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Smart Cultural Tourism as a Driver of Sustainable Development of European Regions

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - SmartCulTour (Smart Cultural Tourism as a Driver of Sustainable Development of European Regions)

Reporting period: 2022-01-01 to 2023-06-30

SmartCulTour proposes and validates innovative, community-led interventions directed at sustainable cultural tourism; cultural tourism that supports the sustainable development of all European regions rich of tangible and intangible cultural assets, in particular rural regions and cities, and contributes to their resilience and inclusiveness.
The project focuses on:
i. Concepts: By developing new –and/or upgrading– contemporary definitions of (sustainable) cultural tourism, cultural tourism destinations, sustainable development, and resilience;
ii. Measurement: By identifying and testing a framework of sustainability and resilience indicators and a Decision Support System for measuring and monitoring cultural tourism and its impacts;
iii. Procedure: By testing and presenting innovative and creative tools for stakeholder engagement, particularly art-based methods, a serious game and service design;
iv. Outcome: By recognizing state-of-the-art and innovative cultural tourism interventions through existing case studies and by trialling specific interventions within six community-led Living Labs.

At the conclusion of the action, SmartCulTour delivered on all objectives via its eight WPs and associated deliverables. New concepts on sustainable cultural tourism development were submitted as part of WP2. WP4 and WP5 supported the measurement approach by identifying and testing indicators for sustainable and resilient development through cultural tourism. These data were subsequently visualized and enriched with big data and machine learning approaches in the SmartCulTour Platform in WP5. The procedural focus was covered via the SmartCulTour Toolkit on arts-based and service design methods for stakeholder engagement, which was tested in the SmartCulTour Living Labs. Outcomes of cultural tourism interventions were analysed via 107 case studies in WP3, after which the Living Labs formed the testbed for the ideation of cultural tourism interventions, supported by the SmartCulTour Platform, Toolkit, Game, capacity-building and exchange visit activities.
WP2 provided definitions and theories on the concepts of cultural tourism, sustainable destinations, and resilience of tourist regions, while also identifying potential future trends. WP3 extended the focus to state-of-the-art examples of cultural tourism initiatives, analysing 107 case studies across Europe, leading to a taxonomy of interventions. WP4 identified, collected, and analysed indicators for sustainable and resilient development through cultural tourism. The indicators were included in the SmartCulTour Platform in WP5, combining project-collected variables with additional official and big data. Within WP6, six Living Labs were established as communities-of-practice, in which local stakeholders were brought together throughout the project in order to co-create local cultural tourism interventions. The process was supported by WP7 – which proposed, implemented, and tested arts-based and service-design methodologies for stakeholder integration – as well as awareness-raising and capacity-building activities, and exchange visits.

Research data was maximally shared, supported by the Open Research Data provision of WP1 and made available via Zenodo (https://zenodo.org/communities/smartcultour/). The project also delivered three individual policy reports. General communication and dissemination strategies were centralized in WP8. Collaborations with other Horizon2020 projects led to a shared Special Issue, a policy report, and a final conference organized with the Research Executive Agency, IMPACTOUR, SPOT, Be.CULTOUR TeXTOUR and INCULTUM. The consortium also ran a Webinar series, and organized three sub-regional workshops. The final SmartCulTour conference brought together SmartCulTour-experts with European policy makers and invited speakers from international organizations. At the end of the project, SmartCulTour had organized 2 conferences and 62 workshops, and participated in 13 conferences, 11 workshops, and 4 other events, among others aimed at disseminating the more tangible project outcomes such as the SmartCulTour Game, the SmartCulTour Platform, and the SmartCulTour Toolkit. The project reached an estimated 36,556 people via its communication and dissemination actions.
Three impacts were highlighted in the SmartCulTour GA:

(i) …improve interventions on cultural tourism at various levels
WP2 and WP4 supported knowledge-improvement on cultural tourism (trends) and the potential of cultural tourism for sustainable development and local resilience, through an evidence-based approach. The awareness and capacity-building activities of UNESCO further improved general understanding of cultural tourism and capacity-training in interpretation and sustainable management. WP3 provided an overview of best practices, inspiring local communities and policy makers in areas rich in heritage, but potentially lacking resources. The SmartCulTour Living Labs served as an example for the ideation and implementation of cultural tourism development. Evidence-based and participatory decision making was supported by the SmartCulTour Platform and Toolkit. While the Living Lab communities were the most direct beneficiaries of the actions, the outputs provide learnings for destinations and policy makers to facilitate bottom-up development.

(ii) …provide strategic guidance at European level concerning the efficient use of European Structural Investment Funds
Within WP3, all 107 case studies analysed the financial resources needed, highlighting the use of private, public, and hybrid funding and serving as a template for local policy makers and communities wanting to develop new cultural tourism initiatives. An overview of all identified EU funding opportunities for tourism-related projects was provided, and a webinar on EU funding was organized, which was recorded and shared via the SmartCulTour website and YouTube channel.

(iii) …contribute to the establishment of partnerships between public and private stakeholders in the area
The Living Labs of WP6 took a multi-stakeholder approach, providing learnings for other destinations that might consider such a setup. Within the six Living Labs, cooperative practices were set up across different thematic fields (e.g. nature-conservation, culture, and tourism), and between public and private organizations and individuals, contributing to an increased local cooperation. WP7 further served to improve mutual understanding and avoid power imbalances from disrupting the cooperative process. An important element to this is the role-playing element inherent in the SmartCulTour Game, which forces stakeholders into other perspectives. SmartCulTour supported cross-border learning and collaboration activities via an exchange visit programme for the Living Labs. Through dissemination and communication activities, the beneficial effects of the SmartCulTour approach for sustainable destination management can inspire action in other destinations as well.
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