The aim of the international project is to develop a new approach to understanding and promoting cultural tourism. Photo credit: MENDELU.

Czech Republic, Nov 29 (BD) – Scientists from Brno’s Mendel University are taking part in an international project to help municipalities and regions with the strategic planning of cultural tourism. The project will draw inspiration from best practices in many countries which are addressing similar challenges. 

The aim of the international project, which ends in December after three years, is to develop a new approach to understanding and promoting cultural tourism. The project, funded by the European Commission under the Horizon 2020 call, is coordinated by scientists from Mendel University and involves 15 universities and research institutes from Europe, the UK, and Israel.

The SPOT-IT interpretive model, which works on the basis of geographical information systems, is a tool for assessing tourism in specific places. “It includes a database of maps and information from different parts of the world and evaluates what is most suitable for a particular area if we want to use it for the development of cultural tourism,” explained Milada Št’astná from the Institute of Applied and Landscape Ecology at the MENDELU Faculty of Agronomy. The program was developed and tested on data from a case study in Israel and adapted to the specifics of the partner countries.

The aim is to contribute to the sustainable development of cultural tourism, taking into account the interests of multiple parties, including peripheral areas. “It will allow us to design strategies for establishing, promoting, and marketing new and existing attractions based on best practices from places in different regions with similar conditions,” said Št’astná. It is intended primarily for mayors of municipalities, representatives of state administration, or tourism managers, i.e., for users in decision-making positions who are dealing with these issues. 

“Last but not least, it will also reveal the potential of the territory for tourism development, to present not only the localities that are already attractive for cultural tourism, but also those that have not yet been discovered,” said Šťastná.

The scientific team also focused on possibilities of using the potential of rural areas. “SPOT-IT will help suggest how to make specific areas attractive in a way that is sustainable, even though these places are not the priority for cultural travel,” said Šťastná. “My personal motivation was to highlight the countryside as a cultural heritage, because most people do not perceive it as such, despite the fact that it is always linked to a story and has a history.” 

Given how severely tourism was affected by the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic, the researchers had a unique opportunity to follow the development and gradual recovery of tourism during and after the pandemic. “It was clearly confirmed that people rediscovered the beauty and benefits of local places, visiting rural areas and natural sites in particular, and even after the relaxation of COVID measures, this form of tourism is still attractive and widely used,” said Šťastná.

Although there is no single definition of cultural tourism, the cultural aspect plays a major role for tourists. “Cultural tourism is seen as moving people to places that have cultural overlap,” Šťastná explained. This could include visits to museums and castles, but also to places where cultural events take place, or places associated with a story, such as a TV series, film, or history. Cultural tourism also includes visits to folklore festivals or wine tastings.

The new tool will also be used to support and research tourism using advanced technologies such as geospatial artificial intelligence and machine learning. “It is being piloted and refined so that it can be disseminated. It will enable gaps and barriers to be systematically identified at sites of interest for cultural tourism development, and the development potential of the heritage site to be assessed,” concluded Šťastná.

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