Do we really know some of the cities we have visited and where we have followed the usual tourist guides?
Did you ever stop to consider whether, after visiting monuments, museums, landscapes and having ticked all the boxes from your “check-list”, you really knew that city?
In fact, more and more tourists question themselves about the type of traditional tourism that they do, since the mass tourism model does not provide information about which places and what those living there have to offer beyond what is evident to them. It is for this reason that an increasing number of more demanding tourists want to absorb things which traditional tourism cannot provide them. On the other hand, beyond the fact that it does not satisfy them anymore, mass tourism is starting to bring more harm than benefit to the destinations. We should therefore reflect on this question.
1. What is ‘Creative tourism’?
The term Creative tourism was coined in 2000 by Crispin Raymond and Greg Richards and was born with the purpose of creating a more fulfilling and engaging way of travelling through diverse activities in the community one visits.
Tourism which offers visitors the opportunity to develop their creative potential through active participation in courses and learning experiences, which are characteristic of the holiday destination where they are taken.Definition of Creative Tourism by Crispin Raymond and Greg Richards
Although this trend is not new, since for a long time the most demanding travellers have dived into learning experiences during their holidays, researchers defend that this form of tourism represents a strong trend in the industry of tourism.
Richards has been stating that there was “a transition of travellers who not only want to learn more about the culture that is represented in museums and monuments, but also to appreciate the everyday culture, considered to be more “real and true”.
Quite often, the ones responsible for the promotion of destinations would bet on building museums and organising massive festivals to attract more tourism, but costs skyrocketed and not always did such ideas result in financial gain.
The concept of frequent travellers has also broadened, as it is now more common for people to look for more active and immersive experiences, in which they will feel more included and participative.
Anyone backing Creative Tourism thinks of a type of tourism that won’t restrict itself to tangible resources, valuing intangible experiences, just like the lifestyle, knowing the identity of the host country, its lifestyle and the type of connection that they establish with themselves and with different cultures.
2. How to enjoy creative tourism and what are its advantages?
In case you want to understand more about this type of tourism, and still have not tried it, some possible routes for anyone willing to enjoy a different culture are going to Italy to do some homemade pasta, be a DJ in Ibiza, learn how to dance in Cuba or taste some wine from a Portuguese winemaker and learn how the different wines are produced.
In this kind of tourism, locals and visitors alike are involved in a new way of travelling which stands out by the creation of touristic products made together.
The local community, as a participant, ends up helping in diversifying the tourism offer, thus creating a strategy that generates revenue without the need for much investment, besides that of creativity and people’s interest.
Small entrepreneurs become more proactive and are more likely to succeed as they become able to create large infrastructures from simple and creative ideas that capture the tourists’ attention.
The cultural traditions of a destination will therefore be valued and more easily preserved, which also strengthens the locals’ self-esteem, not to mention the effective incentive to the local economy.
Another relevant point is the better geographical distribution of the flux of visitors all throughout the year. It was understood that the investment in intangible attractions often prevents seasonality, which has recently become a problem across many destinations.
Such experiences can also promote inclusion of many geographical areas not often included in the conventional ones that usually feature in the touristic guides, resulting in a geographic distribution that helps reduce the strain felt by the more visited destinations, whether cultural or natural, while also distributing financial resources by more areas of the territory.
Creative tourism is also much more fun, since it tends to be more interactive, socially egalitarian as well as more environmentally friendly than mass tourism.
3. Exploitation of poor communities: the other side of the coin
It should be noted, however, that there aren’t only positive sides. This type of tourism also came across people who can use it in a negative way; for instance, the attractions where traditional populations are clearly exploited, like native tribes, or places such as favelas (Brazilian slums), which are transformed into tourist attractions by initiatives external to the local population.
In such cases, the profit from the activities does not remain in the local community and could even damage the destination concerned either in the way how it is seen or in how the community that does not interact or does not really gain from such initiatives. This could even lead to the development of an “industry” that keeps local populations in such precarious conditions as to prevent them from “depriving themselves from the characteristics” that made them a tourist attraction, even if it is not.
Unfortunately, exploitation is common in many cases, but it does not represent the phenomenon itself, which has many advantages, and so it must manage well what it is all about and which was here presented.
In conclusion, I suggest you check the Creative Tourism Network, an international organisation that connects several Creative Tourism initiatives from around the world. If you would like to know more about these networks, check out their website, where you can also find a vast offer of books and articles on the subject.
Learning new things is worthwhile, and for this reason Creative Tourism has become a peculiar way of taking part in initiatives that will make us culturally richer and more interested in the most real experiences and traditions of each people.