More than 100 participants from 24 countries gathered in Barcelona on the occasion of the first International Conference on Creative Tourism Network in order to discuss the virtues and benefits of developing the rapidly growing field of creative tourism in Europe. For the first time, Austria was represented through the new platform Kreativ Reisen Österreich – Creative Tourism Austria.
The conference was organised by Caroline Couret and the FUSIC Fundació de Societàt i Cultura in Barcelona, who also developed the Barcelona Creativa Creative Tourism Programme. It took place from December 9 – 10, 2010, at the historic La Pedrera building by Antonio Gaudí, which delivered a wonderful atmosphere to the whole conference. Most notable was the creative spirit that ran through the audience as well as the projects being presented, allowing real exchange to take place and providing a platform for development opportunities.
Thanks to his extensive knowledge and background on cultural and creative tourism and being one of the co-founders of the creative tourism concept, Greg Richards of Tilburg University in the Netherlands provided many a key statements during the conference: “What I normally hear at tourism conferences throughout Europe is: We need more money to do things. At this conference, however, what I hear is, “We have ideas. Let’s apply them!”
From left to right: Elena Paschinger, Greg Richards and Hermann Paschinger
“The economic benefit will come. What you need to look at first is the social and cultural benefit that creative tourism can achieve.”
Other presenters at this conference were innovative creative projects and tourism professionals, such as SETBA Barcelona Arts Activities, Barcelona Movie.com, La Crète Autrement an interactive journey through the island of Crete including creating one’s own travel journal, or Kreativt Avstamp Creative Tourism Sweden, run by Märta Gustafsson who is offering romantic hideaways and creative local experiences near the Swedish town of Göteborg.
Frequently discussed concepts were Creative Crowds and Co-Creation: of tourism professionals, creative visitors as well as people working the creative industries of a particular destination. Examples given were presentations about the Dutch city of Venlo, the city of Lausanne in Switzerland presented by Nicola Di Pinto, the Canterbury Cultural and Creative Development Programme presented by Mitch Robertson of the Canterbury City Council, as well as the city of Paris, whose tourism and new media advisor Laurent Queige gave an interesting presentation about the importance of building up creative tourism activities for an established destination such as Paris.
“It’s not in the numbers (yet), but we need approaches like tourisme participatif, tourisme créatif for building this image of new discoveries, of taking fresh angles … You can’t tell a visitor who has already seen 150 rooms at the Louvre museum, ‘next time you come there are 200 rooms left for you to see!’ It needs to be something else. …”
Other creative initiatives presented at this conference emcompassed both established creative tourism projects, such as Creative Tourism New Zealand which was founded in 2003 around the creative city destination of Nelson, New Zealand, as well as Barcelona Creative Tourism acting as a “B2B” platform for active artistic exchange on a professional level in the city of Barcelona. Kreativ Reisen Österreich was a welcome addition to the mix, being in its conceptual stage and benefiting from the experiences already listed above.
Finally, the city of Santa Fe, New Mexico presented some key lessons learned since organising the Santa Fe Creative Tourism conference in 2008, mostly with regards to its achievements and progress in developing its artistic and creative base through the use of social networking platforms (Facebook, Blogs, etc.) and the Internet for marketing to both visitors as well as creative tourism providers.
At the end, the Barcelona Creative Tourism programme published the results of a survey among more than 500 cultural institutions and partners of its organization. It estimates an annual figure of over 13.000 creative tourists to the city of Barcelona alone, resulting in an economic value of just under three million Euros. The (potential) volume of creative tourism projects is therefore a non-negligible factor in the local economy of any destination that wishes to emphasize and promote creative industries and tourism.