Global economic and energy responsibility, new and exciting technologies, and drastic transformations in travelers’ profile will continue to shape the cultural tourism in 2010.
As 2009 had proven, the cultural tourism is recession-proof. That is logical: cultural tourism exists to satisfy a need for discovery – heritage, new wine region, new old civilization, new artifacts, new exhibition, new concert. Cultural travelers don’t travel because they have 14 days vacation, they travel because they need to unveil something mysterious, something familiar, something…unexpected. They are driven not by prices, but by deep-rooted need for new experiences or nostalgic familiarity. That is why they spend more money and they travel more often. Their travels are longer in time and distance. This pattern will not change in 2010.
What will be different and what will stay the same in 2010?
Cultural Tourism Destinations 2010
Close to home destinations for the fiscally conservative and green conscious traveler will continue to be more and more important. Instead to visit Paris, London or Madrid, spend insane money and pollute the air with enormous kerosene emissions, the North-Americans will fly, take the train or the shuttle to NYC or Washington, DC to view the European Art in the Metropolitan Museum and the Smithsonian. Not that the visitations to the Louvre, the British Museum and El Prado will decrease – they will continue to augment thanks to European travelers, local public and new travel generating markets, such as Singapore, Thailand and Malasya (see news about ATOUT France).
Emerging destinations will be found close to home or very faraway for the more and more curious and always discovery-seeking cultural tourism traveler.
Destination with exotic cultures in Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia), the Caucuses (Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan) and the Balkans (Greece, Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, FYR of Macedonia, Serbia) will be the next big discovery and magnet for those who want to see it all.
With Istanbul being European Cultural Capital for 2010, Turkey will attract many tourists from around the world, not only history lovers, but also modern art, design and visitors to the great events planed to celebrate the culture of this millennial city.
Central and Eastern European destinations will offer a more economic alternative to the Western overpriced destinations, with similar cultural experiences: Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Russia and Hungary offer the same 19th century grandeur and thriving modern art, with the spicing of local exotics and lower prices, compared to France, Britain, Italy and Spain.
Austria, Monaco and Switzerland, on the other side, are very well prepared to continue the tradition of luxurious and exclusive cultural tourism for the seekers of elegance and familiar Western culture settings.
In spite wars, politics and all kind of negative propaganda, Iran, Syria, and Lebanon will continue to attract the history lovers. Even Iraq will join the group of Middle Eastern cultural destinations for those who take risks or belong to the region. Dubai and the rest of the UAE, with their efforts to add cultural experiences to their super-luxurious offer, will remain a focal point for tourists from the region and the world.
Emerging destinations in North Africa (Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria) will continue to be the favorite destinations for lovers of the exotic Arabian cultures, without the security risks of the Middle East.
Latin America’s Peru and Guatemala, will continue to attract both North-Americans and Europeans with their endless cultural discoveries found in pristine and undisturbed nature.
China and Vietnam, together with Cambodia and Bhutan will be the next big thing in for lovers of Asian cultures and exotic experiences.
Traditional Cultural Tourism Destinations trends
Damaged by the image lacking authenticity and being extremely expensive, France, Italy, Spain, Austria and Britain will extend their cultural tourism offer to micro-regions with specific local charms and will target niche cultural tourism generating markets. Big magnet cities, as London, Paris, Madrid, Vienna and Rome will be replaced with the cultural offer of Sicily, Loire Valley, Toulouse, Andalusia, and Catalonia, and villages around Salzburg.
Portugal will continue to grow its cultural offer and extend it beyond Lisbon, stressing the charm and history of little villages and religious centers.
Cultural tourism trends 2010
With the engagement economy growing in full speed, expect significant growth in creative tourism offers across the globe. Cultural tourists are no longer satisfied observing cultural heritage and events – they want to participate in the creation or development of local cultures. Travel programs including carpet-weaving classes, painting on ceramics, or volunteer archeology travel will thrive on an unprecedented scale.
Responsible and eco-conscious travelers
Cultural heritage warnings and nature destruction around cultural heritage sites will have an enormous impact on the responsible traveler. Awareness and change of attitude will influence destination choice towards cultural attractions, which are non-destructive, eco-friendly and responsible towards the local cultures.
Major scandals about artifacts obtained by illegal antiquities trade will continue to damage important museums as Getty, the British Museum etc., and will be the cause of decreasing visitations. Responsible travelers will sign up more and more for initiatives such as this one of the of the World Monuments Fund to take a pledge for sustainable tourism (http://www.wmf.org/action/sustainable-tourism-pledge) or sign up for volunteering travel to save antiquities from looting and overcrowding with tourists, as SAFE/Saving Antiquities for Everyone is promoting .
Political tensions will continue to damage travel to Israel and Mecca, but newly discovered or marketed routs, such as the route of St. Paul or the Santiago de Compustela route will thrive. Paganism travel related to old pagan cults, dedicated to different deities, will be the new trend for many emerging destinations and become a significant part of religious tourism.
Expect more travel to local hidden wineries in the United States and Southern Europe, including emerging destinations. Organically and eco-responsible, local wine producers will see an increase of cultural tourists. Wineries with rich history, story telling and a combined offer of antiquities, impressive local culture, crafts and arts will attract the discovery-demanding cultural tourist.
Hopefully, a better overseas marketing will attract more tourist to the European Wine routes beyond France, Spain and Italy to extend to the origins of wine making: Bulgaria, Greece, Georgia.
Business travel extensions
While business travel is ditching with head spinning speed due to fiscal responsibility and new virtual meeting technologies, the few travelers who must travel for business will use the occasion to extend their trip few days and see the local cultural offers. That combination also will help the decision making – if there is a short weekend trip to a cultural destination, the business travelers most likely will decide to go to the business trip versus business meetings set in purely industrial/working atmosphere destinations or videoconferencing.
Luxury cultural travel
As in 2009, prices for private visits to museums, small yachts to archaeological sites and specialty designed tours for individuals with a vast array of cultural interests will continue to grow. Recession and fuel prices do not affect those luxury travelers who seek unique cultural experiences – at home or abroad. Just the opposite – more cultural sites and monuments are discovered yearly, more affluent travelers try to be the first to visit the newest and the closed to the general public place or event.
Niche cultural travel
Dark tourism, archaeological tours, special events tours will continue to grow, since neither the economy nor the energy concerns will stop the travelers obsessed with a hobby. And it is logical: if your only chance to discover the next Thracian treasure will be to pay $ 10,000 to participate in the excavation of a Thracian Tomb, or if you want to be on the Vienna Concert on January 1st, the money, distance and carbon emission footprint will not matter – what will matter is the experience only.
The business of Cultural Tourism in 2010
Technology impact on cultural tourism
Technology enhancements of the visitor experience through virtual and augmented reality will attract more and more travelers who want to immerse themselves in a different culture or historical time.
Social networks, photo and video sharing sites will continue to expand information for faraway destinations, thus increasing the reach of the cultural tourism geographies.
Travelers blogs, rating sites such as tripadvisor.com, virtualtourist.com, or gotsaga.com will proliferate and thanks to user generated content and many of the emerging destinations will start to play bigger and bigger role in the global cultural travel.
More and more OTAs will add cultural tourism to their offer, as did expedia.com.
Mobile technologies combined with geospatial data available through iPhone or other mobile apps will permit travelers to design themselves their own cultural tours and thus cut off the intermediaries. A great example for that is the recent agreement between UNESCO and Google Earth to provide a World Heritage layer in the application, which will compliment National Geographic layer, Roma Reborn project and other similar layers, and thus help individual travelers to create their own itineraries.
Consumer demand changes
The consumer demand for authentic experiences and for more creative activities while at a destination will pressure change not only the geographies of the cultural tourism, but also the relationships local community- visitors. Expect these relationships to become closer and closer and have a positive impact on both sides of the equation.
Personalization and tour design tailoring to these demands will shape the overall higher expectation towards tour operators and travel agencies.
Cultural tourism Tour operators and travel agencies in 2010
Big touroperators, such as Abercrombie & Kent and Cox & Kings will loose ground to small boutique travel agencies who can provide concierge type of services - custom tour design, unique destination knowledge and local support throughout the travel.
Mono-destination tour operators will continue to thrive, due to their in depth knowledge and local focus, which will help them to cut through the noise of the enormous cultural travel offer on the Internet.
Specialization, concierge services and extremely detailed and greatly designed tours will help tour operators to survive during 2010. That will sometimes enforce elimination of destinations or adding new ones following the trends of emerging markets and creative tourism increase.
Boards of tourism, DMOs and other macro-destinations bodies
With the increasing demand for unique experiences, boards of tourism, country ministries of tourism and DMOs will be forced to re-examine and correct, if necessary, the brand image and presence on different markets. Emerging destinations will have to come up with strong country branding for cultural tourism in order to be able to compete. Destinations such as USA and Spain, otherwise great tourism destinations both in their financial and number of tourists numbers, will have to do more about country branding for cultural tourism outside of their territories to attract more visitors to their endless cultural attractions and events.