Interview with Caroline Couret, Founder of the Creative Tourism Network® about reactivation

“Is Creative Tourism a new Swiss Army Knife for post-covid tourism?”…
This is what Caroline Couret, suggests. She gives us more details about this type of tourism and the opportunities it offers to reinvent a virtuous tourism model.

  • Before getting to the heart of the matter, perhaps a first framing on the concept of creative tourism would be necessary.

    Indeed. It is a form of tourism that allows the traveler – we understand that the choice of the term is not trivial – to discover but also to understand the local culture of a place, by actively participating in creative activities, linked to its intangible heritage and more generally its identity, its DNA.
    You can make goat cheese or learn to mix like a DJ in Ibiza, make artistic sandcastles in the Magdalen Islands or snow sculptures in Saint-Jean-Port-Joli (Quebec), cosmetics from roses or Bulgarian yogurt in Gabrovo (Bulgaria), repeat the carnival choreographies throughout the year in Recife (Brazil), make your hat in Ecuador, … among many other colorful examples!

    Besides the traveler’s experience, the value chain generated on the territory is also very relevant. Destinations of any kind consider creative tourism as a lever for territorial development, in particular, to promote off-season tourism and longer stays, diversify the offer (and demand), refresh their image, promote social cohesion, resilience, or quite simply, creating a tourism economy based on creativity.


  •  Creative tourism, which has grown significantly in recent years, now appears to offer solutions for destinations in the post-covid horizon. Why?

    First of all, I want to put my answer into perspective. The health crisis we are experiencing is dramatic, and the economic crisis will be just as dramatic, and particularly for the tourism sector. So I do not claim, with my answers, to resolve a situation of this magnitude. But since we are talking about trends to consolidate, then it can undoubtedly help to restart tourism. Indeed, since its theorization in the early 2000s by professors Greg Richards and Crispin Raymond, it has developed considerably by responding on the one hand to the demand of travelers in search of meaning and authenticity, and on the other hand, in search of solutions, on the part of destinations wishing to make tourism, a lever of sustainable development for their territory. The current context is precisely in the process of highlighting a return of human values, of solidarity, of truth, within society. It also forces destinations to appeal to a local audience, the “famous” staycation, through experiences to be enjoyed in small groups that offer a change of scenery just a few kilometers from home. And all this, with very fast implementation, since we are talking about the summer season 2020, in Europe and very quickly, in Latin America!


  • You are a French expatriate, how do you perceive France’s potential in terms of creative tourism?

    The cultural diversity of France, its traditions and know-how, are a considerable asset for creative tourism, and vice versa. This tourism makes it possible to preserve and enhance this intangible heritage and strengthen the identity of each region. In addition, it is a form of tourism that adapts perfectly to all types of destinations, whether they are villages, towns, seaside or mountain resorts, islands, etc. since they consider tourism as an integrating element and not a “predatory” sector as we have come to understand. Our network also includes villages of 3000 inhabitants, rural regions, or metropolis such as Medellín, which despite their differences, share their best practices and their audiences! It is indeed important to underline that the creative tourist prioritizes the way of travel and the quality of the relations with the locals, to the intrinsic characteristics of the destination. It can therefore be versatile as regards the choice of its destinations, as long as these criteria are guaranteed. It is from this observation that we created the Creative Tourism Network®.

    As for France, new destinations and territories will soon join us, having resorted to creative tourism to attract local tourism during the deconfinement. If working with such diverse destinations around the world is very enriching humanly, as a French woman, it is a real pleasure to make known the cultural richness of our country, its artists, its artisans and its inhabitants, its Art of living.


  • You mentioned the Creative Tourism Network®, how was it born and what are its main missions?

    You could say that the project was part of our DNA – with our team – until then working on international cooperation projects, and I had personally always traveled this way, prioritizing meetings and creative discoveries. The meeting with Professor Greg Richards, theorist of creative tourism, was decisive and allowed us to identify with great acuity the requirements of these new travelers, but also the challenges posed by this new demand. We had already created the first city-wide platform of its kind, Barcelona, to provide creative experiences to these new travelers. The idea of working in a network with other destinations seemed obvious at the time.


  •  Specifically, could you tell us more about the challenges of this new request?

The specificity of this demand has had a disruptive effect on the entire tourism industry. By converting the top-down model, which responded to the characteristics of “Fordist” tourism, by a bottom-up model, giving the protagonism to more “experienced” travelers and prosumers, the emergence of a new paradigm has made essential the ‘incorporation of new actors, such as artists, artisans, farmers, organizers of traditional festivals, to name a few, able to transmit their knowledge and know-how necessary for the design and realization of experiences. One of the major challenges is to adapt to this new model, bearing in mind that co-creation between stakeholders from such diverse sectors raises new challenges, but also offers new opportunities.


  • Let’s start with the challenges…  

The first challenge is precisely related to designing experiences that are at the same time authentic, creative, and profitable, from assets as intangible as they are eclectic. If it is recognized that “tourism” and “culture” are already struggling to find – or accept – their respective roles, in the promotion of cultural tourism, we can easily imagine what it is about the co-creation between l tourism industry and sectors such as crafts, creative industries or agriculture. Despite the fact that our “dream makers” as I like to call them – who are these artisans, these artists, show great generosity when it comes to sharing their knowledge, the creative experience, to be satisfactory, must meet other criteria, related to the protection of intangible heritage, marketing, and what is more today, security. This, therefore requires the intervention of new “mediators”, making it possible to reconcile or even create synergies from these various contingencies.


  • It sounds simple, after all?

    Let’s say it can be as simple and complicated as human relationships are! But it is certain that people and creativity are resources which can only be enriched during such a process. So we can say that there is no tourism more sustainable than the creative one!
    In addition, in all the territories with which we work, training is offered to local actors, thus allowing them to update their skills in order to adapt their activity in the most autonomous and “organic” way possible while maintaining inserting into the marketing channels that will be tour operators, travel agencies, or even digital platforms.


  • What means are you implementing to achieve this?

    Our non-profit network has become a benchmark for this type of tourism on a global scale. This, therefore, supposes monitoring the sector and above all, listening to all the stakeholders who rally to it, whether they are travelers, with the most diverse profiles, from territories governed by the public administration, or the private sector.

    To do this, we are putting in place tools that can provide them with concrete solutions, and at the same time allow this sector to be structured on a global scale.

    This involves, for example, the creation of the Creative Tourism Academy, which designs and provides tailor-made training, both academic and professional, the Creative Tourism Awards, which each year reward the best creative tourism initiatives, as well as of course, our permanent missions in terms of advice, support and promotion, to our destinations labeled CreativeFriendlyDestination.


  • What makes you think that creative tourism is not just a fad?

    Since its inception, creative tourism has continued to grow in number and decline in different profiles, moving from the solitary and romantic traveler who will paint in Tuscany, to a form of travel that appeals to segments such as singles, seniors, team buildings, PANKS, of course, millennials, as well as all those who are passionate about dancing, pottery, weaving, wannabe winners or budding chefs.
    This is not therefore a trend driven by the tourism industry, but rather a societal change, which acts at the level of demand, and has repercussions on the tourist offer.
    It is also important to underline that in this evolution, consumers, in this case, tourists, have become “prosumers”, participating in the co-creation of their own experiences and that it is, therefore, impossible to relegate them again to the simple status of customers. Maslow’s pyramid is evolving, and tourism with it!


It is also, for the destinations, the opportunity to differentiate themselves through the re-creation of their DNA, of an identity that has tended to be supplanted in recent decades by a globalized tourist and cultural offer. 

  • To conclude, what advice would you give to destinations wishing to develop this type of tourism?

    First of all, do not approach it with the same codes that have structured the tourism industry to this day. In fact, it would even be preferable not to consider it as tourism, but rather as a way of creating value chains in the territories, by satisfying – through creativity – the most diverse demands, in terms of mobility.
    As I mentioned, this implies an open-mindedness and natural empathy, both in terms of the reception offered to tourists, as in the development of the human resources with which we will collaborate. Everyone will play an important role and all will be complementary and virtuous among themselves. The artist, the craftsman, the entrepreneur, the institutions.

    For this reason, it is important not to reduce the management of creative tourism to the creation of simple digital platforms, exclusively dedicated to the sale of activities online. They can be part of the chain, but we must seize this great opportunity to create meaning and value at the level of the territory! In particular via storytelling. The narrative must be that of the stakeholders, that is to say, the populations as a whole, who will share their history, past or contemporary, and will create emotional bonds with travelers.

    It is also, for the destinations, the opportunity to differentiate themselves through the re-creation of their DNA, of an identity that has tended to be supplanted in recent decades by a globalized tourist and cultural offer. This differentiation must also lead to cooperation between destinations, whatever they may be, which have everything to lose as competitors for the top-ranking, and everything to gain, by recommending each other and working in a network.

    And since it’s all about getting to work, doing it with enthusiasm and without worry, let’s start by reassuring yourself: everything is already done and is just waiting to be re-valued. Circular economy and humanism as a post-crisis recipe.

(can be reproduced in part or in full, by quoting the sources)

+ info: