Culture as Catalyst: Redefining Cultural Tourism for Sustainable Destinations

SmartCulTour Final Conference

24 May 2023 – Brussels (Belgium)

Although a variety of tourism trends post-COVID are based on more general changes in consumer behaviour, like the emphasis on health, safety, and well-being, and the rising use of digital technologies, cultural tourism continues to be one of the main motivations for travel.

In other areas, visitors increasingly seek out destinations that prioritize environmental sustainability and responsible tourism practices. Outdoor and natural attractions such as national parks, gardens, and scenic routes are expected to continue to be popular among tourists.

The trend for local and authentic experiences will also accelerate as international travel increases and visitors seek to immerse themselves in the local culture and interact with locals, learning about local traditions and sharing their own experiences.

By introducing the SmartCulTour project tools and sharing the different experiences of the Living Labs with key target audiences, the conference will explore these emerging trends and identify priorities for destinations to harness the power of culture and local values to redefine the visitor experience.

The final conference will take place on Wednesday 24th of May 2023 from 9:15 to 18:30 at the Herman Teirlinckgebouw building (Havenlaan 88, 1000 – Brussels, Belgium). Registration in the final conference is free but please register online in advance so that we can better prepare for the event and make sure that we have enough seating capacity for everyone attending. Register here!

We look forward to seeing you in Brussels!

Provisional programme

Welcome & Registration

Introduction to the day

Jan van der Borg, KU Leuven University

Opening session

Jan van der Borg, KU Leuven University

Vincent Nijs, Visit Flanders

Louise Haxthausen, Director, UNESCO Liaison Office with the European Union in Brussels

Kirsti Ala-Mutka, DG GROW

Jordi Tresserras, ICOMOS España

Coffee break

Culture and tourism – An integrated approach to enrich the visitor experience

As cultural tourism becomes increasingly competitive, there is likely to be a greater focus on innovation and creativity in product development and marketing. This could include the development of new cultural experiences, routes and itineraries, events and products, as well as new marketing channels such as influencer marketing and experiential marketing.

Greg Richards, Breda University of Applied Sciences

Piet Jaspaert, Vice President, Europa Nostra

Fabrizio Orlando, Global Director, Industry Affairs, Trip Advisor

Matthew Rabagliati, Head of Policy, Research and Communications, UK National Commission for UNESCO

Max Dubravko Fijacko, Tourism Expert, Interpret Europe

Tamara Nikolić Đjerić, President of the Batana Ecomuseum

Chair and rapporteur: Peter Debrine, UNESCO


Urban cultural tourism – Business as usual and back to unsustainable overtourism? Taking stock of Summer 2022 trends – post-COVID!

Exciting transformations are under way in the world of urban cultural tourism. Traditional hotspots such as Amsterdam and Venice are experiencing mounting pressure from visitors, emerging destinations that focus on experiences of daily life and community engagement are rapidly gaining popularity. The implications of such changes raise questions about the future of cultural urban tourism, and how we can make it sustainable or even regenerative (and what actually is regenerative cultural tourism).
We will discuss these topics in a lively and interdisciplinary panel discussion featuring experts from diverse fields such as industry, urban planning, local communities, cultural sectors, and academia. Together, we will explore what the future of urban cultural tourism might hold and how we can work towards achieving it.

Iris Kerst, Rotterdam Living Lab manager and programme manager of the Expertise Network Sustainable Urban Tourism

Lidija Petrić, FEBT, Split Living Lab

Tim Fairhurst, European Tourism Association

Daniel Basulto, TExTOUR coordinator

David ter Avest, Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences

Chair and rapporteur: Ko Koens & Jeroen Klijs, Breda University of Applied Sciences

The future of rural cultural tourism and its potential to promote rural development

Tourism is an activity that contributes directly and indirectly to the development of rural areas, but this development must be sustainable. Rural tourism in all its forms, including cultural tourism, also has a high potential to stimulate local economic growth and social change due to its complementarity with other economic activities, its contribution to GDP and job creation, and its capacity to promote the dispersion of demand over time and over a wider territory.
In this session we will explore the different types of rural tourism, its characteristics, its relationship with culture and local development, and discuss tourism trends and the future of rural forms of cultural tourism and its potential.

Fernando Blasco, Huesca Living Lab and TuHuesca manager

Polihron Karapachov, DG AGRI, European Commission

Guillaume Corradino, EUROMONTANA

Klaus Ehrlich, RURALTOUR

Francisco Vigalongo, Cultural Heritage & Tourism, European Regions Research and Innovation Network

Chair and rapporteur: Alun Jones, CIHEAM Zaragoza

Interactive workshop on the SmartCulTour tools and methods to achieve Sustainable Cultural Tourism

Arts-based and design-sciences-based methods and tools for social interventions are both very useful, but different. Why should you mix these two approaches? Placemaking as an art-based method combined with service design methods like the House of Quality and the Ideation Washing Machine are introduced in this interactive workshop by using a user-case.

Chair and rapporteur: Ella Björn, University of Lapland & Bert Smith, Breda University of Applied Sciences

Cultural tourism as a motor for local development – from EU regional policy to the New European Bauhaus

Marcos Ros, Member of the European Parliament

Participatory decision-making approaches in cultural tourism policy-making

Participatory decision-making approaches can help ensure that cultural tourism policies and initiatives are sustainable and aligned with local priorities and values. By involving local communities and other stakeholders in the decision-making process, policymakers can better understand the social, cultural, and environmental impacts of tourism, and develop policies and initiatives that promote sustainable development.

Tamara Nikolić Đjerić, President of the Batana Ecomuseum

Griet Geudens, Scheldeland Living Lab Manager

Astrid Dickinger, Modul University

Martina De Sole, European Network of Living Labs

Chair and rapporteur: Matteo Rosati and Costanza Fidelbo, UNESCO

Coffee break

Closing Plenary Policy Round Table on the future of cultural tourism

Cultural tourism plays an important role in the European economy, estimated to represent 37 % of the total tourism sector. While tourism encourages access to and appreciation for the extensive collection of European cultural heritage, there are important current and future challenges and opportunities to account for, such as overtourism, digital transitions, green transitions, workforce shortages, accessibility, etc. This closing session will explore potential trends and needs from the point of view of visitors, industry, and policy in order to help provide a roadmap for sustainable cultural tourism development.

Manos Vougioukas, European Cultural Tourism Network

Dr. Germán Ortega Palomo, University of Málaga

Simone Moretti, Breda University of Applied Sciences

Ruba Saleh, Be.CULTOUR coordinator

István Ujhelyi, Member of the European Parliament

Chair and rapporteur: Bart Neuts, SmartCulTour Project Coordinator

Closing remarks

Bart Neuts, SmartCulTour Project Coordinator

Light networking buffet

If you wish to participate in our Final Conference, please register online here. Online registration is required. After completing the registration, we will contact you with further information and conference details.