Cultural tourism

UNESCO tailors capacity-building opportunities to the SmartCulTour Living Labs through bilateral consultations

As Leader of Work Package 6 on “Sustainable cultural tourism laboratories (Labs)”, UNESCO coordinates the six SmartCulTour Living Labs (LLs), including by providing support in the identification of meaningful activities, methodologies and interventions to be implemented in each of them. Within this framework, UNESCO is also responsible for raising awareness and developing capacities of concerned stakeholders for the implementation of relevant international standards, using the methodologies and tools developed in the framework of the Organization for sustainable cultural tourism management and development.

Such mission appears even more relevant in face of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has provoked a rapid decline of tourism in most countries, affecting the ability of cultural sites, attractions and experiences to function properly. The situation remains volatile with different countries and regions experiencing a different scenario of impact and recovery.

Concurrently, the COVID-19 pandemic has provided momentum to rethink existing models and steer post-COVID efforts towards cultural tourism that defines the destination, whilst reflecting UNESCO’s values and providing benefits to communities. The rebound of tourism should be an opportunity to spur innovation and test new approaches to support communities in the recovery, transforming destinations away from outdated and unsustainable models.

Since the early days of the COVID crisis, UNESCO has been working on the identification of new measures for a responsible and sustainable restart of cultural tourism, in the conviction that destination management will need to adapt, and knowledge sharing and learning will be needed to allow for more resilient responses from local communities.

Destinations should be able to shape their respective tourism systems, customising them to balance competitiveness with the needs and priorities of local communities and the sustainability of cultural resources, through a comprehensive Build Back Better (BBB) vision.

To stimulate discussion on these subjects, while informing LLs’ stakeholders about the different capacity-building opportunities that UNESCO will offer them throughout the project’s lifespan, UNESCO organized on 27 April an online Awareness-raising webinar on UNESCO’s capacity-building opportunities for SmartCulTour Living Labs (recording is available here). Attending participants included SmartCulTour Consortium partners, Lab Managers, and local stakeholders from the six Labs.

This awareness-raising webinar was intended to give participants an overview of the tools, measures and approaches that UNESCO has developed to support the sustainable management of cultural resources at territorial level, with a focus on cultural tourism development, and an outlook towards the post COVID-19 recovery. In particular, the panellists presented some specific UNESCO’s methodological approaches that can be functional to the sustainable integration of culture and tourism into local development interventions, and notably introduced UNESCO’s vision on sustainable and resilient cultural tourism, the Historic Urban Landscape (HUL) approach, and UNESCO’s programme on Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH).

To complement the webinar, an additional presentation was made available by UNESCO on its approach to sustainable destination management, alongside concrete tools supporting its design and implementation (recording is available here).

Following up to these activities, UNESCO has planned a series of bilateral consultations with all Living Labs, to further discuss specific needs and priorities and identify tailored capacity-building activities to be implemented. Capacity-building actions will start at the end of the year and are expected to run throughout 2022. They will address local skills gaps, aimed at empowering local stakeholders by equipping them with the knowledge and tools that may support the planning and design of interventions contributing to the sustainable development of cultural tourism at the destination level, both within and beyond the lifecycle of the Labs. Each capacity-building package will be designed in accordance to the local cultural resources that are more relevant to the Living Lab destination and its local community, adopting a two-folded approach towards protecting cultural and social values while promoting sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

Download the programme of the webinar here

Watch the Awareness-raising Webinar:

Watch the lecture on UNESCO’s approach to sustainable destination management:

Providing policymakers and practitioners with a Toolkit for cultural tourism change in Europe

The WP7 of SmartCulTour is specifically designed to engage with diverse stakeholders through a participatory approach using of a set of service design and arts-based tools/methods. The aim is to improve inclusiveness and resilience for cultural tourism change in Europe. There are four tasks under the WP7:

  • Task 7.1 Co-design workshops with cultural tourism stakeholders
  • Task 7.2 SmartCulTour Game
  • Task 7.3 SmartCulTour Toolkit for cultural tourism policy development
  • Task 7.4 Strategic roadmap for cultural tourism change

At the current stage of the project, the SmartCulTour partners are focusing on Task 7.1, which aims to assist the living labs (LLs) by suggesting, testing and facilitating the use of a set of tools and methods that can potentially help cultural tourism policy development. To achieve this aim, there are two main objectives:

  • Co-designing a menu that utilises a set of service design and art-based tools/methods for cultural tourism stakeholder consultation and engagement, and thus potentially influencing the policy development of cultural tourism.
  • Carrying out a series of participatory workshops in the LLs with a wide range of local stakeholders. The workshops will implement and further develop the menu using a bottom-up approach.

Figure 1 The double-diamond model in the SmartCulTour living lab context

Task 7.1 lies in the first part of the double-diamond, that is, identifying and clarifying the needs of each LL (see Figure 1). Therefore, the set of tools/methods that the SmartCulTour partners are developing will contribute to the first diamond, and the focus is placed on empathy building and empathic engagement. Taking into consideration the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the set of tools/methods will support the use in both physical and virtual environments. More importantly, the LLs will be engaged in co-designing the set of tools/methods in order to ensure that the end results meet their diverse needs and serve as a menu for the local stakeholders to choose. In most of the LLs, experiments have been done on how to do this in a participative way (see Figure 2), especially in relation to stakeholder engagement but also in identifying the qualities they can bring to the table as experts on (aspects of) their destination, but also the expertise WP7 specialists should bring. The menu is expected to be available as D7.1 on the SmartCulTour website by August 2021. It will serve as a living document, constantly evolving to keep pace with the LLs’ needs throughout the lifecycle of the project.

Figure 2 Engaging participants using service design tools and methods in the Utsjoki living lab

For Task 7.2 the first game prototypes have been tested. In game development, getting the aims and rules right are crucial to make a serious game attractive but also to make sure the discussion is on the topic we need. In the game, players will take on different roles in developing cultural tourism in a destination by exploring several development scenarios together from a multitude of stakeholder viewpoints. We expect to have it ready on schedule and look forward to playing it! Figure 3 presents a recent prototype of the game.

Figure 3 The recent SmartCulTour game prototype.

Task 7.3 and 7.4 in many ways are a follow up to 7.1, WP3, 4 &5 and will evolve in the next 6 months to a balanced set of tools need for cultural tourism policy development. Obviously, the LLs are excellent playgrounds for experiments in how to use and combine the tools developed in (and outside) SmartCulTour.

Cultural tourism interventions ‘to interpret understand and disseminate’

Within the SmartCulTour Work Package 3, we proposed a taxonomy of cultural tourism interventions based on their ‘essential purpose’ (see here). One of the identified categories concerns interventions ‘to interpret understand and disseminate’. The urgency of interpreting and understanding cultural heritage clearly emerged from our data analysis, especially in association with contexts characterised by forgotten or neglected cultural heritage or heritage subject to contested or dissonant interpretations. Often, the presence of such dissonant heritage is determined by profound socio-economic and cultural changes a destination went through (e.g., the transition to a new socio-economic paradigm, conflicts, tragic events, socio-cultural or political tensions, etc.). 

The analysis conducted within Work Package 3 included a large database of interventions and a selected number of case studies. Concerning this category of the taxonomy, the case studies focused on 3 specific interventions:

  • The ‘crazy guides of Nowa Huta’: an entrepreneurial initiative to provide alternative tours in Nowa Huta, a district of Krakow (Poland) created during the Soviet Union as utopian socialist ideal city, a unique example of architecture and urban planning of that period. Disagreements among locals in the interpretation of this heritage determined a fracture in the society, between the part willing to silence the socialist heritage and the part willing to understand it better. The crazy guides of Nowa Huta approached the interpretation of this heritage with forms of ‘edutainment’ (combing education and entertainment), supported by appropriate storytelling skills and narrative techniques. They were able to provide a less divisive interpretation that contributed to healing fractures existing in the local community.

  • Migrantour: now active in several European cities, the Migrantour network organises  ‘Intercultural walks’ through neighbourhoods shaped and influenced by migrations. The walks are facilitated by ‘intercultural companions’, locals with a migration background. Migrantours provide new perspectives and interpretations of the historical and contemporary meanings of migrations for European cities, helping to understand how migrations and migrants contributed to their evolution.

  • Pakruojis Synagogue: Pakruojis is a small town in the north of Lithuania, where the Jews settled in 1710, contributing to the local economy and social life of the town. Due to the tragic events of the past century, nowadays there is no Jewish community in the village anymore, making it difficult to maintain their cultural heritage and ensure its appropriate interpretation. The renovation of the old Pakruojis synagogue included the realisation of an exhibition about Pakruojis’ Jewish culture and history and the creation of a cultural centre available for the local community. Therefore, the Synagogue not only became an element of attraction for cultural tourists, but also a place of education, aggregation and cultural encounter.

The above-mentioned examples show that the ‘reason why’ of this type of intervention often relies on the usage of cultural tourism as a viable instrument to promote interpretations of forgotten/neglected heritage or heritage subject to unclear or dissonant interpretations. Our analysis revealed how the ability to listen to people, embracing an open-minded and bottom-up approach, together with communication and storytelling skills are often crucial resources to effectively implement such interventions. Besides the necessary financial means, also the support of scientific and academic knowledge (e.g., historians, sociologists or anthropologists) is often very important. These interventions generally lead to substantial positive impacts from a social (e.g., social cohesion, social inclusion of minorities, sense of community) and cultural (awareness & knowledge of cultural heritage, intercultural understanding, reconciliation of dissonant heritage interpretations) point of view. Furthermore, a moderate positive economic impact was also observed (jobs, incomes and business opportunities), although sometimes limited to a reduced number of (local) individuals or businesses. Several success factors also became evident from the analysis, namely the availability of financial resources, the ability to listen and let territories/people express and narrate themselves and the capacity to implement engaging forms of communication (for instance, through storytelling).

Uncovering the ‘state-of-the-art’ of cultural tourism interventions implemented in European cities and regions

By pursuing different interests and objectives, cultural tourism stakeholders determine a wide range of impacts on tourism destinations and their communities. For instance, private businesses are constantly investing resources (time, money, expertise, skills, etc.) to innovate the cultural tourism offer, determining multiple socio-economic impacts. Destinations can embrace a variety of governance settings and influence the decisions of public or private actors. Moreover, local and national governments, the European Union and other international organisations often grant financial resources for a wide range of programs and projects, aiming at uncovering, designing and implementing more sustainable forms of cultural tourism. Such a complex range of activities and the diverse spectrum of actors involved, stress the urgency to gather and frame more structured insights on what the impacts and success conditions of these initiatives and approaches are. Within SmartCulTour, the objective of Work Package 3 is to provide a ‘state-of-the-art’ of cultural tourism interventions implemented in European cities and regions, thereby identifying good practices and their impacts and success conditions. We are pursuing this objective via a multiple-steps approach:

  • The contribution of SmartCulTour partners allowed to collect preliminary insights concerning the context, actors, objectives and impacts of more than 100 interventions all over Europe. This revealed information about interventions initiated by different stakeholders, ranging from national and local governments to private businesses or NGOs. The variety of cultural tourism interventions that have been considered includes the introduction of new cultural products, marketing and communication activities, heritage interpretation, capacity building, visitor management plans and regulations, just to mention some examples. The gathered data also revealed preliminary insights on the impacts of the interventions in terms of social, economic and environmental sustainability of the destinations and the resilience of their communities. Focusing on the essential purpose of the interventions, the analysis of the collected data allowed to propose the following innovative taxonomy of cultural tourism interventions:
  • Starting form the proposed taxonomy and supported by a process of expert’s evaluations, we selected 18 interventions (out of the initial 108), to be further investigated via in-depth case studies. Aiming at interviewing at least 3 relevant stakeholders, each case study allowed to enrich the available data, especially concerning the economic, socio-cultural and environmental impacts of the interventions, revealing additional insights in terms of success conditions and “lesson learnt” from these interventions.
  • SmartCulTour Deliverable D3.2, available here, contains a ‘portfolio’ with the 18 selected interventions, reporting essential information about the context, the initiators, the required resources, the impacts, success conditions and lesson learnt through the interventions. This selection of cases reflects the variety of interventions analysed, ranging from the development of entrepreneurial ideas to initiatives focused on interpreting the heritage of minorities or capacity building projects and initiatives that provided a common space, where the tourism and culture industries could meet, discuss and work with each other.
  • By the end of May 2021, also the SmartCulTour deliverable D3.1 will be available here, providing a comprehensive state-of-the-art of cultural tourism interventions implemented in European cities and regions, with an overview and additional insights on good practices, impacts and success conditions of cultural tourism interventions.

The outcomes of this process will be useful as a reference about the state-of-art of cultural tourism interventions in Europe and can be used to initiate and structure discussions concerning cultural tourism and sustainable development in a variety of urban and regional settings.

Report outlining the SRT framework: Deliverable 4.2 of H2020 project SmartCulTour

The team of experts from the Faculty of Economics, Business and Tourism (FEBT), University of Split, Croatia, have recently delivered a report striving to fulfil the SmartCulTour project objective of ‘establishing an improved indicator framework for cultural tourism impacts on a destination’s sustainability and resilience and linking them to an improved Tourism Area Life Cycle (TALC) model’. 

The Report D4.2 contains four sections, including the Introduction; the Empirical Analysis section – outlining the data collection process, methods, analysis and main conclusions following each part of the analysis; the TALC modelling section delivering a theoretical foundation for the TALC modelling together with its empirical verification; Conclusion and Reference sections. At the end of the Report, an Annex contains tables and figures to describe the attained results.

The obtained research results shed light on the relationship between cultural tourism development and destinations’ sustainability and resilience, taking into consideration destinations’ position in the TALC. The foundation of the analysis are frameworks of indicators related to cultural tourism development, sustainability and resilience of cultural tourism destinations corroborated in Report D 4.1. The empirical analysis was performed based on data collected for six case studies, i.e. six Living Labs involving thirty-five micro destinations, i.e. LAUs. Within this analysis, special focus was put on culture as the fourth pillar of sustainable tourism development and aiming to assess cultural tourism development impacts on a local scale, among others, by inaugurating indicators reflecting visitor and resident attitudes.

To analyse cultural tourism development influence on cultural tourism destinations’ sustainability both dynamic panel data and regression analysis were employed. The analysis in the resilience model was performed using only dynamic panel data methodology.

The results revealed that the cultural resources index (CulRes_INDEX) is without a doubt the most important in affecting both, sustainability and resilience of destinations under analysis, thus addressing the fundamental relevance of cultural resources from the cultural tourism policy standpoint. Considering that other indices such as those referring to cultural enterprises (CulEnt_INDEX), cultural governance and policy (CulGovPol_INDEX) and cultural tourism governance (CulGovTour_INDEX) are shown statistically significant with positive effects on regional resilience, and with diverging impacts on sustainability, elaboration of the obtained results requires an understanding of the broader regional development framework.

Given the requirement to associate the results of the analyses with the Living Labs life cycle stage (TALC), their movement along the life cycle curve has been modelled. The model indicated all LLs being in the stage of demand dependence, tending to reach the saturation stage unless restructuring policies and new products such as cultural tourism introduced.

SmartCulTour will participate in a webinar on Rural tourism and marketing

Rural Connections is a set of three webinars involving RURITAGE and a group of European rural projects. The main objective of this series is to exchange knowledge and best practices between EU projects working on different aspects related to rural development, with the view to support RURITAGE partners in the implementation of their rural regeneration action plans. On 12 April four projects will join on a free webinar to share knowledge on Rural Tourism & Marketing: SmartCultour project will present the tools being used to identify needs and good practices around developing sustainable cultural tourism on the local level; EUROPETOUR project will demonstrate the urgency for interdisciplinary cooperation and the importance of valorising the intellectual property rights; SPOT project will illustrate an ongoing collaboration with Regional DMO, local DMO and the local Tourist Observatory (LMR); and IMPACTOUR will demonstrate how cultural tourism is leading to sustainable economic and social development; present policies, governance and business models that are being used to promote cultural tourism as well as tools for cultural tourism impact assessment to foster and forecast impact of tourism strategies.

You can register for the webinar and watch live on Facebook!

Lapland Living Lab inception meeting

The inception meeting of the Lapland Living Lab was held on 12 February in Holiday Village Valle in Utsjoki with 8 on-site participants and 4 online participants. The meeting started with an introduction to the SmartCulTour project. Followed by this, UNESCO gave a presentation about their role in the project, which is to provide their own expertise in the development of sustainable cultural tourism to fit local needs in Utsjoki and other living labs of the project.

The participants wished to hear from UNESCO about how they have developed sustainable cultural tourism in the rest of the world, for example in tourism companies in other countries. These will be discussed in the future meetings.

Taking a participatory approach, we engaged the participants in discussing the development of sustainable cultural tourism using a number of design activities. A SWOT matrix was used to present the identified strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the tourism development in the Utsjoki living lab. We were able to identify the main needs for developing cultural tourism in Utsjoki.

The participants shared some existing good practices around the development of sustainable cultural tourism. A tree tool was used to evoke creative thinking on the opportunities and imagination of sustainable cultural tourism for the future of Utsjoki.

The participants saw the need to develop cultural tourism in Utsjoki, as it would bring new content to the municipality’s tourism and would not be as seasonal as nature-based tourism. We were able to discover the main needs and problems, for example, tourists don’t have enough information about existing services in Utsjoki, how to act in natural surroundings, how to dress appropriately, etc. The participants highlighted that one of the possible solutions would be an App that can gather all the necessary information about Utsjoki in the same place. That would make it easier for tourists to access the information.

Horizon 2020 online networking workshop

A Horizon 2020 online networking workshop was held on 27th November, involving SMARTCULTOUR, IMPACTOUR and SPOT projects, as the starting point of the creation of a collaboration network that could be built upon in the coming years. It provided a first step to get to know the colleagues from IMPACTOUR and SPOT. Concerning the main topic, the workshop addressed and discussed Cultural Tourism and its future in a 5-year time horizon, taking into consideration current potential and barriers. The workshop was followed by a group debate and a plenary session to discuss the conclusions.  In this context, all the participants shared opinions, concerns and visions for the future of Cultural Tourism, and many aspects ranging from sustainability through quality and accessibility to innovation and community involvement were brought up. In the end, the participants agreed on a couple of key findings that need further consideration when thinking about the development of cultural tourism and agreed to intensify the cooperation between the three Horizon 2020 projects for mutual benefit.

CIHEAM Zaragoza participated in this workshop as leader of the SmartCulTour communication workpackage and representing the Living Lab of Huesca, one of the six living labs that are being established in several European regions and that are meant to set up a community of practice related to the main aspects of Cultural Tourism in Europe. 

Report on the most appropriate indicators related to the basic concepts of sustainability, resilience and cultural tourism

SmartCulTour project aims “to propose and validate innovative, community-led interventions directed at sustainable cultural tourism development contributing to the EU regions’ resilience and inclusiveness”. Among several priorities, the objective number two strives to “establish an improved indicator framework for cultural tourism impacts on sustainability and resilience and link these to an improved Tourism Area Life Cycle (TALC) model“.

Within the work package (WP) 4, several tasks dedicated to the fulfilment of this objective have been outlined. This report reflects on Task 4.1. Identification of the indicators related to the basic concepts defined in WP2.

To deliver our conclusions, a systematic review of relevant literature, related to the concepts of sustainability, resilience and cultural tourism has been conducted. Particular reference was paid to the indicators most often used to measure these concepts. Additionally, the Report contains a review of the Tourism Area Life Cycle (TALC) – related literature. The conclusions of the TALC analysis will have an important role in the delivery of further tasks within this WP. With regard to each analysed concept, a proposal of the prospective methodology to be used in the Deliverable D4.2 is given, with the aim to create Sustainability-Resilience-TALC framework for cultural tourism destinations.

The report contains four sections, including the introduction; the methodology section – outlining the process of systematic review; the analysis section – delivering the overview of indicators related to fundamental concepts and guidelines for the selection of relevant indicators, including the conclusion after each part of the analysis, pointing out main findings; and reference section. At the end of the report there is also an Annex containing tables with elaborated sources of literature retained after primary selection based on relevant data bases
You can read the full Deliverable here: Deliverable D4.1

Theoretical framework for cultural tourism in urban and regional destinations: First review of key cultural tourism concepts and trends

Sustainable cultural tourism can be achieved through democratic participatory planning processes which are context specific. A key challenge for peripheral European regions lies in crafting well designed cultural tourism programmes which will meet the needs of the residents and tourists while preserving regions’ fragile cultural assets. Thus, it is important to frame cultural tourism within a larger socio-cultural, environmental and economic debate, ensuring a more equitable development.

In this context, a report has just been submitted by SmartCulTour partner Modul University Vienna (Austria) presenting a first review of the key cultural tourism concepts and trends which will help to identify a set of sustainability and resilience indicators. These indicators will be a useful tool for stakeholders so that they can plan, monitor and evaluate sustainable cultural tourism developments.

The report contains an updated definition of cultural tourism, a new definition of sustainable cultural tourism destination, a comprehensive review of literature on cultural tourism concepts, trends and current management challenges, and an outlook towards the future of cultural tourism in Europe. You can read the full Deliverable here: Deliverable D2.1