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This webpage provides UNWTO resources aimed at strengthening the dialogue between tourism and culture and an informed decision-making in the sphere of cultural tourism. It also promotes the exchange of good practices showcasing inclusive management systems and innovative cultural tourism experiences.


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At the 2020 Paris Peace Forum, UNWTO and its partners presented a Weaving the Recovery project to enable market access of indigenous women to tourism and conscious consumers through textiles, fair trade and community entrepreneurship.

This empowerment model, based on promoting a responsible tourism development, cultural transmission and fair-trade principles, will represent a novel community approach with a high global replication potential.

In February 2021, UNWTO launched the UNWTO Inclusive Recovery Guide - Sociocultural Impacts of COVID-19, Issue II: Cultural Tourism. UNWTO invited UNESCO to contribute to this second set of guidelines relating to the sociocultural impacts of COVID-19. The publication draws on the insights of the two UN agencies to analyse the impact of the pandemic and suggests solutions for cultural tourism to prosper again, under the principles of shared responsibilities and greater inclusion.

The release of the guidelines comes within the context of the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development 2021, a UN initiative designed to recognize how culture and creativity, including cultural tourism, can contribute to advancing the SDGs.

The Recommendations on Sustainable Development of Indigenous Tourism provide guidance to tourism stakeholders to develop their operations in a responsible and sustainable manner within those indigenous communities that wish to:

They were prepared by the UNWTO Ethics, Culture and Social Responsibility Department in close consultation with indigenous tourism associations, indigenous entrepreneurs and advocates. The Recommendations were endorsed by the World Committee on Tourism Ethics and finally adopted by the UNWTO General Assembly in 2019, as a landmark document of the Organization in this sphere.

The UNWTO/UNESCO World Conferences on Tourism and Culture bring together Ministers of Tourism and Ministers of Culture with the objective to identify key opportunities and challenges for a stronger cooperation between these highly interlinked fields.Gathering tourism and culture stakeholders from all world regions the conferences which have been hosted by Cambodia, Oman, Turkey and Japan have addressed a wide range of topics, including governance models, the promotion, protection and safeguarding of culture, innovation, the role of creative industries and urban regeneration as a vehicle for sustainable development in destinations worldwide.

The publication explores major challenges, risks and opportunities for tourism development related to ICH, while suggesting practical steps for the development and marketing of ICH-based tourism products.

These practical examples feature tourism development projects related to six pivotal areas of ICH: handicrafts and the visual arts; gastronomy; social practices, rituals and festive events; music and the performing arts; oral traditions and expressions; and, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe.

Highlighting innovative forms of policy-making, the UNWTO Study on Tourism and Intangible Cultural Heritage recommends specific actions for stakeholders to foster the sustainable and responsible development of tourism by incorporating and safeguarding intangible cultural assets.

Cultural tourism is a type of tourism activity in which the visitor's essential motivation is to learn, discover, experience and consume the tangible and intangible cultural attractions/products in a tourism destination. These attractions/products relate to a set of distinctive material, intellectual, spiritual, and emotional features of a society that encompasses arts and architecture, historical and cultural heritage, culinary heritage, literature, music, creative industries and the living cultures with their lifestyles, value systems, beliefs and traditions.[1]

Cultural tourism experiences include architectural and archaeological treasures, culinary activities, festivals or events, historic or heritage, sites, monuments and landmarks, museums and exhibitions, national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, religious venues, temples and churches. It includes tourism in urban areas, particularly historic or large cities and their cultural facilities such as theatres.[2] In the twenty-first-century United States, national parks and a limited number of Native American councils continue to promote "tribal tourism." The U.S. National Park Service has publicly endorsed this strain of cultural tourism, despite lingering concerns over exploitation and the potential hazards of ecotourism in Native America.[3]

Proponents of cultural tourism say that it gives the local population the opportunity to benefit financially from their cultural heritage and thus to appreciate and preserve it, while giving visitors the opportunity to broaden their personal horizons. Cultural tourism also has negative sides. There may be negative effects on local residents, such as making the local economy unstable, increasing the cost of living for local residents, increasing pollution or creating environmental problems. The local economy can also be destabilized due to the rapid change in population size. The local population also comes into contact with new ways of life that can disrupt their social fabric.[4][5][6]

This form of tourism is also becoming generally more popular throughout the world, and a recent OECD report has highlighted the role that cultural tourism can play in regional development in different world regions.[7] Cultural tourism has been also defined as 'the movement of persons to cultural attractions away from their normal place of residence, with the intention to gather new information and experiences to satisfy their cultural needs'.[8] Nowadays, cultural tourism has recently shifted in the nature of demand with a growing desire for cultural "experiences" in particular. Additionally, cultural and heritage tourism experiences appear to be a potentially key component of memorable tourism experiences.[9]

One type of cultural tourism destination is living cultural areas. Visiting any culture other than one's own such as traveling to a foreign country. Other destinations include historical sites, modern urban districts, "ethnic pockets" of town, fairs/festivals, theme parks, and natural ecosystems. It has been shown that cultural attractions and events are particularly strong magnets for tourism.[10] In light of this, many cultural districts add visitor services to key cultural areas to bolster tourist activity.[11][12] The term cultural tourism is used for journeys that include visits to cultural resources, regardless of whether it is tangible or intangible cultural resources, and regardless of the primary motivation. In order to understand properly the concept of cultural tourism, it is necessary to know the definitions of a number terms such as, for example, culture, tourism, cultural economy, cultural and tourism potentials, cultural and tourist offer, and others.[13]

Creative tourism is a new type of tourism, recently theorized and defined by Greg Richards and Crispin Raymond in 2000. They defined creative tourism as: Tourism which offers visitors the opportunity to develop their creative potential through active participation in courses and learning experiences, which are characteristic of the holiday destination where they are taken." (Richards, Greg et Raymond, Crispin, 2000).[14] Creative Tourism involves active participation from tourists in cultural experiences specific to each holiday destination.

Focusing more on the opportunities of cultural tourism, cultural districts may combine specific visitor services (boutique hotels, locally sourced restaurants) or include venues (performing arts and convention centers, in particular) as a way to attract key groups to the area. Creating a critical mass of activities available 24/7, the cultural district can be mar-keted as a destination attraction. The availability of cultural districts may tip a convention, a group tour, business meeting, or special event to be hosted in a destination due to the per-ceived (and hopefully real) creative environment. [Introduction p. 3]

Involving local communities and other stakeholders in the decision-making processes is key to ensuring results benefit both cultural heritage and the local population. The objective of sustainable cultural tourism is to ensure good conservation practices along with authentic interpretation that supports the local economy.

The Work Plan for Culture adopted by EU Member States for the period 2015-2018 included a working group composed of European experts on sustainable cultural tourism under the Open Method of Coordination approach.

The resulting report includes the first definition of sustainable cultural tourism, as well as recommendations and guidelines for policymakers and 27 case studies illustrating best practices in both tangible and intangible cultural heritage.

Funded under Horizon 2020, this project connects cultural tourism stakeholders and researchers who have new approaches and methods to support European cultural tourism. The aim of the project is to reinforce a feeling of belonging and to value minority cultures.

EDEN draws attention to emerging, non-traditional European destinations, highlighting their values and character. It also works as a platform for sharing good practices between awarded destinations. The European Commission and the National Tourism Bodies choose a theme every year. Cultural tourism was the EDEN theme in 2017.

From a socio-cultural perspective, focus should be placed on mitigating negative impacts of tourism on host communities and helping to maintain their customs, traditional lifestyle, and authenticity, while celebrating the positive economic outcomes. Current tourism trends show an uptick in the number of tourists seeking local and authentic indigenous and community-based cultural experiences. 041b061a72


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