H2020

The Role of UNESCO Cultural Heritage and Cultural Sector in Tourism Development: The Case of EU Countries

For over seventy decades, tourism and culture have been amongst the biggest growing phenomena worldwide. Tourism is considered a significant economic sector, relevant for inclusive economic growth, both globally and locally, and culture is recognized as a powerful driver of global sustainable development, with community-wide social, economic and environmental impacts. Thus, tourism and culture present significant driving forces of economic growth and sustainable development in many destinations, with shared values and adjacent ties between tourism and culture stakeholders.

Blanka Škrabic Peric, Blanka Šimundic, Vinko Muštra (University of Split, Croatia) and Marijana Vugdelija (International Medical Corps, Split, Croatia) have published the article “The Role of UNESCO Cultural Heritage and Cultural Sector in Tourism Development: The Case of EU Countries» in Sustainability, as part of the Special Issue “A European Perspective on Cultural Heritage as a Driver for Sustainable Development and Regional Resilience”. The paper estimates the impact of different cultural indicators on tourism development in 27 EU member states for the period 2008–2018, by using dynamic panel data. The results indicate that the number of UNESCO Heritage Sites do not have a significant influence on the number of tourism overnights, whereas there are significant positive effects on international tourism receipts and tourism employment. Moreover, the additional cultural sector specifics considered in the analysis; government expenditure on culture and employment in culture, showed to have a significant positive influence on all three tourism indicators used in the research. In addition, the research results indicate that the real GDP per capita and the level of human capital are significant drivers of tourism development.

This article is based on research conducted in the context of the SmartCulTour project that has received funding from the EU Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under grant agreement no. 870708.

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!

Inception Meeting to present the Living Lab of Huesca

On 4 March 2021 an online meeting was held to launch the Huesca Living Lab, one of the six Living Labs set up in Europe for the European project SmartCulTourfinanced by the European Commission in the framework of the H2020 Programme. The aim of the Living Labs is to encourage networking between stakeholders of the territory in the tourist sector to generate and identify good practices and innovative solutions for sustainable cultural tourism that can be exchanged with other European regions. To quote Raúl Compés, Director of CIHEAM Zaragoza: “This European project, in particular the Living Lab of Huesca, poses a good example of how to apply the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals to the land of Aragon”. Compés also pointed out that SmartCulTour will facilitate the exchange of innovative tourist strategies between different European countries and share examples of Huesca’s good practices in cultural tourism. The meeting was organized by CIHEAM Zaragoza, coordinator of the Living Lab, and was held online with 35 experts in sustainable cultural tourism and cultural and rural development. It presented the main objectives and the Living Lab concept, characterized by a participatory approach that enables stakeholders to play an active role in the development of their Living Labs.

Following the presentation, Fernando Blasco, manager of TuHuesca and direct collaborator with the SmartCulTour project, provided contextual information about the tourist sector in the province of Huesca, pointing out the challenges faced as a result of the current pandemic. The Living Lab of Utsjoki (Finland) also presented their work, giving an idea of the international component of SmartCulTour.


Each Living Lab is set up as a practical community made up of local experts and a wide range of sectors and stakeholders in the field of tourism. The Living Labs have been chosen based on criteria of geographical relevance and representativity of different models of sustainable tourism.  During the project, each Living Lab will implement, test and assess new forms of managing sustainable cultural tourism by identifying and replicating good practices in the sector, through serious games, arts-based methods, services and social design techniques to improve collaboration between the culture sector and the tourist industry to develop a capacity-building process. The other Living Labs are situated in Rotterdam (Holland), Scheldeland (Flanders, Belgium), Utsjoki (Lapland, Finland),  Split (Croatia) and Vicenza (Italy).

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.

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

FEBTS’ team meeting to discuss WP4 activities

The FEBTS team met last 19 June in Split (Croatia) to discuss WP4 activities related to the selection of the most appropriate indicators. Based on concepts such as cultural tourism, cultural tourism assets and products, cultural tourism impacts, cultural tourism destinations, sustainability and resilience, etc. an extensive review of literature and data bases will be used to explore what types of indicators are most commonly applied and which ones may be the most appropriate for measuring these concepts.

Much of the data that is currently used to measure impacts of tourism is highly fragmented and/or incomplete, with unclear and/or different definitions for key concepts. Furthermore, there is a lack of data on excursionists, on new formats of accommodation, on transportation and accessibility, etc. WP4 will first explore how to optimally use existing data and data collection methods, and supplement these with new (qualitative and quantitative) methods, thereby making use of recent ICT developments (big data, smart cities).

WP4 is lead by the Faculty of Economics, Business and Tourism (FEBTS) of the University of Split (Croatia) with the contribution of KU Leuven (Belgium), Ca’Foscari Università di Venezia (Italy), UNESCO and MODUL University in Vienna (Austria).

A European Perspective on Cultural Heritage as a Driver for Sustainable Development and Regional Resilience

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050) within the section «Sustainability of Culture and Heritage» has been set up as a collaboration between SmartCulTour, IMPACTOUR, SPOT and RURITAGE H2020 Projects.

Within the framework of Europe’s Smart Specialization Strategies, it is important to identify to which extent and under which considerations a cultural heritage strategy can support an effective and sustainable regional development. Focusing specifically on European regions, this Special Issue gives particular relevance to the development of robust measurement frameworks on the sustainability and resilience of cultural heritage (tourism) destinations, past and future trends in transformative cultural tourism, successful interventions in cultural heritage management, and community-based management and planning.

Cultural heritage holds many tangible and intangible values for local communities and society in general. Particularly from a socioeconomic perspective, the presence of cultural heritage resources might serve to improve regional development through cultural tourism, event organization, the attraction of creative industries and other businesses, etc. However, notwithstanding the relative abundance of cultural heritage resources—in varying degrees of scope—there are substantial differences in the current application of culture-led development strategies across European regions.

The Special Issue is edited by Dr. Bart Neuts (KU Leuven, Belgium), Prof. Dr. João Martins (Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal), Prof. Dr. Milada Šťastná (Mendel University in Brno, Czech Republic) and Dr. John Martin (University of Plymouth, UK) and will provide a state-of-the art overview of contemporary cultural heritage management within Europe, providing theoretical contributions as well as practical toolkits and case studies. Contributions will help to frame cultural heritage as a resource for the creation of sustainable and resilient territories.

Manuscripts can be submitted until 15 January 2021 here: www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form.

For more information: https://www.mdpi.com/journal/sustainability/special_issues/Regional_Resilience