SmartCulTour Explores Culture as Catalyst for New Tourism Trends

On 24 May 2023, stakeholders, practitioners and decision-makers from the cultural tourism sector in Europe joined the Final Conference of the EU-funded project SmartCulTour in Brussels, Belgium. The event brought together national and international experts to explore emerging tourism trends and identify priorities to shape sustainable cultural tourism destinations.

The conference tackled the importance of harnessing the power of culture and local values to redefine the visitor experience. As one of the partners within the SmartCulTour consortium, UNESCO played a key role in designing the contents and format of the conference, where it moderated and chaired two sessions. The first UNESCO-led session, under the title “Culture and tourism – An integrated approach to enrich the visitor experience”, focused on how cultural tourism can become more competitive with a greater focus on innovation and creativity in product development and marketing. The panellists notably explored:

  • How partnerships between tourism businesses and local communities can create more meaningful and authentic experiences for visitors;
  • How heritage interpretation is becoming a powerful tool to engage visitors and create a deeper connection with the local culture;
  • How sustainable tourism practices are becoming increasingly important to visitors, and how businesses can adopt sustainable practices to attract and retain conscious visitors;
  • How visitors are increasingly seeking authentic cultural experiences, what “authentic” means in this context, and how destinations can provide better opportunities for a sustainable cultural tourism immersion in the local offer.

The second UNESCO-led session, “Participatory decision-making approaches in cultural tourism policy-making”, aimed to provide tourism professionals with insights into how to involve local communities and stakeholders in tourism research and policy development, and how to empower them to participate in decision-making processes. Panellist shared experiences of engagement from the SmartCulTour Living Labs, heritage communities and groups, as well as tools and methods to stimulate interaction and active involvement.

The line-up of speakers included experts from the European Union (EU), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), universities, cultural organisations, the tourism business sector and representatives from SmartCulTour and other European projects currently working on cultural tourism.

Since its launch in January 2020, the SmartCulTour project has supported the development of European regions by providing them with a set of tools and strategies to engage with stakeholders and co-create sustainable cultural tourism practices.

The project has been deployed through 6 Living Labs across Europe (Belgium, Croatia, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain). The project’s tools and the different experiences of the SmartCulTour Living Labs with key target audiences were shared during the Final Conference.

UNESCO engaged in the SmartCulTour project to contribute, jointly with our project partners, to the development of more sustainable and inclusive approaches to culture-based tourism that can benefit visitors, local communities and their cultural resources. […] Drawing on its global standard-setting function and its mandate to foster equitable sustainable development, UNESCO’s participation in SmartCulTour helped the project partners and stakeholders to focus local efforts on a more mindful integration of cultural and tourism activities within a participatory and cross-sectoral policy vision.
Louise Haxthausen, Director, UNESCO Liaison Office in Brussels and UNESCO Representation to the European Union

About SmartCulTour

The EU-funded SmartCulTour project intends to redefine the concept of cultural tourism to provide European regions with strategies that engage stakeholders in co-creating smart cultural tourism practices.

Project consortium

KU Leuven – Project Coordinator (Belgium); Breda University of Applied Sciences (Netherlands); University of Split, Faculty of Economics, Business and Tourism (Croatia); University of Lapland (Finland); MODUL University Vienna (Austria); Ca’ Foscari University of Venice (Italy); UNESCO (France); CIHEAM Zaragoza (Spain); Toerisme Vlaanderen-Visit Flanders (Belgium); Quantitas (Italy).

/Public Release. This material from the originating organization/author(s) might be of the point-in-time nature, and edited for clarity, style and length. Mirage.News does not take institutional positions or sides, and all views, positions, and conclusions expressed herein are solely those of the author(s).View in full here.