Culture is future » Territorial attractiveness and social cohesion


Toujours plus loin - CULTURAL TOURISM


What strategies should one adopt to drive the development of destinations, their attraction, their creativity? What methods and competences are necessary to ensure success?

Today cultural visits and touristic holidays enjoy an influential status and are undergoing major transformation, with the arrival of new visitors, evolutionary practices in the travel industry, and also the use of new technologies to plan, reserve or undertake a trip.

A complementary alliance Tourism/Culture

The rapid expansion of tourism in France has been fuelled by different factors historical, social and political, which explain why it represents such a considerable weight for the country. France is the number one destination in the world for international tourism, (just under 80 million foreign tourists per year) and our cultural offering is, without a doubt, along with that of Italy, the most important in the world if one considers the number of monuments, museums, festivals or concerts open to the public.

In a word, in the context of the cultural sector, which in France is largely driven by the public sector, tourism is an industry, a mix of channels in the private sector, (accommodation, restaurants, transport and leisure activities etc). The tourism industry is included in the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and evaluates its output each year at 84.7 billion Euro in 2009 and its added value at 41.6 billion Euro.

What is certain is that tourism needs culture, (its images, its events, its heritage, its symbolic value etc), just as culture needs tourism: 60% of visitors to museums are “tourists” and even more numerous in the summer are those attending festivals and these visitors are there thanks to the tourism machine. Promotion of the Destinations/ Transport/ Hotels/ businesses/ reservations,  etc). 

The allure of culture

Admittedly, paying a visit to a cultural site or an event is not necessarily a touristic activity, among others, but Cultural Tourism has, as opposed to other activities, a huge advantage for our economy and our “soft power”: it is the only sector to participate on such a large scale to the attraction of our country, because 80% of foreign visitors wish for, as the research studies on “The Desire for France” reveal on a regular basis, its culture, its heritage and its lifestyle. Aspects of culture – to visit, to look, to taste or to smell, to feel, to share… - are, in fact, a signature of every nation, that of its rich variety but also that of its “uniqueness” compared to other countries in the face of today’s globalisation.

Better attention to be paid to tourists of culture

Tourists must be acknowledged – anyone who sleeps a night away from his principal residence … - are too often the ones who are disliked in the pool of visitors to cultural sites, and they are not always as warmly welcomed as the local public. Yet they are often in the majority and are the most eager to avail of our cultural offerings: more than 80% among them are motivated to learn about our lifestyle, our culture, our history or our festivals.

Revitalise our cultural offering

France is indeed one of the pioneers of Cultural Tourism, however, nowadays it suffers from strong competition from hundreds of new, emerging destinations, and one can bet that potential visitors will go to where they are eagerly awaited, where they are better welcomed and where a friendly ambiance awaits them. To summarise, the cultural offering is at risk of no longer responding to the wishes of thousands of potential visitors (Eastern Europe, India, China, Russia, Brazil, Korea or Thailand, South Africa or Australia…) who will boost the pool of traditional clients and who today have unlimited choice.  

What now guides us in our way forward is the recommendation that we must step away from an image, which is a little banal or outdated, of what a cultural activity should be. If heritage and museums represent a solid foundation in this domain, other European countries, such as Spain and Italy, but also Canada, the United States as well as certain emerging countries have been modernising their Cultural Tourism for two or three decades and are making it the strong arm of the destination. It is Barcelona’s “Movida”, the top European Capitals of Culture; it is today the museum neighbourhood of Vienna or the Tate Gallery of London which are distancing themselves from the restraints of the definition of a traditional visit and are proposing contemporary music, multimedia or design and contemporary art in a festive ambiance. All around the globe Creative Cities are developing themselves, reformulating their urbanism, their architectural exploits or their new events, such as the Shanghai Art Fair. The concept of Creative Tourism, initiated by English tourism professionals, is finally enjoying spectacular expansion, based on a cultural and artistic practice, (actually doing an activity like painting, creating a theatre piece and making music) as opposed to the practice of merely looking at works of art.

France is innovating

Adapting to this new situation has become a major issue in the domain of tourism and culture and will remain so for the next ten years.

With classic tourism, that of concerts, visits to monuments, memorial sites or works of art to humanity, cultural tourism is starting to become a dynamic “ambassador” in France of our modernity, our lifestyle; witness to this are innovative towns such as Nantes or Lyon, Lille or Montpellier, or even a good proportion of our regions, which make the touristic and cultural experience a unique, convivial one, with interest in “immaterial heritage” such as gastronomy and an in-depth look at the “Different courses of a French gastronomic meal”, which was included in 2011 in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The appearance of Greeters in a dozen communities, passionate guides who offer customised visits for small groups of tourists, is also in the vein of the desired transformation for cultural tourism, because Greeters facilitate personal interaction, exchange and sharing - all elements which embody the new form of ‘Welcome’ for tourists.    

In conclusion

-          It is a time when e-tourism and digital technology are shaking up traditional practices and adapting to a traveller who is permanently connected.

-          It is also a time when all over the world visitors to cultural sites are more numerous on cultural websites than those actually visiting the “real” location and a time when people surfing on the web are beginning to want to co-create content, expositions or talk “Culture” among themselves. 

Professionals as well as some of the public and consumers of Cultural Tourism are certainly unsettled and worried by these new norms. To resist and maintain everywhere and everytime the French Exception appears fairly difficult to do, because after all this is just a start and our Culture must unite towards the future, because, to quote the Forum of Avignon, Culture is Future!

II - A new reference on Cultural Tourism

What should be done? How does one interpret Cultural Tourism nowadays and put it into action, all while saying goodbye to one’s apprehensions and narrow-mindedness on the subject.

The objective of this book is to help the players involved in tourism and culture, to simplify the alliance between the two domains, to clarify the relationship and roles of professionals and, if possible, to convince the people in power! This book, with the help of national and international examples, presents solutions to “work together” and to improve attendance to sites, destinations and cultural events.

The author also invited experts in the field: Samuel Bausson, Webmaster of the Museum of rural Toulouse; Georges Buisson, who shares his experience at the Maison de George Sand; Marie-Laure Desmet, a superb specialist in Urban Tourism; Xavier Dalloz, French Representative to the CES of Miami and to Phocus Wright; Cédric Dupont, a brilliant expert in multi-channel communication (Agence Senses Makers), Philippe Fabry, for academic E-tourism and Tourist Offices of tomorrow; Sylvie Huron, President of Greeters of Nantes; Laurent Kilani, Director of the Live Performance in Rural Areas Cooperative and Corinne Lespinasse Taraba, Expert in Applied Marketing for Cultural Destinations.

Summary in brief

1 – The partnership between Tourism and Culture

-       Cultural tourism: stakes, associated issues and parameters

-       The impact of culture on tourism

-       The academic environment and the diffusion of competences 

-       Integrating culture into strategies at ground level

2 – Creating and putting a value on the cultural tourism offer

-      The welcome and attendance at sites and events

-      Planning and assigning of functions between tourism and culture

-      Creating a new product both touristic and cultural

-      The “Culture Tourism Pass”

-      New technologies and cultural tourism

-      Multi-channel communication

3 -   Cultural tourism into the future 2020

-      Rebuilding the competiveness of the leading players in tourism in a digital and totally interconnected world

-      The impact of Technology for Information and Communication on strategies, professions and organisational structures 

-      France, a creative region in 2020?

Book details

LE TOURISME CULTUREL - Author : Évelyne Lehalle – ISBN13 : 978-2-8186-0249-2 -Oct.2011 – ISBN digital version : 978-2-8186-0250-8 –  200 Pages. Editions  Territorial (Publication in December 2011).

Evelyne LEHALLE is a member of ICOM, International Council of Museums. She manages NTC, Nouveau Tourisme Culturel, a lot of Expertises and Trainings, and keeps watch about innovation on a blog  :