SmartCulTour

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.

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.

Online aanvangsmeeting om het Rotterdamse Living Lab te presenteren

Op 15 april 2021 werd een online bijeenkomst gehouden om het Living Lab van Rotterdam te presenteren aan verschillende stakeholders uit de regio. Het Living Lab Rotterdam is een van de zes living labs die deelneemt aam het Europese project SmartCulTour, dat door de Europese Commissie wordt gefinancierd in het kader van het H2020-programma. Het doel van de living labs is het aanmoedigen van netwerken tussen belanghebbenden uit het toeristische werkveld om zo tot goede praktijken en innovatieve oplossingen voor duurzaam cultureel toerisme te komen, die tegelijkertijd ook kunnen worden uitgewisseld met andere Europese regio’s.

In samenwerking met citymarketingorganisatie Rotterdam Partners werden voor de ‘inception meeting’ personen uitgenodigd die in hun dagelijkse werk of leven te maken hebben met toerisme, evenementen en leisure maar ook bijvoorbeeld met stedelijke planning. Zo waren onder andere Theater Zuidplein, Rotterdam Festivals, Gemeente Rotterdam en IFFR aanwezig bij de online sessie. Met totaal 15 participanten ging de online meeting van start met een leuke opwarm oefening: ‘’Laat aan de hand van je Microsoft Teams achtergrond zien wat jij onder Rotterdams cultureel toerisme verstaat.’’ Dit leverde een divers palet aan kleurrijke achtergronden op en zorgde daarnaast ook voor een mooi openingsgesprek waar de verschillende participanten van elkaar hoorden wat Rotterdams cultureel toerisme voor hen inhoudt.

Vervolgens gaven Ko Koens en Bert Smit van Breda University of Applied Sciences een uitleg over SmartCultour en de nut en noodzaak van living labs. Ko Koens: ‘’ Om een living lab te laten slagen is het noodzakelijks om de juiste deelnemers aan tafel te hebben die kennis hebben van kansen, mogelijkheden en problemen in wijken en daarnaast kennis hebben van toerisme, cultuur, stadsontwikkeling en infrastructuur. We kunnen niet wachten om de komende tijd met jullie op een interactieve en leuke manier aan de slag te gaan.’’

Om de daad bij het woord te voegen was het volgende onderdeel van de meeting het maken van een moodboard in de app ‘mural’. De deelnemers van de meeting werden uitgedaagd om een collage te maken met foto’s die voor hen Rotterdams cultureel toerisme vertegenwoordigden. Er ontstonden interessante borden, die even later met elkaar werden vergeleken en besproken. Zo merkten de deelnemers op dat op de foto’s die eerder waren geselecteerd door de labmanagers en projectleiders onder andere de maritieme cultuur, die juist zo belangrijk is voor Rotterdam ontbrak. Daarnaast kwamen de deelnemers tot de conclusie dat de 174 nationaliteiten die Rotterdam rijk is juist ook het cultureel toeristische beeld van Rotterdam bepalen.

Tot slot werden interessante interventies op het gebied van cultureel toerisme uit andere steden gedeeld. Zie bijvoorbeeld onderstaand afbeelding die genomen is in Den Bosch tijdens het Jeroen Bosch jaar in 2016. De deelnemers komen begin juni weer bij elkaar in een ontwerpsessie. De focus ligt dan ook op hoe toeristische visie en strategie werkelijkheid worden in een bepaalde wijk of misschien juist wel hoe de werkelijkheid van de wijk en de stad zou moeten leiden tot een zich continu ontwikkelende toerisme strategie.

Photo Jherominus Bosch year 2016. Credits: Brabants Dagblad

Online inception meeting to present the Living Lab of Rotterdam

On April 15, 2021, an online meeting was held to present the Rotterdam Living Lab to various stakeholders from the region. The Living Lab of Rotterdam is one of six living labs participating in the European project SmartCulTour, funded by the European Commission under the H2020 program. The aim of the living labs is to encourage networking between tourism stakeholders in order to develop best practices and innovative solutions for sustainable cultural tourism, which can also be exchanged with other European regions.

In collaboration with city marketing organization Rotterdam Partners, people who in their daily work or life are involved with tourism, events and leisure but also for example with urban planning, were invited to the ‘inception meeting’. Theater Zuidplein, Rotterdam Festivals, the municipality of Rotterdam and IFFR, among others, were present at the online session. With a total of 15 participants, the online meeting started with a fun warm-up exercise: «By using your Microsoft Teams background, show us what you mean by cultural tourism in Rotterdam. ‘’This resulted a diverse range of colorful backgrounds and also provided a nice opening discussion where the various participants heard from each other what Rotterdam Cultural Tourism means to them.

Next, Ko Koens and Bert Smit of Breda University of Applied Sciences explained SmartCultour and the use and necessity of living labs. Ko Koens: «For a living lab to be successful, it is necessary to have the right participants at the table who know about opportunities, possibilities and problems in neighborhoods and also have knowledge of tourism, culture, urban development and infrastructure. We can’t wait to get to work with you in an interactive and fun way in the near future.»

To suit the action to the word, the next part of the meeting was to create a mood board in the app ‘mural’. The participants of the meeting were challenged to make a collage with photos that for them represented Rotterdam’s cultural tourism. Interesting boards emerged, which were compared and discussed with each other a little later. For example, the participants noted that the photos previously selected by the lab managers and project leaders lacked, among other things, maritime culture, which is so important to Rotterdam. In addition, the participants came to the conclusion that the 174 nationalities that Rotterdam abounds also determine the cultural tourist image of Rotterdam.

Finally, interesting interventions in the field of cultural tourism from other cities were shared. See for example the image below taken in Den Bosch during the Jheronimus Bosch year in 2016. The participants will meet again in early June in a design session. The focus will then also be on how tourism vision and strategy become reality in a particular district or maybe even how the reality of the district and the city should lead to a continuously evolving tourism strategy.

Photo Jherominus Bosch year 2016. Credits: Brabants Dagblad

Inception Meeting to present the Living Lab of Scheldeland

On 15 March 2021, the inception meeting of the Scheldeland Living Lab, one of six Living Labs established throughout Europe as part of the SmartCulTour H2020 project, was organized. This Living Lab will specifically focus on three municipalities within the wider tourism region of Scheldeland, namely Bornem, Dendermonde, and Puurs-Sint-Amands.

Due to ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, the first meeting took place online and was organized by Toerisme Vlaanderen, coordinator of the Flemish lab, with further cooperation of KU Leuven as consortium partner. The initial meeting brought together 18 stakeholders, representing the heritage and tourism representatives of the three municipalities, the directors of the local cultural centres, representatives of the regional and provincial boards of tourism, the coordinator of Regional Landscape Schelde-Durme and various heritage experts.

After an initial round table and brief introduction to the project goals of SmartCulTour and the link of the Living Lab with other work packages and European collaborators, appreciative inquiry techniques were used to establish shared meaning of the region. People were asked what connects them personally to the place, with aspects such as the tides of the river and associated nature, and heritage – particularly Medieval castles and forts dating back to the world war – being top of mind.

Next, in smaller groups, participants were asked to think about an ambition and goal for the project, as well as criteria with which a potential successful project should comply. Finally, the brainstorm technique OPERA was adopted to come to a commonly shared project focus. This technique consists of five phases: (1) Own suggestions, (2) Pair suggestions, (3) Explanations, (4) Ranking, and (5) Arranging. After 15 initial suggestions, which due to many overlaps could be reframed into four clear propositions, the final focus for the project was decided as:

“The poetry of coming and going, linked to the ebb and flow of the Scheldt river as hook for the tourism development. The regional characteristics of the tidal river are translated through region-specific heritage such as the industrial heritage, the steam train, and the forts and castles.”

Inception Meeting to present the Living Lab of City of Split metropolitan area

The Inception meeting and the establishment of a Sustainable and resilient cultural tourism Living Lab (LL) was held on February 11, 2021. The session was led by Dr Ante Mandić, the LL manager and Dr Lidija Petrić, the WP and team leader at the Faculty of Economics, Business and Tourism, University of Split.

The LL was established as a part of the SmartCulTour HORIZON2020 financed project discussing how cultural tourism can foster sustainable and resilient development of European regions.

LL are community-based and objective-driven entities, incorporating multi-stakeholder participation and engagement and representing the perspectives and interests of all the key actors of the destination. The concept uses place-based community and participatory stakeholder approaches to identify local needs and main intervention priorities. This LL focuses on creating an incentive environment for the development of cultural tourism.

Engaging local stakeholders, including tourism boards, tourism businesses, cultural institutions, NGOs and communities, this LL will foster co-creation, co-innovations and bottom-up solutions to design and inaugurate interventions for leveraging cultural tourism at the destination level.

Currently, the LL involves fifteen stakeholders who actively participate in the development of LLs long-term goals and priorities.

Following the fruitful discussion during the inception meeting, the stakeholders were invited to participate in the focus groups to discuss the current state and the future of cultural tourism development. More information about the conclusions of the focus groups and the goals and priorities with this LL you can read in our next post.

System Dynamics Approach to TALC Modelling

Tourism and tourist destinations are researched from many standpoints and by many scientific disciplines. However, most of them have generally taken a reductionist approach, with both tourist destinations and tourism not effectively understood as complex phenomena. In this article authored by Marko Hell and Lidija Petric (Department of Tourism and Economy at the University of Split, Croatia, partner to SmartCulTour project) a system dynamics approach to TALC (tourist destination [area] life cycle) modelling is explored.

The system dynamics applied in this research on modelling a tourist destination (area) life cycle (TALC) contributes to understanding its behavior and the way that information feedback governs the use of feedback loops, delays and stocks and flows. On this basis, a system dynamic three-staged TALC model is conceptualized, with the number of visitors V as an indicator of the carrying capacities’ dynamics and the flow function V(t) to determine the TALC stages. In the first supply-dominance stage, the model indicated that arrivals are growing until the point of inflexion. After this point, arrivals continue growing (but with diminishing growth rates), indicating the beginning of the demand-dominance stage, ending up with the saturation point, i.e., the maximum number of visitors. The simulated TALC system dynamics model was then applied to five EU destinations (Living Labs) to explain their development along the observed period (2007–2019). The analysis revealed that all observed Living Labs reached the second lifecycle stage, with one entered as early as in 2015 and another in 2018. Lifecycle stage durations may significantly differ across the destinations, as do the policies used either to prevent stagnation or to restructure the offer to become more sustainable and resilient.

You can read the full article here: https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/13/9/4803/pdf

Second Living Lab workshop in Utsjoki

SmartCulTour project partner ULAP held the second hybrid workshop on 21 April 2021 in their Utsjoki living lab with the local stakeholders to discuss and generate ideas for developing sustainable cultural tourism in Utsjoki.

The workshop started with a warm-up activity in which the participants got to know each other through bodily performance to share a place that was meaningful to them. SmartCulTour partner CIHEAM Zaragoza was invited to participate in the workshop to present Huesca as a living lab with similar needs and challenges around rural tourism destinations and to share their local tourism initiatives. The workshop focused on discussing how sustainable cultural tourism could contribute to the development of Utsjoki and generating ideas to develop sustainable cultural tourism in Utsjoki. Service design and art-based tools and methods were used to engage the workshop participants in exploring the potential of cultural tourism in Utsjoki. Participants collected and shared photos of local places where they deemed unique. Using a storytelling template, the participants came up with ideas for further developing the unique local places into culturally interesting places with stories and senses. The workshop closed with participants planning the next steps for the next workshop.

Cultural sensitivity as a tool for sustainable tourism

Until lately, cultural sensitivity has been a little-used concept in tourism research and development although it is highly relevant in tourism settings where different cultures meet, collaborate and live together. It is needed for both hosts and guests and enhances the well-being of both. Here it is discussed from the point of view of tourism entrepreneurs who want to actively incorporate respect for local cultures in their business activities.

The basic premise of cultural sensitivity is that there are differences between cultures. In its simplest form, cultural sensitivity is one’s ability to sense cultural differences. Cultural sensitivity can also be understood as a way of relating to cultural differences, meaning a way of thinking and talking about cultural differences and of behaving towards them.

A culturally sensitive person recognizes that cultures are different and respects these differences. For example, in Finland, there are three indigenous Sámi cultures, North Sámi, Inari Sámi and Skolt Sámi, and in Sweden, Norway and Russia, there are even more Sámi cultures. A culturally sensitive person understands that there are differences between these cultural groups and takes them into account in everything she or he does concerning the Sámi.

Stereotypes are an example of not recognizing and respecting cultural differences, making them an example of cultural insensitivity. For example, indigenous peoples are often marketed to tourists as primitive peoples living outside modernity and wearing colourful costumes – and tourists often expect to see this. On the other hand, there are tourists who do not want to see stereotypical images of local cultures. They want to have their stereotypes challenged and get to know the local cultures in other ways. They are an ideal target group for culturally sensitive tourism companies who want to break down stereotypical images of local cultures in their products and marketing communication.

Recognition of and respect for local worldviews, cultural values, beliefs and traditions are a vital aspect of culturally sensitive tourism. Local livelihoods and the use of local land and water are examples of issues that are often important to local people. They are part of the local culture. Cultural sensitivity means that, in tourism product development, the local culture and nature are not only resources but also something to which the products have to be adjusted. A culturally sensitive person cares about local people, their lives and their cultures. To respect local cultures is also to be interested in them and willing to learn more about them.

Culturally sensitive tourism should result in mutual understanding and cultural exchange, which help to promote equity within partnerships or relationships as well as to create shared values and benefits for all parties. It is an important constituent of culturally sustainable tourism.

Interested to learn more? Check the free self-study online course on cultural sensitivity in Arctic tourism and the website of the ARCTISEN project (Culturally sensitive tourism in the Arctic). You are also welcome to join the free webinar ‘Exploring the meanings and practices of cultural sensitivity in tourism’ which will take place next 29 April at 14-16 UTC (15-17 CET). Registration here: Meeting Registration – Zoom