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 (

Vicenza: the city of Palladio – Vicenza LL intervention

The “City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto” is a serial World Heritage property that includes the city of Vicenza and twenty-four Palladian villas scattered throughout the Veneto region. Vicenza presents itself to tourists as the city of Andrea Palladio, but surveys and interviews show that only a few know Vicenza as the city of Palladio or choose the destination for its Renaissance architecture. Although perceived as a cultural destination, Vicenza is rather preferred by people who love immersive and slow tourism and wish to visit other Italian cities beyond the most renowned ones (e.g. Venice, Rome, Florence, Milan and Naples).

Visitors in Vicenza find themselves immersed in a city that lives its daily life surrounded by the beauty of its architecture, urban backdrops and Renaissance stages among squares, theatres, villas, and hills. Vicenza is still able to amaze enough to take the tourist beyond the imaginary. However, such wow effect is not to be taken for granted but to be enhanced through new narratives and cultural events capable of animating the city.

Today the tourism market tends to be specialized, in order to offer a customized product to consumers. The process of globalization thus pushes every tourism destination to build a strong and recognizable identity in the collective imagination, so that it can be clearly distinguished from other proposals. Therefore, when devising new strategies to attract tourists to Vicenza, it is necessary to maintain the «Palladian wow effect», while seeking new claims capable of intercepting new audiences.

In this perspective, the Lab members pursue to improve skills and knowledge of tourism operators, including restaurateurs, hoteliers, shopkeepers, event organizers, travel agencies, managers of UNESCO designated sites, museums and theaters, etc. The Living Lab also provides a space for training and research: researchers and operators meet to analyze the trends of the cultural tourism market at a global and local level, learning to interpret data and use them to make decisions and design innovative marketing strategies and new cultural-creative tourism products.

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.

Living Lab Vicenza: Testimonianze dei partecipanti

Giulia Basso, ideatrice di “Itinerari Letterari” ,progetto che si occupa di strutturare passeggiate ed eventi nei luoghi della città  che sono raccontati nella letteratura. Ci spiega come ,per esempio , con Il Living Lab e la sua rete  sia venuta a conoscenza di  un luogo sconosciuto a molti turisti e vicentini: La chiesa di Santa Maria Nova, unico edificio religioso  Palladiano in Vicenza. Per lei LivingLab è un’ opportunità di fare rete  che fornisce strumenti efficaci per condividere in modo interattivo  informazioni e soluzioni innovative per lo sviluppo del turismo culturale.

Caterina Soprana, Presidente Commissione Cultura Comune di Vicenza, creatrice del progetto #cittàbellissima che ha unito architettura, cultura, turismo  ed economia per incrementare l’attrattiva di Vicenza in Italia e nel mondo. Questo progetto è confluito poi nel Dossier di Candidatura di Vicenza2024  a Capitale Italiana della Cultura. Caterina individua 3 componenti chiave del progetto Smart Cultour Living Lab: 1) Cooperazione fra associazioni , università e Comune di Vicenza  per creare un’ offerta culturale innovativa e sostenibile. 2) Cooperazione tra gli altri LivingLab europei per conoscere nuovi modi e progetti di sviluppo del turismo culturale. 3) Collaborazione importantissima con il dipartimento di Economia dell’Università Ca’ Foscari di Venezia ,vero studio scientifico di elaborazione dei  dati ,che trasforma quest’ultimi in strumenti fondamentali per aiutare i partecipanti al LivingLab nella la ricerca e definizione di nuovi sistemi di sviluppo.

Giulio Vallortigara Valmarana, proprietario di Villa Valmarana ai Nani, si occupa della gestione ed implementazione degli eventi, delle visite turistiche, della creazione di esperienze ad hoc, per ospiti italiani e stranieri. Convinto sostenitore del “fare rete” e condividere il più possibile conoscenze ed esperienze per creare una collaborazione propositiva tra tutti gli operatori del settore turistico ricettivo ha abbracciato subito con entusiasmo il progetto di Living Lab. Con il video ci conduce in un breve itinerario della sua splendida Villa sulle colline della Città che ospita. I favolosi affreschi di Giambattista e Giandomenico Tiepolo.

Living Lab Vicenza: Testimonials from stakeholders

Giulia Basso is the creator of “Itinerari Letterari“, a project born to organize guided walks and events in city’s locations that are told in literature. In the video, she tells us, for example, how, with the Living Lab and its network she discovered a place unknown to many tourists and citizens: the Church of Santa Maria Nova, the only religious building designed by the architect Palladio in Vicenza. The Living Lab for Giulia is a great opportunity to network with the many stakeholders involved, providing effective tools and interactively sharing information and innovative solutions for the development of cultural tourism

Caterina Soprana is the President of the Culture Commission of the Municipality of Vicenza and creator of the Cittàbellissima project which combines architecture, culture, tourism and economy to increase the attractiveness of Vicenza in Italy and in the world. This project merged into the Vicenza2024 Candidacy Dossier as the Italian Capital of Culture. In this video Caterina identifies 3 key components of the SmartCultour Living Lab project: 1) Cooperation between associations, universities and the Municipality of Vicenza to create an innovative and sustainable cultural offer. 2) Cooperation among other European Living Labs to learn about new ways and development projects of the cultural tourism. 3) A very important collaboration with the Department of Economics of the Ca ‘Foscari University of Venice, a true scientific study of data processing, which transforms those into fundamental tools to help Living Lab stakeholders in research and definition of new development systems. 

Giulio Vallortigara Valmarana is Villa Valmarana ai Nani’s Owner. He manages and implements events, tourist visits, and creates tailor-made experiences for Italian and foreign guests. Giulio is a great  supporter of «networking» and sharing knowledge and experiences , to create a proactive collaboration between all stakeholders in the hospitality tourism sector, he immediately and enthusiastically embraced the Living Lab project. In this  video he takes us on a short itinerary of his splendid Villa, on the hills of the city, which hosts the fabulous frescoes by Giambattista and Giandomenico Tiepolo