Last 27 September 2021, World Tourism Day takes on a whole new meaning, or quite simply, makes sense! It is part of the International Year of the Creative Economy for Sustainable Development. The United Nations has spoken. Tourism will be creative, and sustainable, this year and in the future!
A trend that the CreativeTourismNetwork® anticipated with its creation in 2006 to bring together destinations of all types, making creativity the common denominator of their tourism development. From the villages of Provence to megacities such as Medellin, from the Magdalen Islands (Quebec) to the South Korean creative city of Jinju, the network assists territories in the creation of a CreativeFriendlyDestination programme, which highlights their DNA, while positioning them on a global scale.
More recently, the health crisis has led to increased interest from tourists on the one hand, and from destinations on the other, for this tourism, which has many virtues.
Caroline Couret, founder and director of the Creative Tourism Network®, shares with us her experience of more than a decade at the head of this constantly evolving sector.
– First of all, could we recall what creative tourism is?
Sure. It is a form of tourism, theorised by Professors Greg Richards and Crispin Raymond in the early 2000s, which allows the traveller – not so much the tourists! – to discover and 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.
This means making your bread in Valparaiso (Chile), learning how to make sandcastles in the Magdalen Islands or snow sculptures in Saint-Jean-Port-Joli (Quebec), elaborating your rose-based cosmetics in Gabrovo (Bulgaria), rehearsing the choreography of the Recife Carnival (Brazil), or creating your own typical hat in Quito, among many other colourful examples!
In addition to the experience itself, it brings a considerable added value to the territory. In fact, destinations-makers consider creative tourism as a lever for sustainable territorial development, as it allows to promote off-season tourism and longer stays, to diversify their offer, to revitalise their image, to promote social cohesion and resilience, or simply to create a tourism economy based on an inexhaustible resource, such as creativity.
It is not a fashion trend, but rather the adaptation of tourism to the societal changes of the last two decades, which have led individuals, and by extension tourists, to become experienced travellers, prosumers, in search of human values and authentic experiences.
Creative tourism – also known as “orange tourism” – has developed at different levels throughout the world, and is now at the heart of national strategies. Latin America, and more particularly Colombia, which has a Ministry of Creative Economy, has made it the driving force behind its economic and sustainable development. The same is true of Indonesia, whose Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy was awarded the Trophy for the Best Creative Destination in the World by the Creative Tourism Awards.
– Creative tourism now seems to offer solutions for destinations in the post-covid horizon. Why do you think this is so?
First of all, I would like to qualify my answer. The health crisis we are experiencing is dramatic, and the economic crisis will be just the same, especially for the tourism sector. But the crisis has also marked an inflexion point in the growth of this virtuous tourism. Indeed, the disruption caused by this unprecedented situation on a planetary level has led to a reconsideration of human values, of the immaterial, of authenticity, and of distances. In this sense, creative tourism has also enabled destinations to maintain activity despite geographical limitations, by appealing to the local public by co-creating with local stakeholders, exotic experiences in small groups. The “famous” staycation. And all this is facilitated by very rapid implementation, since one to two months were enough for destinations like Perpignan-Méditerranée (France) to integrate this segment into their summer offer, after the confinement of 2020.
Creative tourism has thus established itself not only as an increased demand but also as a “Swiss Army knife” for the tourism sector!
– And in general, what are the assets of creative tourism?
First of all, the fact that it does not produce negative externalities, but on the contrary convert the existing ones into assets. I am thinking for example about seasonality. Many “mature” and monographic destinations, centred on seaside or skiing tourism, find in creative tourism an alternative by developing out-of-season tourism, which is born almost “organically” by creatively rethinking the existing intangible resources. It also creates an ecosystem by involving local actors from sectors such as crafts, traditional cultures, creative industries or agriculture, training them and offering them new professional opportunities throughout the year. We are therefore in a circular economy logic that has a positive effect on economic dynamisation, social cohesion, resilience, governance, to name but a few of the sustainable development objectives. Thanks to this, it is possible to implement projects in a very short period of time, and with a small budget.
– Any examples?
All the destinations in our network have, for different reasons, opted for this type of model to reinvent their tourism and make it more virtuous. The Magdalen Islands in Quebec are an excellent example. The co-creation of experiences with local artists, craftsmen, cultural actors and farmers has generated new reasons for stays, making it possible to attract new profiles of travellers in the off-season: singles, seniors, knitters, makers, team building, etc. By taking part in workshops on glass blowing, photography, lobster cooking, Acadian music or sandcastles, these travellers are immersed in the heart of this unique and endearing island culture. A “couldn’t be more” Km0 offer!
But examples are endless, in all destinations and on all continents!
Visit Empordanet (Catalonia), Saint-Jean-Port-Joli (Québec), Arequipa (Peru), Valparaíso and Llanquihue Lake (Chile), Barcelos and Loulé (Portugal), and other destinations already mentioned, are highlighting for their virtuous management of tourism, that completely fit this year World Tourism Day thematic of inclusive growth!
– How to implement a creative tourism program?
There is no single model, the objective being precisely to develop each project in the most organic way possible, recovering and highlighting its traditions, know-how and personalities. Therefore, from the CreativeTourismNetwork® we prioritise pragmatism, inclusiveness and efficiency when implementing a programme in a destination. Although these programmes are driven by a public entity (local government, tourist board, cultural department), it is essential that they involve all sectors of the population. It is this bottom-up model, this representativeness and interpersonal relationships, which will forge the identity and exceptionality of the project and make it the differentiating element of the destination, appreciated by tourists. And then, of course, creative tourism must also be understood as a creative way of managing tourism, and in this sense, creativity is fed by these human values.
– And, how do we ‘manage’ such a diverse community within the tourism industry?
With empathy and passion for the Human! This is the essence of travel anyway, the encounter with the Other (which is often “ourselves”!). Our vision of tourism has always been guided by this and it is excellent news – at last! – to see that the current crisis is encouraging a return to these values. In concrete terms, we help destinations, via their administrations, to identify the local stakeholders who could be at the heart of these experiences. This involves decompartmentalising the art, tourism, culture and agriculture sectors, among others, which is the basis of the creative economy. Our challenge is to work with them, respecting their professional but also personal specificities, through personalised training and work sessions. This co-creative work is the only way to co-create unique creative experiences that reflect the DNA of the destination while creating an ecosystem for the territory.
– What is the timing and cost involved?
The usual answer is of course “it depends”, but to give an idea, a project including mapping, training, design of experiences and promotion strategy can be put together in one to two months and officially communicated as soon as the collaboration agreement is signed. As far as cost is concerned, we try to include most of these services in the cost of membership, in order to facilitate the administrative process. This amounts to a budget of between 800 and 1,500€ depending on the characteristics of the destination. … Yes, it’s not much, but we want our network to be inclusive and to create wealth from the actions and synergies generated within the network.
to market experiences on a global scale that respects local traditions, without folklorising them, and without distorting the visitor-guest relationship.
– Once created, don’t these programmes remain “on the fringe” of the tourism industry?
It could be, but that is the challenge that the CreativeTourismNetwork® is overcoming. To market experiences on a global scale that respects local traditions, without folklorising them, and without distorting the visitor-guest relationship. As a non-profit organisation, we are able to play this role of mediator and ensure that at each link in the value chain, the role of each person is not only respected but also optimised. Indeed, it is not a question of asking a craftsman to become a travel agent, but rather of training and accompanying him so that he can offer a creative experience in B2C or B2B that both meets the new demands and respects, his willingness. This opens up an infinite field of opportunities for tour operators and travel agencies, which can deal with the most diverse tourist profiles and local “dream makers”! Their survival – depends on this ability to reinvent themselves, to create new narratives! As for the artist, the craftsman, he will retain his independence, between artistic creation and “tourist” activity. This is “inclusive growth”!
-What is the future – near or far – of creative tourism?
What we know for sure now is that it is difficult to project ourselves into any future! However, because of its circular economy model, creative tourism is a guarantee of sustainability. By making creativity its main resource, we know that it can only be strengthened. Moreover, as demand is the consequence of societal change, its growth will be sustainable, even accelerated. Disruption, which has just marked an inflexion point, thus guarantees an irreversible evolution.
– And, the last word?
… Or the first one! After several years of preparing the ground with destinations from all over the world, and experts from all sectors, we are enthusiastically living this new era of tourism, much more sensitive to issues that are so local that they are universal. We have a tool to improve the world, today let’s celebrate it!