What is cultural tourism and why is it growing?
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Cultural tourism is big business. Some people seek to embark on their travels with the sole intention of having a ‘cultural’ experience, whereas others may experience culture as a byproduct of their trip. We can argue that there is some form of cultural tourism in most holidays (even when taking an all-inclusive holiday you might try to local beer, for example).
But what do we mean by the term ‘cultural tourism’? What’s it all about? In this post I will explain what is meant by the term cultural tourism, providing a range of academic definitions. I will also explain what the different types of cultural tourists are, give examples of cultural tourism activities and discuss the impacts of cultural tourism. Lastly, I will provide a brief summary of some popular cultural tourism destinations.
What is cultural tourism?
Cultural tourism is the act of travellers visiting particular destinations in order to experience and learn about a particular culture . This can include many activities such as; attending events and festivals, visiting museums and tasting the local food and drinks.
Cultural tourism can also be an unintentional part of the tourism experience, whereby cultural immersion (with the local people, their language, customs, cuisine etc) is an inevitable part of a person’s holiday.
Cultural tourism definitions
It has been suggested that tourism is the ideal arena in which to investigate the nature of cultural production (MacCannell, 1976). Tourism provides endless opportunities to learn about the way other people live, about their society and their traditions. Whether you are attending the Running of the Bulls Festival in Pamplona , visiting the pyramids in ancient Egypt , taking a tour of the tea plantations in China or enjoying the locally brewed Ouzo on your all-inclusive holiday to Greece, you will inevitably encounter some form of cultural tourism as part of your holiday experience.
The World Tourism Organisation (WTO) (1985) broadly define cultural tourism as the movements of persons who satisfy the human need for diversity, tending to raise the cultural level of the individual and giving rise to new knowledge, experience and encounters. Cultural tourism is commonly associated with education in this way, some describing it more narrowly as educational cultural tourism (e.g. Bualis and Costa, 2006; Harner and Swarbrooke, 2007; Richards, 2005).
Although a common, more specific definition has not been agreed amongst academics due to the complexity and subjectivity of the term, there do appear to be two distinct viewpoints. The first focusses upon the consumption of cultural products such as sites or monuments (Bonink, 1992; Munsters, 1994), and the second comprises all aspects of travel, where travellers learn about the history and heritage of others or about their contemporary ways of life or thought (MacIntosh and Goeldner, 1986).
Csapo (2012) pertains that the umbrella term of cultural tourism can encompass a number of tourism forms including heritage (material e.g. historic buildings and non-material e.g. literature, arts), cultural thematic routes (e.g. spiritual, gastronomic, linguistic), cultural city tourism, traditions/ethnic tourism, events and festivals, religious tourism and creative culture (e.g. performing arts, crafts).
Types of cultural tourists
In attempt to understand the scope of cultural tourism academics have developed a number of typologies, usually based upon the tourist’s level of motivation.
Bywater (1993) differentiated tourists according to whether they were culturally interested, motivated or inspired.
Culturally interested tourists demonstrate a general interest in culture and consume cultural attractions casually as part of a holiday rather than consciously planning to do so.
Culturally motivated tourists consume culture as a major part of their trip, but do not choose their destination on the basis of specific cultural experiences, whereas for culturally inspired tourists culture is the main goal of their holiday.
A more complex typology was proposed by McKercher and Du Cros (2002), who defined tourists based upon the depth of the cultural experience sought, distinguishing them in to one of five hierarchical categories.
The first is the purposeful cultural tourist for whom cultural tourism is their primary motive for travel. These tourists have a very deep cultural experience.
The second category is the sightseeing cultural tourist for whom cultural tourism is a primary reason for visiting a destination, but the experience is more shallow in nature.
The serendipitous cultural tourist does not travel for cultural reasons, but who, after participating, ends up having a deep cultural tourism experience, whilst the casual cultural tourist is weakly motivated by culture and subsequently has a shallow experience.
Lastly, the incidental cultural tourist is one who does not travel for cultural tourism reasons but nonetheless participates in some activities and has shallow experiences.
Adapting this theory, Petroman et al (2013) segments tourists based upon their preferred cultural activities.
The purposeful cultural tourist, described as according to Mckercher and Du Cros (2002), enjoys learning experiences that challenge them intellectually and visits history museums, art galleries, temples and heritage sites that are less known.
The tour-amateur cultural tourist is akin with the sightseeing cultural tourist above and they often travel long distances, visit remote areas, enjoy tours and wandering through the streets.
The occasional cultural tourist plays a moderate role in the decision of travelling and enjoys an insignificant cultural experience, their preferred activities being to visit attractions and temples that are easy to reach and to explore, although not to the extent that the tour-amateur cultural tourist does.
The incidental cultural tourist plays a small or no role in the decision to travel and enjoys an insignificant cultural experience, whilst visiting attractions that area within easy reach and heritage theme parks.
The last segment is the accidental cultural tourist, who plays a small or no role in the decision to travel but enjoys a deep cultural experience. This tourist type is diverse and as such has no preferred activities attributed to it.
Importance of cultural tourism
Cultural tourism is important for many reasons. Perhaps the most prominent reason is the social impact that it brings.
Cultural tourism can help reinforce identities, enhance cross cultural understanding and preserve the heritage and culture of an area. I have discussed these advantages at length in my post The Social Impacts of Tourism , so you may want to head over there for more detail.
Cultural tourism can also have positive economic impacts . Tourists who visit an area to learn more about a culture or who visit cultural tourism attraction, such as museums or shows, during their trip help to contribute to the economy of the area. Attractions must be staffed, bringing with it employment prospects and tertiary businesses can also benefit, such as restaurants, taxi firms and hotels.
Furthermore, for those seeking a deep cultural experience, options such as homestays can have positive economic benefits to the members of the community who host the tourists.
Read also: Overtourism explained: What, why and where
Personally, I think that one of the most important benefits of cultural tourism is the educational aspect. Tourists and hosts alike can learn more about different ways of life. This can help to broaden one’s mind, it can help one to think differently and to be more objective. These are qualities that can have many positive effects on a person and which can contribute to making them more employable in the future.
Cultural tourism activities
Whether a tourist is seeking a deep cultural experience or otherwise, there are a wide range of activities that can be classified as cultural tourism. Here are a few examples:
- Staying with a local family in a homestay
- Having a tour around a village or town
- Learning about local employment, for example through a tour of a tea plantation or factory
- Undertaking volunteer work in the local community
- Taking a course such as cooking, art, embroidery etc
- Visiting a museum
- Visiting a religious building, such as a Mosque
- Socialising with members of the local community
- Visiting a local market or shopping area
- Trying the local food and drink
- Going to a cultural show or performance
- Visiting historic monuments
Impacts of cultural tourism
There are a range of impacts resulting from cultural tourism activities, both good and bad. Here are some of the most common examples:
Positive impacts of cultural tourism
Revitalisation of culture and art.
Some destinations will encourage local cultures and arts to be revitalised. This may be in the form of museum exhibitions, in the way that restaurants and shops are decorated and in the entertainment on offer, for example.
This may help promote traditions that may have become distant.
Preservation of Heritage
Many tourists will visit the destination especially to see its local heritage. It is for this reason that many destinations will make every effort to preserve its heritage.
This could include putting restrictions in place or limiting tourist numbers, if necessary. This is often an example of careful tourism planning and sustainable tourism management.
This text by Hyung You Park explains the principles of heritage tourism in more detail.
Negative impacts of cultural tourism
Social change is basically referring to changes in the way that society acts or behaves. Unfortunately, there are many changes that come about as a result of tourism that are not desirable.
There are many examples throughout the world where local populations have changed because of tourism. Perhaps they have changed the way that they speak or the way that they dress. Perhaps they have been introduced to alcohol through the tourism industry or they have become resentful of rich tourists and turned to crime. These are just a few examples of the negative social impacts of tourism.
Read also: Business tourism explained: What, why and where
Globalisation and the destruction of preservation and heritage.
Globalisation is the way in which the world is becoming increasingly connected. We are losing our individuality and gaining a sense of ‘global being’, whereby we more and more alike than ever before.
Globalisation is inevitable in the tourism industry because of the interaction between tourists and hosts, which typically come from different geographic and cultural backgrounds. It is this interaction that encourage us to become more alike.
Standardisation and Commercialisation
Similarly, destinations risk standardisation in the process of satisfying tourists’ desires for familiar facilities and experiences.
While landscape, accommodation, food and drinks, etc., must meet the tourists’ desire for the new and unfamiliar, they must at the same time not be too new or strange because few tourists are actually looking for completely new things (think again about the toilet example I have previously).
Tourists often look for recognisable facilities in an unfamiliar environment, like well-known fast-food restaurants and hotel chains. Tourist like some things to be standardised (the toilet, their breakfast, their drinks, the language spoken etc), but others to be different (dinner options, music, weather, tourist attractions etc).
Loss of Authenticity
Along similar lines to globalisation is the loss of authenticity that often results from tourism.
Authenticity is essentially something that is original or unchanged. It is not fake or reproduced in any way.
The Western world believe that a tourist destination is no longer authentic when their cultural values and traditions change. But I would argue is this not natural? Is culture suppose to stay the same or it suppose to evolve throughout each generation?
Take a look at the likes of the long neck tribe in Thailand or the Maasai Tribe in Africa. These are two examples of cultures which have remained ‘unchanged’ for the sole purpose of tourism. They appear not to have changed the way that they dress, they way that they speak or the way that they act in generations, all for the purpose of tourism.
You can learn more about what is authenticity in tourism here or see some examples of staged authenticity in this post.
Because tourism involves movement of people to different geographical locations cultural clashes can take place as a result of differences in cultures, ethnic and religious groups, values, lifestyles, languages and levels of prosperity.
Read also: Environmental impacts of tourism
The attitude of local residents towards tourism development may unfold through the stages of euphoria, where visitors are very welcome, through apathy, irritation and potentially antagonism when anti-tourist attitudes begin to grow among local people. This is represented in Doxey’s Irritation Index, as shown below.
Culture clashes can also be exasperated by the fundamental differences in culture between the hosts and the tourists.
There is likely to be economic inequality between locals and tourists who are spending more than they usually do at home. This can cause resentment from the hosts towards the tourists, particularly when they see them wearing expensive jewellery or using plush cameras etc that they know they can’t afford themselves.
Further to this, tourists often, out of ignorance or carelessness, fail to respect local customs and moral values.
There are many examples of ways that tourists offend the local population , often unintentionally. Did you know that you should never put your back to a Buddha? Or show the sole of your feet to a Thai person? Or show romantic affection in public in the Middle East?
Cultural tourism destinations
Whilst many would argue that cultural tourism is ingrained to some extent in travel to any country, there are some particular destinations that are well-known for their ability to provide tourists with a cultural experience.
Cultural tourism in India
It is impossible not to visit India and experience the culture. Even if you are staying in a 5 star Western all-inclusive hotel in Goa, you will still test Indian curries, be spoken to by Indian workers and see life outside of the hotel on your transfer to and from the airport.
For most people who travel to India, however, cultural tourism is far more than peeking outside of the enclave tourism bubble of their all-inclusive hotel.
Thousands of international tourists visit the Taj Mahal each year. Many more people visit the various Hindu and Buddhist temples scattered throughout the country as well as the various Mosques. Some visit the famous Varanassi to learn about reincarnation.
Most tourists who visit India will try the local dal, eat the fresh mutton and taste chai.
All of these activities are popular cultural tourism activities.
Cultural tourism in Thailand
Thailand is another destination that offers great cultural tourism potential. From the Buddhist temples and monuments and the yoga retreats to homestays and village tours, there are ample cultural tourism opportunities in Thailand .
Cultural tourism in Israel
Israel is popular with religious tourists and those who are taking a religious pilgrimage, as well as leisure tourists. I visited Israel and loved travelling around to see the various sights, from Bethlehem to Jerusalem . I’m not religious in any way, but I loved learning about the history, traditions and cultures.
Cultural tourism in New York
New York is a city that is bustling with culture. It is world famous for its museums and you can learn about anything from World War Two to the Twin Towers here.
Many would argue that shopping is ingrained in the culture of those who live in New York and many tourists will take advantage of the wide selection of products on offer and bargains to be had on their travels to New York.
You can also treat yourself to watching a traditional West End show, trying some of the famous New York Cheesecake and enjoying a cocktail in Times Square!
Cultural tourism in Dubai
Dubai might not be the first destination that comes to mind when you think of cultural tourism, but it does, in fact, have a great offering.
What I find particular intriguing about Dubai is the mix of old and new. One minute you can be exploring the glitz and glamour of the many high-end shopping malls and skyscrapers and the next you can be walking through a traditional Arabian souk.
Cultural tourism: Conclusion
As you can see, there is big business in cultural tourism. With a wide range of types of cultural tourists and types of cultural tourism experiences, this is a tourism sector that has remarkable potential. However, as always, it is imperative to ensure that sustainable tourism practices are utilised to mitigate any negative impacts of cultural tourism.
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Want to learn more about cultural tourism? See my recommended reading list below.
- Cultural Tourism – A textbook illustrating how heritage and tourism goals can be integrated in a management and marketing framework to produce sustainable cultural tourism.
- Deconstructing Travel: Cultural Perspectives on Tourism – This book provides an easily understood framework of the relationship between travel and culture in our rapidly changing postmodern, postcolonial world.
- Re-Investing Authenticity: Tourism, Place and Emotions – This ground-breaking book re-thinks and re-invests in the notion of authenticity as a surplus of experiential meaning and feeling that derives from what we do at/in places.
- The Business of Tourism Management – an introduction to key aspects of tourism, and to the practice of managing a tourism business.
- Managing Sustainable Tourism – tackles the tough issues of tourism such as negative environmental impact and cultural degradation, and provides answers that don’t sacrifice positive economic growth.
- Tourism Management: An Introduction – An introductory text that gives its reader a strong understanding of the dimensions of tourism, the industries of which it is comprised, the issues that affect its success, and the management of its impact on destination economies, environments and communities.
- Responsible Tourism: Using tourism for sustainable development – A textbook about the globally vital necessity of realising sustainable tourism.
- Division of Arts and Culture
The Division of Arts and Culture promotes arts and culture as essential to quality of life for all Floridians.
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- Department of State
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Resources by Topic
- Cultural Tourism Toolkit
- What is Cultural Tourism? - Basic Information
What is cultural tourism?
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, cultural tourism is “movements of persons for essentially cultural motivations such as study tours, performing arts and cultural tours, travel to festivals and other cultural events, visits to sites and monuments, travel to study nature, folklore or art, and pilgrimages.”
We expand this definition to encompass the participation of visitors in cultural activities whether those activities are the primary purpose of their travel or not.
Why should my organization take action on cultural tourism?
Cultural tourism is big business in Florida. Our state attracts more than 100 million visitors per year, and 65% of those visitors take part in at least one cultural activity.
These visitors spend more on their trips and stay longer than other visitors.
Creating a plan to attract cultural tourism can do more than affect your bottom line, it can also help define your area as a cultural and artistic destination.
Why would a visitor come to my area?
Travelers look for an “authentic experience,” and your community has its own special attributes that set it apart from others. These features include your history, traditions, and yes, your arts and culture.
Your community has a story to tell, and finding an engaging way to tell that tale is one way to attract visitors. Tools are available for creating an inventory of community assets. A few of them are found as links in this toolkit.
Where to begin?
That’s up to you! Engage with other organizations and individuals in your area, or simply measure the effect visitors have on your own organization. The important thing to do is to start somewhere . You don’t even have to spend any money.
How do I approach my local Destination Marketing Organization (DMO)or Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB)?
Sometimes arts and cultural organizations may be daunted at the idea of approaching the local DMO or CVB. Arts and cultural organizations create value for tourists by offering experiences that cannot be found elsewhere.
You have a product that your DMO can sell… and their goal is to sell your area to visitors. You may find that showing them how many visitors take advantage of your services will catch the DMO’s interest. You may find that the excellent quality of your work will excite them as much as you know it will excite tourists. Finding your way in may be difficult, but it can be done.
Remember, bring them a quality product and show them how they can use it to their own advantage.
Another helpful step is to integrate the boards of directors of DMO/CVB’s with the boards of arts and cultural organizations. If a member of the DMO board is interested in arts and culture, there may be an opportunity for expanding their interest by having a conversation regarding an upcoming project or event.
In addition, if you have someone from the tourism industry on your board, they may be able to provide some useful guidance and new ideas for promoting cultural tourism in the community.
What can I measure that relates to cultural tourism?
You can always start small in measurements. Try collecting the zip codes of your patrons as a way to find out how many of them traveled to your event or activity. Think of what you want to accomplish, and ask yourself some important questions:
“Why do we do what we do?”
“Why do people take advantage of my current offerings?”
“For what reasons are we funded?”
“What change are we trying to create in our community?”
These questions and others like them can help you decide what to measure and how to measure it.
Once you have your numbers, analyze them and look at how you can improve what you’re doing.
Once you’ve implemented a change, no matter how small, measure again to see if you’ve achieved the outcome you wanted.
- Artist Estate and Legacy Planning
- Arts in Education
- Arts in Health
- Economic Impact of the Arts
- Emergency Preparedness and Recovery
- Cultural Tourism Funding Resources
- Directory of Florida Direct Marketing Organizations (DMOs)
- Arts & Culture Event and Calendar Websites in Florida
- Useful Links
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The convergence between tourism and culture, and the increasing interest of visitors in cultural experiences, bring unique opportunities but also complex challenges for the tourism sector.
“Tourism policies and activities should be conducted with respect for the artistic, archaeological and cultural heritage, which they should protect and pass on to future generations; particular care should be devoted to preserving monuments, worship sites, archaeological and historic sites as well as upgrading museums which must be widely open and accessible to tourism visits” UNWTO Framework Convention on Tourism Ethics Article 7, paragraph 2
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 .
ABOUT CULTURAL TOURISM
According to the definition adopted by the UNWTO General Assembly, at its 22nd session (2017), Cultural Tourism implies “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”. UNWTO provides support to its members in strengthening cultural tourism policy frameworks, strategies and product development . It also provides guidelines for the tourism sector in adopting policies and governance models that benefit all stakeholders, while promoting and preserving cultural elements.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CULTURAL TOURISM KEY PLAYERS ON ACCESSIBILITY
UNWTO , Fundación ONCE and UNE issued in September 2023, a set of guidelines targeting key players of the cultural tourism ecosystem, who wish to make their offerings more accessible. The key partners in the drafting and expert review process were the ICOMOS International Cultural Tourism Committee and the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT) . The ICOMOS experts’ input was key in covering crucial action areas where accessibility needs to be put in the spotlight, in order to make cultural experiences more inclusive for all people. This guidance tool is also framed within the promotion of the ISO Standard ISO 21902 , in whose development UNWTO had one of the leading roles.
Download here the English and Spanish version of the Recommendations.
COMPENDIUM OF GOOD PRACTICES IN INDIGENOUS TOURISM
The first UNWTO Compendium of Good Practices in Indigenous Tourism – Regional Focus on the Americas , co-produced with the World Indigenous Tourism Alliance (WINTA) , was released in March 2023. The report is primarily meant to showcase good practices championed by indigenous leaders and associations from the Region. However, it also includes a conceptual introduction to different aspects of planning, management and promotion of a responsible and sustainable indigenous tourism development. The compendium also sets forward a series of recommendations targeting public administrations, as well as a list of tips promoting a responsible conduct of tourists who decide to visit indigenous communities. For downloads, please visit the UNWTO E-library page: Download in English - Download in Spanish .
Weaving the Recovery - Indigenous Women in Tourism
This initiative, which gathers UNWTO , t he World Indigenous Tourism Alliance (WINTA) , Centro de las Artes Indígenas (CAI) and the NGO IMPACTO , was selected as one of the ten most promising projects amoung 850+ initiatives to address the most pressing global challenges. The project will test different methodologies in pilot communities, starting with Mexico , to enable indigenous women access markets and demonstrate their leadership in the post-COVID recovery.
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.
Click here to visit the project webpage.
Inclusive recovery of cultural tourism.
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.
UNWTO Inclusive Recovery Guide, Issue 4: Indigenous Communities
Sustainable Development of Indigenous Tourism
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:
- Open up to tourism development, or
- Improve the management of the existing tourism experiences within their communities.
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.
Who are these Recommendations targeting?
- Tour operators and travel agencies
- Tour guides
- Indigenous communities
- Other stakeholders such as governments, policy makers and destinations
The Recommendations address some of the key questions regarding indigenous tourism:
UNWTO/UNESCO World Conferences on Tourism and Culture
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.
Fourth UNWTO/UNESCO World Conference on Tourism and Culture: Investing in future generations. Kyoto, Japan. 12-13 December 2019
Kyoto Declaration on Tourism and Culture: Investing in future generations ( English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Russian and Japanese )
Third UNWTO/UNESCO World Conference on Tourism and Culture : For the Benefit of All. Istanbul, Turkey. 3 -5 December 2018
Istanbul Declaration on Tourism and Culture: For the Benefit of All
( English , French , Spanish , Arabic , Russian )
Second UNWTO/UNESCO World Conference’s on Tourism and Culture: Fostering Sustainable Development. Muscat, Sultanate of Oman. 11-12 December 2017
Muscat Declaration on Tourism and Culture: Fostering Sustainable Development
First UNWTO/UNESCO World Conference’s on Tourism and Culture: Building a new partnership. Siem Reap, Cambodia. 4-6 February 2015
Siem Reap Declaration on Tourism and Culture – Building a New Partnership Model
( English )
UNWTO Study on Tourism and Intangible Cultural Heritage
The first UNWTO Study on Tourism and Intangible Cultural Heritage provides comprehensive baseline research on the interlinkages between tourism and the expressions and skills that make up humanity’s intangible cultural heritage (ICH).
Through a compendium of case studies drawn from across five continents, the report offers in-depth information on, and analysis of, government-led actions, public-private partnerships and community initiatives.
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.
- Recommendations on Sustainable Development of Indigenous Tourism
- Recomendaciones sobre el desarrollo sostenible del turismo indígena, ESP
UNWTO Study on Tourism and Intangible Cultural Heritage
- UNWTO Study
- Summary of the Study
Studies and research on tourism and culture commissioned by UNWTO
- Tourism and Culture Synergies, 2018
- UNWTO Study on Tourism and Intangible Cultural Heritage, 2012
- 3RD UNWTO/UNESCO WORLD CONFERENCE ON TOURISM AND CULTURE ‘FOR THE BENEFIT OF ALL’
- EVENTS on Cultural Heritage and Intangible Cultural Heritage
*Definition based on the 2003 UNESCO convention on the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage Photo credit of the Summary's cover page: www.banglanatak.com
World’s Best Cultural Tourism Destinations: 30 Cultural Trips to Take This Year
Discover the best cultural trips and immersive travel experiences our world has to offer. From Southern India to the High Arctic, here are the top 30 countries and regions for cultural tourism this year .
With many of us now on the lookout for deeper and more meaningful travel experiences , cultural tourism – travel that prioritises learning about and appreciating different ways of life – has never been more appealing.
Immersive cultural experiences give travellers an opportunity to see the world from a different perspective, form meaningful relationships, and develop new skills. They can also open the door to a slower, more sustainable type of travel that has benefits for local communities and a lighter impact on the planet.
Whether you’re a seasoned cultural traveller researching for your next trip or you’re interested in getting off-the-beaten-track but aren’t sure where to start, I hope this guide to culture and travel offers you some food for thought!
I also suggest reading these tips for socially responsible travel for advice about engaging with different cultures in a sensitive and mindful way.
Please note: This post contains affiliate links, meaning I may earn a commission if you make a purchase by clicking a link (at no extra cost to you). Learn more.
This post may contain sponsored links for which I received compensation.
What is cultural tourism?
Cultural travel is as broad and multifaceted as culture itself – it’s difficult to pin down, and highly subjective. For me, cultural tourism is a kind of travel that prioritises activities and experiences designed to immerse you in a way of life that differs from your own.
It might involve consuming tangible cultural products (museums, archaeological sites, food , tea ) or encountering intangible cultural elements (rituals, performances, processes). As well as art, literature, religious monuments and the like, it also encompasses ways of living, values and beliefs – both historical and contemporary.
It’s almost impossible to avoid local culture when you travel. No matter your motivation, it’s inevitable that you’ll end up experiencing some aspect of local culture, even if it’s something as simple as eating local cuisine or learning a few words of the language.
Apart from these incidental encounters, cultural tourism represents a more concerted effort to engage with local culture through specialised activities. In the same way an adventure traveller might seek out a particular hiking route, for example, a cultural traveller might plan their trip around a festival.
Cultural vacations might involve:
- Learning a new skill, for example through a cooking class or craft workshop
- Attending a local festival or event
- Participating in a ritual or ceremony
- Eating local food
- Staying with a family at a homestay
- Immersing yourself in the local community by teaching English as a foreign language
- Visiting a community-based tourism project
- Visiting World Heritage Sites and immersive museums
- Taking a locally guided tour
There’s lots more to cultural trips (as you’ll soon see), but these are some of the common elements we tend to associate with this genre of travel.
Pros and cons of cultural travel
Cultural travel is almost a guaranteed way to enrich your experience as a tourist. But it’s worth noting that this type of travel has both benefits and downsides for host communities.
Cultural tourism helps to encourage the preservation of culture and heritage by keeping endangered traditions alive. There might be little demand for heritage handicraft skills, for example, but outside interest (and an opportunity to earn an income) could be enough to safeguard a tradition that might otherwise have been lost.
By the same token, cultural tourism can incentivise better protections for physical heritage sites, ensuring that monuments and the like remain accessible for future generations. Cultural tourism can have far-reaching social impacts and environmental benefits when it gives rise to new social enterprises, local businesses and women-led ventures geared towards giving tourists an immersive experience.
On the other hand, there’s always a question mark around authenticity when it comes to cultural travel. If a ritual is performed for the benefit of outsiders, does it lose its meaning? Commodification of culture for tourism is a serious issue that impacts many communities and can be damaging to social and economic development more broadly.
Cultural tourism often involves travelling to more remote areas, which introduces a whole host of other pros and cons. A road constructed for the benefit of tourists is also new infrastructure for the community – but it might speed up globalisation and cultural erosion, while the very presence of tourists can worsen environmental pollution or cause rifts between different social groups.
These are complicated issues. Personally, I think cultural exchange is one of the most important aspects of travel and when managed properly and in a way that actively involves communities, the benefits can outweigh the drawbacks.
Top 30 countries & regions for cultural trips
There’s not a town, city, county or region in the world that doesn’t have something amazing to offer in terms of local culture. This makes it very hard to pick the ‘best’ places for cultural tourism.
However, each of these 30 hand-picked destinations stands out for its extravagant festivals and celebrations, rich cuisine and heritage handicrafts that give travellers a window on culture, heritage and the local way of life.
At the end of the list, you’ll find my top tips for having a more culturally immersive travel experience no matter where in the world you go.
Cultural destinations in the Americas
Antioquia Department, Colombia • Cuba • Ecuador • Big Island of Hawaii, USA • Orleans Parish, USA • Oaxaca, Mexico
Colombia’s Antioquia Department – for pueblos, bandeja paisa & Botero
A melange of Indigenous traditions and colonial influences, there are few destinations in the world more culturally vibrant or intriguing than Colombia.
Antioquia Department in the north-west – with the city of Medellin as its capital – has become one of the most popular destinations in the country for tourists, beloved for its exquisite landscapes, colourful small towns and coffee farming heritage.
Along with several other departments, this part of Colombia is home to the Paisas , a self-defined cultural group whose name is derived from a Spanish word meaning ‘countryman’. They speak their own dialect, eat their own cuisine, and pass down their culture through a rich tradition of music and folklore.
Modern-day Antioquian culture is defined by the region’s artists, writers and poets. And then there’s the city of Medellin itself, which has undergone a huge transformation in recent years and is now considered one of the country’s main cultural hubs.
Top cultural experiences in Antioquia
Eat Paisa cuisine: One of the biggest joys of visiting Antioquia is experiencing the food scene. Paisa cuisine is heavily influenced by the topography and way of life in the Colombian Andes – carb-heavy dishes that feature beans, rice and maize are designed to fuel bodies for back-breaking work on the land. Bandeja Paisa is by far the most popular traditional dish and a must-eat in Medellin. The Antioquian version of a ploughman’s lunch, it consists of carne asada (grilled steak), chicharrón (crispy pork rind), rice and red beans served with a slice of avocado, fried plantains, a fried egg and a corn arepa on the side. It’s not for the faint hearted!
Visit a pueblo : Colombia is renowned for its small towns with colourful painted facades and pretty flower boxes. Antioquia is home to some of the loveliest pueblos in the country, including Jardin , Jericó and Santa fe de Antioquia, to name but a few. Developed during Spanish times, most follow the same basic town plan: A public square, a market, a church, and rows and rows of houses built in the region’s vernacular style. If you’re short on time, Pueblo Paisa in Medellin is a model village in the heart of the capital.
Shop at the San Alejo Handicraft Market: If you happen to be visiting Medellin on the first Saturday of the month, don’t miss this unique opportunity to see Colombia’s handicraft traditions on display. Vendors from across the region descend on the city to sell traditional products, including woven Wayuu bags, and artisanal foods. You can chat to the vendors and watch live demonstrations to see how these Indigenous handicrafts are produced.
Visit Comuna 13: A locally guided tour of Medellin’s Comuna 13 will allow you to delve into the city’s tumultuous recent past in a respectful and mindful way. This collection of once-notorious city neighbourhoods has become a symbol for the nation’s transformation and cultural revitalisation. Street art, music and other expressions of local creativity are all on display for visitors to enjoy.
Cuba – for Mambo, classic cars & casas particulares
The native Taino Indians called their beautiful island Cubanacán. When the Spaniards arrived in 1511, they shortened it to ‘Cuba’ and claimed it for Spain, labelling it “the most beautiful land human eyes have ever beheld.”
Ethnically, the country is a vibrant mix of Europeans, Africans brought over as enslaved workers throughout the 1700s, and a large group of Chinese imported as indentured servants. Sadly, the original inhabitants have largely disappeared.
On December 31, 1959 the Cuban Revolution succeeded in converting the country into a communist nation. Since then – and due to the mutually adversarial relationship with the United States – the island nation has existed in semi-isolation, frozen in time.
The cars that roam the streets are the same classic American models from the 1950s, and the frequently crumbling buildings have enjoyed little renovation.
Despite Cuba’s trying history, the spirit of the people lives on and in its rich and celebrated culture. Before you go, learn the dos and don’t of visiting Cuba .
Top cultural experiences in Cuba
Dance the night away at a musical venue: Cuba is the birthplace of dozens of musical genres including Mambo, Cha-Cha-Cha and Afro-Cuban Jazz. These Afro-European genres have contributed and enriched music categories around the world. Be sure to experience one of Cuba’s world-famous carnivals and Jazz Festivals.
Overdose on art and architecture: With nine UNESCO World Heritage sites and an amazing collection of museums, Cuba is a culture vulture’s paradise. Most are found in the capital city of Havana, but you also find little gems in the second city, Santiago de Cuba, and the perfectly preserved colonial city of Trinidad. Cuba’s architecture ranges from Spanish colonial and French Baroque to 1920s Art Deco. Visit the Museum of Fine Arts in Havana and the Bacardi Museum in Santiago to start; but don’t miss the quirky Rum Museum or the delectable Museum of Chocolate either.
Stay at a Cuban homestay: These Airbnb-type experiences are called ‘ casas particulares ‘. This is your opportunity to live with a Cuban family and delve into the culture.
Go hiking: Cuba’s national parks, biosphere reserves and 1,500 miles (2,400km) of coastline provide an opportunity to experience the outdoor culture.
By Talek from Travels With Talek
Ecuador – for jungle homestays, festivals & colada morada
A country with just over 17 million people, Ecuador is an extremely culturally diverse nation and a cultural tourism destination that should not to be overlooked.
Retaining a strong influence from Spanish colonisation, with widely-celebrated Catholic festivals and traditions, there is also a diverse mix of Andean Indigenous groups and traditions that dominate the mountainous centre of the country. In the east, the influence of various Amazonian Indigenous groups and their traditions is strong.
The coast of Ecuador, meanwhile, is marked by African influence from the cultures of enslaved peoples brought during colonisation.
With such a diversity of cultures – each with their own festivals, traditional foods and more – there are plenty of immersive experiences to partake in across the country that make a trip to Ecuador a must for any cultural traveller.
Top cultural experiences in Ecuador
Visit a remote community in the Amazon rainforest: One of the most popular and fascinating cultural experiences for travellers to Ecuador is to visit an Indigenous community to learn about and experience the rich traditions. Even a jungle tour of the Amazon on a budget can be tailored to include a visit to an Indigenous community, where you’ll learn to make traditional dishes and beverages such as chicha . Tribes deeper in the Amazon that welcome visitors often offer more in-depth cultural experiences including homestays, ritual cleansings, or even ayahuasa retreats.
Celebrate Easter in Ecuador: In addition to the Indigenous traditions in Ecuador, there are many popular celebrations from the Catholic tradition that travellers can partake in. Easter celebrations during Holy Week include Quito’s parade, known as the Procesión Jesús del Gran Poder, which features thousands of purple-hooded devotes carrying crosses and statues. Make sure you enjoy a bowl of traditional Fanesca , a rich and creamy soup made with 12 grains representing the 12 Disciples.
Dress up for Día de los Difuntos : Another cultural celebration with Indigenous roots is the Día de los Difuntos or ‘Day of the Deceased’, marked on November 2nd. Ecuador celebrates by honouring the dead and visiting cemeteries. Celebrations also include preparing and eating guaguas de pan , bread in the shape of a baby filled with fruit jam, and drinking colada morada , a thick, sweet drink made with berries and fruit and thickened with blue corn flour before being served warm. These delicious treats are sold in bakeries across the country for at least a month prior to the festivities. The largest celebrations are held in Indigenous communities such as Otavalo in Northern Ecuador.
By Carley from Home to Havana
The Big Island of Hawaii – for palm weaving, stargazing & petroglyphs
The natural abundance of the Big Island of Hawaii, the largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago, is nothing short of spectacular. With eight different climate zones, three active volcanoes, and the most mesmerising waterfalls and beaches in different shades, there’s a wealth of diversity to explore on the Big Island .
This unique natural setting is also home to several important cultural sites. After all, this is the Hawaiian island where the first Polynesian settlers arrived, where the first ruler of the Kingdom of Hawaii, King Kamehameha the Great, was born, and where the European explorers first arrived.
With such a rich heritage, it comes as no surprise that Hawaiian culture is still very much alive on the Big Island. Here are some experiences that allow you to explore the island’s heritage.
Top cultural experiences on the Big Island of Hawaii
Take a self-guided tour of the Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park: Just south of Kailua-Kona, there’s a site where the royal family and their warriors once lived. It’s very well preserved and you can still see the thatched huts, an ancient temple, wooden carvings and fishponds. But this site was more than just a royal retreat: When Hawaiians broke the law or kapu , they were condemned to death. The only option to escape their fate was reaching this sanctuary, known as the Place of Refuge. You can visit this intriguing site on a self-guided tour.
Learn the traditional Hawaiian art of weaving palm fronds: In the Hawaiian craft known as lau niu , the leaves of the coconut palm were used to thatch roofs, create baskets and even hats. There’s a handful of workshops where you can learn this traditional craft from a professional weaver. Not only does it make for a unique experience, it also allows you to craft your own handmade Hawaiian souvenir.
Go stargazing at Maunakea: In Hawaiian culture, the dormant Maunakea volcano, with its unique alpine Lake Waiau, is considered sacred. They believed the summit to be the realm of the gods and the meeting place of earth and sky. To this day, cultural rituals are performed on the slopes of Maunakea. This intriguing volcano is home to the world’s largest astronomical observatory, the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy, which hosts a regular stargazing program.
Check out the Hawaiian petroglyphs: Hawaiian petroglyphs tell the stories of ancient times and give a unique inside into the different cultural beliefs on the islands. You can find carvings of canoes, turtles, babies and more at one of the petroglyph sites that dot the Big Island, such as the Puuloa Petroglyph site in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park or the Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve near the Mauna Lani Resort.
Conquer the ocean in an outrigger canoe: Step aboard a double-hull outrigger canoe and explore the shore in the same way the Polynesian settlers did centuries ago. This type of canoe features lateral support floats or outriggers fastened to one or to both sides of the hull. Learn how to paddle and work as a team as you glide along the Kona reefs teeming with fish. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a pod of dolphins.
By Sarah from CosmopoliClan
Orleans Parish – for jazz, Madi Gras & creole cooking
When it comes to cultural destinations, few cities have as much to offer as New Orleans and the surrounding parishes. Located in Southeastern USA, New Orleans is all about tradition and culture. The city’s unique heritage comes from a blend of French, Spanish, Cajun, and Creole cultures.
Combined, these groups have given birth to something truly iconic. The beautiful Mardi Gras celebrations are a remnant of the French colonial era, while the beautiful Spanish colonial architecture in Jackson Square is worthy of a walking tour .
You will also find unique Cajun cuisine served in the city’s most popular restaurants. Add in the many historical museums, southern plantation homes, and distinct architectural styles and Orleans Parish makes for the ultimate cultural destination in the US.
Top cultural experiences in New Orleans
Join a Mardi Gras parade: New Orleans is well-known for its lavish and grand Mardi Gras parades and balls. Visitors can enjoy the festivities for an entire month in the lead up to the big day. Outside of Mardi Gras, there are plenty of other festivals in New Orleans to check out as well.
Listen to jazz: New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz. The city’s Creole population gathered and celebrated in the city’s Congo Square on Sundays and thus jazz was born!
Tour a plantation home: Many southern plantation homes are located along the banks of the Mississippi. These can be seen on a road trip along the Great River Road. On a tour, you will learn about pre-Civil war life in the South and the history of slavery. Learn more about the ethics of visiting plantation homes here .
By Ketki from Dotted Globe
Oaxaca – for Indigenous cuisine, Zapotec rugs & mezcal
The state of Oaxaca is a cultural hub in Mexico. Void of resorts or even big-name hotel chains, Oaxaca is rich in flavourful cuisine, celebrations, and Indigenous revitalisation.
Located in southern Mexico, Oaxaca features a variety of different landscapes, from lush hills and forests, to dry arid deserts and blissful beaches. However, the community atmosphere of Oaxaca is what keeps people coming back, both international visitors and Mexican residents alike.
Oaxaca is known as the food capital of Mexico, with dozens of celebrity chefs. Notably, Indigenous culture is very visible in Oaxaca, with 16 recognised Indigenous groups in the state. Zapotec weaving is one of the most sought-after souvenirs in the area – and Mexico in general – and it comes from Oaxaca.
Top cultural experiences in Oaxaca
Celebrate Dia de los Muertos : Oaxaca City is a top destination for Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), with its dazzling parades, intricate family altars and abundant festivities. Dia de los Muertos is a pre-Columbian tradition that honours deceased loved ones with food, drink, and merriment. So, if you happen to visit Oaxaca during a festival like Dia de los Muertos, bring comfortable shoes for fun activities throughout the day. Oaxaca City is an extremely walkable city, and you will want to explore every inch of its mural lined walls.
Eat Oaxacan cuisine: Since Oaxacan cuisine is also central to the region’s identity, sign up for a food tour with a local to learn the origins of some of the most popular dishes and what makes Oaxacan food and flavour so unique and different from other states in Mexico. Or, if you want to take a more hands-on approach, take a cooking class with a world-class chef at Casa de los Sabores and learn how to make mole and other Oaxacan staples.
Visit a Zapotec village: If you’d prefer to focus on Indigenous cuisine, take a day trip out to the Zapotec village of Teotitlán del Valle for a cooking class at El Sabor Zapoteco . After you finish, there are many things to do in Teotitlán del Valle , but you will probably want to get your fill of shopping at the many boutique shops for best quality Zapotec rugs.
Drink mezcal: If you’re a fan of hard drinks, Oaxaca is a great destination for mezcal tasting! Hop on any tour and view the vast agave fields as you taste mezcal throughout the day. Depending on the season, you may even get to try your hand at using the harvesting machete!
By Kay from The Awkward Traveller
Learn more: A local’s guide to the best of Mexican culture and an in-depth guide to Mayan culture in the Yucatan .
Cultural travel destinations in Europe
French Basque Country • Armenia • Sicily • Greece • Bosnia & Herzegovina • Russia • Northern Europe’s Arctic Regions • The Greater Caucasus • Andalusia, Spain
French Basque Country – for frontons , fêtes & espadrilles
The Basque country at the southwestern-most tip of France is one of those regions you might not guess is French – at least not at first.
The half-timbered houses are painted oxblood or green, and the Euskara (Basque) language, Europe’s oldest, is related to no other tongue. The Basques are also among the oldest ethnic groups of Europe.
Basque culture is unique and is spread among seven provinces, of which three are in France (the other four are in Spain). The Basques have their own festivals, music and dances, their own foods, games and folklore, as well as an acute sense of history and heritage.
Top cultural experiences in French Basque Country
Here are just a few cultural experiences to whet your appetite for all things Basque!
Gastronomy: The food is different from your regular French fare. For example, the Espelette pimento is spicier than seasonings you’ll find elsewhere in France, and food itself is taken to new heights here – the region has the highest number of Michelin stars per capita in the world. And let’s not forget the pintxo , the Basque equivalent of the Spanish tapas.
Fronton s: You’ll find one of these walls in every Basque village – it’s what Basques use to play their national sport, Basque pelota (known in some countries as jai alai). It’s played with a racquet-like bat which scoops up the ball. Then, a bit like squash, the players fling it back and forth against the wall, or fronton.
Family-owned businesses: Basque artisanal traditions run deep, whether it’s leatherwork, espadrilles, Basque linen or beret making. This is a region in which hand-made goods thrive and where mass-production takes a back seat. The local government makes sure family businesses are promoted and Basque know-how exported, however stiff the competition – there are special labels for family businesses, and even labels for those businesses that have been around for more than a century (and there are plenty). As a result, hand-made goods from this small region find their way around the world, symbolising not only Basque savvy but Basque determination to hang on to its heritage.
Bayonne Festival: With its one million annual participants, the Fêtes de Bayonne is France’s largest festival. It was ‘borrowed’ in 1932 from not-too-distant Pamplona in Spain, but has grown immeasurably since. Each July, visitors dress up in white clothes and red scarves (and a red beret, of course) and spend five days eating, drinking, singing Basque songs and watching Basque sports. The Festival includes bullfighting, which has a long tradition in the region, although this particular sport might be short-lived given the growing opposition to it.
By Leyla from Offbeat France
Bosnia & Herzegovina – for old bazaars, woodcarving & kahva
Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse countries in the Balkans . If you have your sights set on this lesser-visited part of Europe for your next cultural trip, it’s the perfect setting to learn about the region’s different – often competing – influences and how they’ve shaped modern life.
Bosnia is the original cultural melting pot, and Sarajevo is where it all comes to a head. The city is divided into two parts – Ottoman and European – with the sprawling Old Bazaar on one side, and the Austro-Hungarian planned portion of the capital on the other. A plaque on the pavement marks the spot where East Meets West.
But the boundaries aren’t always that clear. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s character is a combination of Bosnian, Serb and Croat, layered with Jewish, Romanian, Albanian and Turkish traditions. The vignette of a mosque’s minaret and a church bell tower rising up side by side is a perfect motif for the country’s diversity.
Top cultural experiences in Bosnia & Herzegovina
Explore Sarajevo’s Old Bazaar: One of the most beautiful Ottoman bazaars in the region (and there are a lot), just wandering the rows of picturesque wooden shops connected by cobbled streets – the sound of coppersmiths beating intricate designs onto plates ringing in your ears – is a completely immersive experience. At the kafane coffeehouses, where kahva and rakia are served with much pageantry, you get a feel for famous Bosnian hospitality.
Take a food tour of Sarajevo: Bosnians are fiercely proud of their national cuisine. Dishes such as burek (filled savoury pastry) and cevapi are a common ground and bring the country together. A food tour of Sarajevo takes you behind the scenes on some of the city’s liveliest markets and busiest restaurants while giving you an insight into the history behind some of the country’s most iconic dishes.
Visit a woodcarving master in Konjic: Sarajevo in particular has an incredibly rich art and literature scene, as evidenced in the many festivals that take place in the city throughout the year. Bosnia’s heritage handicrafts shine a light on the culture of craftsmanship that has bestowed the country with so many beautiful landmarks over the years. Woodcarving has been practiced for generations in the city of Konjic and today, visitors can tour the masters’ workshops for an up-close encounter.
See the Stećci Medieval Tombstone Graveyards: Stećci medieval tombstones were laid during the time of the Bosnian Kingdom. Recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, they’re found throughout the territory including in forests close to the border with Serbia . Carved from limestone, the Stećci contain motifs and inscriptions and provide a rare window onto this epoch of the country’s history that’s still shrouded in much mystery.
Greece – for markets, mythology & Orthodox Easter
Greece is a country rich in culture, from the legacy of ancient history and mythology to traditional cuisine and celebratory festivals that still bring people together to this day. Greek nationals tend to be very proud of their history and culture , which can be seen in the well-executed museums, galleries and archaeological sites throughout the country.
Believed to be the ‘birthplace of Western civilisation’, Greece is known for its scholars, medics, architects, philosophers and politicians that shaped the way the world works today. This makes the country an excellent choice for cultural tourism as there are simply so many things to see and do that will both satiate your wanderlust while also teaching you new things.
Whether you’re interested in archaeological excavations, gastronomic tours, local festivals or ancient architecture, Greece certainly has you covered.
Top cultural experiences in Greece
Take a Mythology Tour of Ancient Athens: Athens has a whole host of archaeological sites to explore , from the Ancient Agora and Hadrian’s Library to the world-famous Acropolis and Parthenon perched on a hillside overlooking the city. One of the best ways to discover these sites is via a Mythology Tour that takes you around the best historic monuments and ruins while also giving you interesting information about the city and country’s history and mythology. This tour , suitable for all ages, gives you skip-the-line access to some of Athens’ most important landmarks along with an experienced guide to give you detailed history about how Greece became the centre of the world.
Visit the Athens Central Market: If your idea of cultural tourism involves food, you might be interested in a trip to the Athens Central Market and a local cookery class. A gastronomic experience allows you to soak up the sights and smells of the city’s biggest market, picking up local produce and souvenirs while also trying some tasty titbits along the way . You’ll then take your purchases back to the kitchen where you’ll cook up a storm using local recipes and techniques. Try classics like Dolmades (stuffed vine leaves), Tzatziki and Spanakopita (spinach and feta pies) to give you a real taste of traditional Greek cuisine.
Attend the Epidaurus Festival: The Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus, a grand amphitheatre located on the bank of the Acropolis Complex, runs an annual summer festival of art. The festival combines modern and traditional music, theatre and dance with the picturesque Ancient Greek setting, making it a real highlight for any traveller. Over the years, the Epidaurus festival has played host to names like Frank Sinatra, Maria Callas and Luciano Pavarotti.
Celebrate Orthodox Easter in Greece: Easter is one of the biggest traditional festivals on the Orthodox calendar, so no matter where you are in Greece during this time, you’re sure to come across some pretty exciting celebrations! One destination that always enjoys epic Easter festivities is the island of Corfu. Local Easter traditions begin on Palm Sunday (a week before Easter) and there are different festivities each day leading up to the main event.
Palm Sunday sees a large procession of the Holy Shrine; Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday see locals preparing their Easter meals and sweet specialities, going to evening ceremonies and lighting up the town with lanterns; Maundy Thursday is egg-painting day; Good Friday features the mournful marches of the philharmonic orchestra and the procession of epitaphs; Good Saturday features an artificial earthquake(!), bell ringing, the throwing of clay pots and tossing coins into a barrel; and the whole week culminates on Easter Sunday with a celebration of the Resurrection of Christ – fireworks, marches, music and traditional family meals galore!
By Chrysoula from Athens and Beyond
Learn more: 7 awesome cultural activities in Athens .
Russia – for ballet, banyas & borscht
While many may think of Russia as cold and grey, this could not be further from the truth. From the famous colourful onion domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral to the gilded fountains of the Peterhof Palace, Russia’s beauty is undeniable.
Russia is also a country rich in culture and filled with literature, ballet, painting and classical music.
Top cultural experiences in Russia
To really delve into Russian culture, there are a few experiences you should have whilst here.
Experience a Russian banya : One of the best cultural experiences you can have in Russia is to visit a banya . A banya is similar to a sauna. The biggest difference, though, is that a banya has high levels of humidity, while a sauna usually has dry air. They’ve been a part of Russian life for over a thousand years! You wear funny felt hats to protect your hair and ears from the heat. This also helps to regulate your body temperature, so you are able to sit in the banya for a longer period of time.
Another interesting aspect of the Russian banya is ‘flogging’ using birch twigs ( venik ). This is supposed to benefit your health and improve your immune system, and honestly, if you have someone who knows what they are doing, it does feel really good!
After you’ve gone in and out of the banya a couple times, you then cool yourself off by taking a quick, cold shower, jumping into a cold pool or tub (banyas do have these), jumping into a snowbank (seriously). Or… You can just jump in a frozen lake!
See a ballet at the Bolshoi: Seeing a ballet at the Bolshoi Theatre is one of the best things to do in Moscow and all of Russia in general. Even though ballet did not originate in Russia, Russian ballet is world-renowned, and the locals are incredibly proud of the tradition. If you can, try to see a performance of The Nutcracker or Swan Lake on the historic stage. Tickets sell out very quickly, so don’t delay in purchasing them once they go on sale!
Experience NYE: New Year’s Eve is the biggest holiday in Russia. This is because Christmas was forbidden during the Soviet years. Many traditions were moved from Christmas to the New Year, including keeping presents under the Christmas tree and visits from the Russian equivalent of Santa. Celebrations and fireworks take place across the country on December 31 – the biggest and most famous displays are in Moscow’s Red Square and Gorky Park.
Sample Russian cuisine: No trip to Russia would be complete without experiencing the local cuisine. The best Russian food and drinks to sample on your visit are: Pelmeni (a Russian dumpling filled with meat and usually topped with sour cream); borscht (a traditional Russian soup whose main ingredient is beetroot); beef stroganoff (a Russian dish made with sautéed beef in a sauce with smetana ); syrniki (essentially a cottage cheese pancake topped with jam or sour cream – SO good!); kvass (a fermented beverage made from rye bread); and caviar and vodka (alas, you can’t come to Russia and not try caviar and vodka!)
By Lindsey from Have Clothes, Will Travel
Northern Europe’s Arctic Regions – for reindeer & Sami traditions
In Europe’s high northern reaches, you will find one of the continent’s oldest and most distinct cultures, the Sami. Spread across the Arctic regions of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia, the Sami are Indigenous people who have traditionally led a nomadic lifestyle, known for herding their reindeer between their summer and winter feeding grounds.
The origins of the Sami are largely unknown, and it is believed that they once inhabited grounds much further south. But years of persecution drove them north and forced them to decrease livestock numbers in order to maintain their way of life.
Against all odds, they have managed to hold onto large parts of their culture, including languages, traditions and ceremonies. As the modern world has encroached further north, there have been clashes over natural resources and land, which has put the plight of the Sami at the forefront of people’s minds in recent years and led to movements to protect the people and the culture.
Top cultural experiences in the Arctic regions
Head to Tromso for an immersive Sami experience: Today, there are plenty of ways you can learn about and experience Sami culture. During the winter months, there are many Sami experiences in Tromsø, Norway and beyond where you can educate yourself about the Sami way of life, hear stories that have been passed down through the generations, and eat traditional foods.
Shop at a Sami market: Keep an eye out for Sami markets where you can purchase handmade traditional items.
Participate in a Sami festival: Norway is known to have the largest festivals and in various Arctic cities, you will find Sami festivals on National Sami Day (February 6th). In the summer, there are also Sami music festivals, such as the one found near Murmansk in Russia.
A visit to Northern Europe’s Arctic region is one of the most meaningful cultural trips in Europe as it helps bring attention to a group of people who have spent many years marginalised in their respective modern-day societies.
By Megan from Megan Starr
Andalusia – for Moorish architecture, tapas & Flamenco
Andalusia is an autonomous region in Southern Spain, geographically bounded by Spain’s southern coast. It’s culturally vibrant and very distinctive when compared to other parts of Spain such as Catalunya.
This part of the country was ruled by the Moors for centuries, and Moorish influence is evident in the cuisine, architecture and culture. Seville, Cordoba and Granada are all among the best Spain city breaks and each serve as a good base for exploring more of the region.
Top cultural experiences in Andalusia
Marvel at the Moorish architecture: The Andalusian architecture will capture your attention as soon as you land there, and this is probably the easiest way to start digging into the region’s past and cultural evolution. Cities like Seville and Granada have major UNESCO sites that will blow your mind – the style is in no way similar to buildings in France or even northern Spain for that matter. Islamic calligraphy and intricate details are most evident at the Real Alcazar Palace in Seville, the Alhambra in Granada , and the Mezquita in Cordoba.
Go tapas hopping: People in Andalusia are known for being a more little laid back, and generally enjoy food, family and companionship. Popular ‘tapas hopping’ is best experienced in Andalusia. Tapas bars in the south cultivate a cosy atmosphere with rounds of $1 dollar beers, spinach and chickpeas, cheese, and churros. Moorish/Muslim influence can be seen in the preparation of some foods, especially marzipan, and in the use of herbs and spices such as cumin and cilantro.
Watch a Flamenco performance: After food, flamenco is what defines Andalusia. Flamenco is a dance that is synonymous with Southern Spain and is one of the most energetic and passionate forms of dance/storytelling. Flamenco shows in Seville and other cities in Andalusia are a great way to understand and enjoy this side of Southern Spanish culture.
By Mayuri from To Some Place New
Cultural tourism destinations in the Asia Pacific
Central Australia • Timor-Leste • Sarawak, Malaysia • Cambodia • Japan • Bhutan • Kerala, India • Rajasthan, India • Uzbekistan • The Tibetan Plateau • Taiwan
Central Australia – for ancient landscapes, ochre & bush tucker
The Arrernte and Anangu people have lived in Central Australia for over 20,000 years. From Uluru and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) to the MacDonnell Ranges and Alice Springs, they have made their home in one of Australia’s driest and hottest regions.
The landscape, its plants and animals permeate every aspect of their culture. The natural environment is the basis for the Creation (or Dreamtime) stories at the core of their beliefs, ceremonies and traditions.
Their relationship with the land also has a practical aspect as a source of food, shelter and medicine. The Arrernte and Anangu’s land management techniques, native foods and art have all found their ways into broader Australian life.
Today, members of the communities have roles as guides, ranges and managers of major tourism businesses. For travellers, there are many opportunities to appreciate the on-going connection the Arrernte and Anangu people have with the Central Australian landscape.
Top cultural experiences in Central Australia
Visit Uluru (Ayres Rock): You can’t go to Central Australia and not visit Uluru. It is an iconic Australian landmark and when you visit this enormous rock, you’ll find many ways to immerse yourself in Indigenous culture. At Yulara Resort you can join a free session to learn about Indigenous food, crafts and didgeridoo playing.
On your way to Uluru, stop at the Cultural Centre. There are ranger talks about the area’s wildlife, how the Anagu have lived in the area for thousands of years, and how that knowledge is used to manage the park today. There are also galleries featuring local art and craft. For something a bit different, try a Segway tour of the rock . As you cruise around the 10 km base, you get a wonderful explanation of the Creation Stories tied to many of the rock’s features, caves and waterholes.
Ochre Pits: Ochre is a natural clay that comes in a range of colours and has been used for ceremonial and medicinal purposes for thousands of years. The Ochre Pits are at a site in the West MacDonnell Ranges where ochre has been collected by Arrernte men for generations. The Ochre Pits are an easy and accessible stop as you tour the gorges of the West MacDonnell Ranges. The colourful ochre cliff face is spectacular and it is quite an experience to be in the presence of a site that has been used for so long and continues to play a role in Arrernte life.
Alice Springs Desert Park: With the lives and lore of the Arrernte tied so closely to the environment, this combination of a wildlife park and botanic garden gives you a great insight into their relationship with the land. Besides the fantastic desert animal exhibits, there is a full program of keeper and cultural talks over the day. Learn about surviving in the desert, bush food and the meaning many of the animals have in the daily life of the Arrernte. The park is in Alice Springs with the West MacDonnell Ranges providing a spectacular backdrop.
By Natalie & Steve from Curious Campers
Timor-Leste – for sacred houses, tais weaving & Cristo Rei
Asia’s youngest nation, tiny Timor-Leste fought hard for its independence, first from Portugal and later from Indonesia. Holding strong to customs and beliefs is part of the resistance and against all odds, the Timorese have managed to pass down many traditions through music, dance and storytelling.
Fiestas held year-round throughout the country showcases these oral traditions, while in recent years, contemporary collectives have began building on the nation’s heritage of performance arts to process the events of the past and express their visions for the future.
There aren’t many physical reminders of Timor’s time as a Portuguese colony left – most architecture was subsequently destroyed – but the invisible influence is still there, along with the influence of the Catholic Church.
In the more remote regions, ethnic groups such as the Fataluku speak their own language and observe a fascinating array of cultural practices you won’t find anywhere else on Earth.
Top cultural experiences in Timor-Leste
Tais weaving: Timor’s ornate national textiles are storytelling objects, filled with symbols inspired by folktales and animist traditions. At the Tais market in Dili you can shop for handwoven tais scarves and tablecloths, while visiting a weaving centre such as Koperativa Lo’ud gives you a chance to see the natural dyeing and weaving process in person.
See the uma lulik in Lospalos: Part of the Fataluku tradition, these sacred houses perched high on stilts symbolise the link between the dead and the living. They are sacred objects that cut an impressive profile as you pass them on the coast around far-eastern Timor.
Make the pilgrimage to Cristo Rei: Standing 27 metres tall on a hill overlooking the capital, Dili, Cristo Rei is the ultimate symbol of Timor-Leste’s piety. More than 99% of Timorese are Christian, and the church has played a huge role in shaping the island’s character post-independence. Walking the 590-step path lined with Stations of the Cross is a right of passage. At the top, views of Dili, Atauro Island and the sparkling coastline.
Sarawak, Malaysia – for ikat textiles, longhouses & forest trekking
The largest of Malaysia’s 13 states , Sarawak envelops much of Borneo. Local culture and way of life is intimately intertwined with the island’s flora and fauna and offers visitors experiences quite distinct from anything you find in Peninsular Malaysia.
Life, history, culture and spirituality is all heavily influenced by the area’s Indigenous peoples, most notably the Iban. Malaysia’s mix of Malay, Indian, Muslim, Chinese and British culture can also be felt in Kuching , the autonomous state’s biggest city and a hub for culture and the arts.
Top cultural experiences in Sarawak
Visit a museum in Kuching: The Tun Jugah Textile Museum, the Sarawak Cultural Village and the Sarawak State Museum – all in or near Kuching – offer immersive exhibits that explore Iban culture. The former is dedicated almost completely to the art of ikat weaving, a time-honoured craft tradition that’s kept alive by artisans and students who learn to dye and weave at the museum workshop.
Stay in an Iban longhouse: Travelling up river into the forest to spend the night at an Iban longhouse is an unforgettable experience. As well as sleeping in traditional quarters, you’ll get to taste home-cooked food and experience various oral traditions, including Renong singing and Ensera storytelling.
Eat Sarawak cuisine: Malaysia is a foodie’s paradise and Sarawak is no exception. In addition to the usual mix of cuisines served up at hawker markets, the state boasts many regional breakfast specialties including Sarawak laksa, kolo mee (Sarawakian noodles) and ayam pansuh (chicken cooked in bamboo).
Cambodia – for Theravada Buddhism, apsara & golden silk
It’s easy to think of Cambodian culture as a relic of the past – a crumbling stupa or a cobwebbed museum display. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Khmer culture is a living, breathing thing, and it permeates everything – from underrated Cambodian cuisine to the country’s handicraft industry and the young collectives in Battambang and Kampot who are reviving the arts scene.
Many traditions and art forms almost lost during the 1970s have been brought back from the brink by artists and entrepreneurs determined to keep Cambodian culture alive.
Whether you’re interested in the legacy of the most powerful Golden Age state, the Khmer Empire, or discovering reminders of the Kingdom’s time as part of French Indochina in the beautiful colonial architecture and peppercorn plantations, it’s never been easier for visitors to get a feel for Cambodian culture.
Top cultural experiences in Cambodia
Take a Buddhism tour of Siem Reap: Spirituality plays a huge role in contemporary Cambodian life and there’s no better lens for exploring the country through. After you’ve taken in the Temples of Angkor that blend Hinduism and Buddhism, learn the ins and outs of Theravada Buddhism with an immersive Buddhism tour of Siem Reap . It’s a life-changing experience that teaches you how ancient beliefs coexist with modern society.
Watch an Apsara performance: It wasn’t so long ago that Cambodia’s national dance, Apsara, was considered an endangered art form. Artist and genocide surviver Arn Chorn-Pond has almost single-handedly revived Apsara traditions through his organisation Cambodian Living Arts. Nothing captures the Cambodian spirit like the understated but immensely beautiful performance. Nightly shows are held in Phnom Penh along with hands-on Apsara workshops that teach visitors the basic moves.
Go forest trekking in Mondulkiri: Mondulkiri and Ratanakiri in Cambodia’s far north-east are two of the country’s most remote provinces , known for their thick forests and biodiversity, including wild elephants. Ethnic minority groups including the Tampuan and the Bunong have developed sustainable tourism offerings, hosting guests at homestays and organising guided forest treks. During the tours, you get a glimpse of how people have coexisted with the forest for generations, and learn about the struggles they face today.
Seek out Khmer handicrafts: From Siem Reap’s Golden silk to Takeo cotton and clay pottery in Kampong Chhnang, every Cambodian province has its specialty crafts, many of which are still made by hand according to traditional techniques. In addition to making the perfect Cambodia souvenir , many co-ops offer tours and workshops so you can see the processes up close.
Japan – for ryokans , geisha culture & tea ceremonies
For those seeking an immersive cultural travel experience, Japan offers visitors a unique look at some of the oldest and most beautiful traditions in the world.
From the historic temples and shrines found throughout the country to the many spiritual and cultural celebrations, there are plenty of opportunities for visitors to Japan to learn about the various philosophies and spiritual traditions that underpin Japanese culture.
Top cultural experiences in Japan
Observe a temple ritual: Consider participating in some of the various rituals at Japan’s temples and shrines. This is especially beneficial if you’re visiting Japan with kids , as it helps to gain a better understanding and appreciation for Japanese customs. Many people in Japan have deep-seated beliefs in symbolism. At the temples and shrines, you can observe and participate in practices that will bring you good fortune, luck, prosperity or health.
Spend the night in a ryokan : To truly embrace Japanese culture, book a stay at a ryokan rather than a hotel. These traditional Japanese inns typically feature rooms with tatami-matted floors and communal onsens or bathhouses. Guests tend to walk around the ryokan in a yukata or lounging kimono and slippers. It is also common for guests to walk around barefoot, as it is considered unclean to wear shoes inside.
Drink matcha : A tea ceremony is another immersive experience that is unique to Japan. Although popular throughout Japan, tea ceremonies are especially prominent in Kyoto, the home of geisha culture. Geishas are treated somewhat like celebrities in Japan, and booking a geisha performance and tea ceremony can be expensive and fairly difficult to arrange. However, you can book a tea ceremony with a maiko , or geisha apprentice, for a more modest price. This one-of-a-kind ritual ceremony is sure to be one of the most memorable travel experiences you’ll have in Japan!
By Melissa from Parenthood and Passports
Bhutan – for handicrafts, thangka & fertility symbols
Most people think of the Tiger’s Nest when they think of Bhutan. But this small, mountainous nation has a wealth of cultural history to offer in addition to its ornate monasteries.
Bhutan is a nation of crafters. In every town and city you will find streetwise vendors selling all manner of clothing, kitchenware, homeware and decorations that have been made using techniques that have been taught and passed down for hundreds of years.
Likewise, if you turn your attention to the buildings, you’ll see that many of them are adorned with colourful decals and patterns, especially designs that depict the eight auspicious signs which, among other things, represent wealth, good fortune, purity and harmony.
Bhutan is the only country in the world to measure their country’s wellbeing based on Gross National Happiness as opposed to Gross Domestic Production, which makes it (un)officially the happiest country on Earth.
Best cultural experiences in Bhutan
Attend a Tshechu ceremony: The annual Tshechu ceremonies show off Bhutan’s handicraft history perfectly. Throughout the year, locals gather across the country in regional Tshechus to celebrate Bhutan’s culture by singing traditional songs and performing dances in elaborate, brightly coloured costumes. At the Tsechu celebrations, an enormous religious banner or thangka depicting the country’s founder, Guru Rinpoche, is unveiled. The thangka is the size of a three storey building, hundreds of years old, and has not faded through the centuries due to the tradition of making sure that the light of the sun never touches it, so it’s still incredibly colourful and detailed.
Visit the Choki Traditional Art School: In order to see the historical handicrafts of Bhutan in production for yourself, make sure to visit the Choki Traditional Art School. Located just to the north of the capital city of Thimpu, here you can witness the students being taught how to weave, paint and sculpt masks, clothes, models, tapestries and dioramas from Bhutan’s history. Students’ ages range from elementary through to late teens, with all levels of skill on display. The students’ creations can then be bought from the school craft shop, with the proceeds helping fund the continuation of the institute’s classes.
Spot the phallus in Punakham: Punakham is the former capital of Bhutan, and was the seat of government until 1955. Located in the north of the country, the town is notable to western tourists for one particular reason. In the 15th century, a controversial master named Lama Drukpa Kunley (also known as the ‘Divine Madman’) popularised the phallus as a means to ward off slander and provide protection for those who lived in houses that displayed it prominently. Yes, it may be taboo for most of the world, but not here – these graphic symbols of fertility and good luck are artistically painted on walls everywhere!
By Jeremy from Cultura Obscura
Kerala, India – for houseboats, tea estates & contemporary art
Dubbed ‘God’s Own Country’, Kerala is a noodle-shaped state in the Southwest of India on the Malabar Coast. It’s known for its beautiful nature – especially a series of canals known as the backwaters and the hilly terrain of the Western Ghats Mountains.
Kerala people are officially the most literate in India and have the longest life expectancy. It is often said the Keralites have the best quality of life in this part of India, and that things are a lot more advanced. This is conveyed in the increasingly popular field of ecotourism and other initiatives.
The region is a beautiful mix of influences and religions. The spice trade has flourished in the area, which brought about European colonisation. You can feel Portuguese influence to this day, especially in the town of Kochi.
Top cultural experiences in Kerala
Cruise Kerala’s backwaters on a houseboat: With the decline of goods being transported on water, Kerala’s trade boats were repurposed into houseboats, and now provide a unique immersive experience on the famous backwaters. The most popular route is between Alleppey and Kumarakom or Kolam. Spending at least one night on the backwaters is necessary for the ultimate houseboat experience.
Soak up the tea heritage in Munnar: Munnar in the Western Ghats is famous for its tea production. You can visit several tea estates in the area and enjoy a tasting. In the village of Munnar, you can also experience the peaceful coexistence of three religions. There’s a Hindu temple, a Catholic church and a mosque all within a few meters from each other.
Attend the Muziris Biennale in Kochi: A bi-annual international exhibition of contemporary art takes place in Kochi. This is the largest festival of its kind in Asia. When the biennale is on, the whole city lives it. The main space for the festival is a large complex of empty buildings near the port. Here, art installations covering all possible mediums bring the space to life. It’s a wonderful sight and quite a modern undertaking in Kerala.
Watch the artists at work at Kerala Kalamandalam: This is one of India’s most traditional universities of art and culture. Students learn Indian performing arts, especially those typical for Kerala. When visiting, you can observe students practicing unique dances with distinct facial expressions such as the Kathakali or Ottan Thullal, learning martial arts, and playing on unique musical instruments. The school is located in Cheruthuruthy.
By Veronika from Travel Geekery
Learn more: 9 amazing cultural encounters in Kerala .
Rajasthan, India – for folk dance, thaali & camel fairs
Rajasthan, the ‘Land of Kings’, is one of the most historically and culturally significant states of India. Over the centuries, Rajasthan has witnessed many rulers and many epic battles. Each built their own magnanimous fort and helped develop the region’s rich culture of art, dance and literature.
Over the past few decades, the Ghoomar dance from Jodhpur region and Kalbeliya dance of the deserts of Jaisalmer and Bikaner have become famous all over the world. Along with dance, folk music and songs relating the heroic tales of epic battles, these form an essential part of Rajasthan culture.
Against a backdrop of the vast Thar Desert, this has all shaped the culture of Rajasthan as we see it today.
Top cultural experiences in Rajasthan
Rajasthan offers travellers a plethora of unique cultural experiences .
Be a bystander at the Pushkar Camel Fair: The Pushkar Camel Fair, held every year in November, is one of the largest animal trading fairs in the world. This colourful carnival is a great opportunity for travellers to experience the charm-in-chaos of traditional melas (Indian fairs) along with a huge tribal gathering. In 2018, nearly half-a-million people visited this multi-day festival. Pushkar is only 150km from Rajasthan’s capital, Jaipur, and is easily accessible by road.
Visit Choki Dhani: A resort village merely 20km from Jaipur, Choki Dhani is the go-to place to experience a collection of Rajasthan cultural experiences. Spread across 10 acres, this uniquely designed resort-village reflects the grandeur of the Rajasthani tradition. Visitors can experience Rajasthani traditional folk dance, watch a puppet show, see skits and sketches depicting important battles, and relish a traditional Rajasthani thaali (set meal), eaten while seated on the floor.
Watch a Dharohar dance performance: The Dharohar dance show at Bagore Ki Haveli in Udaipur is a mesmerising experience in itself. This hour-long show is a combination of many traditional, tribal and folk dances local to the region along with a puppet show. One of the highlights of the show is when an 80-year-old folk dancer performs with more than 10 earthen pots stacked on her head.
By Mainak from Places in Pixel
Uzbekistan – for ceramics, Silk Road heritage & plov
Uzbekistan is an upcoming cultural destinations in Central Asia. With a new visa policy, it is now easier than ever to visit the country – and there are many good reasons to do so.
Uzbekistan was once an important part of the famous Silk Road and has a rich cultural heritage that is still visible in the beautiful Islamic architecture and historic sites throughout the country.
Uzbekistan’s major cities including Samarkand, Khiva and Bukhara were multicultural melting pots where people from all over the world exchanged goods, ideas and philosophies. The Turks, Greeks, Persians, Russians and Mongols all ruled parts of what is now Uzbekistan. Each of them left behind their own influence.
With so much history around, it’s sometimes easy to forget modern Uzbek culture, but this is just as interesting. The Uzbek people are very friendly and will give you a warm welcome to their world of delicious Uzbek food, traditional dance and music, and beautiful handicrafts.
Top cultural experiences in Uzbekistan
Taste Uzbek cuisine: One of the highlights of Uzbek culture is without doubt its food. The best way to learn more about Uzbek food is by taking an Uzbek cooking class. Tashkent is a great place to do so and also has some great restaurants where you can try the country’s national dishes. The Plov Center serves plates of the national dish to thousands of people every day – the huge steaming pots and pans outside are impressive enough to warrant a visit.
Explore ikat and ceramic traditions: Another great cultural experience in Uzbekistan is to explore the country’s beautiful handicrafts. The Fergana valley is home to several centres of handicraft production where they still use traditional techniques. Margilon is famous for its ikat silk textiles and there are several silk factories that offer free tours to see how it’s done. The Usmanov Ceramic Workshop in Rishton also welcomes visitors for a short visit to see its pottery production and design process.
Watch a dance performance: Traditional dance and music is an important part of Uzbek culture. Uzbek dance is an ancient art that has been perfected over hundreds of years. In Bukhara, there are almost daily performances in the Nadir Divan Begi madrasah showing the traditional dances from the different regions in the country.
By Ellis from Backpack Adventures
Learn more: Things to do in Uzbekistan for cultural travellers .
The Tibetan Plateau – for horse trekking & nomadic culture
Sprawled across the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau, in the remote northern tip of China’s Sichuan province, Ruoergai town and county do not appear on Google maps. To Google, this locality is known by its Tibetan name, Zoige.
After 12 hours of following your car GPS from Chengdu to Zoige, climbing onto the Tibetan Plateau , Chinese road signs welcome you to Ruoergai, 3,500 meters above sea level.
Top cultural experiences on the Tibetan Plateau
Witness nomadic culture: Remote and isolated, Zoige/Ruoergai is the best place in the world to witness the disappearing Tibetan nomadic culture. All you have to do is drive around this vast, open grassland to catch a glimpse. You’ll see white nomads’ tents with smoky chimneys scattered on the sides of the road, surrounded by herds of domestic yak and protected by the menacing Tibetan mastiffs. The nomads are mistrustful of outsiders, which is not surprising given political tensions in the region.
Go horse trekking: Yet there is a way to experience the nomadic culture first-hand here – by taking a horse-trekking adventure with the local Tibetan Horse Trekking Agency in the nearby town of Langmusi. Tours range from a day hike to the hills – the domain of the nomads – to a multi-day horseback adventure with overnight stays in nomad tents. Guides are local Tibetans, so while you may not be having extensive discussions in English, you’ll be welcome in nomadic households.
Visit the monasteries and mosques in Langmusi: Encircled by forest-covered mountains, the small sleepy town of Langmusi is inhabited by three ethnic groups: Amdo Tibetans, Han Chinese and Hui Muslims. So, even just a visit to the town is a unique cultural experience. There are two large Tibetan monasteries on the hills above the town and a Hui mosque at its centre.
The nearest airport to Langmusi is Gannan Xiahe Airport, 130 km away. From Xiahe, you can take a bus to Langmusi, or arrange a car with a driver via Tibetan Horse Trekking.
By Margarita from The Wildlife Diaries
Taiwan – for night markets, Confucianism & forbidden relics
An island nestled off the coast of Mainland China, Taiwan is fast becoming one of the best cultural tourism destinations in Asia.
Its long history and combination of cultural influences – including Indigenous culture, Mainland China, Korea and even Japan – make Taiwan as intriguing as it is complex. Bustling with life, amazing food and beautiful scenery, this island has it all.
Top cultural experiences in Taipei
Eat your way through the Night Markets in Taipei: The capital city of Taiwan, Taipei, offers a world of things for people to see and do . One of the most popular culturally immersive activities for visitors is to head down to the local night market, the biggest one being the Shiling Night Market. Along with delicious local foods, you can also find clothes, accessories, games, cosmetics and more. Night Markets are significant because they play a huge role in Taiwanese culture . Locals and tourists alike flock to these areas each and every day to shop and socialise.
Observe the rituals at a Taiwanese temple: Taiwan is a very religious country with most people following either Buddhism or Confucianism. Many temples are built around these religions in a very extravagant manner. Visitors can take part in the prayer ceremony, burn some incense, or just sit back and observe. If you’re interested in visiting these temples, one of the best places to start is the Songshan Ciyou Temple, which is conveniently located right next to the Raohe Night Market.
Visit the National Palace Museum: This museum houses thousands of cultural relics, art and artefacts, including many items that were carried out of the Forbidden City in China and moved to Taiwan to protect them from destruction during the Chinese Civil War. It’s one of the largest collections of its kind in the world. Here, you can learn how the Chinese language was formed, see what kinds of ancient tools and weapons were used throughout history, and witness what life was like many hundreds of years ago.
By Wayne from Daily Tourist
Learn more: The best cultural experiences in Taiwan .
Cultural trips in Africa & the Middle East
Ethiopia • Oman • Mauritius • Morocco
Ethiopia – for coal-fired coffee, churches & injera
Ethiopia is a country like no other. Here in North East Africa, the steaming tribal lowlands of the Rift Valley collide with the cool thin air of the Northern highlands. The fertile lands towards the West produces some of the world’s best coffee, while the wind from the East carries whispers from Arabia. It’s truly a spectacular place to visit.
Ethiopia is even more unique in terms of its cultural treasures. As the only country in Africa never to be colonised, Ethiopia is a truly African country with African culture. If you want to see lions chase and eat zebras, go somewhere else. If you want to see and experience African culture at its purest, then book your ticket to Ethiopia already!
Top cultural experiences in Ethiopia
Visit the city of Lalibela: Situated in the northern highlands, Lalibela is the most important pilgrimage site in the country for the predominantly Orthodox Christian population of Ethiopia. It is here that you’ll find eleven incredible churches completely hewn from the rock. If you see only one place in Ethiopia, make it Lalibela.
Attend Sunday Mass: The UNESCO recognised Lalibela churches still function as churches, and attending a Sunday morning service before sunrise with hundreds of pilgrims is an experience that you won’t forget. Afterwards you can join the crowds eating injera while basking in the morning sun. Be prepared for the fact that everyone will want to come and talk to you.
Hike to a remote mountain community: Hiking into the mountains surrounding Lalibela will take you to small farming communities where time has seemingly stood still. It’s also possible to visit one of these communities for a day and learn how to cook traditional Ethiopian dishes such as injera , tibs or shiro . You’ll also find a few cave churches and monasteries in these mountains. The priests will be eager to show off their ancient treasures for a small tip.
Participate in a traditional coffee ceremony: Ethiopia is considered the birthplace of coffee, and man are you in for treat! The best way to drink a cup of buna (Ethiopian coffee) is to attend a coffee ceremony. It starts off with the hostess washing green coffee beans and then roasting them in a pan over an open fire. The coals are infused with natural incense made from tree resin. You’ll see bags of these tree resin for sale in markets all over Ethiopia. Finally the coffee beans are ground and brewed in a special coffee pot called a jebena . It’s expected that guests will have at least three cups of buna, but why stop there?
By De Wet & Jin from Museum of Wander
Oman – for dhow boats, frankincense & Bedouin culture
Unlike some of its more glitzy neighbours who’ve traded their souqs for skyscrapers, Oman has approached cultural preservation from a different angle. It’s often called out as the most culturally ‘authentic’ country in the region .
This part of the Middle East has long been a melting pot of Arabian and East African cultures, with a strong South Asian influence. Semi-nomadic Bedouin tribes that paint the desert with their costumes and brightly coloured carpets are less accessible, but a range of tourist-friendly desert experiences allow you to brush with this part of Omani culture.
Contemporary Omani traditions are deeply tied to Ibadism and revolve around an annual calendar of Islamic festivities.
Top cultural experiences in Oman
Get lost in a souq: Perfumed by rose petals and frankincense, Oman’s souqs are a treat for the senses. Roam displays of henna and spices while getting a feel for commerce and culture. Muttrah Souq in the capital, Muscat, and the delightful Nizwa Souq are both must-visits.
Visit a dhow workshop in Sur: Not only are Oman’s wooden boats an impressive feat of engineering, they’re steeped in legend and tradition. In Sur, the home of Sinbad the Sailor, you can watch expert craftsmen fitting the vessels together without glue or nails.
Spend the night at a desert camp. The Sharqiya Sands, Oman’s slice of The Empty Quarter, is the territory of nomads. Bedouin-inspired desert camps recreate the experience of staying with a Bedouin tribe – albeit with a luxury edge! Spending the night in a desert camp involves listening to folk music, eating Omani food, while the very lodgings – the tent lined with carpets you’re sleeping in – is part of the Bedouin tradition.
Mauritius – for street food, Sega & sugarcane
The island nation of Mauritius is normally associated with splendid white-sand beaches and luxury resorts – thus its inclusion on this list of cultural trips might come as a bit of a surprise.
Yes, this is an island paradise incarnate, but it also happens to be one of the most ethnically and religiously diverse countries in the region, with African, Indian, Chinese and South Asian cultures – along with layers of Dutch, French and British influence – all accounted for.
Many elements of Mauritian culture can be traced back to the island’s plantation roots and the legacy of slavery. Mauritians honour this period of history while proudly showing off their culture in everything from the cuisine to the music.
Top cultural experiences in Mauritius
Take a street food tour of Port Louis: Mauritian food, much like Mauritian society itself, combines Chinese, Indian, Creole, East African and European flavours. Must-try dishes include vindaye , an adaptation of West Indian vindaloo, Chatini (chutney) is a popular condiment and traces its roots back to British-Indian origins, briani (biryani) and creations gifted from the island’s Chinese community, such as bol renversé (a layered dish of rice, chicken, shrimp and vegetables). The best way to get a grasp of these edible delights is by joining a guided street food tour of the capital, Port Louis .
Watch a Sega performance: Recognised by UNESCO for its value to Intangible Cultural Heritage, Mauritian Sega is a performance art characterised by music, song, dance and costume. It started out as an expression of pain and loss practiced by slave communities but has morphed over time into a colourful, optimistic expression of local culture. Elaborate Sega costumes moving to the tune of Creole lyrics is a . Many hotels offer Sega performances.
Visit an old sugarcane farm: Mauritius’ history of slavery and plantation farming has left an indelible mark on the island. Visiting preserved plantation homes and crumbling sugar mills is a step back in time to the colonial period, while regenerated cane fields such as those on Frederica Reserve now serve as a sanctuary for the island’s wildlife.
Learn more: 8 ways to experience Mauritian culture .
Morocco – for riads , tajines & mint tea
By all accounts, Morocco is a beguiling destination . The most popular country to visit in North Africa, it stands out for its diversity of landscapes and cultural experiences.
Morocco is an important gateway to the rest of Africa, and has been since Roman times. Its position at the northernmost tip of the continent – with a coast shared between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean – means it’s been at the centre of conquests and various cultural overlap throughout the ages.
Today, Morocco lives with the legacies of various civilisations, including Roman, Phoenician, Jewish, Berber, Arabic, Spanish and French. Morocco has a very hospitable culture, steeped in a refined art of living. When you visit the imperial cities of Marrakech and Fes, or the coastal towns of Essaouira and El Jadida, you will notice a multitude of little details typical of Moroccan life.
This art of living and careful hospitality is very important in Morocco and, as a visitor, you can experience it in many different ways.
Top cultural experiences in Morocco
Try your hand at Moroccan cuisine: Moroccan cuisine is world-famous for its use of spices and mix of sweet and savoury flavours. Every restaurant offers a selection of delicious tajines , a stew of meat and vegetables. Couscous is on the menu every Friday and if you like sweets, you will be in heaven. Sweet biscuits mixing flower, almond and spice flavours make a delicious afternoon treat. If you’re interested in learning new skills, cooking classes are often available in traditional riads in Marrakech. Moroccan cuisine takes time and care, but the results are delicious and quite easy to recreate at home.
Shop for authentic handicrafts at a souq : Another great way to experience the heart of Morocco is to spend time in the souks. Shopping in Morocco is a fun experience and haggling for a good price is the norm. You have to engage with merchants, ask questions, make small talk and, most importantly, have fun with it! Never lose your smile and sense of humour, and it will great fun! The most spectacular shopping experience is in Marrakech due to the volume and intensity of the medina. It’s easy to get lost but that’s part of the experience too!
Sip mint tea, a Moroccan tradition: When you travel throughout Morocco, you will notice that mint tea is served everywhere. This is a pivotal element of Moroccan hospitality. Green tea is mixed with fresh mint leaves and served in little decorated glasses. There is a little bit of theatre in serving mint tea, with the brass or silver teapot held high above the glass… Traditionally, mint tea is served with a lot of sugar, but these days it is common for sugar to be served on the side, so you can dose it yourself. And you can even buy a set of decorated tea glasses in the souk as a souvenir!
By Delphine from Lester Lost
How to have a more culturally immersive travel experience anywhere in the world
It doesn’t matter if it’s a remote community or a popular city – there are things you can do to have a more enriching cultural travel experience no matter where you’re going.
Here are 10 practical tips to help you on your way.
1. Do your research before you go: Familiarise yourself with local customs and learn a bit of the history so you know what types of experiences to look out for. This guide is a great start!
2. Seek out festivals and special events: Many tourism boards feature a calendar on their website, or you can try using Facebook to find local events. Check out my four-part series about the world’s best festivals, starting here .
3. Eat local. Food is one of the easiest routes to culture. Here are my tips for eating local when you travel.
4. Stay at a homestay. Spending time with a local family will give you an invaluable insight into daily life. Here are my tips for using homestays in Vietnam.
5. Participate in a class or workshop . Trying a cooking class, handicraft workshop or any other hands-on experience is one of the easiest ways to immerse yourself in local culture. I recommend using Get Your Guide , Airbnb Experiences, Cookly or Backstreet Academy to find opportunities.
6. Learn a bit of the language. Even knowing a few basic words will show you’re interested and can go a long way to forming relationships.
7. Shop local. Support artisans and heritage skills. Here are my tips for finding authentic and meaningful souvenirs .
8. Slow down. The best cultural experiences are often spare-of-the-moment and can’t be planned in advance. Keep some flexibility in your travel itinerary for spontaneous detours.
9. Go your own way. You don’t always have to follow the pack. Venturing away from the crowds will often give you access to unique and meaningful experiences.
10. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If in doubt, ask a local. Remember that cultural tourism is all about exchange – don’t just take, make sure you give something back in return.
Are you a cultural tourist? Which of these destinations is your favourite? What other places would you add to the list? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments below!
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This is a very wonderful article about cultural destinations! Thank you so much for sharing!
One can easily visit India and experience the different kinds of cultures in a particular place. Tourism in India has been much more managed and safe with passage of time. Rajasthan tourism has been the most reliable and safe in India. One can enjoy all the traditional dishes and enjoy living in the palaces as a hotel room in different cities. But, whenever you are visiting to Rajasthan, India travel guide is a must because one can easily lose track of pathways in the puzzle like roads of the cities in Rajasthan. One can easily plan for a Kerala tour packages because of the minimal expenses in the state.
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What is Cultural Tourism and Why is It Important?
Tourism trends come and go. What was once deemed as a necessity in travel and tourism may not be a necessity today. So what is cultural tourism and why is it important? Let’s dive in!
How is Culture Defined?
In order to understand cultural tourism, we must first understand what constitutes culture.
Culture is rooted in many complexities and many inner workings. On the surface level, culture can be defined through symbols, words, gestures, people, rituals and more.
However, the core of culture is in its values.
The way a culture perceives itself or stays preserved is through a set of shared values.
Maybe its an ode to ancestry and tradition or a new breadth of
However, the core of culture is in its values.
Whether it’s an ode to ancestry or creating a new set of values as time evolves, it can be also be held true to the
Whether it’s an ode to ancestry or creating a new set of values as time evolves, cultural tourism is uprooted in holding and preserving cultures through traditions and heritage. 
What is Cultural Tourism?
Adopted by the UNWTO General Assembly in 2017, Cultural Tourism is defined as the following: “A type of tourism activity in which the visitor’s essential motivation is to learn, discover, experience and consume tangible and intangible cultural attractions/products in a tourism destination.”
The main aim of cultural tourism is to improve the quality and livelihood of the local people who are committed to preserving cultural heritage and traditions.
This can be through the purchase of locally made goods, initiatives through local food and the learning of recipes,
This can be through the purchase of locally made goods, initiatives to learn how to cook local recipes and supporting local inbound operators who have a good knowledge of the cities they are operating in.
This can be done through the following six aspects:
- Handcrafted Goods and Visual Art
- Social Practices
- Rituals and Festive Events
- Oral Traditions
Imagine visiting one of our destinations: Jordan, Tunisia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan or Tanzania.
Imagine being able to experience all six of these aspects of cultural tourism all created in one package.
Where Can You Practice Cultural Tourism?
From the North to the South, Jordan’s landscapes and its people are ready to welcome you to each and every experience.
In the North, experience the gastronomy of locally preserved recipes and take your hand at being able to learn how to cook yourself.
Take your hand at handcrafted goods like making baskets out of wheat straws or learn the art of traditional weaving in Madaba.
In the South, practice in rituals in the desert by learning about the infamous Bedouin tea, take some words and practices that are so pertinent to those in the South.
See our packages in Jordan
Underground colonies, history and a rich culture are just waiting for you to learn about.
Visit an artist in Gabes who has taken traditional methods of papermaking and carried it to the present today by honoring raw and organic materials pertinent to the atmosphere of Tunisia’s landscape.
Then have an opportunity to stay in local accommodation in underground colonies which stay cool during the summer and warm in the winter.
You can also experience Amazigh history and the different languages present in Tunisia today that trace back to civilizations many years ago.
See our packages in Tunisia
One of Central Asia’s unknown wonders
Uzbekistan is located on the Silk Road and holds centuries of history that trace back to the Islamic Golden Age. It holds a unique architectural background and since it holds history between the Persian Empire and the Soviet Union, you can see a contradiction between both styles, all in one place.
See our packages in Uzbekistan
Where nature is a non-negotiable
With its beautiful nature, with over 2,000 lakes, Kyrgyzstan is another Central Asian wonder that holds beautiful fairytale naturescapes and semi-nomadic living.
Kyrygz people still adhere to ancient civilizations and honor their ancestors by living in Yurts and sharing natural practices such as horseback riding and traditional old games, like Kok Boro and eagle hunting.
See our packages in Kyrgyzstan
Everything is “pole pole” in Tanzania
From visiting indigeneous tribes to participating in rituals to mother nature, Tanzanian people practice the “pole pole” lifestyle, which means slowly slowly in Swahili.
With an intersection of different cultures and practiced rituals, Tanzania has become such a hub for many people to get together and enjoy the lifestyle and indigenous cultures.
See our packages in Tanzania
Why is Cultural Tourism Important?
Cultural tourism is a travel and tourism trend that is here to stay. With more and more accessibility to the world and the people in it, there is peak interest in being able to immersively travel.
- Peaks an interest to immerse yourself in a particular culture
- Creates meanings, stories and understanding between host and guest
- Share cultural practices and be part of the preservation of cultural heritage
- Gain a full understanding a culture without commodification
What better way to honor a destination than by practicing in allowing something to be immortal.
Also, if you’re interested in learning more about experiential tourism, check out this article.
What are some cultural touristic experiences you are looking forward to trying?
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The growth of cultural tourism
People have long traveled to discover and visit places of historical significance or spiritual meaning, to experience different cultures, as well as to learn about, exchange and consume a range of cultural goods and services. Cultural tourism as a concept gained traction during the 1990s when certain sub-sectors emerged, including heritage tourism, arts tourism, gastronomic tourism, film tourism and creative tourism. This took place amidst the rising tide of globalization and technological advances that spurred greater mobility through cheaper air travel, increased accessibility to diverse locations and cultural assets, media proliferation, and the rise of independent travel. Around this time, tourism policy was also undergoing a shift that was marked by several trends. These included a sharper focus on regional development, environmental issues, public-private partnerships, industry self-regulation and a reduction in direct government involvement in the supply of tourism infrastructure. As more cultural tourists have sought to explore the cultures of the destinations, greater emphasis has been placed on the importance of intercultural dialogue to promote understanding and tolerance. Likewise, in the face of globalization, countries have looked for ways to strengthen local identity, and cultural tourism has also been engaged as a strategy to achieve this purpose. Being essentially place-based, cultural tourism is driven by an interest to experience and engage with culture first-hand. It is backed by a desire to discover, learn about and enjoy the tangible and intangible cultural assets offered in a tourism destination, ranging from heritage, performing arts, handicrafts, rituals and gastronomy, among others.
Cultural tourism is a leading priority for the majority of countries around the world -featuring in the tourism policy of 90% of countries, based on a 2016 UNWTO global survey . Most countries include tangible and intangible heritage in their definition of cultural tourism, and over 80% include contemporary culture - film, performing arts, design, fashion and new media, among others. There is, however, greater need for stronger localisation in policies, which is rooted in promoting and enhancing local cultural assets, such as heritage, food, festivals and crafts. In France, for instance, the Loire Valley between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes , a UNESCO World Heritage site, has established a multidisciplinary team that defends the cultural values of the site, and advises the authorities responsible for the territorial development of the 300 km of the Valley.
While cultural tourism features prominently in policies for economic growth, it has diverse benefits that cut across the development spectrum – economic, social and environmental. Cultural tourism expands businesses and job opportunities by drawing on cultural resources as a competitive advantage in tourism markets. Cultural tourism is increasingly engaged as a strategy for countries and regions to safeguard traditional cultures, attract talent, develop new cultural resources and products, create creative clusters, and boost the cultural and creative industries. Cultural tourism, particularly through museums, can support education about culture. Tourist interest can also help ensure the transmission of intangible cultural heritage practices to younger generations.
Cultural tourism can help encourage appreciation of and pride in local heritage, thus sparking greater interest and investment in its safeguarding. Tourism can also drive inclusive community development to foster resiliency, inclusivity, and empowerment. It promotes territorial cohesion and socioeconomic inclusion for the most vulnerable populations, for example, generating economic livelihoods for women in rural areas. A strengthened awareness of conservation methods and local and indigenous knowledge contributes to long-term environmental sustainability. Similarly, the funds generated by tourism can be instrumental to ensuring ongoing conservation activities for built and natural heritage.
The growth of cultural tourism has reshaped the global urban landscape over the past decades, strongly impacting spatial planning around the world. In many countries, cultural tourism has been leveraged to drive urban regeneration or city branding strategies, from large-sized metropolises in Asia or the Arab States building on cultural landmarks and contemporary architecture to drive tourism expansion, to small and middle-sized urban settlements enhancing their cultural assets to stimulate local development. At the national level, cultural tourism has also impacted planning decisions, encouraging coastal development in some areas, while reviving inland settlements in others. This global trend has massively driven urban infrastructure development through both public and private investments, impacting notably transportation, the restoration of historic buildings and areas, as well as the rehabilitation of public spaces. The expansion of cultural city networks, including the UNESCO World Heritage Cities programme and the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, also echoes this momentum. Likewise, the expansion of cultural routes, bringing together several cities or human settlements around cultural commonalities to stimulate tourism, has also generated new solidarities, while influencing economic and cultural exchanges between cities across countries and regions.
Despite tourism’s clear potential as a driver for positive change, challenges exist, including navigating the space between economic gain and cultural integrity. Tourism’s crucial role in enhancing inclusive community development can often remain at the margins of policy planning and implementation. Rapid and unplanned tourism growth can trigger a range of negative impacts, including pressure on local communities and infrastructure from overtourism during peak periods, gentrification of urban areas, waste problems and global greenhouse gas emissions. High visitor numbers to heritage sites can override their natural carrying capacity, thus undermining conservation efforts and affecting both the integrity and authenticity of heritage sites. Over-commercialization and folklorization of intangible heritage practices – including taking these practices out of context for tourism purposes - can risk inadvertently changing the practice over time. Large commercial interests can monopolize the benefits of tourism, preventing these benefits from reaching local communities. An excessive dependency on tourism can also create localized monoeconomies at the expense of diversification and alternative economic models. When mismanaged, tourism can, therefore, have negative effects on the quality of life and well-being of local residents, as well as the natural environment.
These fault lines became more apparent when the pandemic hit – revealing the extent of over-dependence on tourism and limited structures for crisis prevention and response. While the current situation facing tourism is unpredictable, making it difficult to plan, further crises are likely in the years to come. Therefore, the pandemic presents the opportunity to experiment with new models to shape more effective and sustainable alternatives for the future.
hxdyl, Getty Images Pro
Harnessing cultural tourism in policy frameworks
From a policy perspective, countries around the world have employed cultural tourism as a vehicle to achieve a range of strategic aims. In Panama, cultural tourism is a key component of the country’s recently adopted Master Plan for Sustainable Tourism 2020-2025 that seeks to position Panama as a worldwide benchmark for sustainable tourism through the development of unique heritage routes. Cultural tourism can be leveraged for cultural diplomacy as a form of ‘soft power’ to build dialogue between peoples and bolster foreign policy. For instance, enhancing regional cooperation between 16 countries has been at the heart of UNESCO’s transnational Silk Roads Programme, which reflects the importance of culture and heritage as part of foreign policy. UNESCO has also partnered with the EU and National Geographic to develop World Heritage Journeys, a unique travel platform that deepens the tourism experience through four selected cultural routes covering 34 World Heritage sites. Also in Europe, cultural tourism has been stimulated through the development of cultural routes linked to food and wine , as well as actions to protect local food products, such as through labels and certificates of origin. The Emilia-Romagna region in Italy, for example, produces more origin-protected food and drink than any other region in the country. One of the regions' cities Parma - a UNESCO Creative City (Gastronomy) and designated Italian Capital for Culture (2020-2021) - plans to resume its cultural activities to boost tourism once restrictions have eased. Meanwhile, Spain has recently taken steps to revive its tourism industry through its cities inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List . In this regard, the Group of the 15 Spanish World Heritage Cities met recently to discuss the country's Modernization and Competitiveness Plan for the tourism sector. Cultural tourism has progressively featured more prominently in the policies of Central Asian and Eastern European countries, which have sought to revive intangible heritage and boost the creative economy as part of strategies to strengthen national cultural identity and open up to the international community. In Africa, cultural tourism is a growing market that is driven by its cultural heritage, crafts, and national and regional cultural events. Major festivals such as Dak-Art in Senegal, Bamako Encounters Photography Biennial in Mali, Sauti za Busara in United Republic of Tanzania, Pan-African Festival of Cinema and Television of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso, and Chale Wote Street Art Festival in Ghana are just a handful of vibrant and popular platforms in the continent that share cultural expressions, generate income for local economies and strengthen Pan-African identity.
Countries are increasingly seeking alliances with international bodies to advance tourism. National and local governments are working together with international entities, such as UNESCO, UNWTO and OECD in the area of sustainable tourism. In 2012, UNESCO’s Sustainable Tourism Programme was adopted, thereby breaking new ground to promote tourism a driver for the conservation of cultural and natural heritage and a vehicle for sustainable development. In 2020, UNESCO formed the Task Force on Culture and Resilient Tourism with the Advisory Bodies to the 1972 World Heritage Convention (ICOMOS, IUCN, ICCROM) as a global dialogue platform on key issues relating to tourism and heritage management during and beyond the crisis. UNESCO has also collaborated with the UNWTO on a set of recommendations for inclusive cultural tourism recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. In response to the crisis, the Namibian Government, UNESCO and UNDP are working together on a tourism impact study and development strategy to restore the tourism sector, especially cultural tourism.
UNESCO has scaled up work in cultural tourism in its work at field level, supporting its Member States and strengthening regional initiatives. In the Africa region, enhancing cultural tourism has been reported as a policy priority across the region. For example, UNESCO has supported the Government of Ghana in its initiative Beyond the Return, in particular in relation to its section on cultural tourism. In the Pacific, a Common Country Assessment (CCA) has been carried out for 14 SIDS countries, with joint interagency programmes to be created building on the results. Across the Arab States, trends in tourism after COVID, decent jobs and cultural and creative industries are emerging as entry points for different projects throughout the region. In Europe, UNESCO has continued its interdisciplinary work on visitor centres in UNESCO designated sites, building on a series of workshops to strengthen tourism sustainability, community engagement and education through heritage interpretation. In the Latin America and the Caribbean region, UNESCO is working closely with Member States, regional bodies and the UN system building on the momentum on the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development, including through Creative Cities, and the sustainable recovery of the orange economy, among others.
In the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, tourism has the potential to contribute, directly or indirectly, to all of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Tourism is directly mentioned in SDGs 8, 12 and 14 on inclusive and sustainable economic growth, sustainable consumption and production (SCP) and the sustainable use of oceans and marine resources, respectively. This is mirrored in the VNRs put forward by countries, who report on cultural tourism notably through the revitalization of urban and rural areas through heritage regeneration, festivals and events, infrastructure development, and the promotion of local cultural products. The VNRs also demonstrate a trend towards underlining more sustainable approaches to tourism that factor in the environmental dimensions of tourism development.
Several countries have harnessed cultural tourism as a policy panacea for economic growth and diversification. As part of Qatar's National Vision 2030 strategy, for example, the country has embarked on a development plan that includes cultural tourism through strengthening its culture-based industries, including calligraphy, handicrafts and living heritage practices. In the city of Abu Dhabi in the UAE, cultural tourism is part of the city’s plan for economic diversification and to steer its domestic agenda away from a hydrocarbon-based economy. The Plan Abu Dhabi 2030 includes the creation of a US$27 billion cultural district on Saadiyat Island, comprising a cluster of world-renowned museums, and cultural and educational institutions designed by international star architects to attract tourism and talent to the city. Since 2016, Saudi Arabia has taken decisive action to invest in tourism, culture and entertainment to reduce the country’s oil dependency, while also positioning the country as a global cultural destination. Under the 2020 G20 Saudi Presidency, the UNWTO and the G20 Tourism Working Group launched the AlUla Framework for Inclusive Community Development through Tourism to better support inclusive community development and the SDGs. The crucial role of tourism as a means of sustainable socio-economic development was also underlined in the final communique of the G20 Tourism Ministers in October last.
Siem Reap, Cambodia by nbriam
On the other hand, cultural tourism can catalyse developments in cultural policy. This was the case in the annual Festival of Pacific Arts (FestPac) that triggered a series of positive policy developments following its 2012 edition that sought to strengthen social cohesion and community pride in the context of a prolonged period of social unrest. The following year, Solomon Islands adopted its first national culture policy with a focus on cultural industries and cultural tourism, which resulted in a significant increase in cultural events being organized throughout the country.
When the pandemic hit, the geographic context of some countries meant that many of them were able to rapidly close borders and prioritize domestic tourism. This has been the case for countries such as Australia and New Zealand. However, the restrictions have been coupled by significant economic cost for many Small Island Developing States (SIDS) whose economies rely on tourism and commodity exports. Asia Pacific SIDS, for example, are some of the world’s leading tourist destinations. As reported in the Tracker last June , in 2018, tourism earnings exceeded 50% of GDP in Cook Islands, Maldives and Palau and equaled approximately 30% of GDP in Samoa and Vanuatu. When the pandemic hit in 2020, the drop in British tourists to Spain’s Balearic Islands resulted in a 93% downturn in visitor numbers , forcing many local businesses to close. According to the World Economic Outlook released last October, the economies of tourism-dependent Caribbean nations are estimated to drop by 12%, while Pacific Island nations, such as Fiji, could see their GDP shrink by a staggering 21% in 2020.
Socially-responsible travel and ecotourism have become more of a priority for tourists and the places they visit. Tourists are increasingly aware of their carbon footprint, energy consumption and the use of renewable resources. This trend has been emphasized as a result of the pandemic. According to recent survey by Booking.com, travelers are becoming more conscientious of how and why they travel, with over two-thirds (69%) expecting the travel industry to offer more sustainable travel options . Following the closures of beaches in Thailand, for example, the country is identifying ways to put certain management policies in place that can strike a better balance with environmental sustainability. The UNESCO Sustainable Tourism Pledge launched in partnership with Expedia Group focuses on promoting sustainable tourism and heritage conservation. The pledge takes an industry-first approach to environmental and cultural protection, requiring businesses to introduce firm measures to eliminate single-use plastics and promote local culture. The initiative is expanding globally in 2021 as a new, more environmentally and socially conscious global travel market emerges from the COVID-19 context.
Senja, Norway by Jarmo Piironen
Climate change places a heavy toll on heritage sites, which exacerbates their vulnerability to other risks, including uncontrolled tourism. This was underlined in the publication “World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate” , published by UNESCO, UNEP and the Union of Concerned Scientists, which analyses the consequences of climate change on heritage, and its potential to permanently change or destroy a site’s integrity and authenticity. Extreme weather events, safety issues and water shortages, among others, can thwart access to sites and hurt the economic livelihoods of tourism service providers and local communities. Rising sea levels will increasingly impact coastal tourism, the largest component of the sector globally. In particular, coral reefs - contributing US$11.5 billion to the global tourism economy – are at major risk from climate change.
Marine sites are often tourist magnets where hundreds of thousands of annual visitors enjoy these sites on yachts and cruise ships. In the case of UNESCO World Heritage marine sites – which fall under the responsibility of governments - there is often a reliance on alternative financing mechanisms, such as grants and donations, and partnerships with non-governmental organizations and/or the private sector, among others. The West Norwegian Fjords – Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord in Norway derives a substantial portion of its management budget from sources other than government revenues. The site has benefited from a partnership with the private sector company Green Dream 2020, which only allows the “greenest” operators to access the site, and a percentage of the profits from tours is reinjected into the long-term conservation of the site. In iSimangaliso in South Africa, a national law that established the World Heritage site’s management system was accompanied by the obligation to combine the property’s conservation with sustainable economic development activities that created jobs for local people. iSimangaliso Wetland Park supports 12,000 jobs and hosts an environmental education programme with 150 schools. At the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, where 91% of all local jobs are linked to the Reef, the Coral Nurture Programme undertakes conservation through planting coral, and promotes local stewardship and adaptation involving the whole community and local tourist businesses.
Grafner, Getty Images
With borders continuing to be closed and changeable regulations, many countries have placed a focus on domestic tourism and markets to stimulate economic recovery. According to the UNWTO, domestic tourism is expected to pick up faster than international travel, making it a viable springboard for economic and social recovery from the pandemic. In doing so it will serve to better connect populations to their heritage and offer new avenues for cultural access and participation. In China, for example, the demand for domestic travel is already approaching pre-pandemic levels. In Russian Federation, the Government has backed a programme to promote domestic tourism and support small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as a cashback scheme for domestic trips, which entitles tourists to a 20% refund for their trip. While supporting domestic tourism activities, the Government of Palau is injecting funds into local businesses working in reforestation and fishing in the spirit of building new sustainable models. The measures put in place today will shape the tourism to come, therefore the pandemic presents an opportunity to build back a stronger, more agile and sustainable tourism sector.
Local solutions at the helm of cultural tourism
While state-led policy interventions in cultural tourism remain crucial, local authorities are increasingly vital stakeholders in the design and implementation of cultural tourism policies. Being close to the people, local actors are aware of the needs of local populations, and can respond quickly and provide innovative ideas and avenues for policy experimentation. As cultural tourism is strongly rooted to place, cooperating with local decision-makers and stakeholders can bring added value to advancing mutual objectives. Meanwhile, the current health crisis has severely shaken cities that are struggling due to diminished State support, and whose economic basis strongly relies on tourism. Local authorities have been compelled to innovate to support local economies and seek viable alternatives, thus reaffirming their instrumental role in cultural policy-making.
Venice, Oliver Dralam/Getty Images
Cultural tourism can be a powerful catalyst for urban regeneration and renaissance, although tourism pressure can also trigger complex processes of gentrification. Cultural heritage safeguarding enhances the social value of a place by boosting the well-being of individuals and communities, reducing social inequalities and nurturing social inclusion. Over the past decade, the Malaysian city of George Town – a World Heritage site – has implemented several innovative projects to foster tourism and attract the population back to the city centre by engaging the city’s cultural assets in urban revitalization strategies. Part of the income generated from tourism revenues contributes to conserving and revitalizing the built environment, as well as supporting housing for local populations, including lower-income communities. In the city of Bordeaux in France , the city has worked with the public-private company InCité to introduce a system of public subsidies and tax exemption to encourage the restoration of privately-owned historical buildings, which has generated other rehabilitation works in the historic centre. The city of Kyoto in Japan targets a long-term vision of sustainability by enabling local households to play an active role in safeguarding heritage by incrementally updating their own houses, thus making the city more resilient to gentrification. The city also actively supports the promotion of its intangible heritage, such as tea ceremonies, flower arrangement, seasonal festivals, Noh theatre and dance. This year marks the ten-year anniversary of the adoption of the UNESCO Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape (HUL). The results of a UNESCO survey carried out among Member States in 2019 on its implementation show that 89% of respondents have innovative services or tourism activities in place for historic areas, which demonstrates a precedence for countries to capitalize on urban cultural heritage for tourism purposes.
Cultural tourism has been harnessed to address rural-urban migration and to strengthen rural and peripheral sub-regions. The city of Suzhou – a World Heritage property and UNESCO Creative City (Crafts and Folk Art) - has leveraged its silk embroidery industry to strengthen the local rural economy through job creation in the villages of Wujiang, located in a district of Suzhou. Tourists can visit the ateliers and local museums to learn about the textile production. In northern Viet Nam, the cultural heritage of the Quan họ Bắc Ninh folk songs, part of the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, is firmly rooted in place and underlined in its safeguarding strategies in 49 ancient villages, which have further inspired the establishment of some hundreds of new Quan họ villages in the Bắc Ninh and Bắc Giang provinces.
Many top destination cities are known for their iconic cultural landmarks. Others create a cultural drawcard to attract visitors to the city. France, the world's number one tourist destination , attracts 89 million visitors every year who travel to experience its cultural assets, including its extensive cultural landmarks. In the context of industrial decline, several national and local governments have looked to diversify infrastructure by harnessing culture as a new economic engine. The Guggenheim museum in Bilbao in Spain is one such example, where economic diversification and unemployment was addressed through building a modern art museum as a magnet for tourism. The museum attracts an average of 900,000 visitors annually, which has strengthened the local economy of the city. A similar approach is the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), established in 2011 by a private entrepreneur in the city of Hobart in Australia, which has catalysed a massive increase of visitors to the city. With events such as MONA FOMA in summer and Dark MOFO in winter, the museum staggers visitor volumes to the small city to avoid placing considerable strain on the local environment and communities. Within the tourism sector, cultural tourism is also well-positioned to offer a tailored approach to tourism products, services and experiences. Such models have also supported the wider ecosystems around the iconic cultural landmarks, as part of “destination tourism” strategies.
Destination tourism encompasses festivals, live performance, film and festive celebrations as drawcards for international tourists and an economic driver of the local economy. Over the past three decades, the number of art biennials has proliferated. Today there are more than 300 biennials around the world , whose genesis can be based both on artistic ambitions and place-making strategies to revive specific destinations. As a result of COVID-19, many major biennials and arts festivals have been cancelled or postponed. Both the Venice Architecture and Art Biennales have been postponed to 2022 due to COVID-19. The Berlin International Film Festival will hold its 2021 edition online and in selected cinemas. Film-induced tourism - motivated by a combination of media expansion, entertainment industry growth and international travel - has also been used for strategic regional development, infrastructure development and job creation, as well to market destinations to tourists. China's highest-grossing film of 2012 “Lost in Thailand”, for example, resulted in a tourist boom to Chiang Mai in Thailand, with daily flights to 17 Chinese cities to accommodate the daily influx of thousands of tourists who came to visit the film’s location. Since March 2020, tourism-related industries in New York City in the United States have gone into freefall, with revenue from the performing arts alone plunging by almost 70%. As the city is reliant on its tourism sector, the collapse of tourism explains why New York’s economy has been harder hit than other major cities in the country. Meanwhile in South Africa, when the first ever digital iteration of the country’s annual National Arts Festival took place last June, it also meant an estimated US$25.7 million (R377 million) and US$6.4 million (R94 million) loss to the Eastern Cape province and city of Makhanda (based on 2018 figures), in addition to the US$1.4 million (R20 million) that reaches the pockets of the artists and supporting industries. The United Kingdom's largest music festival, Glastonbury, held annually in Somerset, recently cancelled for the second year running due to the pandemic, which will have ripple effects on local businesses and the charities that receive funding from ticket sales.
Similarly, cancellations of carnivals from Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Canary Islands to Binche in Belgium has spurred massive losses for local tourism providers, hotels, restaurants, costume-makers and dance schools. In the case of the Rio de Janeiro Carnival in Brazil, for instance, the city has amassed significant losses for the unstaged event, which in 2019 attracted 1.5 million tourists from Brazil and abroad and generated revenues in the range of US$700 million (BRL 3.78 billion). The knock-on effect on the wider economy due to supply chains often points to an estimated total loss that is far greater than those experienced solely by the cultural tourism sector.
Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain by erlucho
Every year, roughly 600 million national and international religious and spiritual trips take place , generating US$18 billion in tourism revenue. Pilgrimages, a fundamental precursor to modern tourism, motivate tourists solely through religious practices. Religious tourism is particularly popular in France, India, Italy and Saudi Arabia. For instance, the Hindu pilgrimage and festival Kumbh Mela in India, inscribed in 2017 on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, attracts over 120 million pilgrims of all castes, creeds and genders. The festival is held in the cities of Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik every four years by rotation. Sacred and ceremonial sites have unique significance for peoples and communities, and are often integral to journeys that promote spiritual well-being. Mongolia, for example, has around 800 sacred sites including 10 mountains protected by Presidential Decree, and lakes and ovoos, many of which have their own sutras. In the case of Mongolia, the environmental stewardship and rituals and practices connected with these sacred places also intersects with longstanding political traditions and State leadership.
Cities with a vibrant cultural scene and assets are not only more likely to attract tourists, but also the skilled talent who can advance the city’s long-term prospects. Several cities are also focusing on developing their night-time economies through the promotion of theatre, concerts, festivals, light shows and use of public spaces that increasingly making use of audio-visual technologies. Situated on Chile’s Pacific coast, the city of Valparaíso, a World Heritage site, is taking steps to transform the city’s night scene into a safe and inclusive tourist destination through revitalizing public spaces. While the economies of many cities have been weakened during the pandemic, the night-time economy of the city of Chengdu in China, a UNESCO Creative City for Gastronomy, has flourished and has made a significant contribution to generating revenue for the city, accounting for 45% of citizen’s daily expenditure.
The pandemic has generated the public’s re-appropriation of the urban space. People have sought open-air sites and experiences in nature. In many countries that are experiencing lockdowns, public spaces, including parks and city squares, have proven essential for socialization and strengthening resilience. People have also reconnected with the heritage assets in their urban environments. Local governments, organizations and civil society have introduced innovative ways to connect people and encourage creative expression. Cork City Council Arts Office and Creative Ireland, for example, jointly supported the art initiative Ardú- Irish for ‘Rise’ – involving seven renowned Irish street artists who produced art in the streets and alleyways of Cork.
Chengdu Town Square, China by Lukas Bischoff
Environment-based solutions support integrated approaches to deliver across the urban-rural continuum, and enhance visitor experiences by drawing on the existing features of a city. In the city of Bamberg, a World Heritage site in Germany, gardens are a key asset of the city and contribute to its livability and the well-being of its local population and visitors. More than 12,000 tourists enjoy this tangible testimony to the local history and environment on an annual basis. Eighteen agricultural businesses produce local vegetables, herbs, flowers and shrubs, and farm the inner-city gardens and surrounding agricultural fields. The museum also organizes gastronomic events and cooking classes to promote local products and recipes.
In rural areas, crafts can support strategies for cultural and community-based tourism. This is particularly the case in Asia, where craft industries are often found in rural environments and can be an engine for generating employment and curbing rural-urban migration. Craft villages have been established in Viet Nam since the 11th century, constituting an integral part of the cultural resources of the country, and whose tourism profits are often re-invested into the sustainability of the villages. The craft tradition is not affected by heavy tourist seasons and tourists can visit all year round.
Indigenous tourism can help promote and maintain indigenous arts, handicrafts, and culture, including indigenous culture and traditions, which are often major attractions for visitors. Through tourism, indigenous values and food systems can also promote a less carbon-intensive industry. During COVID-19, the Government of Canada has given a series of grants to indigenous tourism businesses to help maintain livelihoods. UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions announced that it will grant, through the International Fund for Creative Diversity (IFCD), US$70,000 dollars to Mexican indigenous cultural enterprises, which will support indigenous enterprises through training programmes, seed funding, a pre-incubation process and the creation of an e-commerce website.
Tourism has boosted community pride in living heritage and the active involvement of local communities in its safeguarding. Local authorities, cultural associations, bearers and practitioners have made efforts to safeguard and promote elements as they have understood that not only can these elements strengthen their cultural identity but that they can also contribute to tourism and economic development. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in the role of intellectual property and in the regulation of heritage. In the field of gastronomy, a lot of work has been done in protecting local food products, including the development of labels and certification of origin. Member States are exploring the possibilities of geographical indication (GI) for cultural products as a way of reducing the risk of heritage exploitation in connection to, for example, crafts, textiles and food products, and favouring its sustainable development.
The pandemic has brought to the forefront the evolving role of museums and their crucial importance to the life of societies in terms of health and well-being, education and the economy. A 2019 report by the World Health Organization (WHO) examined 3,000 studies on the role of the arts in improving health and well-being, which indicated that the arts play a major role in preventing, managing and treating illness. Over the past decade the number of museums has increased by 60%, demonstrating the important role that museums have in national cultural policy. Museums are not static but are rather dynamic spaces of education and dialogue, with the potential to boost public awareness about the value of cultural and natural heritage, and the responsibility to contribute to its safeguarding.
Data presented in UNESCO's report "Museums Around the World in the Face of COVID-19" in May 2020 show that 90% of institutions were forced to close, whereas the situation in September-October 2020 was much more variable depending on their location in the world. Large museums have consistently been the most heavily impacted by the drop in international tourism – notably in Europe and North America. Larger museums, such as Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum and Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum have reported losses between €100,000 and €600,000 a week. Smaller museums have been relatively stable, as they are not as reliant on international tourism and have maintained a closer connection to local communities. In November, the Network of European Museum Organisations (NEMO) released the results of a survey of 6,000 museums from 48 countries. Of the responding museums, 93% have increased or started online services during the pandemic. Most larger museums (81%) have increased their digital capacities, while only 47% of smaller museums indicated that they did. An overwhelming majority of respondents (92.9%) confirm that the public is safe at their museum. As reported in the Tracker last October, the world’s most visited museum, the Louvre in France (9.3 million visitors annually) witnessed a ten-fold increase in traffic to its website. Yet while digital technologies have provided options for museums to remain operational, not all have the necessary infrastructure, which is the case for many museums in Africa and SIDS.
New technologies have enabled several new innovations that can better support cultural tourism and digital technologies in visitor management, access and site interpretation. Cultural tourists visiting cultural heritage sites, for example, can enjoy educational tools that raise awareness of a site and its history. Determining carrying capacity through algorithms has helped monitor tourist numbers, such as in Hạ Long Bay in Viet Nam. In response to the pandemic, Singapore’s Asian Civilizations Museum is one of many museums that has harnessed digital technologies to provide virtual tours of its collections, thus allowing viewers to learn more about Asian cultures and histories. The pandemic has enhanced the need for technology solutions to better manage tourism flows at destinations and encourage tourism development in alternative areas.
Shaping a post-pandemic vision : regenerative and inclusive cultural tourism
As tourism is inherently dependent on the movement and interaction of people, it has been one of the hardest-hit sectors by the pandemic and may be one of the last to recover. Travel and international border restrictions have led to the massive decline in tourism in 2020, spurring many countries to implement strategies for domestic tourism to keep economies afloat. Many cultural institutions and built and natural heritage sites have established strict systems of physical distancing and hygiene measures, enabling them to open once regulations allow. Once travel restrictions have been lifted, it will enable the recovery of the tourism sector and for the wider economy and community at large.
While the pandemic has dramatically shifted the policy context for cultural tourism, it has also provided the opportunity to experiment with integrated models that can be taken forward in the post-pandemic context. While destinations are adopting a multiplicity of approaches to better position sustainability in their plans for tourism development, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
A comprehensive, integrated approach to the cultural sector is needed to ensure more sustainable cultural tourism patterns. Efforts aimed at promoting cultural tourism destinations should build on the diversity of cultural sub-sectors, including cultural and heritage sites, museums, but also the creative economy and living heritage, notably local practices, food and crafts production. Beyond cultural landmarks, which act as a hotspot to drive the attractiveness of tourism destinations, and particularly cities, cultural tourism should also encompass other aspects of the cultural value chain as well as more local, community-based cultural expressions. Such an integrated approach is likely to support a more equitable distribution of cultural tourism revenues, also spreading tourism flows over larger areas, thus curbing the negative impacts of over-tourism on renowned cultural sites, including UNESCO World Heritage sites. This comprehensive vision also echoes the growing aspiration of visitors around the world for more inclusive and sustainable tourism practices, engaging with local communities and broadening the understanding of cultural diversity.
As a result of the crisis, the transversal component of cultural tourism has been brought to the fore, demonstrating its cross-cutting nature and alliance with other development areas. Cultural tourism – and tourism more broadly – is highly relevant to the 2030 for Sustainable Development and its 17 SDGs, however, the full potential of cultural tourism for advancing development – economic, social and environmental - remains untapped. This is even though cultural tourism is included in a third of all countries’ VNRs, thus demonstrating its priority for governments. Due the transversal nature of cultural tourism, there is scope to build on these synergies and strengthen cooperation between ministries to advance cooperation for a stronger and more resilient sector. This plays an integral role in ensuring a regenerative and inclusive cultural tourism sector. Similarly, tourism can feature as criteria for certain funding initiatives, or as a decisive component for financing cultural projects, such as in heritage or the cultural and creative industries.
Houses in Amsterdam, adisa, Getty, Images Pro
Several countries have harnessed the crisis to step up actions towards more sustainable models of cultural tourism development by ensuring that recovery planning is aligned with key sustainability principles and the SDGs. Tourism both impacts and is impacted by climate change. There is scant evidence of integration of climate strategies in tourism policies, as well as countries’ efforts to develop solid crisis preparedness and response strategies for the tourism sector. The magnitude and regional variation of climate change in the coming decades will continue to affect cultural tourism, therefore, recovery planning should factor in climate change concerns. Accelerating climate action is of utmost importance for the resilience of the sector.
The key role of local actors in cultural tourism should be supported and developed. States have the opportunity to build on local knowledge, networks and models to forge a stronger and more sustainable cultural tourism sector. This includes streamlining cooperation between different levels of governance in the cultural tourism sector and in concert with civil society and private sector. Particularly during the pandemic, many cities and municipalities have not received adequate State support and have instead introduced measures and initiatives using local resources. In parallel, such actions can spur new opportunities for employment and training that respond to local needs.
Greater diversification in cultural tourism models is needed, backed by a stronger integration of the sector within broader economic and regional planning. An overdependence of the cultural sector on the tourism sector became clear for some countries when the pandemic hit, which saw their economies come to a staggering halt. This has been further weakened by pre-existing gaps in government and industry preparedness and response capacity. The cultural tourism sector is highly fragmented and interdependent, and relies heavily on micro and small enterprises. Developing a more in-depth understanding of tourism value chains can help identify pathways for incremental progress. Similarly, more integrated – and balanced – models can shape a more resilient sector that is less vulnerable to future crises. Several countries are benefiting from such approaches by factoring in a consideration of the environmental and socio-cultural pillars of sustainability, which is supported across all levels of government and in concert with all stakeholders.
abhishek gaurav, Pexels
Inclusion must be at the heart of building back better the cultural tourism sector. Stakeholders at different levels should participate in planning and management, and local communities cannot be excluded from benefitting from the opportunities and economic benefits of cultural tourism. Moreover, they should be supported and empowered to create solutions from the outset, thus forging more sustainable and scalable options in the long-term. Policy-makers need to ensure that cultural tourism development is pursued within a wider context of city and regional strategies in close co-operation with local communities and industry. Businesses are instrumental in adopting eco-responsible practices for transport, accommodation and food. A balance between public/ private investment should also be planned to support an integrated approach post-crisis, which ensures input and support from industry and civil society.
The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the essential role of museums as an integral component of societies in terms of well-being, health, education and the economy. Digitalization has been a game-changer for many cultural institutions to remain operational to the greatest extent possible. Yet there are significant disparities in terms of infrastructure and resources, which was underscored when the world shifted online. Museums in SIDS have faced particular difficulties with lack of access to digitalization. These imbalances should be considered in post-crisis strategies.
The pandemic presents an occasion to deeply rethink tourism for the future, and what constitutes the markers and benchmarks of “success”. High-quality cultural tourism is increasingly gaining traction in new strategies for recovery and revival, in view of contributing to the long-term health and resilience of the sector and local communities. Similarly, many countries are exploring ways to fast track towards greener, more sustainable tourism development. As such, the pandemic presents an opportunity for a paradigm shift - the transformation of the culture and tourism sectors to become more inclusive and sustainable. Moreover, this includes incorporating tourism approaches that not only avoid damage but have a positive impact on the environment of tourism destinations and local communities. This emphasis on regenerative tourism has a holistic approach that measures tourism beyond its financial return, and shifts the pendulum towards focusing on the concerns of local communities, and the wellbeing of people and planet.
Entabeni Game Reserve in South Africa by SL_Photography
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Cultural Tourism: Four Examples of How It Works for Destinations
Written by SolimarInt on June 12, 2015 . Posted in Uncategorized .
The World Tourism Organisation tells us that cultural tourism accounts for 37% of global tourism, and furthermore affirms that it will continue to grow 15% each year. With all of this market interest, destinations should leverage what makes their societies unique and invest in developing cultural tourism programs.
What is Cultural Tourism?
Cultural tourism allows travelers to be immersed in local rituals and routines, taking away not only pretty photos but also shared memories of unique experiences. For destinations, it encourages local communities to embrace their culture and boosts economic growth. Developing culturally geared tourism programs encourages destinations to celebrate and promote what distinguishes their communities, and in doing so, provides the opportunity for authentic cultural exchange between locals and visitors.
Solimar has a long history of involvement in development projects that promote cultural tourism. Here’s a glimpse at four of them:
Morocco: Down the Road of Traditional Crafts
Before 2010, Morocco has a vibrant craft industry, yet artisans had insufficient opportunity for direct sales. Solimar collaborated with Aid to Artisans and the Moroccan Ministry of Crafts to facilitate direct linkages between artisans and tourists in Marrakech and Fez. This was achieved through establishing new or updating existing artisan and cultural heritage routes, and furnishing them with engaging creating marketing collateral. The team involved as many as 6,603 sale points and was successful in increasing artisan revenue. As a result of this project, crafts and tourism in the area are now more linked than ever before.
Ethiopia: Empowering Community Enterprises for Long-term Success
Ethiopia’s Bale Mountain area is lush and beautiful, and is the home of successful community-led tourism initiatives. In 2009 Solimar addressed the conservation and regulation problems in Ethiopia by affecting a sustainable tourism development project in partnership with the Frankfurt Zoological Society . The team created 7 community tourism enterprises as well as branding and marketing tools aimed at awareness-building among foreigners and locals alike. The local communities now leverage their cultural heritage, which includes expressive dances and crafts, in its tourism development. This offers them alternative livelihoods that in turn benefit environmental conservation.
Namibia: From North America to Local Villages
Namibia is a country of rich tourism potential that prior to 2010 had not been successful in fully captivating the North American travel market. Solimar launched a comprehensive trade-focused marketing campaign with the goal of increasing North American arrivals in Namibia over the course of 4 years. By fostering partnerships between Namibian and North American trade, and leading destinations awareness campaigns, this mission was successful.
Community-based tourism was a large component in promoting the country to the North American market. The campaign succeeded in increasing the number of tourists and routes visiting Namibia by 75% by 2013, exceeding expectations. This helped improve local employment opportunities and enhance cultural awareness among international visitors.
Colombia: More than Whales at Nuquí/Utría National Park
Nuquí/Utría National Park is famous for its prolific whale watching opportunities. However, it suffers from a lack of organizational and business capacity, as well as weak marketing outreach. In 2012, Solimar and its project partners tackled the challenge by creating a destination marketing alliance with four local community tourism enterprises, providing them capacity building trainings . The team developed and promoted new tour packages that incorporated cultural elements, such as visits to a typical Pacific Chocó village. The team liaised with the Colombian Ministries of Tourism and the Environment to feature the park as a model for sustainable tourism development in a protected area. Through this work, the team was successful in increasing the gross sales of each of these community tourism enterprises and the number of tourism products in this remote area.
Cultural tourism is economically advantageous for both destinations and the communities that reside in them. Solimar is dedicated to the development of cultural tourism that benefits destinations, communities and visitors. We hope to continue to be an active and positive support in promoting sustainable travel, protecting cultural heritage and improving the living standards of local communities around the world.
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What is Cultural Tourism?
Tourism across the world is getting an impetus because there is so much that people want to see and experience. In fact, visiting another country is one of the best ways to learn about the culture and language of that country. However, of late, people are indulging in cultural tourism that has given tourism a whole new meaning.
Cultural tourism is a type of tourism that allows the tourist to participate in local cultural activities, like festivals and rituals. As a result, the tourist can enjoy a genuine cultural exchange with the locals.
It also enables local communities to accept their culture as cultural tourism is a major driver for growth. So, communities go out of their way to celebrate and promote their culture as it makes them different from other communities. A good example is the carnival celebrated in Rio de Janeiro and Goa before Lent begins. While in Rio it is a raucous celebration where locals and tourists party and indulge in everything under the sky, in Goa, the mainstay of the event is a parade followed by dances and feasts.
Why Should Countries Focus on Cultural Tourism?
Cultural tourism benefits local communities. Some of the benefits of cultural tourism that government and local tourism bodies should be aware of include the following:
- Cultural tourism has a positive economic impact on the destination and can help underserved communities to thrive and flourish
- The money that this form of tourism bring in can be used within local communities for social good
- It helps preserve the local culture while allowing communities to emphasize the uniqueness of their culture to differentiate it from other locations
- It helps destinations market themselves and compete with more competitive locales on an even footing
Popular Countries for Cultural Tourism
As countries realize the importance of cultural tourism and how it can drive local economies, they are focusing on building cities and towns that can attract overseas visitors to experience and savor culture like never before.
No doubt France leads the field of cultural tourism, with Paris being the hub of European culture. People from across Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and the Americas visit Paris for retail therapy at the Champs Elysees. With the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral burned down, Paris still is home to gastronomy and art. People usually come to visit the Eiffel Tower, spend time at the Louvre and enjoy Arc de Triomphe. Of course, if you are in France during the Cannes Film Festival, you will be able to enjoy a unique experience.
China too is steeped in history and traditions that are fascinating and appealing. Many overseas visitors, particularly from the US, the UK, Europe, and Australasia throng Shanghai. It is a global financial hub and is the largest city in the country. It is the best place to experience the history and culture of this nation. Visitors can enjoy a leisurely stroll at the Bund, learn about the local history at the Shanghai Museum, and enjoy peace at the Yu Garden. There are numerous art galleries and restaurants that can fill the time in between these cultural attractions.
Turkey has always been at the forefront of cultural tourism, in particular Istanbul, which straddles Asia and Europe. Some of the best places to enjoy a cultural experience include Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Sultan Ahmed Mosque, and the Bosphorus. Even shopping and browsing through the Grand Bazaar can be a cultural experience. Istanbul fascinates cultural lovers from Asia, the UK, Europe, Australia, Canada, and the USA. People come here to check out the architecture and learn about the Ottoman Empire.
Cultural tourism is incomplete without a visit to India, the land of the Ganges, Taj Mahal, Varanasi, and Qutub Minar. Every city in India offers a unique cultural experience to visitors. Whether you want to experience the religious culture or historical culture, India has a lot to offer. It is one of the primary reasons that people from across the globe flock to India. You can visit Varanasi to experience Hinduism or spend time in Bodh Gaya, the tiny hamlet in Bihar where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. The art of weaving in Rajasthan and saree weaving in Andhra Pradesh also offer insights into the local culture.
Culture tourism is a win-win experience. The visitors enjoy the rich heritage and learn about the local cultures and traditions while local communities enjoy development without forsaking their cultural values and beliefs.
Having read the information provided here, you can book cruises online for Royal Caribbean, MSC Cruises, or Carnival Cruises if you want to have fun with your family and loved ones.
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Cultural Tourism: A Huge Opportunity and A Growing Trend
Cultural tourism. It sounds like a niche. In reality it is something different. Cultural tourism is a huge opportunity and a growing trend. According to the Travel Industry Association of America, roughly eighty percent of the 150,000,000+ adults who travel more than fifty miles from their homes can be considered “cultural tourists.” Thirty percent of adults state that specific arts or a cultural or heritage event influenced their choice of destination on their last trip. Cultural tourism and the interest in culture among travelers--particularly affluent, active, and frequent travelers-- is on the rise. According to UNWTO, global cultural tourism is forecast to increase by fifteen percent in the coming years.
Moreover, cultural tourism is very popular in many countries but is still somewhat nascent in the United States. This implies that even greater growth is possible in the United States as the traveler’s appetite for authentic cultural experiences in heritage, ethnicity, cuisine, crafts, arts, and music, continues to expand.
So for anyone involved in marketing a destination or “place-based” marketing, the question can no longer be should we, but rather how do we.
Definitions and Concepts
What exactly is “cultural tourism?” Before going too far, let us share some definitions.
The World Tourism Organization defines “cultural tourism” as trips with the main or concomitant goal of visiting sites and events with cultural and historical value. Cultural tourism includes a means or opportunity to enjoy past human accomplishments. In other words, “visiting such places creates admiration, national pride, and the rediscovery of the achievements of our ancestors.”
An important aspect of cultural tourism is intangible cultural heritage. This is defined as those practices, expressions, knowledge, and skills that communities and individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. Transmitted through generations and constantly recreated, they provide humanity with a sense of identity and continuity.
Another author has identified “Five Pillars” of cultural tourism. For the most part, these concepts suggest intended benefits to a DMO by employing a cultural tourism strategy. Collectively, they provide further insight into the potential success produced by a focus on not just the place or its history, but the indigenous and sometimes more allusive culture.
The Five Pillars of Cultural Tourism
When considering cultural tourism, there are often natural tensions which occur with respect to intended outcomes, program management, and the use of specific tourism assets. For instance, there is sometimes a lack of understanding with respect to the potential economic impact of increased tourism and who should benefit from the incremental revenues. Cultural tourism spreads the economic impact across many different consituents, especially those who typically do not gain from traditional destination marketing. There are often issues associated with preservation, maintenance cost, economic exploitation, privacy, and the specific strategies used to promote cultural assets. In fact, Cultural tourism helps preserve and promote the unique cultural aspects of a place, preventing them from being forgotten or forever lost. But despite the barriers, most civic, state, and regional leaders agree that cultural tourism is an increasing trend and one that provides return on investment for its practitioners. Given the often sensitive and politicized nature of cultural heritage, it makes sense to emphasize and frequently remind stakeholders of the benefits. In other words, that which is at stake.
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Cultural traveler demographics.
From our experience with destination marketing we’ve developed a sophisticated and nuanced understanding of the cultural traveler that we use to develop cultural tourism strategies. Below are a few generalizations which transcend specific places and population groups.
- The market is growing. The cultural traveler is a sub-set of the leisure travel market. Both are growing as the baby boom population continues to reach retirement age and as generation xers and millennials seek ever-more authentic and immersive travel experiences.
- The market, while skewing slightly older than the general population, is getting younger. Given the relatively large size of the millennial cohort, their relative wealth, and their travel propensity, the market is getting younger and has become less dependent on the retiree.
- The market is well-educated and technologically savvy. Travelers of all ages seek and attain information prior to making detailed plans and use technology--primarily the internet and mobile devices--to implement their plans.
- Finally, cultural travelers are staying longer and are more likely to travel by air.
Although definitions of the cultural travel market vary to some degree, most experts include creative arts, history, and indigenous culture as key aspects of cultural tourism or heritage tourism. Using a set of activities surveyed by the U.S. Travel Association “Domestic Market Report,” one can gain a perspective of the significance of these activities within the context of a larger set of tourism drivers. Dining, shopping, and entertainment are the perennial, top-three tourism drivers, with roughly seventy percent of all tourists participating. While not directly associated with cultural tourism, the first opportunity is often to create more cultural context for traditional dining, shopping, and entertainment experiences.
As most destination marketing professionals know, these are the mainstay and mainstream activities that create room nights, hotel tax revenue, and generally drive the local economy. The problem is that they do not serve to distinguish or differentiate one community from another based on any proprietary feature or set of assets. They are almost always the result of national or local investment rather than indigenous history or a differentiated culture.
The exception to this of course is when a destination’s primary heritage is around the dining, shopping, or entertainment industries, for instance the “Theater District” in New York or Chicago’s “Magnificent Mile” or Minneapolis’ “Mall of America.” A more typical scenario is that a particular destination continues to evolve and gradually becomes more attractive to the national, branded stores, restaurant chains, and entertainment venues. As population demographics and tourism traffic support more and more branded concepts, the destination increases its tourism volume, or the percentage of its tourism revenue, derived from the “big three” aforementioned activities.
The next problem is that this also diminishes the destination’s sense of place, historicity, and differentiation based on unique cultural assets. While every community covets a discount mall, a Nordstrom’s, and a Capital Grill, there is an unintended consequence as differentiation is incrementally diluted and every place looks and feels a little more like every other place.
As the table below indicates, several other activities are more closely associated with cultural tourism. Touring and site seeing is in many cases directly related to cultural and/or heritage and four other activities from the survey are found within most definitions of cultural tourism. Collectively, these “middle-of-the-pack” activities account for about twenty percent of all tourism activity. And, again, they are the activities that are typically the most capable of distinguishing or branding a destination.
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The trend toward post-modernism.
Of equal significance is the trend driving the trend. The fact is, today’s interest in cultural tourism is really a manifestation of a larger and even more fundamental trend: post-modernism. Culturally, we crave that which is more personally relevant and less packaged or mass produced. For the fifty years following World War II, our economy has pursued a strategy largely defined by modernism. An emphasis on production, efficiency, the modern corporation, and, of course, mass marketing. General Motors, IBM, McDonalds, Wal-Mart, and, in the travel and destination industry, Disney. From industry-to-industry, we’ve homogenized it. Yes, we have achieved improved convenience and attainability, and we’ve hit that price point. The trade-off… America has morphed into “Generica”. Some would say: no small sacrifice. The places we’ve loved, or at least been curious about, have lost their specialness. They all look a little more like each other. And for what? A discount mall? Shame on us.
Fortunately, there is a counter-trend and a generational cohort really driving, if not insisting on, the change. It’s called post-modernism. The post-modern aesthetic has everything to do with authenticity and personal meaning. We no longer settle for the ring tone that everyone has (remember it?) but instead download something that somehow communicates something about us. Using the telephone as an example, there are many different sizes, shapes, storage capabilities, brands, and apps. There is a mega-industry devoted to customization of the protective case and another one for the ring tones. The point is, we want it our way (not their way).
The unavoidable truth is that mass production has produced a counter-trend--a preference for its antithesis. Artisanal products, craft products, hand-made, and in the travel space, authentic and immersive experiences that you can’t find just anywhere.
And there are a host of sub-trends: social media, curation, shop-small, buy-local, mass customization, etc. And the specific means by which the travel industry is tapping this macro-trend is called: cultural tourism. It is a way to confer and achieve unique experiences. It is more about truly being somewhere than just going somewhere. It is immersive, experiential, educational, and soul-cleansing. Hey, Dad, are we there yet?
The Broad Perspective and The Simple Premise
1. Handicrafts and visual arts 2. Gastronomy and culinary 3. Social practices, rituals, and festive events 4. Music and performing arts 5. Oral traditions and expressions 6. Knowledge and practices concerning nature
To the extent a local planning or leadership team can discover, develop, package, and promote these six aspects of local culture, a destination can build a more robust tourism program. The obvious implication is that most destinations do not necessarily have an even or symmetrical understanding across the six areas. Some areas are well-developed strengths while others are not well understood and/or represent latent opportunities at best. So, optimization across the six categories is the hallmark of an effective program. And, program optimization depends on a process.
Our premise is two-fold: First, tourism promotion is more effective when the destination is connected to a strong branding idea. Brands create interest, relevancy, and differentiation. A set of assets are more easily understood and remembered when they are associated with a brand idea. Second, local culture and the branding idea that supports it are more discovered than they are created. Therefore, a discovery process is necessary to understand and gain consensus around a set of marketable ideas.
Our process is called Culture ContextTM and it depends on a thorough understanding of the local culture and the context in which a particular destination competes. That context is defined by three domains: 1) the place; 2) the people; and 3) the peer group. We sometimes refer to these as the “three P’s of cultural tourism marketing”. Through an exhaustive but efficient process we collect information from each of these domains. This typically includes interviews with community stakeholders and influencers, a brand audit, a peer group communications analysis, tourism market research, and concept testing.
In a typical workshop, over one-hundred different opportunity areas are identified and then scored based on the three strategic criteria. A second evaluation step is then added. Each idea is sorted based on its ROI using our Visitor Experience Enhancement Model. This technique locates each highly scored opportunity area on a matrix defined by two axes. The first axis is the investment axis; the second is the impact axis. The reasoning is that a set of opportunities are variable in terms of the degree of investment required to create impact. Some ideas are inherently higher or lower investment and, conversely, create higher or lower impact.
In summary, this two-step approach in which ideas are first generated and scored and then sorted provides the following benefits:
- It generates new thinking and ideas;
- It creates focus and builds consensus within a group of key stakeholders;
- It sorts potential ideas into categories based on potential impact and investment requirements;
- It creates a basis for marketing planning;
- It identifies and prioritizes the destination's cultural assets with the known traveler segmentation and preferences;
- Finally, it insures that cultural products are “on-brand” from a strategic perspective.
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Conclusions and guidelines.
In summary, a set of conclusions has been offered by the World Tourism Organization with respect to planning for cultural tourism.
SOURCES: “Cultural Tourism Overview,” 2004. Travel Industry Association of America, 2013. “Study on Tourism and Intangible Cultural Heritage,” World Tourism Organization, 2011. UNESCO Convention of Safeguarding Cultural Heritage, 2003. U.S. Travel Association Domestic Travel Market Report. U.S. Travel Association Domestic Travel Market Report. “Study on Tourism and Intangible Cultural Heritage,” World Tourism Organization, 2011. “Arts & the Economy,” National Governor’s Association, 2006.
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Tourism in Emerging Economies pp 75–101 Cite as
- Wei-Ta Fang 2
- First Online: 03 January 2020
Cultural tourism has been identified as one of the most important areas for global tourism demand. The importance of this market has created a need for information on the characteristics, behaviors, and motivations of cultural tourists. These include experiencing the local culture , tradition and lifestyle, participating in arts-related activities, and also visiting museums, monuments and heritage sites (Richards 2001 ; Barton 2005 ). Cultural tourism has being the world most emerging trend of the overall travel and tourism in gaining reputation in recent years after ecotourism (Chap. 8 ).
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Fang, WT. (2020). Cultural Tourism. In: Tourism in Emerging Economies. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-15-2463-9_4
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What Is Cultural Tourism and Examples?
By Alice Nichols
Cultural Tourism: A Journey into the World of Art, History, and Diversity
Exploring the world and experiencing different cultures is a dream for many. Cultural tourism offers a unique opportunity to learn about diverse traditions, customs, and lifestyles while traveling to different destinations.
It is not just about sightseeing; it is about understanding the essence of a place, its people, and their way of life. In this article, we will explore what cultural tourism is and some examples of destinations that offer such experiences.
What Is Cultural Tourism?
Cultural tourism involves traveling to a destination primarily to experience its culture. It includes participating in activities that showcase local traditions, heritage sites, festivals, museums, art galleries, local cuisine, and other forms of cultural expression.
The aim of cultural tourism is not just entertainment but also education. It encourages travelers to appreciate the uniqueness of each culture and learn from their differences. This type of tourism also helps in preserving heritage sites by promoting sustainable tourism practices.
Examples of Cultural Tourism Destinations
- India: India is a land of diverse cultures with a rich history spanning over 5000 years. The country boasts of several UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as the Taj Mahal, Khajuraho Temples, Ajanta Caves, Hampi ruins, among others. Visitors can participate in cultural activities such as attending traditional dance performances like Bharatanatyam or Kathakali or exploring local handicrafts.
- Japan: Japan is known for its unique culture that blends traditional customs with modern technology. Visitors can explore ancient temples such as the Kiyomizu-dera temple or participate in tea ceremonies to learn about Japanese tea culture. The country’s festivals such as the Cherry Blossom Festival offer a glimpse into Japanese tradition.
- Italy: Italy is a country known for its rich history, art, and architecture. Visitors can explore famous landmarks such as the Colosseum, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or visit art galleries like the Uffizi Gallery to learn about Italian Renaissance art. The country’s cuisine is also a significant part of its culture, and visitors can participate in cooking classes to learn traditional Italian recipes.
The Benefits of Cultural Tourism
Cultural tourism not only provides travelers with unique experiences but also benefits local communities. It promotes cultural exchange between visitors and locals, creating opportunities for understanding and appreciation of different cultures. It also creates employment opportunities for local communities and helps in preserving heritage sites.
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Art & Culture Travel Blog
Cultural tourism explained: how to be a cultural tourist.
- Tea Gudek Šnajdar
How to be a cultural tourist? I have been writing about some wonderful examples of cultural tourism on this blog since 2016. And I realised that during that time, I hadn’t written an article in which I would explain well what cultural tourism actually is, who are cultural tourists and how to be one. So here it finally is – cultural tourism explained!
How to be a cultural tourist
Are you a cultural tourist if you’re visiting museums while travelling? Or if you go to the old local church during your summer trip? And what about if you read a novel set up in that destination before your visit? You could be a cultural tourist in all those cases, but not necessarily.
But how to be a cultural tourist then? And what is cultural tourism actually?
⤷ Read more : 15 Best museums in Europe you have to visit this year
History of cultural tourism
Let’s start with some basics first. As you probably know, people have been travelling already for centuries. During Ancient Rome, more than two thousand years ago, wealthy people travelled to their holiday homes on the Mediterranean Sea coast.
Later on, in Middle Ages, pilgrimages became the most popular type of travel. People travelled for religious purposes and, along their way, visited numerous churches and cathedrals. However, in the Renaissance and Baroque times, artists travelled quite a lot. They were learning about art by visiting famous churches to observe artworks in them. For the same reason, they would visit other artists’ studios and get acquainted with their art.
A bit later, the Grand Voyages became popular among the wealthy European youth. They would go on a few months-long journeys to visit some of Europe’s art and culture centres. Those trips would often include Paris , Rome and some of the best archaeological sites in Europe .
All of those early travellers were cultural tourists. They were all motivated by local art, culture and unique traditions to visit those destinations. So, if you exclude survival as one of the first reasons for early migrations, then culture is one of the earliest motivations to travel.
⤷ Read more : The travelling artists & artworks in Renaissance Europe
Culture as opposed to the mass tourism
Only from the mid-20th century did mass tourism become a thing. Before that time, travellers mainly were cultural tourists. However, with the introduction of mass transportation, people also started to go places for other reasons. And only in the 1970s is cultural tourism start being spoken about again.
Many tourism boards around the world are trying to focus more on cultural tourism in their destinations lately. So, perhaps in the near future, it will be one of the main reasons to travel again.
⤷ Read more : History of travelling – How people started to travel
If you’re wondering who cultural tourists are and if you are one, then keep reading to learn more about this type of travel. Cultural tourism theory recognises many types and subtypes of these kinds of travellers. However, not to bore you with the tiresome theory behind it, here are ten points to help you understand how to be a cultural tourist.
1 – Learn about the local culture while travelling
When deciding where to travel next, make culture one of the primary motivators for picking up that destination. When in the Netherlands, visit Dutch Golden Age heritage sites , in Croatia, learn about the local Istrian fishermen’s traditions or explore its cuisine while in Italy.
Your goal could also be to learn more about the famous local artist while travelling to a particular destination. An excellent example is exploring the Impressionist art movement in Paris or following the footsteps of Rembrandt in Amsterdam .
⤷ Read more : Locations linked to Vincent van Gogh in Europe
2 – Visiting museums & cultural sites while travelling
If museums and cultural sites are high on your bucket list when visiting a new destination, you can consider yourself a cultural tourist. Museums, galleries, great architecture, archaeological sites and beautiful churches are all considered cultural sites and are of interest to cultural tourists.
Visiting the Louvre Museum and Musée Marmottan – Monet in Paris or the Rijksmuseum or Moco Museum in Amsterdam are all considered cultural tourism activities.
⤷ Read more : How to visit the museum – A guide for the perfect museum visit
3 – Meet locals when travelling
Learning more about the local life and meeting some locals while travelling is one of the main goals of cultural tourism. It could be done by booking the tours organised by locals, going to local cafes and restaurants or visiting the local market.
Meeting the locals is one of the best ways to understand the local culture. If you’re wondering how to be a cultural tourist, meet some locals during your trip.
4 – Read about the destination before visiting it
Cultural tourists are individual travellers who prepare well for their trip in advance. Not only do they book their accommodation, transport and activities online. But they also read a lot about their destination before the trip.
You can get information about the destination you’re going to visit on travel blogs and in travel guides. However, one of my favourite ways of preparing for the trip is by reading a novel set in a destination I’m going to visit. Descriptions of its streets, architecture and life in that place make planning the trip even more exciting.
5 – Join guided tours while travelling
Guided tours are some of the best ways to learn about the local culture and destination you’re visiting. I don’t talk about mass group tours but small or private guided tours. You can join some while visiting a museum or a historical site. Or, you can learn more about the city’s history or specific areas during some of those tours.
My favourite places to look for guided tours are websites like Get Your Guide , Viator or With Locals .
⤷ Read more : 21 Most beautiful castles in Europe
6 – Try to learn a few words of the local language before and during your trip
If you plan to listen to tip no. 3 (meet some locals) from my list of how to be a cultural tourist, then this point is pretty important. If you want to be a proper cultural tourist, try to learn a few words of the local language before and during your trip.
Saying hello and thank you are some of the basics. But, if you’d like to go that extra mile, then a few more words would do magic. It’s also a great way to show respect towards the locals. Something proper culture tourists always do!
7 – Visit less known destinations for better cultural experiences
Popular and very touristic destinations often won’t give you genuine insight into the local culture. If you want to have more of an authentic experience, aim for the smaller places. Small fishermen’s villages around Barcelona will show you more true Catalunya than its capital. Small towns in France will give you a better insight into the French lifestyle than Paris.
An example I always love to give is museums with Van Gogh ‘s artworks. Most tourists who want to see the work of that famous Dutch painter visit the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam . But, that museum is often packed with people, and you won’t have a chance to enjoy his paintings that much. However, very few visit another Dutch institution, the Kröller-Müller Museum , home to the second-largest collection of Van Gogh’s paintings. It’s home to numerous fantastic artworks, but much less crowded and a place where you can enjoy his artworks in peace and quiet.
So, you understand my point here – visit less known destinations for better cultural experiences!
8 – Search for cultural events worth visiting
Have you ever considered visiting a destination just to attend some cultural events like concerts or festivals? If yes, you could definitely consider yourself a cultural tourist. I often visit some destinations because of the temporary exhibitions organised there. For example, I plan to go to Amsterdam at the beginning of the next year to see Johannes Vermeer ‘s exhibition that will be organised in the Rijksmuseum .
Some local festivals are even better reasons to visit a particular destination. Christmas markets are some of the best known. However, many interesting cultural events are organised across Europe in the summer.
9 – Try local food while travelling
Local food shows you the soul of the country. My favourite way of learning about the local culture is by visiting the market of a destination I’m seeing. It’s a perfect place to try some local food, learn about it and feel the lifestyle of a destination.
It’s also a great way to meet and chat with some locals. And don’t be afraid if you don’t speak the local language. A smile and a few words in English can mostly be enough.
⤷ Read more : The most interesting European myths and legends
10 – Read and follow Culture Tourist for travel inspiration
Are you Culture Tourist’s regular reader? If you are, you can already consider yourself a cultural tourist!
Shameless self-promotion aside, reading about some great and inspiring examples of cultural tourism worldwide could help you be a cultural tourist. It makes it easier to stay informed about exciting destinations to visit and inspired about fun cultural trips to take.
With its focus on local communities, art and sustainability, well-executed cultural tourism is the future of travel. I hope this article helped you understand how to be a cultural tourist.
Do you consider yourself a cultural tourist? What are some other things you do to be one? Let me know in the comments below!
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- Cultural Tourism: 20 World Cities That Cannot Be Surpassed By Any Other In 2023
23 Mar 2023
Cultural tourism relates to a city’s majestic art, fascinating architecture, age-old customs, impeccable hospitality, authentic cuisines, thriving nightlife, and many more facets. These compelling aspects make up the culture of a place that plays an influential role in developing and boosting the tourism of a particular destination.
And of all the cultural places to visit in the world, this list highlights the 20 most cultural cities in the world that are not only perfect for your next holiday but are also the most appealing places in the world.
20 Best Cultural Cities In The World
Here are the best cultural tourism destinations that you ought to visit if you want to do more than just travel. Learn a thing or two about the culture of these places.
- Paris – An Epitome Of Love, Romance, And Modern Art
- Milan – The Fashion Capital Of The World
- London – A Flawless Combo Of Cosmopolitan Culture & Old-World Charm
- Rome – A City That Oozes Royalty, Romance, And Ruins
- Jerusalem – An United Abode Of Judaism, Islam, And Christianity
- Bangkok – A Fantasy Land Of Temples, Bars, And Buzzing Nightlife
- Toronto – A True Showcase Of Unity In Diversity
- Miami – A Dazzling City Where Beach Scenes Are Done Right
- Singapore – A Cuisine Hybrid That Brings Flavors Of The World Together
- Madrid – A City That Cannot Survive Without Flamenco
- Dubai – A Skyscraper-City That Is Synonymous With Luxury
- Rio de Janeiro – The La La Land Of Festivals & Carnivals
- Barcelona – A City That Speaks Architecture
- Varanasi – The Spiritual Capital Of India
- São Paulo – An Owl City That Has Over 2000 Nightclubs
- New York – Shining With The Empire State Of Mind
- Tokyo – The Food Capital Of The World
- Vienna – A City That Breathes Music, In & Out
- Istanbul – A City That Brings Ancient Relics Back To Life
- Shanghai – The Museum City
20. Shanghai – The Museum City
Shanghai, also known as the global financial hub, is the largest city of China, and also the most populous city in the world. It is the birthplace of Chinese cinema, and boasts of numerous cultural attractions such as national as well as regional museums, diverse architecture, fascinating art galleries, sybaritic restaurants and cafes, and a vibrant nightlife.
Major Attractions: Shanghai Museum, The Bund, Shanghai World Financial Centre, Oriental Pearl Tower, Yu Garden, and more. Best Things To Do: Experience speed on the world’s fastest train – the Maglev, rejuvenate at Disneyland Park, enjoy a peaceful walk at the Bund, and more. Best Time To Visit: October to November.
Must Read: Crazy Adventures You Need To Try At The Great Wall of China
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19. Istanbul – A City That Brings Ancient Relics Back To Life
Witness the old world charm while traversing through the empire city of Istanbul. Straddling across Europe and Asia, Istanbul is the world’s only transcontinental city with an amalgamation of Asian and European culture . The relics of antiquity, historical museum, bustling markets, medieval ruins, upmarket restaurants, and peppy nightclubs form a major part of cultural tourism in Istanbul.
Major Attractions: Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Sultan Ahmed Mosque, Bosphorus, and more. Best Things To Do: Take a tour of the Bosphorous Cruise, shopping at the Grand Bazar, explore the Basilica Cistern, and more. Best Time To Visit: April to May or September to November
Suggested Read: 26 Places To Visit In Germany That Will Compel You To Stay Here Forever
18. Vienna – A City That Breathes Music, In & Out
Vienna is another city which adds to the charm of elegant European culture . The city of canals is known for its artistic legacy, imperial architecture, and majestic museums. Vienna’s long-lived culture of music, theatre, and opera is now accompanied by a contemporary trend of opulent coffee houses and elegant restaurants.
Major Attractions: Schonbrunn Palace, Hofburg, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Belvedere, Albertina, and more. Best Things To Do: Visit the State Opera House, explore the Tiergarten Schönbrunn zoo, enjoy riding on the Wiener Riesenrad Ferris wheel, and more. Best Time To Visit: April to May or September to October
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17. Tokyo – The Food Capital Of The World
Unlike other cultural destinations of the world, Tokyo’s culture is not only limited to ancient art and architecture. This metropolitan city depicts a unique blend of futuristic and traditional world with architecture ranging from historical temples to neon-lit skyscrapers. The most beckoning part of Japanese culture is their food. Tokyo has the most number of Michelin-starred restaurant than any other city in the world, thus, earning the title of ‘food capital of the world’.
Major Attractions: Tokyo SkyTree, Imperial Palace, Tokyo National Museum, Odaiba, Shinjuku Gyoen, and more. Best Things To Do: Spectate a game of Sumo Wrestling, dine out at the finest restaurants, visit the Tokyo Disneyland, and more. Best Time To Visit: March to May and October to December
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16. New York – Shining With The Empire State Of Mind
New York, the most lively city of United States, is also a popular commercial, financial, and cultural cities of the world . The city houses ultramodern architectural buildings, highest number of theaters, musical concerts, and a bustling nightlife which beckon every traveler to visit this place once in a lifetime.
Major Attractions: Central Park, Empire State Building, Statue Of Liberty, Rockefeller Center, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and more. Best Things To Do: Attend a broadway show at Times Square, visit the Brooklyn Bridge, explore the High Line, visit the Bryant Park, and more. Best Time To Visit: April to June and September to November
Suggested Read: 8 Salzburg Hotels That Let You Experience The City’s Fine Hospitality On Your Trip
15. São Paulo – An Owl City That Has Over 2000 Nightclubs
Holding a record of maximum number of nightclubs, Sao Paulo is a city that never sleeps. The city witnesses a vast cultural diversity with sophisticated art and architecture on side and an uproaring party culture on the other. Keeping aside cultural places to visit , the Paulistanos possess an eternal love for music and theatre which reflects brightly from their culture.
Major Attractions: Ibirapuera Park, Sao Paulo Museum of Art, Sao Paulo Cathedral, and more. Best Things To Do: Witness the Samba Saturdays, watch a play at the Theatro Municipal de Sao Paulo, and more. Best Time To Visit: September to March
Suggested Read: 13 Best Places To Visit In Brussels That Highlight The Charm Of The City
14. Varanasi – The Spiritual Capital Of India
Varanasi, a major pilgrimage city in India, is one of the most visited cultural travel destinations of the country. Situated on the banks of the divine Ganges river, Varanasi is one of the oldest civilised city of the world which can be best explored with personalized India tour packages . This mystical city is considered as an abode of Lord Shiva, and is of great religious importance to the Hindus who visit this place in order to repent, seek forgiveness, and to pay final respects to the departed family members.
Major Attractions: Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Panchganga Ghat, Dashashwamedh Ghat, Ramnagar Fort, Chaukhandi Stupa, and more. Best Things To Do: Witness the evening prayer ceremony at Ganga Ghat, River Rafting, explore the Chandra Prabha Wildlife Sanctuary, and more. Best Time To Visit: November To February
Suggested Read: 39 Places To Visit In Varanasi: The Best Of Culture, History, & Spirituality
13. Barcelona – A City That Speaks Architecture
This Spanish seaside city possesses a rich cultural heritage in the form of art and architecture which dates back to the middle ages. Barcelona is one of the most visited cultural places in the world which is not only famous for its historical past but also for its Catalan cuisine and elegant wine and dine restaurants. It is one of the most interesting cultural tourism places to visit if you want to have a holistic experience.
Major Attractions: Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, Casa Mila, Gothic Quarter, La Boqueria, Museu Picasso, and more. Best Things To Do: Explore La Boqueria food market, enjoy Tibidabo Amusement Park, trek to Montjuic, cable car ride at Montserrat, and more. Best Time To Visit: May to June or September to October
Suggested Read: This Winter, Escape To The Best Honeymoon Destinations In Europe In Winter
12. Rio de Janeiro – The La La Land Of Festivals & Carnivals
The first thing that comes to one’s mind upon hearing Rio de Janeiro is the famous ‘Christ The Redeemer’ statue. The ‘Marvellous City’ is an important part of cultural tourism famous for its colourful lifestyle, high-spirited nightlife with music in the veins of every Carioca. The enthusiastic lifestyle of the people coupled with the golden sand beaches, and picturesque mountains make the city even more enticing.
Major Attractions: Christ The Redeemer Statue, Sugarloaf Mountain, Copacabana, Corcovado, and more. Best Things To Do: Santa Teresa tour, hike the Sugarloaf mountain, shopping at Ipanema, nightlife at Botafogo, and more. Best Time To Visit: December to March
Suggested Read: Guide To Budapest: The Most Stunning City In Europe
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11. Dubai – A Skyscraper-City That Is Synonymous With Luxury
Dubai, the most sumptuous cultural tourism city, is a synonym of luxury. The lavish culture of the Emirati people reflects in their ornate architecture, extravagant hotels and resorts, and expansive malls. Being an epitome of development, Dubai is one of the most futuristic cities of the world in terms of technology, and architecture.
Major Attractions: Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab, Palm Jumeirah, The Ferrari Museum, Aquaventure Waterpark, and more. Best Things To Do: Desert Safari, Shopping at Dubai Mall, dune bashing, cruise the Dubai Creek, quad-biking, and more. Best Time To Visit: November to March
Suggested Read: Spending Winter In Dubai This Year Would Be The Best Decision You’d Ever Make With This Guide!
10. Madrid – A City That Cannot Survive Without Flamenco
Madrid, the capital of Spain, is another city which depicts the majestic grandeur of European culture . The city’s culture is beautifully moulded in the artistic and architectural masterpieces, which is further enhanced by the culinary delights where fine art meets fine dining on the bustling streets of the city which become even more lit during the night.
Major Attractions: Buen Retiro Park, Plaza Mayor, Royal Palace Of Madrid, Museo Nacional Del Prado, Puerta del Sol, and more. Best Things To Do: Visit the Temple of Debod, do the flamenco, shopping at the flea market, explore the Almudena Cathedral, attend a theatre performance at Gran Vía, and more. Best Time To Visit: September to November and March to May
Suggested Read: 20 Remarkable Places To Visit In Madrid That Give You A Taste Of The Good Life In Spain!
9. Singapore – A Cuisine Hybrid That Brings Flavors Of The World Together
One of the most tourist-friendly cities in the world, Singapore is an indispensable part of cultural tourism . This island city is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world in terms of lifestyle, language, and cuisine. It is a global financial with the most efficient transport system in the world, eco-friendly business hubs, and a plethora of national parks in Singapore .
Major Attractions: Gardens By The Bay, Sentosa, Universal Studios, Singapore Botanic Gardens, Merlion Park, and more. Best Things To Do: Enjoy the Night Safari, go on a Singapore Zoo tour, experience the River Safari, enjoy riding on the Singapore Flyer, and more. Best Time To Visit: February to April
Suggested Read: 22 Chilling Winter Destinations In Europe That’ll Melt Your Heart
8. Miami – A Dazzling City Where Beach Scenes Are Done Right
One of the leading cities of cultural tourism , Miami lures culture lovers to visit its white sand beaches, artistic beauty, and architectural jewels. This culturally diverse city is one of beckons you to capture a glimpse of its exuberant culture which reflects through its dazzling nightlife, innovative cuisines, and thrilling adventure sports.
Major Attractions: Miami Seaquarium, Jungle Island, Coral Castle, Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, and more. Best Things To Do: Shopping at Lincoln Road, swim at the Venetian Pool, go bowling at the Dolphin Mall, experience skydiving, and more. Best Time To Visit: March to May
Suggested Read: 10 Exciting Things To Do In Helsinki For Unforgettable Finnish Experiences
7. Toronto – A True Showcase Of Unity In Diversity
Toronto, often called the capital of language diversity, is one of the finest example of cultural tourism . This culturally and linguistically diverse city is an exceptional example of hospitality and the number of ethnic groups that it accommodates. Other than that, Toronto is also known for its freezing winters, prodigious skyscrapers, and extensive culinary delights.
Major Attractions: CN Tower, Lake Ontario, Royal Ontario Museum, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, Casa Loma, and more. Best Things To Do: Dine at the CN Tower, enjoy sailing at Lake Ontario, explore the Canada’s Wonderland, visit the Toronto Islands, shopping at Eaton Centre, and more. Best Time To Visit: April to May and September to October
Suggested Read: 40 Best Places To Visit In Canada That Will Leave You Spellbound!
6. Bangkok – A Fantasy Land Of Temples, Bars, And Buzzing Nightlife
One of the most budget-friendly cultural tourism destinations , Bangkok is famous for its iconic temples, vibrant cuisine, and lively bars all over the world. The Thai culture resides in each and every aspect of the city, be it ultramodern architecture, tropical beaches, the traditional martial arts, or the much-hyped go-go bars. Apart from this, this temple land is also popular among the honeymooners who flock to Bangkok, Thailand all around the year. It is also one of the most popular cultural tourism destinations .
Major Attractions: Phi Phi Islands, Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Pattaya, Railay Beach, Wat Arun, Ko Pha Ngan, and more. Best Things To Do: Island hopping at Phi Phi Islands, scuba diving and snorkelling at Similan Islands, nightlife at Pattaya, and more. Best Time To Visit: November to April
Suggested Read: Top 18 Places To Visit In Switzerland During Winters
5. Jerusalem – An United Abode Of Judaism, Islam, And Christianity
Jerusalem, in true sense, is the quintessence of cultural tourism . It might be the only city in the world where one can hear church bells in consonance with Namaz, and the sound of the Shofar. The city’s cultural diversity is accompanied by its contrasting ancient and newfangled architecture, lifestyle, and beliefs. This city offers captivating tourist attractions ranging from museums to buildings, and restaurants and bars.
Major Attractions: Church Of The Holy Sepulchre, Dome Of The Rock, Western Wall, Mount Zion, and more. Best Things To Do: Hike the Israel National Trail, visit the Yad Vashem, shopping at Old City Market, explore the Monastery of the Cross, and more. Best Time To Visit: April to May or October to November
Suggested Read: 10 Most Beautiful Rivers In Europe For Cruise Journeys
4. Rome – A City That Oozes Royalty, Romance, And Ruins
Rome, also known as the Eternal City, is the epitome of European culture . Traversing through this city feels like travelling back in time to the middle ages. The cultural heritage of the city is restored in the ancient ruins like the age-old Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Piazza Venezia. The mesmerizing art and the bustling city life of this city render it one of the most romantic destinations in the world. It is also one of the must-see tourist places in Italy .
Major Attractions: Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Roman Forum, Vatican Museum’s, St. Peter’s Basilica, Pantheon, and more. Best Things To Do: Shop at the Spanish Steps, savour the Gelatos at Giolitti, explore the Piazza Navona, visit the museum of Castel Sant’Angelo, and more. Best Time To Visit: October to April
Suggested Read: 15 Unique Things To Do In Copenhagen To Experience The City Like A Local
3. London – A Flawless Combo Of Cosmopolitan Culture & Old-World Charm
London, the capital city of England, depicts an amalgamation of both ancient and modern European culture . The cosmopolitan culture of the city can be estimated by the fact that one in every 3 Londoners is a foreign born. Other than that, the royal city is also known for its heritage architecture, creative art, film festivals, performing arts, and delectable cuisines.
Major Attractions: Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Tower Of London, British Museum, Tower Bridge, Palace of Westminster, and more. Best Things To Do: Boating at River Thames, visit St. Paul’s Cathedral, witness the best skyline views from The Shard, explore the London Dungeon, and more. Best Time To Visit: May to September
Suggested Read: Christmas Celebration In Delhi: 18 Best Places To Embrace The Festive Vibes In The Capital!
2. Milan – The Fashion Capital Of The World
Take a bus tour around the streets of Milan to absorb the rich history associated with its architecture, people, and food. Dressing to impress is a way of life and a given in the fashion capital of the world. Be prepared for a classy experience in a city that’s had more than its fair share of scandals, historic moments, and iconic people who have made a big imprint on human civilization, making it a significant cultural tourism destination .
Major Attractions: Milan Cathedral, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Sforza Castle, Santa Maria delle Grazie, Palazzo dell’Arengario, and more. Best Things To Do: Watch an Italian classic at Teatro alla Scala, explore Royal Palace of Milan, admire the modern art at Pinacoteca di Brera, and more. Best Time To Visit: April to May and September to October
Suggested Read: Two Weeks In Europe: Music Festival, Austrian Beer & Unforgettable Madness With Friends
1. Paris – An Epitome Of Love, Romance, And Modern Art
Paris is a city overloaded with European culture . It is the most romantic destination of the world and a hub of modern art, fashion, film festivals, cinemas, shopping and gastronomy. Another important part of Parisian culture is the French cuisine which is served in iconic restaurants and blissful bakeries.
Major Attractions: Eiffel Tower, Arc De Triomphe, The Louvre, Notre-Dame de Paris, Sacré-Cœur, Paris, and more. Best Things To Do: Visit Disneyland Paris, dine at the Eiffel Tower, explore the Tuileries Garden, shopping at Champs-Élysées, and more. Best Time To Visit: June to August and September to October
Further Read: In Pictures: 35 Most Beautiful Cities In Europe That Will Make You Want To Take The EuroTrip Now!
Are you a culture vulture? Then wait no more! Book an international holiday package with TravelTriangle to one of the most cultural cities in the world and experience the best of cultural tourism.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Cultural Tourism
Which are the most famous cities in europe.
Paris, Rome, London, Madrid, Spain, and Vienna are some of the most popular cities in Europe that travellers often add to their itinerary. If you are planning a backpacking trip, you can add several more destinations from the surrounding countries.
Which is the most populous city in the world?
Tokyo is the most populous city in the world which has a population of approximately 9 million people. It is also one of the fastest developing cities in the world.
Which are the most popular cultural cities of South America?
Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are the most popular cultural cities of South America. Most travellers explore these capitals before exploring other destinations in the country.
Which city is known as the fashion capital of the world?
Paris, Milan, London, and New York are known as the fashion capitals of the world.
Which city is known as the spiritual capital of India?
Varanasi is known as the spiritual capital of India. Home to some of the most popular temples and pilgrimage sites, many devotees travel to Varanasi for spiritual gatherings every year.
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What does Cultural tourism mean?
Definitions for cultural tourism cul·tural tourism, this dictionary definitions page includes all the possible meanings, example usage and translations of the word cultural tourism ., wikipedia rate this definition: 3.7 / 19 votes.
- Cultural tourism
Cultural tourism is the subset of tourism concerned with a traveler's engagement with a country or region's culture, specifically the lifestyle of the people in those geographical areas, the history of those people, their art, architecture, religion(s), and other elements that helped shape their way of life.
Freebase Rate this definition: 3.6 / 73 votes
Cultural tourism is the subset of tourism concerned with a country or region's culture, specifically the lifestyle of the people in those geographical areas, the history of those people, their art, architecture, religion, and other elements that helped shape their way of life. Cultural tourism includes tourism in urban areas, particularly historic or large cities and their cultural facilities such as museums and theatres. It can also include tourism in rural areas showcasing the traditions of indigenous cultural communities, and their values and lifestyle. It is generally agreed that cultural tourists spend substantially more than standard tourists do. 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. Cultural tourism has been 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'. These cultural needs can include the solidification of one's own cultural identity, by observing the exotic "other".
How to pronounce Cultural tourism?
Alex US English David US English Mark US English Daniel British Libby British Mia British Karen Australian Hayley Australian Natasha Australian Veena Indian Priya Indian Neerja Indian Zira US English Oliver British Wendy British Fred US English Tessa South African
How to say Cultural tourism in sign language?
The numerical value of Cultural tourism in Chaldean Numerology is: 1
The numerical value of Cultural tourism in Pythagorean Numerology is: 7
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What are examples of impacts of tourism?
Negative impacts:, 1. how does tourism impact the economy, 2. what are the social impacts of tourism, 3. is tourism beneficial for the environment, 4. how does tourism affect local communities, 5. what is the impact of tourism on wildlife, 6. what is the impact of tourism on cultural heritage, 7. how does tourism impact natural resources, 8. does tourism contribute to climate change, 9. what is the impact of tourism on local culture, 10. how does tourism affect traffic congestion, 11. does tourism increase property prices, 12. how can overtourism be managed.
Tourism can have various impacts on both the destination and the tourists themselves. Here are some examples of both positive and negative impacts of tourism:
Tourism can be a major source of economic growth for a destination. It creates job opportunities in various sectors such as hospitality, transportation, and entertainment. Local businesses thrive as tourists spend money on accommodation, food, shopping, and entertainment. The revenue generated from tourism can boost the overall economy of a destination.
To attract tourists, destinations often invest in improving their infrastructure. Better roads, transportation networks, airports, and public facilities are developed to provide a better experience to the visitors. This not only benefits the tourists but also enhances the overall quality of life for the local residents.
Tourism promotes cultural exchange between visitors and locals. Tourists get a chance to immerse themselves in the local culture, traditions, and customs. This interaction helps in fostering understanding and appreciation of different cultures, leading to greater tolerance and respect among people.
Tourism can have adverse effects on the environment. Overcrowding, pollution, and excessive resource consumption can lead to the degradation of natural habitats, deforestation, and pollution of land, water, and air. Popular tourist destinations often face the challenge of balancing the preservation of their natural resources with the growing number of visitors.
Sometimes, destinations become victims of their own success when they attract an overwhelming number of tourists. Overtourism can put a strain on local infrastructure, create congestion, and disrupt the lives of residents. It can lead to increased prices, loss of authenticity, and degradation of the visitor experience.
Mass tourism can lead to the dilution of local culture and traditions. When destinations are overwhelmed by tourists, there is a risk of commodification and commercialization of cultural practices. Locals may change their way of life or adapt their traditions to cater to tourist demands, resulting in the loss of authenticity.
Frequently Asked Questions about the impacts of tourism:
Tourism can have a positive impact on the economy by generating revenue, creating job opportunities, and boosting local businesses. However, it may also lead to economic dependence on tourism and income inequality.
Tourism can promote cultural exchange, foster understanding among people, and improve social cohesion. However, it can also lead to overcrowding, changes in the local way of life, and cultural dilution.
While tourism can contribute to environmental conservation through sustainable practices, it can also have negative impacts such as deforestation, pollution, and habitat destruction.
Tourism can bring economic opportunities and infrastructure development to local communities. However, it can also create conflicts with the local way of life, lead to gentrification, and disrupt community traditions.
Tourism can have both positive and negative impacts on wildlife. Responsible wildlife tourism can contribute to conservation efforts, while irresponsible practices can disrupt ecosystems and endanger wildlife.
Tourism can help in preserving and promoting cultural heritage by generating revenue for its conservation. However, over-tourism and commercialization can lead to the degradation of cultural authenticity.
Tourism can put a strain on natural resources through excessive water consumption, energy use, and waste generation. Sustainable tourism practices aim to minimize these impacts.
Tourism contributes to climate change through air travel, energy consumption, and waste generation. However, sustainable tourism practices can help in reducing these carbon footprints.
Tourism can both enrich and dilute local culture. It can provide opportunities for cultural exchange, but mass tourism can lead to the commercialization and loss of authenticity of local traditions.
Popular tourist destinations often face the challenge of increased traffic congestion due to the influx of tourists. This can impact the quality of life for both tourists and residents.
In some cases, tourism can lead to an increase in property prices. As demand for accommodation rises, the cost of housing in popular tourist areas may also go up.
To manage overtourism, destinations can implement measures such as limiting the number of visitors, promoting alternative destinations, and spreading tourism throughout the year. Sustainable tourism practices and community involvement are also crucial in tackling overtourism.
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- The Leadership Brief
How Mayor Oh Se-hoon Is Using K-Culture to Make Seoul a Business Hub
I n one sense, Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon has got it easy. The international boom of South Korean “K-culture” exports like pop groups BTS and Blackpink , and even dystopian hits like Squid Game and Parasite , have done more to market his beguiling city of 10 million than any Madison Avenue publicity campaign could.
But that doesn’t mean Oh is sitting back. The 62-year-old former lawyer and lawmaker says he is determined to transform Seoul into a top tourist destination as well as an Asian hub for international firms. To that end, he recently returned from a goodwill tour of North America, where he threw the first pitch at a Toronto Blue Jays game, before attending New York City Climate Week , including a meeting of the C40 Climate Leadership Group—a global network of progressive city leaders—on the sidelines of the U.N. Climate Ambition Summit.
Oh made his name as a lawyer by establishing the “right to sunlight” for the first time in South Korean history, meaning that developers and city planners were forced to leave adequate room between buildings. As Mayor, he has championed green policies such as encouraging residents to drink tap rather than bottled water, boosting recycling targets, and reducing wastage.
Oh spoke to TIME in Seoul City Hall, where he discussed bonding with New York Mayor Eric Adams over a whisky, why South Korea needs nuclear weapons, and a potential run for the nation’s top job.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
You've just returned from the U.S. How was that trip?
The visit was very fruitful. First and foremost, we had the C40 Steering Committee meeting, where I met with the Mayor of London and other mayors of major cities around the world to discuss climate action. I also met with the Mayor of New York, Eric Adams, and we signed an MOU [memorandum of understanding] on friendly cooperation .
I had a drink with Mayor Adams in the evening and we really came together in solidarity and unity, because he is referred to as the “Republican Democrat” mayor, and I am a member of a conservative party but also referred to as maybe the “Democratic” politician within it. And we are both very committed to taking care of vulnerable groups in our society. When we said goodbye, we said that we will become brothers and became very close.
Seoul is the center of the K-culture phenomenon and plans to attract 30 million foreign tourists to the city by 2027. What soft power benefits does the K-culture buzz bring?
Our exact strategy is “3377,” which means we want to attract 30 million inbound tourists to Seoul annually, and for each to spend 3 million Korean won [$2,300]. And we want them to stay in Seoul for seven days, with a revisit rate to be 70%—so that's 3377. Of course, the tourism industry has very favorable effects in terms of job creation and economic development. But even more importantly, Seoul has become the subject of interest and curiosity of people around the world. We hope that this K-culture popularity can lead more people to come to Seoul and raise the overall national brand of South Korea.
Seoul was listed in the top 10 global financial cities in March. How are you striving to make it a business-friendly place?
To make a city business-friendly people talk about lowering the tax rate or revitalizing the startup ecosystem. But that's obvious. To become a truly business-friendly city we need to make a city that is very attractive, where people want to live, make money, and enjoy themselves. So I focus on three elements: technology, talent, and tolerance. Seoul is already well known to be a smart city and has 54 universities, so we have abundant talent. The third element, tolerance, is about having the mindset of being open and welcoming to foreigners.
October marked the one-year anniversary of the Itaewon disaster , when 159 people died in a crush while celebrating Halloween. What steps have you taken to ensure that such a tragedy can never happen again?
First and foremost is how we handle events or occasions where there is no host or organizer. Regarding hardware, we installed more CCTVs along the main roads and alleyways to detect the crowd before an accident happens. Already, Seoul has 150,000 CCTV throughout the city and so we are quite a safe city; women can walk at 10 p.m. or midnight and feel safe from crime. We will incorporate AI in these so-called “people counting CCTVs and so they automatically detect the number of people in crowds and they send this information to the control tower. So I firmly believe that such an accident will not occur again.
Still, to this day no one has resigned or been held responsible for the tragedy. Do you think that's good enough?
The investigation is ongoing in a very fair manner and criminal cases are being pursued. Criminal accountability is being placed on the head of the police agency and the head of the fire department in that region.
Some relatives of Itaewon victims told me that they're being fined for erecting a small shrine outside City Hall. Why is it appropriate to fine grieving families for a small, non-obstructive shrine on public land?
If they had consulted with the Seoul Metropolitan government before installing the shrine, it would not have been a problem. But according to Korean law it’s illegal—that’s why we fined them. It is indeed disappointing, but there is an inevitable aspect to the situation. The Seoul city government has been consistently making sincere efforts to help and stand by the bereaved families throughout the year. We have assigned designated public officers to support them and we have maintained communication.
You recently unveiled a “ Going together with a socially neglected ” policy which aims to uplift the city’s less privileged and reduce inequality. What is your vision behind this and what does it mean in practical terms?
In many advanced countries, the more national wealth accumulated the wider the gap between the rich and the poor. Korea is no exception. But we can’t let the rich get even richer; everyone must get prosperous together. So it's the government’s responsibility to take care of vulnerable groups in society.
A good example is “Seoul Learn,” which is an online educational platform. In Korea, unlike other countries, to get into a good university students have to enroll in private academic institutions. But these private academic institutions are very expensive. Seoul Learn provides students from families in the bottom 25% income bracket these popular and expensive educational content for free. We provide them with expensive educational materials and textbooks and match them with university students as mentors. Their academic levels have risen quite significantly.
Last year, most participants of Seoul Learn entered good universities and so this is a symbolic example of our going together with the socially neglected. We want to sever the bad cycle of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.
People with physical disabilities are also among the socially neglected. Recently, you were quite critical of the Solidarity Against Disability Discrimination (SADD) advocacy group that protested by blocking commuter routes. Why?
Actually, I don't believe it was a harsh response. We were quite tolerant because they deliberately and intentionally blocked subways more than 90 times over the past year and a half. Subways rely on the exact time that they're supposed to run. At first, SADD held protests calling for mobility rights of people with disabilities. The city government listened to their demands and rolled out mobility improvement projects in response. However, SADD continued their protests, now urging for an increase in the central government budget for disabled people, which is not part of the city government’s jurisdiction.
In the meantime, our innocent citizens who commute for their livelihoods have suffered. These disruptions in public transportation have resulted in not only personal suffering but also public losses. In the best interest of our citizens, the city government had to make a difficult yet firm decision to no longer tolerate disruptions caused by their protests. That is why we have taken legal actions and we had to prohibit their subway protests.
You're working towards the Zero Waste Seoul and striving to increase the plastic recycling rate to 80% by 2026. What's the biggest barrier you face to achieving this goal?
It's a very important goal but very difficult because we see a rapid increase in single-person and two-person households, which together account for more than 60% of the entire population of Seoul. Young people leave their parents’ house and resort to delivery food in plastic containers, so it's very challenging.
You've been quite vocal supporting South Korea developing its own nuclear deterrent. Why is that? Presumably you believe that the current situation under the U.S. nuclear umbrella is insufficient.
We trust in the U.S. and we trust in the Biden Administration. However, the U.S. president is replaced every four years. We want to believe in the promise that the U.S. has given us and have faith in the alliances between our countries. But depending on who is president of the U.S., this can change. Every country needs to have the means to defend itself. And since North Korea has their own nukes; nukes can deter nukes.
When you say that things “can change,” it feels like you are referring to another potential term by former President Donald Trump [whose charm offensive with North Korea included canceling joint military drills with South Korea]. Is he what made you adopt this viewpoint?
It's a very sensitive question. I won't pinpoint exactly a certain individual but it is common knowledge that the president changes every four years and the Korean people want 100% defense of their country.
Speaking of presidents, a lot of people in Seoul want you to run for the South Korean presidency. Have you any such plans?
I am a fourth term Mayor of Seoul, but because I was elected in a by-election, I've only served a little over 10 years [instead of 16]. So I still have very strong aspirations to complete numerous projects for the city of Seoul. Whether or not I will run for president in the future, I don't know.
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Write to Charlie Campbell at [email protected]
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Tourism in Zanzibar: A Journey of growth, challenges, and resilience
Posted: November 14, 2023 | Last updated: November 14, 2023
Zanzibar has in the past two decades emerged as a mesmerizing tourist destination, enchanting travelers with its pristine beaches, rich history, and vibrant culture.Despite the drawbacks during the pandemic, the past few years has seen a complete turnaround, the island has seen a surge in tourism, with a record number of visitors arriving in 2022.According to the Zanzibar Tourism Commission, the number of tourists visiting with official numbers showing that visitors had to the island had increased by 110.28 percent from 260,644 in 2020 to 548,503 in 2022.But these were mainly those who were from abroad and the number by rough estimates has hit above the 850,000 ceiling, that was set by the authorities in 2020.The island's tourism industry has witnessed remarkable growth over the past decades, transforming it into a vital economic pillar and source of employment for hundreds of thousands.Speaking to The Citizen, Zanzibar’ minister for tourism and heritage Simai Mohammed Said says the number of tourists has since hit beyond the one million mark.“In the past the numbers that we have been capturing did not put into consideration the visitors that come from mainland on a daily basis for conferences and leisure of the weekends,” said Mr Said.The growth in tourism has had a significant impact on the Zanzibari economy.“In 2022, the tourism sector contributed 29.2 percent of the island's GDP, up from 16 percent in 2020. This growth has created jobs, boosted economic growth, and improved the quality of life for many Zanzibaris,’ he said.In addition to the increase in the number of visitors, Zanzibar has also seen a growth in the number of hotels and guesthouses.“In 2023, there were 709 hotels and guesthouses on the island, up from 620 in 2020. This growth has helped to meet the demand for accommodation from tourists in all the different classes,” he said.The allure of ZanzibarThe allure of Zanzibar lies in its natural splendor, cultural heritage, and unique blend of influences. Its pristine beaches, fringed by swaying palms and turquoise waters, provide an idyllic escape for sunseekers and beach enthusiasts.The island's rich history, evident in its ancient Stone Town, captivating spice plantations, and UNESCO-listed ruins, offers a glimpse into its fascinating past. Zanzibar's vibrant culture, infused with African, Arab, and Indian influences, manifests in its delectable cuisine, lively music, and captivating crafts.Several key factors have contributed to Zanzibar's tourism boom. The island's proximity to Tanzania's mainland, with its renowned wildlife safaris and Serengeti National Park, makes it an attractive add-on to a classic safari itinerary.The development of international airports and improved air connectivity has facilitated easier access for travelers worldwide. The growth of luxury accommodations, catering to discerning travelers, has further enhanced Zanzibar's appeal.Five Star HotelsThe growth of tourism in Zanzibar has led to a boom in the construction of new hotels, including a number of five-star properties.Between 2020 and 2023, eight new five-star hotels opened in Zanzibar. These hotels are located in a variety of locations around the island, including Nungwi, Matemwe, Pwani Mchangani, Kizimkazi, Michamvi, Pongwe, and the airport.“The new five-star hotels offer a variety of amenities and services, including luxurious accommodations, world-class restaurants, and stunning views of the Indian Ocean. These hotels are attracting tourists from all over the world, and they are helping to boost the economy of Zanzibar, said Mr Simai Mohamed.The average length of stay for tourists in Zanzibar has also increased. In 2020, the average visitor stayed for 6 days whereas, in 2023, the average length of stay has increased to 8 days.This, according to him, suggests that tourists are spending more time on the island, which is benefiting the local economy.Historical trajectoryZanzibar's tourism journey has been marked by a series of milestones. In the early 1990s, the island began to attract a growing number of European travelers, drawn by its unspoiled beauty and authentic experiences.The introduction of charter flights and the development of eco-tourism initiatives further stimulated tourism growth.Later in the mid-1990s under Dr Salmin Amour’s administration, Zanzibar witnessed the introduction of its first direct scheduled international flight by Gulf Air, this proved to be a turning point.The new millennium saw a surge in popularity, with Zanzibar becoming a sought-after destination for honeymooners, families, and adventure seekers.AirlinesThe return of tourist airlines to Zanzibar is another factor that has been attributed as one of the key factors contributing to the growth of tourism in Zanzibar“In 2020, there were only five major tourist airlines flying to Zanzibar. In 2023, there were 10 major tourist airlines flying to Zanzibar, including KLM, Air France, Global Airways, and Hifly,” he said.He added: This increase in the number of airlines flying direct to Zanzibar has made it easier and more affordable for tourists to visit the island. It has also helped to open up new markets for Zanzibar, such as Portugal.The return of major tourist airlines, according to him, is a sign of the growing popularity of Zanzibar as a tourist destination which is now well-positioned to continue to attract tourists in the years to come.Challenges amidst growthDespite its remarkable growth, Zanzibar's tourism industry faces certain challenges. The overdependence on tourism can pose risks during economic downturns or global crises.The Zanzibar Tourism Commission Chairman (ZCT) Rahim Bhaloo says amidst the growth, one of the greatest milestone was for the Zanzibar community and its people to accept tourism due to the nature of business.“The biggest challenges are the rightful understanding and approach of local Zanzibar and its migrant staff from Tanzania to accept and understand that tourism is very sensitive industry and it will only thrive further if we safeguard the interests of our visitors and their liking,” says Mr Bhaloo.He adds: Beach pollution, beach harassment and overpriced products alongside many regulatory bodies overseeing the sector without rightful insight from the cross cutting sectors are challenges too.Though Zanzibar did not close its doors to the world during the global pandemic, this over dependency was obvious as many countries that are the sources of origin for tourists shut downThe need for sustainable tourism practices is crucial to preserve the island's natural beauty and cultural heritage.The industry must also address social and environmental concerns, ensuring that tourism benefits local communities and contributes to their well-being.SustainabilityZanzibar's tourism industry stands poised for continued growth, with a focus on sustainability and resilience.The island's potential for diversifying its tourism offerings, including cultural tourism, ecotourism, and wellness retreats, remains untapped.Investments in infrastructure, education, and training can enhance the quality of services and create employment opportunities for locals.It is with the view of such challenges that the government of Zanzibar is committed to ensuring that tourism is sustainable on the island.In 2023, the government launched a new Sustainable Tourism Declaration, which outlines a set of principles and goals for sustainable tourism development in Zanzibar.According to Mr Simai, the declaration recognizes the importance of protecting the island's natural environment, cultural heritage, and local communities.“Improving the management of the Stone Town World Heritage Site is something that government is working to improve the infrastructure and services, while also protecting the site's cultural heritage. The government is working with tourism businesses and stakeholders to promote responsible tourism practices, such as reducing waste and promoting environmental conservation.”Just like it is with the airlines, the tourism ministry says they are targeting cruise ships which have become a growing source of tourism in Zanzibar.The Zanzibar Tourism Commission says it has taken steps to attract cruise ships, including working with cruise lines, promoting Zanzibar as a cruise destination and providing infrastructure and amenities for cruise ships.By embracing sustainability, Zanzibar can continue to enchant travelers with its unique charm while ensuring long-term prosperity for its people. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. ( Syndigate.info ).
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