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At the beginning of December 2018 members of both UNESCO and UNWTO met in Turkey with the vision of implementing a more sustainable tourism approach in the next years and more precisely focusing on how to use cultural tourism to preserve local heritage, not only in remote villages but also in cities, making them more innovative.

The Conference had two main goals:

Conference about how Cultural Tourism can support Communities and alive Heritage
ISTANBUL, TURKEY – DECEMBER 3: ‘Ministerial Segment’ meeting is held within the 3rd UNWTO/UNESCO World Conference on Tourism and Culture in Istanbul, Turkey on December 3, 2018. ( Arif Hüdaverdi Yaman – Anadolu Agency )

In the opening of the Conference, the president of Malta Ms. Coleiro Preca underlined the importance of culture for a more sustainable tourism which enhances cooperation. More than 30 ministries were present at the Conference and agreed about the importance of cooperation between stakeholders. In particular, the need of actions to preserve local interests combined with tourism development, and how to make the community be represented in the tourism plan.

One very important point was made about the fact that it is fundamental to find a connection between tourism and heritage so that the large numbers of visitors do not damage the cultural attractions. As we know there is a big debate on over tourism in cities like Barcelona for example and this could be a disincentive for locals if they do not see any benefit from tourists. For this reason, it is essential to spread visitors in other sites and also share the profit coming from tourism attractions to the local population.

During the three days of Conference, there were 3 sessions which are explained below.

Message by UNWTO Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili

Session 1: Cultural tourism for sustainable and creative cities

The first session was about UNESCO Creative Cities which use new methods and culture to become sustainable. The questions addressed were about how to use creativity to change cultural tourism in a positive way and how actors involved can share the advantages from tourism. An example of this would be the Orange Tourism, a more responsible tourism to generate development based on the own identity of the place, which was applied in different cities like Dublin (Ireland) named as “UNESCO Creative City for Literature Bloomsday: citizens and tourist participation live the Ulysses world created by James Joyce”.

Session 2: Responsible tourism as an ally for safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH)

The second session was focused on Intangible Cultural Heritage and the community. This is very important as the community is the one who is the Intangible Heritage itself and a more responsible tourism would support local traditions carried on from generation to generation. Some of the questions were about how to combine tourism and Intangible Heritage to make heritage survive and how to make tourism preserve heritage and not be a damage.

An example would be the Kozara Ethno Festival in Bosnia and Herzegovina with the aim of promoting rural tourism in the mountain region Kozara. This type of cultural event managed to involve locals and give them benefits for their work in a long-term perspective.

Session 3: Ensuring cultural tourism for all through digital transformation

The last session was about ICT role in cultural tourism and examples of how accessibility issues were overcome using technology. The questions in this session were about how ICT can be useful for actors in cultural tourism and how to make that digitalisation helps and not destroy heritage. An example could be what happened in the Lavaux vineyards where digitalisation was used in a simple and effective way to make tourists aware of the traditions of the place. Tourists could use their mobile devices to point a QR code and then a “local” digital actor would tell them about the history of the wineyards.

Another interesting example could be in Brandenburg (Germany) for Sustainable Digitalization of Cultural Heritage, using “Europeana” a digital portal, which shows the collections of cultural heritage as art, manuscripts, history helping institutions to display their precious work.

Overall, it is interesting to note that many developing countries were present at the event and had the opportunity to express their opinion. Moreover, this Conference is the signal that institutions are trying to reach a long-term vision and plan in order to prevent unsustainable practices especially in the developing countries which bear the consequences of this. This Conference is also a result from the changing needs of tourists, which look for authenticity in a place, something unique they cannot find at their countries and local heritage is the attraction which can make the difference. It is not only essential for visitors to preserve Heritage, but also for the local identity of a community, which needs to be acknowledged and maintained over time so that the future generations would be able to feel that they are part of a community with traditions which are appreciated by other people.

UNWTO UNESCO World Conference on Tourism and Culture in Istanbul
ISTANBUL, TURKEY – DECEMBER 3: Participants are seen during the 3rd UNWTO/UNESCO World Conference on Tourism and Culture in Istanbul, Turkey on December 3, 2018. ( Arif Hüdaverdi Yaman – Anadolu Agency )

The next Conference will be held in Kyoto (Japan) in 2019 and it will create a declaration, focused on inter sectorial cooperation to reach the SDG 2030.