Culture as catalyst: New tourism trends to be explored in the EU-funded SmartCulTour Final Conference in Brussels

Stakeholders of the cultural tourism sector in Europe are invited to join the Final Conference of the EU-funded project SmartCulTour on 24 May in Brussels. The event will bring together international experts to explore emerging tourism trends and identify priorities to redefine cultural tourism for sustainable destinations.

The conference will tackle the importance of harnessing the power of culture and local values to redefine the visitor experience. The lineup of confirmed speakers will include UNESCO, European Commission (various DGs), MEPs István Ujhelyi and Marcos Ros, ICOMOS and leading EU and National cultural and tourism bodies as we debate the future of cultural tourism in Europe.

Since SmartCulTour started in January 2020, the project has supported the development of European regions by providing them with a set of strategies to engage with stakeholders and co-create sustainable cultural tourism experiences.

The project has been deployed through six living labs across Europe (Belgium, Croatia, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain). The project’s tools and the different experiences of the SmartCulTour Living Labs with key target audiences will be shared during the closing conference of the project.

DATE: Wednesday 24 May 2023
TIME: 09:15 – 18:30 h
VENUE: Herman Teirlinckgebouw building (Havenlaan 88, 1000 – Brussels, Belgium)
REGISTRATION: Register on the SmartCulTour website to attend the event (

Planning for the future of Hoek van Holland & Bospolder-Tussendijken – Rotterdam LL intervention

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.

International visitors in Rotterdam

From 1 to 3 June, the Urban Leisure & Tourism Lab Rotterdam received an international visit! Representatives of the living labs from Split and Vicenza visited our city as part of the European project SmartCulTour. Within SmartCultour the sustainable development of cultural tourism is central. This development takes place in six European living labs and the Urban Leisure & Tourism Lab Rotterdam is one of them.


The exchange of knowledge and experience takes place between the living labs in Rotterdam, Split and Vicenza. Between 11 and 13 May the programme manager of the living lab Iris and Joël Ferdinandus of Rotterdam Partners visited the region and the city of Split. Curious about their visit? Read more about their experiences here. Each of the visits focuses on a different theme related to cultural tourism. In Rotterdam the focus was on placemaking, monitoring and benchmarking. The living lab managers and other delegates carried out assignments around these themes and, of course, held various discussions.

To the coast!

On Thursday 2 June, a full day was scheduled. First of all, a visit was paid to the Urban Leisure & Tourism Lab Rotterdam, located in Rotterdam South. The lab managers and stakeholders visited the different lab spaces and had the opportunity to ask questions about the ins and outs of the lab. Subsequently, the neighbourhood was introduced using the place exploration & sense making map by colleague Roos Gerritsma. This map gives users who do not have much background information about an area a better idea of it. With the help of questions that stimulate the senses and various assignments, users can form an image and even make recommendations about what should change in a neighbourhood or area in order to get a movement going.

After a morning in Rotterdam Zuid, the participants took the brand-new Hoekse metro line to Hoek van Holland. Hoek van Holland is one of the areas the Rotterdam lab focuses on during SmartCulTour. This coastal area is located 32 km from the centre of Rotterdam but is part of the municipality. After a delicious Dutch lunch, the participants were given a short introduction about the area and the current research by lector Ko Koens, researcher Annemarie van Klaveren and social designer Siobhan Burger. Using the place exploration & sense making map in Hoek van Holland, a better picture was painted of which challenges still exist in this area and ways of monitoring visitors and visitors to this area in a creative and qualitative manner were proposed.

Green & Creativity in Bospolder-Tussendijken

On Friday 3 June, the day will start in a completely different district of Rotterdam, namely Bospolder-Tussendijken. This is also one of the areas that the Rotterdam lab focused on within the framework of SmartCulTour. As a resident of the district, Joël Ferdinandus gave an extensive tour of the district, which borders on the historic Delfshaven district that already attracts many visitors. During the tour, the participants saw that BoTu has a lot to offer: diverse cultural offerings, food and drink from a hundred different countries, greenery and activity. After the tour, the participants discussed the challenges in the district and how this area can attract more cultural tourists in the future.

Valuable knowledge

The exchange has provided many new insights into the field of cultural tourism, visitor management, city marketing and hospitality. These insights will be included in the projects and collaborations that the Urban Leisure & Tourism Lab Rotterdam is running.

Pero el inconveniente más importante es la imposibilidad de actuar espontáneamente. El fármaco tarda al menos dos docenas de minutos en hacer efecto. Al mismo tiempo, también es inconveniente que usted necesita farmaciaexpres24 para conseguir el momento de tomar la píldora. Después de todo, la mayoría de los hombres no les gusta admitir que utilizan el dopaje.

A roadmap for Hoek van Holland and Bospolder-Tussendijken

In April and May, stakeholders from Hoek van Holland and Bospolder-Tussendijken worked on a roadmap for both districts. Based on ideas and inspiration from earlier sessions, stakeholders worked to make a timeline more concrete, where interventions aimed at sustainable cultural tourism would be given a logical place. For the time being, the sessions were the last major brainstorming sessions within the framework of the European project SmartCulTour.

SmartCulTour in Rotterdam

The Urban Leisure & Tourism 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 stakeholders in the tourism sector in order to develop best practices and innovative solutions for sustainable cultural tourism, which can then be shared with other European regions.

In recent months, several meetings have taken place in Hoek van Holland and Bospolder-Tussendijken. Neighbourhoods with great potential for the further development of sustainable cultural tourism. Want to know more about the meetings? Read here the article about the Serious Gaming sessions in the districts.

Hoek van Holland

On 14 April the roadmap session for Hoek van Holland took place in PLSTK-café. The session was a continuation of the previous sessions which focused on tools such as participatory system mapping, house of quality and serious gaming. The aim of the session on 14 April was to create ideas for the development of Hoek van Holland and at the same time to outline potential development paths.

New ideas are often difficult to come up with but are necessary to achieve innovations. We often revert to ideas from the past to try and make something new out of them. However, these ideas are often not very innovative. Wild ideas, on the other hand, can lead to innovations. To get to these wild ideas, the ‘ideation washing machine’ was used during the session. This is a tool that helps stakeholders to think out of the box and come up with wild ideas. Three elements were put in the washing machine, namely; the interventions from the previous sessions, elements that make Hoek van Holland the way it is and things that make the participants happy.

The elements were successfully mixed and worked out within a maximum of five minutes each. This resulted in new ideas, such as

– Various stories and experience routes

– Adding nature and gastro elements to a hip campsite

– Boulevard with balls; a lively boulevard with activities for young and old

– Various dining concepts such as: bunker in the bunker

Next, the stakeholders started working with the ‘Design Roadmapping Tool’. This tool can help areas to make conscious choices by stimulating discussion about:

– Developing types of experiences and what is missing for specific groups

– Timeline and prioritisation of interventions and ideas

– Who within an area, city should have a mandate.

By actually placing the roadmap on a long table, the stakeholders came up with nice timelines. As a follow-up to this session, the researchers involved in SmartCulTour will produce an action report that various participants can elaborate on in order to further perpetuate sustainable cultural tourism in the Hook of Holland.


On 18 May, the roadmap session in Bospolder-Tussendijken took place at De Fruitvis. The session had the same set-up as the roadmap session in Hoek van Holland. Of course, this time stakeholders from Bospolder-Tussendijken joined the session.

The ‘ideation washing machine’ again produced interesting ideas during this session, such as:

– Route through the neighbourhood – discover the world through the diversity in BoTu

– Best Brewed Beverage Festival – brew or drink delicious drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic)

– BoTu: Bo-Toons – special carrying boards to create new walking lines across the water

– International Electric BBQ Event – driving around electric BBQ event.

What is striking about all the ideas is that they mostly have to do with food and drink or celebrating the cultural diversity of the neighbourhood. These interventions are all fairly small-scale, but they are a better fit with the neighbourhood, where many small entrepreneurs work and where many ideas come from the neighbourhood itself.

The second part of the session was again the application of the ‘Design Roadmapping Tool’. The three timelines that were set out all started with an easy-to-organise event (e.g. coffee crawl), and then developed into larger interventions that require more structural funds and/or infrastructure. The interpretation in terms of responsibilities and mandates differed per group.

Naturally, the researchers will also come up with a concrete action report for this week, with which various stakeholders from Bospolder-Tussendijken can get to work.

Wonderful challenges in Split

From 11 to 13 May, Programme Manager of the Urban Leisure & Tourism Lab Rotterdam, Iris Kerst and Joël Ferdinandus from Rotterdam Partners had the opportunity to participate in an exchange within the framework of the European project SmartCultour. Destination: Split! SmartCultour focuses on the sustainable development of cultural tourism. This development takes place in a total of six European living labs and the Urban Leisure & Tourism Lab Rotterdam is one of them.


Exchange of knowledge and experience takes place between the living labs in Rotterdam, Split and Vicenza. Between 11 and 13 May Iris and Joel visited the region and the city of Split. At the beginning of June, the representatives of the various living labs will travel to Rotterdam, after which the final visit to Vicenza is planned for September. Each of the visits will focus on a different sub-theme related to cultural tourism. During the visit to Split, for example, the focus was on the challenges faced by the various stakeholders in the Croatian lab.

Visit to Sinj

Split is booming! More and more visitors from France, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, among others, are finding their way to the place. This results in high visitor numbers. It is predicted that in 2022 Split will receive more tourists than ever before. Researchers from the University of Split, together with stakeholders from Split and the surrounding area, are looking into how to further develop cultural tourism in order to entice visitors to visit other places in the region in the future.

One of these places is Sinj, a village 35 kilometres north of Split. Sinj is mainly known for its church and the painting of the ‘Miraculous Madonna of Sinj’. The painting was made by an unknown painter and dates from the 15th or 16th century. According to the stories, the painting caused the Croatians to win the battle against the Turks in 1715. After that, the Madonna has caused many more miracles. The Madonna is the cause of much religious tourism, since there are many pilgrimages that pass through Sinj.

Sinj is also known for its Sinsjka Alka. An equestrian competition that has been held every first Sunday in August since 1715. The aim of the competition is for the riders to pass their lance through a ring (alka). The riders receive points for this. The contest still attracts thousands of visitors every year. The creation of the Alka museum means that visitors can now learn more about Alka all year round.

Stella Croatica

On Friday 13 May, a visit to Stella Croatica was planned. Stella Croatica is an Experience Centre in Klis where you can experience all things Dalmatian. Artisanal foodstuffs, health and beauty products are produced on the estate. Visitors can see the whole process of developing the products and learn more about the production in the museum. The production is done by local people, which makes Stella Croatica of great local importance.

Stella Croatica is a good example of craftsmanship in its purest form. After the interesting tour, there was a brainstorm with the account manager of Stella Croatica. The brainstorming highlighted the importance of the value of quality. Stella Croatica has good visitor numbers and is thinking about how to continue to combine the growing visitor numbers with good quality products and tours. A great challenge!

Valuable knowledge

The exchange has provided many new insights into the field of cultural tourism, visitor management, city marketing and hospitality. These insights will be included in the projects and collaborations that the Urban Leisure & Tourism Lab Rotterdam is running.

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