Cultural tourism as a strategy for structural change


Rural areas in Europe could particularly benefit from cultural tourism. But how can developments be initiated? A project investigates potentials in Lusatia.

05/25/2020 · Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften, Raumwissenschaften · Leibniz-Institut für ökologische Raumentwicklung · News · Projekte

Together with 14 international partners, over the next three years the Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development (IOER) will establish a new understanding of cultural tourism in Europe. This will help to promote the development of disadvantaged areas. Coordinated by the Mendel University of Brno, the IOER is conducting research into new forms of cultural tourism as part of the EU project SPOT. The aim is to develop strategies that can help the local population draw greater profit than previously from valuable cultural assets.

Cultural tourism is in a state of flux. This is confirmed by trends such as agro- or film tourism. The first is characterised by the desire of holidaymakers to spend time on farms, alpine meadows or wineries. The second is the desire to visit original locations of television series or films. Under the motto "experience culture instead of just watching it", these new holiday trends offer great potentials for poorer and rural regions in Europe. They provide an opportunity to revitalise these areas through economic and social development while simultaneously protecting local culture and landscapes.

But which practical steps can be taken to kick-start these developments in selected European regions? How can new forms of cultural tourism provide an economic base for the population and foster social cohesion at locations some distance away from metropolitan centres? How can they contribute to the preservation of important cultural assets while supporting the creation of a new European identity? The research project SPOT (Social and innovative Platform On cultural Tourism and its potential towards deepening Europeanisation) addresses these and other questions. It is being funded for three years by the EU programme Horizon 2020.

Platform for ideas in cultural tourism

Although rural areas make up 85 percent of Europe’s territory, more and more people are being drawn to the continent’s cities and metropolitan areas. This makes it all the more important for rural regions to find new drivers for their development. Here Europe’s cultural heritage and cultural landscapes are seen as having a huge potential. The term “cultural landscape” is a general term that encompasses ancient towns and villages, Europe’s historical heritage, traditions and customs, crafts and the work of its people, as well as the open countryside with its evidence of centuries of land cultivation alongside significant sites that offer unique experiences. By protecting these resources and capitalising on their inherent value, it will be possible to strengthen rural regions and open up new perspectives for local people. Scientists in the EU project SPOT are investigating how this can be implemented in practice. Together with local actors from 15 different European regions, they are seeking new ways to promote cultural tourism and aid disadvantaged areas. The aim is to establish a platform that connects actors from diverse sectors and levels of action. Later, other regions will benefit from the experiences gained in the 15 case studies.

Case study in Germany: Lower Lusatia and Spreewald

The IOER team will work on a case study in Lusatia. The study area south of Berlin encompasses the Lieberoser Heide, the Schwielochsee and parts of the Spreewald biosphere reserve. While the Spreewald is already well developed for tourism, other parts of Lusatia are currently undergoing a process of transformation. The Lieberoser Heide is a dry and densely wooded former military training area that is still to be redeveloped. The area is both a unique cultural landscape and a habitat for a wide variety of flora and fauna. Yet how can these natural assets be preserved while remembering the history of military use? How can they be exploited for sustainable regional development? Which new economic pathways can be pursued by surrounding municipalities? Together with local actors, the IOER team is seeking answers to these questions. Emerging ideas and strategies will flow into the project platfor.


The SPOT project is being run as part of the EU Horizon 2020 funding programme. In the period 2020-2022, case studies from 15 European regions will be investigated within a large consortium. Alongside Germany, other partner countries include Austria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain.

Further Information on the website of the project 

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