Interview with Professor Greg Richards, co-inventor of the Creative Tourism concept

 1. The Creative Tourism concept was co-invented by yourself and the Professor Crispin Raymond in the early 2000. Almost two decades later, could we say that this was a visionary concept?

Creative tourism is a relatively new niche that is being taken up by destinations around the world. The basic reason for this is the growing dissatisfaction with traditional models of tourism development, and the realisation that

the creativity of both hosts and tourists is an important potential resource for the sustainable development of tourism. Perhaps this was not seen as widely as it is now, with a growing number of destinations complaining about the negative effects of mass tourism and ‘overtourism’.

2. Among a wide range of interpretations, what is the “official” definition of “creative tourism”?

The creative tourism concept developed from work carried out in a number of European destinations in the late 1990s. In order to engage tourists more in local culture, a number of partners in the Eurotex project began offering visitors the chance to learn more about the ways in which local products were made. The creative tourism idea was first defined by Crispin Raymond and myself in 2000, as:

“Tourism which offers visitors the opportunity to develop their creative potential through active participation in learning experiences which are characteristic of the holiday destination where they are undertaken”.

This definition encapsulates the key principles of creative tourism: offering opportunities for personal creative development, increasing engagement by enabling visitors and their hosts to be creative together and linking the creative activities to the destination.

This concept was developed further through the first formal creative tourism project, launched by Crispin in New Zealand in 2001.

This underlines the potential for creative tourism to improve the quality of tourist experience and also to facilitate learning and knowledge exchange between visitors and people in the destination.

3. Can you explain why is creative tourism especially important at this moment?

The growing demand for creative tourism underlines the need for people to express themselves and develop their creative potential. They also want to give meaning to their lives by doing something creative, rather than just consuming more things. Many tourists are also dissatisfied with the current offer of tourism products, which are often seen as standardised and inauthentic. Because creative experiences directly involve the visitor in the local culture and creativity of local people, it can provide much more engaging and satisfying tourism experiences.

Destinations are also recognising that traditional tourism development models have serious limitations, not least because most destinations seem to be offering more of the same. In order to distinguish themselves, destinations need to think about what is original and distinctive about the places that people visit. Very often this lies in the way in which people live their daily lives. This kind of distinctiveness is now sought after by tourists who want to ‘live like a local’. This is something that is described in more detail in the book Re-inventing the Local in Tourism.

4. How can we develop creative tourism?

Creative tourism can be developed in many different ways, but often the most effective projects are developed through networks. The creative industries themselves are supported by networks of creative producers and intermediaries, and they are often keen to connect with visitors. The first steps to developing creative tourism therefore often lie in:

  • Identifying creative resources
  • Finding creative ‘switchers’, or people who can link the local and global levels
  • Developing platforms to link with creative people elsewhere
  • Creating events and other engaging content

In taking these steps the important point is to maintain the specificity and distinctiveness of the creative content. People can be creative anywhere, so they need a reason to come and be creative in your destination rather than anyone else’s.

Creative can be the main motivation for travel, an activity that people can engage in, but it can also provide an attractive backdrop to other forms of activity. For example, many people travel to places because of the creative ‘vibe’ or atmosphere that they offer, rather than any specific creative activities that are taking place there.

5. Can you maintain the authenticity of the experiences if the demand increases?

The problem has now changed because authenticity is increasingly linked to relationships. Relationships are not a finite resource like the Sagrada Familia that will be degraded by over-use. We can always form new relationships with new people in different situations that we can consider to be authentic. In fact, as we are now part of the authenticity of the encounter, to question the authenticity of these relationships is also to question the authenticity of self. But there is no doubt that relational resources will also need to be managed – not everybody will want to have a tourist sleeping on their couch and taking up room at the dinner table. At present these problems are limited, because there is a match between the desire of tourists to meet locals and the desire of many locals to meet new people from elsewhere. But the supply of curious people is also unfortunately limited in most societies.Ajouter des lignes dans le corps du texte

6. And finally, what is the future of creative tourism?

Creative tourism is currently a niche market that is interesting as a means of developing sustainable forms of tourism compatible with the needs of local people. But as the creative industries expand in destinations around the world, there is also a more general relationship emerging between creativity and tourism. A recent report by the OECD on Tourism and the Creative Economy (2014) points out the ways in which many countries and regions are now positioning the creative industries as drivers for tourism and other export-orientated activities. This link is now expanding the traditional scope of ‘cultural tourism’ or ‘heritage tourism’ into new areas supported by contemporary creativity, such as pop music, design, fashion and gastronomy (OECD, 2014). This is also driving the growth of new markets, particularly in emerging regions such as Asia, Africa and Latin America. In the future, therefore, creative tourism may also be an area of convergence of different areas of development policy, focussed not just on tourism growth, but also on the ways in which tourism can contribute to growth in creativity for tourists and local people alike.

More information about the Creative Tourism

Greg Richards Give the definition of Creative Tourism