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A new cultural tourism for a new Europe?

A new cultural tourism for a new Europe?
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  Published as: Richards, G. (2008) Un nuovo turismo culturale per una nuova Europa. L’Annuariodel Turismo e Della Cultura 2008  . Milan: Touring Club Italiano, pp. 418-422. A new cultural tourism for a New Europe?Greg Richards The competitive environment of European cultural tourism Cultural tourism is not only one of the largest market segments in European tourism, but itis also evolving very rapidly. In recent years there has been a general evolution of culturaltourism motivations in recent years, away from traditional heritage-based forms of culturaltourism towards more active or involved consumption of contemporary culture. This is anevolution that we have already seen in the older Member States of the EU, and which islikely to be repeated in the enlarged EU as well. This is the kind of development which hasallowed Bilbao to establish itself on the cultural tourism circuit, in spite of its apparent lack of historic attractions. By the same token, Barcelona has overtaken Madrid as the ‘culturalcapital’ of Spain, largely because it has a much more to offer in the field of contemporaryculture, fashion and design, as well as having a beach. In this new climate of omnivorouscultural consumption, where there are no ‘rules’ anymore, Spanish cities which 20 yearswere not seen as cultural destinations are winning ground over established cultural centresin Italy for similar reasons.This pattern has been strengthened in recent years by the growth of budget airlines, whichhave boosted short city trips in Europe by 20% a year in recent years. This has also tendedto favour the relatively ‘new’ destinations over the old, and has brought cities such asPrague, Budapest and Tallin into mainstream cultural tourism circuits.The growing competition between cities also means that more and more cultural events are being organised to attract visitors. Cultural events are also becoming major destinations intheir own right – as the Edinburgh Festival demonstrates.The problem for most cities is that as the number of events increases, so the value of eventsas a distinguishing factor can diminish. Cultural events can take on a life of their own,which extends far beyond the place where they were created. For example, the Hay-on-Wye Festival, which started as a small literary festival in rural Wales is now being clonedin London, Segovia, and made accessible via TV and the Internet. Festivals are even beingreproduced in Second Life, allowing virtual festival experiences to be enjoyed by thoseunable to attend.Barcelona has now effectively taken over Bread and Butter from Berlin, and Rotterdamrecently ‘captured’ the North Sea Jazz Festival from The Hague, which was its home for decades. As events become more important, they also become desirable commodities, andtheir tendency to move if they do not get what they want also increases.This makes it important for cities to ‘root’ cultural events in some way, so that the event inany other context would be unthinkable. To achieve this, one has to create a tradition for   the event, developing it as an integral part of the daily life of the city. Essentially, one hasto think in terms of place making rather than place marketing.This also means that ‘eventful cities’ (Richards and Palmer, forthcoming) have become anew arena of competition, rather than single events. The problem of many events is thatthey do not see themselves as part of a coordinated programme of cultural activity, but tendto look to their ‘colleagues’ or ‘competitors’ in the same cultural sector (music festivals,film festivals, etc). This means that the aims of individual events may not always coincidewith those of the city, which essentially has to package and sell itself as a coherentdestination, rather than simply a stage for events.For the city, the organisation of individual events is less valuable than the development of acoordinated programme of cultural activity. The development of such an eventful city programme has the advantage that: • It increases the competence of the city in organising successful events • It can provide a platform for sharing experience and building collaboration • It provides opportunities for collaborative marketing • It allows for clear direction of events in the city, enabling them to be linked towider policy areas • It provides a more rigorous basis for event selection and evaluationBut you have to be careful that the programme does not become set in stone, and allowsroom for innovation and change.The attraction of events for many cities is that they can be cheaper than physicalinfrastructure (such as a new museum), and they can be renewed every year. But as thecompetition between cities increases, so the cost of organising events is also increasing, asshown by the European Capital of Culture (ECOC) programme. The first ECOC wasorganised in Athens in 1985, with a total budget of less than €8 million, whereas the 2008ECOC in Liverpool has a total operating budget of €142 million, as well as an extensivecapital investment programme. The total amount invested by the cities designated between1985 and 2011 now stands at over €4.5 billion (Palmer and Richards, 2007).The return on such large investments is still far from clear. Although many cities havemanaged to use the event to upgrade their cultural infrastructure, this has not necessarilygenerated large increases in tourist numbers. The average increase in overnight visitor numbers for all ECOCs is about 12%, but in many larger cities, the increase has tended to be lower (Palmer-Rae, 2004). The changing geography of cultural tourism in Europe In the ATLAS research we have identified two main factors which drive cultural tourismdemand. First, the growing supply of cultural attractions stimulates more tourists to makecultural visits, and second rising education levels make culture more accessible to a larger audience. In terms of the new Member States, both of these drivers will be important. The  desire to underline the cultural identity of these ‘new’ countries will spur increased protection and valorisation of cultural heritage. At the same time, accession will stimulatehigher education and the flow of students around Europe, both of which will ultimatelylead to more cultural tourism.In the short term, we are likely to see a flow of young people in particular to other areas of the EU, initially in search of the ‘cultural highlights’, but in the longer term to other areasas well. The current imbalance of flows between east and west and north and south willreduce.Tourism also has an increasingly important influence on where people live. Our experienceof other places introduces us to the possibility of living there as well, as evidenced by theflood of lifestyle programmes on television showing people how to buy and renovate properties in other countries, and then ‘live like a local’. This is already important inestablished destinations such as Italy and Spain, but it will become an increasinglyimportant factor in new destinations as well.Everyday life is an important motivation, and tourists are increasingly like locals. Thisexplains the success of Helsinki’s City Sherpa guide service. Local volunteers take visitorson themed walks of the city, who can look up the guide’s profile on the website( and book a tour. These tours are individual and more based on theguide’s own tastes and interests than a conventional tour of cultural highlights. One participant said that the best part of the tour ‘has been just spending time with Finns’. Thisis one cultural tourism product which makes us realise how hard it is to actually get toknow the ‘locals’.The growth of immigrant communities, particularly in major cities, has become animportant aspect of cultural life in Europe. Europe has always used its older migrantcommunities as a basis for cultural tourism, such as the many Jewish museums and culturalroutes, but new waves of immigration pose new challenges. In many cases, immigrantshave become an important part of the cultural scene, providing ‘atmosphere’ and‘difference’.Many cities have also made a virtue of their ethnic diversity as a source of creativity, andthis has been a factor in the development of a number of cultural enclaves in North WesternEurope, North America and Australasia. In Europe these include the many Chinatowns,Banglatown in London and Rusholme in Manchester. This type of development is still notso common in Southern or Eastern Europe, where immigrant communities tend to berelatively new, and are often seen as more of a problem than a resource.There are some signs that this is changing, particularly as countries in Eastern Europe become integrated into EU programmes. In the cities which have competed to be EuropeanCapitals of Culture, for example, there has been a significant process of rediscovery of cultural diversity, even in cases where the minority populations driven out in the past. Thisincludes the renovation of synagogues, the promotion of gypsy heritage and cross-border cultural programmes.  There are also signs that new minorities are now being integrated into the cultural tourism product in different parts of Europe. In Rotterdam, for example, there is a popular ‘urbansafari’ which brings people into the homes and cultural spaces of different ethnicminorities. In Milan, a number of Ethiopian restaurants now constitute a marked cluster which caters for residents and tourists alike. Changes in the relationship between culture and tourism The evolution of the cultural tourism market has driven a general expansion of culturaltourism demand from traditional culture and heritage towards contemporary culture andcreativity. Form of Tourism   Heritage Tourism   Cultural Tourism   Creative Tourism   Primary TimeFocus   Past   Past and Present   Past, Presentand Future   Primary CulturalFocus   High CultureFolk Culture   High and Popular    Culture   High, Popular and   Mass Culture   PrimaryForm of Consumption   Products   Products andProcesses   Experiences   The desire of many to develop their potential and be ‘creative’ is also expanding intotourism consumption, particularly as traditional areas of leisure time (such as the weekend)are eroded.The growth of creative tourism can now be identified in many regions, although it usuallygoes under other guises, such as painting holidays, cookery classes or winemaking. Areaswhich are likely to become more important for cultural tourism consumption in futuretherefore include fashion, design, architecture and dance.Asia is pushing culture as an economic engine, which as well as stimulating tourism flowsfrom the West is also building the consumption skills of people in Asia. This will createdemand for European culture in the medium to longer term. At first this will concentrate onthe ‘peaks’ of European culture, such as the monuments of Rome or London, but in timethese tourists will also become more adventurous.  Such changes in demand will also have an impact on traditional cultural attractions, such asmuseums.   Whereas in the past museums were hallowed places – ‘factories of meaning’which were there to preserve and display ‘official’ culture, now they tend to be more openand flexible institutions.This growing openness and flexibility is driven in part by necessity – as many museumsneed to increase visitor numbers to increase their income, or to justify public subsidies. The problem is that this type of massification of museums can also be counter-productive. TheATLAS research indicated that levels of satisfaction are highest at smaller museums –  because they have to work harder and also because the ‘experience’ is not spoiled by thecrowds. We will be looking at this issue further in the ATLAS research in 2007, which is being carried out in Naples, Pompei, Ercolano, Florence, Bergamo and Palermo( the future, museums may have to think of themselves as mediators and facilitators of culture, rather than simply repositories of objects. The new cultural intermediaries In the past, the major mediators of cultural tourism experiences came from the field of arthistory – people who knew the value of art and heritage. Today, we are seeing theemergence of a new breed of creative mediator, who in many cases comes neither from thecultural nor the tourism field. Creative tourism products and experiences are beingdesigned by architects, designers, winemakers, multimedia producers and many other sectors of the ‘creative industries’.The art in many cases is to combine different elements of experience – learning, aesthetics,entertainment and immersion – into a single, seamless attraction. In this sense, museumsare learning from theme parks, and architects and designers are coming to play a moreimportant role in cultural tourism. A good example is the current development of wineexperiences in some Spanish vineyards, where famous architects such as Calatrava andGehry are being employed to produce buildings which not only underline and enhance theculture of winemaking, but also create an icon which contrasts sharply with the traditionalimage of rustic wine production. Conclusion European cultural tourism has traditionally revolved around the passive consumption of  past glories. This is rapidly changing as cities and regions strive to utilise every possiblecultural and creative resource in the battle to woo consumers and investors. Not only hasthe utilisation of the past extended into the everyday life of ordinary people, but the use of the recent past, the present and even future creative potential is now flooding the culturaltourism market with a growing range of experiences aimed at tourists. In dealing with suchdevelopments, cities and regions increasingly need to add to their traditional roles ascustodians of culture into the spheres of management, invention and creation of culture. Asmuch of this creative activity lies outside the sphere of the traditional public sector cultural
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