programme that consolidates the fields of tourism management and culture & heritage promotion. The LLL objective was to equip graduate students with specific qualifications. For this reason, the university educational proposal was built together with local actors already involved in the tourism sector which had suggested the most suitable theoretical and practical norms to address. In the second phase, they created the CULTURWEB internet platform that serves as a hub of communication for all the experts from the cultural and cultural tourism sectors of the whole WB region and elsewhere. The project lasted three years and still continues to bear fruit. It is still too early to make a comprehensive evaluation of the project’s impacts. Nevertheless, the expected results will provide meaningful insights. In fact, by enhancing human capital knowledge and skills, CULTURWB is expected to generate a significant indirect economic impact in the long term. Strengthening the skill-set of current/future professionals will also provide them with more opportunities in the future, improving their living conditions. In the long-term the project might also strengthen attitudes towards safeguarding cultural heritage, enabling a better valorization of cultural resources and an increased awareness of the local culture. Also worthy of mention are the financial resources granted by the Erasmus+ programme. The financing was fundamental to overcome the structural lack of communication and cooperation among stakeholders in the cultural and tourism sectors.

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