Living Labs

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to spur innovation and test new approaches to support communities in the recovery, transforming destinations away from outdated and unsustainable models.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.

Resident Support for Tourism Development: Application of a Simplified Resident Empowerment through Tourism Scale on Developing Destinations in Flanders

Bart Neuts (KU Leuven), Senne Kimps (Visit Flanders) and Jan van der Borg (University Ca’Foscari of Venice) have authored an interesting article that focuses on the relatively underdeveloped Scheldeland region in Flanders (Belgium), where a strategic goal is to leverage cultural and natural heritage to boost development.

Via a resident questionnaire based on a simplified version of the Resident Empowerment through Tourism Scale (RETS), the authors have identified support for tourism development and deconstructed the drivers of this support. The objective was to empirically validate the research instrument and underlying theory in a situation of relative ‘undertourism’ and prospective future growth. The questionnaire collected 2058 responses, and the partial least squares-structural equation modeling (PLS-SEM) results indicated that support for tourism, which was generally high across the seven municipalities, was mainly affected by social, psychological, and political empowerment, with personal economic benefits not playing a significant role. These results show that social exchange theory (SET) as a theoretical basis for potential tourism support has limited validity in currently underdeveloped destinations. Secondly, comparatively speaking, the municipalities with the lowest tourism development were least supportive of tourism growth, with an increase in tourism intensity seemingly leading to increasing support due to a higher awareness of accrued benefits through tourism

You can read the full paper here: Resident Support for Tourism Development

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.