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Rethinking cultural tourism in Europe

Published on 27 Jan 2021

A new EU-funded project, TExTOUR, is set to design innovative and sustainable cultural tourism strategies to reinforce the socio-economic territorial development of less known areas in Europe and beyond.

Cultural Tourism (CT) plays a crucial role in today’s economy. In 2018 it represented 37% of the total tourism sector, with an annual growth of approximately 15%. With the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the tourism sector has been seriously hit. The OECD estimates that international tourism fell by around 80% in 2020. Many countries are trying to build a more resilient tourism economy, promoting digital transition and rethinking a more sustainable tourism system.

Against this backdrop, cultural tourism can be redesigned by regions and sites that offer a high cultural, social and environmental potential. This impact does not exclusively depend on historical-picturesque heritage, but also on other factors such as know-how, ICT, gastronomy, identity, local culture, values, intangible heritage and other factors.

The EU-funded TExTOUR (Social Innovation and TEchnologies for sustainable growth through participative cultural TOURism) project will analyse and demonstrate new strategies for improving the socio-economic development of less known areas, but which have much cultural value. The project will co-design, validate and upscale cultural tourism policies and sustainable strategies. To do this, it will work with eight Cultural Tourism Labs located in different EU and non-EU areas and involving various societal players and stakeholders with a relevant role in the in the Cultural Tourism sector.

The selected pilots have diverse and complementary characteristics, which will enable the project’s experts to develop a wide range of scenarios for continental and coastal areas, rural and urban, deprived remote or peripheral areas, facing multiple social, economic and environmental challenges.

 “Sustainable cultural tourism is about managing cultural heritage and tourism in an integrated way. It’s about working with local communities to create benefits for everyone involved. The overall aim is to conserve tangible and intangible cultural heritage while developing a tourism that is sustainable” says Daniel Basulto, coordinator of the TExTOUR project.


The project’s acquired knowledge will be made available on the TExTOUR innovative open access platform for policy makers, practitioners and local communities. This will allow them to assess cultural tourism strategies and services. The platform’s design will draw on Smart strategies for valorisation, investment & Europeanisation, Pilots and CT-Labs to meet the specific needs of the cultural tourism industry. Other European and non-European cultural sites and ecosystems will have access to the platform so that they can benefit from the project’s achievements too.

Led by Fundación Santa María la Real, Spain, the project kicked off in January 2021. The project has 18 partners, representing the quintuple social innovation helix: knowledge, business, society, government and entrepreneurs.


The eight TExTOUR pilots are:

  1. UNESCO site of Crespi d’Adda – Lombardy Region (Italy)
  2. Narva post-industrial Kreenholm district (Estonia, Russia)
  3. Transnational cultural landscape of Umgebindeland (Germany, Poland, Czech Republic)
  4. European cultural route of VIA REGIA (Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, Germany, France, Spain)
  5. TREBINJE environs (Bosnia- Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia)
  6. Historic silver and lead post-mining facilities in Tarnowskie Góry – Upper Silesia Region (Poland)
  7. Cross border UNESCO site of Vale do Coa – Siega Verde (Portugal-Spain)
  8. Anfeh protected area (Lebanon) and the mountain village of Fikardou (Cyprus)


TExTOUR is an innovation action project funded under under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. It will last for 42 months with an overall budget of € 3 950 468,75.

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