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TExTOUR: Cultural Tourism in less known areas with a participatory approach

An EU-funded project to develop innovative Cultural Tourism strategies and the site of Crespi d’Adda

Redazione Open Innovation

Redazione Open Innovation

Regione Lombardia

In 2020 Unioncamere Lombardia decided to join an EU-funded project, TExTOUR, set to design innovative and sustainable Cultural Tourism strategies to reinforce the socio-economic territorial development of less known areas in Europe and beyond.

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.

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.

The TExTOUR (Social Innovation and TEchnologies for sustainable growth through participative cultural TOURism) project design new strategies for improving the socio-economic development of less known areas, but which have much cultural value.

The project co-design, validate and upscale Cultural Tourism policies and sustainable strategies. To do this, it works with eight Cultural Tourism Pilot projects located in different EU and non-EU areas and involving various societal players and stakeholders with a relevant role in the Cultural Tourism sector. The eight labs can be seen here:

In Italy, we’re working on the UNESCO site of Crespi d’Adda. In December 1995, Crespi’s industrial village, together with the factory (still active in that period), was inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage list, as an outstanding example of the 19th and early 20th century 'company towns’ built in Europe and North America, by enlightened entrepreneurs, to meet the workers’ needs.

Industrial activity has significantly declined at the end of 20th century and closed in 2004. In 2013, the factory was purchased by a local entrepreneur who decided to use the buildings as headquarters of his companies, but to date the business has not re-started yet.

Although it suffers a bit of isolation due to its geographical location, Crespi d’Adda is actually located within a territorial system characterized by numerous cultural and natural attractions with which, however, the relationships and synergies are practically non-existent, despite the physical and, in some cases, thematic proximity.

In 2022 Unioncamere Lombardia and Fondazione Links coordinated the participatory process for the development of Cultural Tourism in the area: the process consisted in three meetings with local stakeholders ad communities, with a specific methodology provided by TExTOUR project, to define common goals and values, to map the attractions in the area surrounding Crespi d’Adda and to point out 4 Actions to be carried out together:

- creation of a GPS map and valorization of green and blue routes around and inside Crespi d’Adda;

- permanent consultation Table on Cultural Tourism with local stakeholders;

- creating a vademecum for tourists to reduce the externalities of touristic flows on residents;

- monitoring of tourist flows using Big Data.

The process was interesting because:

- it allowed a bottom up approach in which the actions were not “imposed” by an authority but were born from communities;

- it helped to build trust between the actors of the area;

- it provided a context in which they could work together (and hopefully they will continue, beyond the end of the project).

Furthermore the project allowed us as an institution to experiment a methodology that could be applied to other UNESCO sites or Point of Interests in Lombardy.

The project requires huge involvement of stakeholders for the realization of the actions and the process of fundraising is not so easy. Besides, more effort will be needed to involve tourist actors in the development of the actions.

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. 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.

Unioncamere Lombardia is interested in European projects that foster the development of its territories and the competitiveness of its SMEs.

For further information:

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