sustainability

State-of-the-art in European cultural tourism policies and practices: Second SmartCulTour Webinar

It is generally agreed upon that cultural heritage can be an important strategic resource for a destination and provide both economic and non-economic benefits for local communities and visitors alike. However, strategies with regard to cultural tourism development remain somewhat scattered and tangible, readily available evidence on the benefits often remain ideological, anecdotal or local. Within this webinar, we focus on a broader analysis of cultural tourism policies, policy responses to Covid-19 and success conditions of different types of cultural tourism interventions. Lessons learned on both success conditions and barriers of implementation can serve further policy recommendations.

The webinar is jointly organized with the SPOT project and will be held next 20 June from 11:00 to 12:30 (CET). Speakers include Bart Neuts (KU Leuven, SmartCulTour), Milada Šťastná (Mendel University, SPOT), Alun Jones (CIHEAM Zaragoza, SmartCulTour), Claire Wallace (University of Aberdeen, SPOT), John Shaddock (University of Aberdeen, SPOT) and Simone Moretti (Breda University of Applied Sciences, SmartCulTour).

You can register and read all the details here: Webinar

Split Living Lab hosts an exchange visit

From 11 to 13 May, the Living Lab of Split organized an exchange, within the framework of the SmartCulTour H2020 Project, with Lab managers and stakeholders from Urban Leisure & Tourism Lab Rotterdam and Università Ca’Foscari (Venezia) Vicenza Living Lab. The objective of this visit was to exchange experiences and discuss some of the challenges that local stakeholders face. The two-day event included a visit to the beautiful city of Sinj and the fantastic Stella Croatica experience centre in Klis. The next exchange will take place in June organized by Urban Leisure & Tourism Lab Rotterdam.

You can read the details of this experience on Urban Leisure & Tourism Lab Rotterdam

New Workshop: Tools and methods for stakeholder engagement and community-supported development of cultural tourism initiatives: The SmartCulTour project

Cultural tourism has sometimes been seen as a sustainable alternative to the mass tourism excesses that became prevalent during the first growth stages of international tourism. However, many internationally renowned cultural sites have also experienced unbalanced and unsustainable growth. At the same time, there are many underexplored and undervalued cultural resources throughout Europe that could (a) help to alleviate pressure on primary cultural attractions and destinations, and (b) support regional (economic) development. In order to activate the potential of regional cultural resources in a sustainable manner, stakeholder engagement – and particularly community-participation – is essential. Within the SmartCulTour-project, financed through the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme of the European Union, various tools and methods have been developed and tested with the specific view to assist in such stakeholder engagement and support sustainable destination planning and management.

This workshop will be held in Leuven (Belgium) on 2 June 2022, and a team of SmartCulTour experts will present a variety of tools and strategies. The topic and content of the workshop is seen as particularly relevant for regional destination management organizations, strategic planners, and NGO’s in the tourism and cultural sphere who often work on a scale that involves a multitude and variety of actors with varied interests.

Agenda:

8:30-9:30             Coffee and Participant Registration (Location: Zaal Couvreur, AGOR M01.E50)

9:30-11:00           Session 1 : Methods and procedures to support cultural tourism development (Location: SW 02.05)

9:30-9:45              Introduction to the SmartCulTour project (Bart Neuts, KU Leuven)

9:45-10:00           Design process crafting and the double-diamond design model (Bert Smit, Breda University of Applied Sciences)

10:00-10:30         Understanding destination characteristics and visitor motivations through decision-support systems: The SmartCulTour Platform (Dario Bertocchi, UNIVE)

10:30-11:00         Systems mapping and visitor flow mapping (Bert Smit, Breda University of Applied Sciences)

11:00-11:30        Coffee break (Location: Zaal Couvreur, AGOR M01.E50)

11:30-13:00         Session 2: Methods and procedures to support cultural tourism development (Location: SW 02.05)

11:30-12:00         Serious games to support stakeholder interaction: The SmartCulTour Game (Jessika Weber, Breda University of Applied Sciences)

12:00-12:30         Dynamic House of Quality to rationalize decision making (Simone Moretti, Breda University of Applied Sciences)

12:30-13:00        Destination Design Roadmapping (Bart Neuts, KU Leuven)

You can read all the details here: Workshop

Map of central Leuven and workshop locations

Route from Railway Station to Social Sciences Campus (Parkstraat 45, 3000 Leuven)

Auditoria locations on Social Sciences Campus (Parkstraat 45, 3000 Leuven)

Cultural tourism in post-Covid cities

The webinar “Cultural tourism in post-Covid cities” was organized last 3 May as part of the Cultural Heritage in Action sharing stories webinar series with the objective of exploring new trends in cultural tourism in cities after the pandemic. The webinar was moderated by Julie Hervé, Eurocities, with the participation of our partner Prof. Jan van der Borg (visiting professor in tourism management at KU Leuven and professor in applied economics at the University Ca’Foscari of Venice) who shared current trends in urban tourism, Carlotta Viviani (Economic and Tourism Promotion Department Municipality of Florence) who presented the case of study of the city of Florence and Pellervo Kokkonen, (Senior advisor and CEO at Savonlinna Travel Ltd) who presented the case study of the city of Savonlinna.

Here you can watch the recording:

A vibrant local cultural life and the presence of cultural heritage sites encourage people to travel: four in ten tourists already choose their destination on the basis of its cultural offering. Tourism is one of cities’ major economic assets. It contributes to the local economy, and generates jobs and social added value, but can also generate downsides: over-tourism, tensions with locals, pressure on the use of public services and on housing prices. There is a clear need to strike a balance between economic, social, cultural and environmental needs, including the protection of cultural heritage, to ensure the mid and long-term sustainability of tourism. While Europeans are starting to travel again, planning recreational and cultural activities, now is a good moment to reflect on urban tourism and developing practices, to address changing consumer needs and develop local policies and projects for more resilient, digital, and greener practices. How to develop a more sustainable cultural tourism in cities and regions, taking into account sustainability and environmental issues? Are there new practices developing in European cities and regions? These are the questions at the heart of the discussion.

Case study of Florence:

In Florence (IT, 366 000 inhabitants), the Feel Florence experience app brings tourists off the beaten track. Thanks to a real-time detection of the presences in certain areas, the app warns tourists to avoid overcrowded destinations and suggests unusual itineraries in the city centre, in neighbourhoods and in the metropolitan area. The app is a tool to avoid over-tourism in central areas of the city, where the management of crowds is a key challenge. 15.9 million people visited Florence in 2019, most of them focus on the historic centre, which is a 5km2 area in a city of 105km.

Case study of Savonlinna:

In Savonlinna (FI, 36 000 inhabitants), a recovery programme rescued the tourism dependent city and fosters innovation in tourism offers. Local policy makers quickly reacted to counter the effects of the pandemic on tourism in the city and to the need to compensate for the cancellation of large-scale events such as the Savonlinna Opera Festival (60 000 annual visitors). This included micro-grants to support innovative tourism products, more flexible weekly tourist programmes and support for pop- up events. This resulted in an increase overnight stays and national media visibility.

SmartCultour celebrates World Heritage Day: Spotlight on adaptation to climate change through coastal development plans

The H2020 funded SmartCulTour project aims at supporting regional development in all European regions with important tangible and intangible cultural assets, including those located in rural peripheries and the urban fringe, through sustainable cultural tourism.

The International Day for Monuments and Sites 2022 (World Heritage Day 2022) takes place on 18th April, focusing this year on Heritage and Climate. As a project supporting the sustainability of cultural heritage within the sustainable tourism framework, SmartCulTour is working with 6 local community Living Labs to develop sustainable tourism approaches.

One of the goals of the international day is to ‘safeguard all types of cultural heritage from adverse climate impacts’. The local authorities of the municipalities (which are members of our Split Living Lab – see Fig. 1), especially the coastal ones, have been very active in developing measures to adapt to climate change through implementing coastal development plans. Although this activity has neither been financed nor supported directly by the SmartCulTour project, we are reporting on this practice example provided by one of our Living Labs in order to help raise awareness about how climate change is impacting on our cultural heritage and how active solutions are being sought.

Figure 1. The Split living lab area consists of the following cities and municipalities: the cities of Split, Trogir, Kaštela, Solin and Sinj and the municipalities: Klis and Dugopolje.

The impacts of climate change are felt in the whole Split Living Lab (LL) area, in terms of the growing temperatures, longer waves of extreme heat and consequently longer periods of drought, changes in precipitation amount and regime (with occasional strong showers causing flooding) and stronger winds. In addition, Split LL coastal cities, especially their historical centres, are located on a narrow coastal strip and are affected by a significant rise in sea level. Figure 2 shows a significant change in the average monthly sea-level increase in the city of Split from the 1956 to 1997 period (blue columns) compared to 2017 (red line) (Margeta et al. 2019[*]).


Figure 2: Average monthly sea level rise in the city of Split from the period 1956-1997 compared to 2017.

According to Margeta et al., 2019, the city of Kaštela has experienced a 30 cm rise in seal level over the last hundred years and in response has developed a Coastal zone management plan foreseeing several adaptation scenarios to combat climate change.  The plan defines the development of an action plan based on integrated coastal zone management and maritime spatial planning. The goal of the Coastal Plan is the sustainable development of the coastal area based on tourism with a focus on measures to protect the sea coast that is particularly vulnerable to climate change. Some of the solutions proposed by the Plan to strengthen the resilience of the coastal strip and its infrastructure to climate change are already being implemented. These include infrastructure enhancements close to the heritage buildings within the old historical cores of the seven Kaštela municipalities that are the most endangered by the sea level rise (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Seven Kaštela municipalities – historical cores (Photos ©Mr. Boris Kačan, published with permission)

Another interesting solution in the City of Solin aims to mitigate climate change impacts and protect important historical remains (Katić, M., Bucat, M. 2022[*]). The city is rich with monuments from the Roman period and the early mediaeval ages when it was the seat of the early Croatian rulers. One of the most important monuments of that period are the remains of the so-called Hollow church (dedicated to St. Peter and Moses), the coronation basilica of the Croatian King Zvonimir (11th century A.D.). While in the eleventh century, it was above the level of the adjacent river Jadro, the ground level of the church is today situated below the height of the river (Figure 4). The terrain is flooded due to several factors, among others due to underground springs and the rise in sea level, considering that the river´s sea estuary is not far from the remains of the church. Therefore, the city of Solin has developed a plan to displace the course of the river a few meters away to protect this important archeological site from flooding (Figure 5). Although being technically and financially challenging, the project is a good example of partnership and cooperation among different experts and stakeholders, for example archaeologists (from the Museum of Croatian archaeological monuments in Split), architects (from the architectural bureau “Arhitektonski kolektiv” in Split), the City of Solin administration and the Croatian legal entity for water protection “Hrvatske vode”.

Figure 4. The remains of the Hollow Church in Solin
Figure 5. The solution for the flooding problem of the Hollow Church in Solin

[*]

Margeta, J.,Baučić, M., Vilibić, I., Jakl, Z. Petrić, L., Mandić, A., Grgić, A., Bartulović, H.,,Popić, N., Marasović, K.,Jajac, N., Rogulj, K., Ivić, M., Jovanović, N., Bačić, S., (2019), The city of Kaštela Coastal Zone Management Plan, Faculty of Civil Engineering, Architecture and Geodesy, University of Split. Document financed by the ERDF, within the Interreg Med project CO-EVOLVE, pg. 16 (retrieved from: https://www.kastela.hr/projekti/plan-upravljanja-obalnim-podrucjem-grada-kastela).

Katić, M., Bucat, M. (2022). Budućnost starohrvatskih lokaliteta Rižinice i Šuplje crkve u Solinu, power point presentation from the 8th International Congress of the Historic Cities, Solin, 29/3/2022-1/4/2022.

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:

Culture: A year into Covid-19

At the outset of the pandemic, UNESCO took decisive steps to combat the impact on the culture sector through strengthening global policy dialogue and promoting the continued access to culture. In April last year, when UNESCO convened 130 ministers of culture in an online meeting to discuss the pandemic’s impact on the sector, it activated and laid down the foundations for an ongoing global policy dialogue with its Member States to carry forward consolidated action in ensuring the sector is supported in crisis response strategies.

Monitoring the impact of the pandemic has been essential to gauge the needs and gaps, and help Member States in shaping appropriate policies. This is also why UNESCO mobilized a broad network of actors within the scope of its work in culture to better understand the situation in order to develop adequate responses. UNESCO launched a wide range of monitoring tools to guide policymakers and practitioners in the various dimensions of cultural policies.

This month special issue of the UNESCO Culture & Public Policy Tracker titled «Culture: A year into Covid-19» was initially published last April as a weekly global policy monitor and later consolidated into a monthly format beginning in September 2020. The past year has seen each of UNESCO’s Culture Conventions and programmes develop unique monitoring mechanisms to track the impact of the pandemic, ranging from monitoring World Heritage site closures, to carrying out surveys amongst Member States, site managers, living heritage bearers, and local authorities, among others.

The monthly Tracker is produced by UNESCO to monitor culture in public policy with regards to the UN Sustainable Development Agenda. It highlights developments within national and regional contexts, as well as emerging debates on culture’s contribution to sustainable development. Drawing on a variety of sources, it provides a broad overview of cultural policy trends worldwide at the national, regional and international level and looks at ways in which countries integrate culture into other policy areas.

You can read the details and download the special issue here: https://en.unesco.org/news/tracker-culture-public-policy-special-issue

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.”