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Tourism and Culture Synergies

October 31, 201831 October 2018

Trade and tourism in the arts and culture

UNWTO (World Tourism Organization)

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Based on online surveys of World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Member States and cultural tourism experts around the world, this report examines definitions, recent trends, and potential policy objectives related to cultural tourism. The UNWTO has adopted the following definition of cultural tourism:

  • “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.”

The survey of UNWTO Member States received responses from 69 of the 156 member countries (44%). Almost all survey respondents “indicated that they include both tangible (e.g., national and world heritage sites, monuments, historic places and buildings, cultural routes, and others) and intangible heritage (e.g., crafts, gastronomy, traditional festivals, music, oral traditions, religious/spiritual tourism, etc.) in their definition of cultural tourism. Most countries (82%) also indicated that they consider cultural tourism to include contemporary culture (e.g., film, performing arts, design, fashion, new media, etc.). Those who did not include contemporary culture in cultural tourism were all emerging destinations.”

When asked to rank the importance of each of these elements for cultural tourism (on a scale from 1 to 5), tangible heritage was ranked most highly (4.8), followed by intangible heritage (4.6) and contemporary culture (3.7).

Ninety percent of respondents accord a specific place for cultural tourism in their tourism policy, with 69% indicating that cultural tourism is “very important to tourism policy”. Similarly, “84% of Member States indicated that cultural tourism had a specific place in their [tourism] marketing and promotional plan”.

The survey found that “37% of countries had no current measurement of cultural tourism”. Countries that do measure tourism tend to use two different methods: cultural participation data (32%) or cultural motivations (30%). Countries using “a broad, activity-based definition” had much higher estimates of the proportion of cultural tourists among international arrivals (47%) than countries using a “a narrow, motivation-based definition” (16%).

Important policy areas for the future identified by UNWTO Member States relate to “product development and marketing”, including “understanding tourist behaviour” and product diversification. “Other priority areas are developing better measurement and statistics for cultural tourism, balancing promotion and protection of heritage, involving local communities and developing partnerships.”

The survey of international cultural tourism experts generally reinforced the findings of the Members States survey. Among this survey’s findings:

  • The experts believe that cultural tourism has grown over the past five years and will continue to do so over the next five years.
  • More specifically, “most experts felt that intangible culture was becoming more important in cultural tourism, and that this trend would also continue in the future with the growing demand for engaging and creative experiences.”
  • A better measurement of cultural tourism is needed, “with a mixture of activity-based and motivation-based indicators”.
  • Important future policy objectives include “developing integrated approaches to tourism and culture synergies and increasing community empowerment and inclusion”.

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