How to Put Your Cultural Tourism Business on the Map

06 Aug 2023

Why do some regions and cities receive so little tourist attention, while others are faced with problems due to overtourism? For example, how come the Spanish city of Murcia and its surrounding region is relatively unknown as a tourist destination, despite the fact that it possesses a very rich heritage and all the social, economic, and cultural characteristics to make it a very attractive destination for tourists? Meanwhile,  Barcelona experiences excessively high levels of tourism, leading to an overpopulated destination characterized by ‘tourism-phobia’ among locals. This uneven distribution of tourism attention can be problematic for both ‘under-’ and ‘over- touristed’ destinations - but thankfully the tourism industry now seems to be on the cusp of a major change.

In a Post-Covid 19 world, we are seeing a shift in the tourism sector with different, lesser-known, and unusual tourist destinations - particularly those in less populated and rural areas - becoming increasingly important due to the revalorization of their unique cultural characteristics. But crucially, this is not a change that happened magically overnight, but rather the result of efforts by local stakeholders to develop successful storytelling marketing strategies to put their touristic destination on the map and distinguish themselves from competitors.

In this way, investment in social, cultural, and economic research can play a crucial role in the development of new sustainable cultural tourism destinations. Aspiring tourist destinations, from villages to cities to entire regions, need to work in close collaboration with universities, innovation centers, and entrepreneurs to conduct data-driven research to inform their long-term marketing and communication strategies. Equally, it is vitally important to involve civil society and both private and public actors in the strategy creation process too in order to create a more attractive product for potential tourists and culture lovers. In other words, collaboration among stakeholders towards a common goal can offer new opportunities to access both national and international markets  by developing more attractive touristic products. To achieve this goal, the European Union’s funding schemes represent a valuable resource and, moreover, a great opportunity to develop international collaborative networks with a wide range of stakeholders from local entrepreneurs and SMEs, to local, regional, and national public entities.At the same time, EU funding can help recipients to reach new audiences and tourist demographics, such as nature enthusiasts and culture lovers. 

Additionally, here are some of our top tips for what else you can do to put your sustainable cultural tourism business on the map:

  • Develop entrepreneurial skills & attitude:  To be a successful entrepreneur, you need to be willing to take calculated risks. Resilience is also key  when facing its business development challenges. Critical thinking represents a high-valuable asset for decision-making to improve business performance when managing scarce resources. 
  • Access European Funding: It takes time and it may be painful but it's worth putting in the effort to  access European funding. EU programmes such as Interreg Europe, POCTEP, POCTEFA, NEW, SUDOE, COSME and Creative Europe, to name but a few, represent new  ways to diversify sources of income for business development in the short, medium, and long-term . In turn, diversifying sources of funding can also help reduce exposure to risk in a constantly changing industry. Additionally, the challenge of securing and managing EU funds is sure to develop your administrative, technical, and social skills, contributing to your professional development.  
  • Learn and live your own cultural and sustainable surroundings: Take the time to connect  with the traditions, culture, heritage, and local values that surround you and your business. Knowing your cultural and natural surroundings can allow you to develop new authentic tourism offerings, such as alternative cultural routes that can provide enriching experience for cultural & sustainable tourists. Biking and rafting routes that promote local heritage and traditions are a great example of a creative and alternative way to promote tourism in your area while demonstrating what makes this destination so special.
  • Distinguish yourself: When you are positioning a business in the market, it’s important that you develop a product that is authentic, and to offer an original experience that will appeal to your target audience. s. For example, mixing cultural and rural tourism is a winning combination: a combined wine tasting & cinema event at a local sustainable vineyard  be a great way to attract tourists to a farming site that might otherwise go overlooked/ 
  • Location: A strategic location is key to the success of any business. Therefore, before establishing yourself, always think about the best place to establish your business that will positively contribute to the . cultural tourism experience or product you are offering. 
  • Digital strategies & storytelling campaigns: Online and offline channels of communication have become increasingly important to reach new audiences. The number of interactions with other producers, intermediaries, and customers has never been higher. New forms of digital campaign strategies with creative storytelling practices can allow you to reach promising new target audiences, such as digital nomads who are rapidly populating the world and breaking down the barriers between work and tourism.. 
  • Knowledge & training courses:  Constantly improving your soft skills is a necessity to become a successful entrepreneur. A positive attitude towards learning in a collaborative environment is an invaluable asset. Social platforms can offer a wide range of courses to help develop your entrepreneurial skills or introduce you to new developments in the tourism sector, such as the ecotourism trend or cutting edge technologies that can give your tourism SME a competitive edge.  Knowledge, constant improvement, and collaborative learning practices are keys for success. 

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