Serious Gaming for the future of Hoek van Holland & Bospolder-Tussendijken

At the end of March, stakeholders from Hoek van Holland and Bospolder-Tussendijken played a game to determine which interventions could be applied in the future to further develop cultural tourism in both districts. This game was obviously not just a ‘game’ but a serious game developed within the framework of the European project SmartCulTour.

SmartCulTour in Rotterdam

The Urban Leisure & Tourism Lab Rotterdam / Living Lab Rotterdam is one of the six living labs participating in the European project SmartCulTour, which is funded by the European Commission within the framework of the H2020 programme. The aim of the living labs is to encourage networking between tourism stakeholders in order to develop best practices and innovative solutions for sustainable cultural tourism, which can also be exchanged with other European regions.

Over the past months, several meetings have taken place with Rotterdam stakeholders to identify areas where there are opportunities to further support sustainable cultural tourism. Hoek van Holland and Bospolder-Tussendijken are the areas where a neighbourhood-oriented approach with stakeholders is being used to investigate what is needed to further develop cultural tourism. For example, in both Hoek van Holland and Bospolder-Tussendijken, neighbourhood tours were conducted to identify interesting places in the areas together with stakeholders. In addition, interviews were conducted with stakeholders to get a better idea of what cultural interventions might be of interest.

Hoek van Holland

On 24 March, various stakeholders, namely the municipality, local residents, cultural entrepreneurs and researchers used tools to think about the cultural tourist future of Hook of Holland. The meeting took place in MY Torpedo shed. A piece of cultural heritage, the shed was used for years to store sea mines and torpedoes. Since 2014, the shed has been used as a hotel, restaurant and meeting venue.

The meeting started with the use of the House of Quality tool. This is a tool to reach consensus on (policy) interventions that have the greatest chance of contributing to the wishes of a destination. The tool was used in Hoek van Holland to get more indication about which (policy) intervention has the greatest chance of success when it comes to making Hoek van Holland ‘better’. In addition, the tool helps in making rational decisions.

The ‘needs’ were jointly assessed. How important is accessibility to good jobs?’ or ‘How important is the development of a cultural identity? After rating the needs with a number, the current situation was mapped. How is the accessibility to good jobs at this moment? Subsequently, the stakeholders were asked what type of cultural interventions they considered important, after which the first results of the House of Quality were revealed. For example, the most important intervention that emerged was that there is a strong need in Hoek van Holland to develop »A cultural tourist offer that can attract visitors during the low season.»  This intervention is in line with the need of, among others, the municipality of Rotterdam to transform Hoek van Holland into a four-season seaside resort in a sustainable manner.

After the deployment of the House of Quality, the SmartCultour Serious game was used as a tool. The serious game is a hybrid role-playing game that uses a combination of a digital dashboard, a mobile app and physical intervention cards. Players assume the role of regional stakeholders of cultural heritage and try to achieve their goals and needs by creating interventions or supporting someone else’s intervention. The players are of course given roles they do not fulfil in everyday life. This makes for surprising results. In Hoek van Holland, the most important outcome was the need for a practical strategy to achieve the four-season resort in a sustainable way. In the next session on 14 April, the Roadmapping tool will be used to determine together which steps need to be taken.


One week later, on the border between Bospolder-Tussendijken and Historisch Delfshaven, a meeting was held in which the stakeholders from Bospolder-Tussendijken set to work on interventions for their neighbourhood. At this meeting, too, a diverse range of stakeholders were present: municipal employees, local residents and entrepreneurs. In the library of Altstadt, a theatre and workshop for performing arts in the making, they first used the House of Quality tool together. This made it clear which interventions would have the greatest chance of success in Bospolder-Tussendijken. The most important intervention that emerged was that there is a need in Bospolder-Tussendijken for the development of new products and services in the area of tangible cultural heritage.

With this intervention in mind, the various stakeholders got to work together using the SmartCultour Serious game. The game showed that there is a strong need to bring together a number of existing social but also cultural components in a (public) space. On 18 May, the stakeholders will sit down together again to take the first steps, based on roadmapping, towards making this a reality in the future.

Want to know more about SmartCulTour? Check out the website.

Loarre and CIHEAM Zaragoza host a European training event on how to promote sustainable cultural tourism

The training took place in Loarre’s Town Hall on 17 March with researchers and experts from Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain. Representatives of different counties of Huesca took part in a parallel training session to test a tool designed to boost sustainable tourism in the province.

The SmartCulTour project, Smart Cultural Tourism as a Driver of Sustainable Development of European Regions, has organized an internal capacity-building event for representatives of the project’s six Living Labs to test creative tools to boost the tourist sector in each of the regions. The training was organized in two working sessions, one in the town of Loarre on 17 March and another on 18 March at CIHEAM Zaragoza. Participants came from Belgium, Finland, Croatia, Italy, Austria and Spain.

The aim of the first session was to provide the project’s partners with context about the tourist sector in Huesca. They worked on tools to favour engagement of stakeholders related to the tourist sector that would enable them to promote their area from a more emotional perspective, linking their past, present and future to their territory.

The second session was held at CIHEAM Zaragoza. Participants worked on methodologies to help territorial managers improve their decision-making by addressing initiatives that would cover the needs identified for development in European regions – including the province of Huesca – as sustainable cultural tourism destinations.

A parallel session was organized on 17 March for representatives of different counties, public entities, and businesses in the province of Huesca who did a pilot test of the SmartCulTour Game, one of the project outcomes expected to have the biggest territorial impact. The idea is to use the serious game approach to draw up policies and engage stakeholders, and at the same time learn about cultural tourism and potential interventions to make cultural tourism more sustainable for local communities, the environment and the business sector.

This training event lies within the activities of the SmartCulTour project, which aims to promote territorial development through sustainable cultural tourism. This model of tourism requires a redefinition of the classical cultural tourism, considering new demands derived from sustainability and the need for supply and demand metrics and impact assessment. The project intends to review theories and make an empirical validation of good practices in the natural surroundings and seek closer collaboration between the local stakeholders, facilitating the development of joint strategies and creating sustainable cultural tourism experiences.

Design session Living Lab Rotterdam

On Tuesday 8 June, the second online meeting of Living Lab Rotterdam was organised. The theme of the meeting was how to form the design process of cultural tourism. In the session various stakeholders determined how cultural tourism in Rotterdam could be shaped, what knowledge and information would be needed and which stakeholder could play a role in this at a given time. During the session, a ‘Miro’ board was used.

The meeting was led by Bert Smit, researcher at Breda University of Applied Sciences. Stakeholders from various organisations in Rotterdam were also present, such as Rotterdam Partners, the Municipality of Rotterdam, the Expertise Centre for Intangible Heritage, Rotterdam Festivals and Arttenders. The attendees first discussed the tourist vision of the city of Rotterdam, which states: «By developing Rotterdam’s districts based on their own identity, we create new incentives for tourists to visit areas other than the inner city.»  This raised a very important question, which kept recurring throughout the session, namely: »How can different stakeholders successfully work together, when tourists are drawn to areas outside the inner city and how can we simultaneously ensure that the ‘Rotterdammers’ remain central to this but that the city can also welcome visitors?» 

The Q-sort conducted following the inception meeting, revealed that stakeholders largely agreed on the following statements that focus on co-creation and cooperation:

-In a participatory approach to cultural tourism, diversity of the stakeholders involved is crucial for optimal decision-making.

– To achieve sustainable cultural tourism, cooperation between the cultural sector and the tourism industry must be improved.

Partly based on these propositions, this session started, using the Miro board to guide the discussion. The participants were challenged to reflect on the statements from the Q-sort and to indicate which stakeholders they missed at this point in the process. Next, a brainwriting exercise was used to determine what knowledge, experience and information is needed to shape cultural tourism in Rotterdam. Given the disciplines of participants this provided a great overview of already available information but also the diversity of knowledge and information still needed. As some of this information is very location based the stakeholders will only be able to collect it when specific district(s), outside the center of Rotterdam, are selected. Moreover, such a choice will make it easier to determine opportunities for collaboration with local stakeholders in various districts.

Finally, with the aid of the Double Diamond model, a careful look was taken at the first steps in the process to come to a selection of districts and first steps after selecting specific district(s). Which stakeholders appear where in the Double Diamond model and which design tools could be used here? All in all, it was an interesting session in which good steps were taken to start the process. The next session will take place in early September.

Living Lab Rotterdam: District tours through Rotterdam

In the past few months Living Lab Rotterdam has organised two online meetings in a small setting. Together with colleagues from various Rotterdam institutions, we determined what cultural tourism in Rotterdam comprises and in which areas there are still opportunities. The meetings showed that the best way to support the development of sustainable cultural tourism is to adopt a neighbourhood-oriented approach. Part of the district-oriented approach are the district tours.

By means of a district tour, during which photographs and notes are made, the unique cultural and historical qualities of subareas and specific districts are recorded on a map. Simultaneously, these tours served to get a qualitative insight in sustainable development challenges for the district, including discussion on if and how tourism could contribute to this development.  Ultimately, the district tours yield a geographical map with many details, but also an insight into the current cultural and tourism system and visitor flows. The map includes potential growth opportunities and limitations for entrepreneurs and cultural institutions.

In the online meetings it became clear that the Rotterdam participants had the greatest need to organise district tours in the following districts/areas:

  • Hoek van Holland
  • Afrikaanderwijk
  • Bospolder-Tussendijken

During the tours on three different dates in October, a mixed group of residents, entrepreneurs and researchers joined. Together they (re)discovered pearls in the neighbourhood and discussed what the areas and neighbourhoods were still missing. In a follow-up meeting on 8 November, the various neighbourhood maps will be examined together with policymakers and combined with their policy plans and data. In this setting, next steps for determining policy interventions for one or more districts will be determined.

Online inception meeting to present the Living Lab of Rotterdam

On April 15, 2021, an online meeting was held to present the Rotterdam Living Lab to various stakeholders from the region. The Living Lab of Rotterdam is one of six living labs participating in the European project SmartCulTour, funded by the European Commission under the H2020 program. The aim of the living labs is to encourage networking between tourism stakeholders in order to develop best practices and innovative solutions for sustainable cultural tourism, which can also be exchanged with other European regions.

In collaboration with city marketing organization Rotterdam Partners, people who in their daily work or life are involved with tourism, events and leisure but also for example with urban planning, were invited to the ‘inception meeting’. Theater Zuidplein, Rotterdam Festivals, the municipality of Rotterdam and IFFR, among others, were present at the online session. With a total of 15 participants, the online meeting started with a fun warm-up exercise: «By using your Microsoft Teams background, show us what you mean by cultural tourism in Rotterdam. ‘’This resulted a diverse range of colorful backgrounds and also provided a nice opening discussion where the various participants heard from each other what Rotterdam Cultural Tourism means to them.

Next, Ko Koens and Bert Smit of Breda University of Applied Sciences explained SmartCultour and the use and necessity of living labs. Ko Koens: «For a living lab to be successful, it is necessary to have the right participants at the table who know about opportunities, possibilities and problems in neighborhoods and also have knowledge of tourism, culture, urban development and infrastructure. We can’t wait to get to work with you in an interactive and fun way in the near future.»

To suit the action to the word, the next part of the meeting was to create a mood board in the app ‘mural’. The participants of the meeting were challenged to make a collage with photos that for them represented Rotterdam’s cultural tourism. Interesting boards emerged, which were compared and discussed with each other a little later. For example, the participants noted that the photos previously selected by the lab managers and project leaders lacked, among other things, maritime culture, which is so important to Rotterdam. In addition, the participants came to the conclusion that the 174 nationalities that Rotterdam abounds also determine the cultural tourist image of Rotterdam.

Finally, interesting interventions in the field of cultural tourism from other cities were shared. See for example the image below taken in Den Bosch during the Jheronimus Bosch year in 2016. The participants will meet again in early June in a design session. The focus will then also be on how tourism vision and strategy become reality in a particular district or maybe even how the reality of the district and the city should lead to a continuously evolving tourism strategy.

Photo Jherominus Bosch year 2016. Credits: Brabants Dagblad