Walking to meet villagers on the Turkish culture routes. Photo by Hüseyin Eryurt Creating space for ‘Creative Tourism’ Hüseyin Eryurt (Turkey) participated to Tandem Turkey in 2013-14, working with Dragos Lumpan (Romania) on a project that aimed to follow the route taken by Evliya Celebi, focusing on his travels in West Turkey and Romania. In June 2017, Hüseyin has attended a conference on the State of Art in Creative Tourism in Curia, Portugal. He reports back with insights and food for thought on how to create more sustainable and community-oriented tourism. On the way to the conference venue. Photo by Hüseyin Eryurt Over the years, population growth and population movements, as well as changes to the business world have affected the distribution and demand for leisure and tourism. First World tourism trends are rapidly spreading to second World countries. Hence, the tourism industry has been under a gradual evolution in the last few decades. People all around the world have been experiencing new tourism trends both in urban and rural contexts. As mass tourism inevitably keeps growing amongst today’s globalised online-oriented societies, alternative tourism is generating far too numerous concepts and options as well. Nature and/or art-based creative tourism and cultural tourism are the most common types of the latter. A need for creative space and co-creation has been born with these new forms of tourism, with, simultaneously, a growing need for a network of knowledge to study and meet the new demand and supply requirements in this regard. Therefore, in order to bring together leading creative tourism networks -both researchers and implementers-, an international conference named ‘The State of Art in Creative Tourism: Leading Research, Advanced Practices and Future Trajectories’ was held between 31 May – 03 June 2017 in Curia, Portugal. Hüseyin Eryurt (right) with his Tandem partner Dragos Lumpan in 2013 Being a 2014 alumnus of the Tandem-Turkey collaboration, I have had the chance to attend the conference as an observer from Turkey’s Culture Routes Society (CRS) thanks to the Tandem Network Mobility programme. The conference has been quite fruitful for the CRS trails since we are working in the sustainable tourism sector for rural development and we are now inspired to add innovative events to our routes. The conference, which was attended by various creative tourism experts and practitioners from different continents, discussed the leading trends and key issues of the creative tourism industry as well as introducing the CREATOUR project, a network established to develop and improve pilot initiatives based in small cities and rural areas from different Portugese regions. It is a three-year project that analyses creative tourism networks and creates cultural mappings in different regions. Furthermore, the project holds and evaluates ‘idea-labs’ with various partners and stakeholders in order to share knowledge, and organises online courses for researchers and practitioners as well as forming international platforms where best creative tourism practices from all around the world are presented. Audience at the conference. Photo by CREATOUR project team The discussions and sessions throughout the conference highlighted various key issues about this alternative type of tourism, which most of the time is somehow engaged with arts. For instance, unlike the traditional notion of mass tourism, creative tourism users: – seek authentic, unique and personal experiences; – want to experience natural, unspoilt landscapes and authentic accommodation; – wish to participate in activities, lifestyles and traditions of rural communities and get a personalised experience of the countryside; – and want to use local social, cultural and natural resources*. The concept of creativity has been interpreted with great variety and originality. Several individual and institutional initiatives have recently been working in order to meet visitor requirements by using different forms of art and craft. The most common trend seems to be organising events, festivals and facilities on a regular basis –preferably- in rural areas or relatively smaller places. The creative tourist can choose from a wide selection of activities ranging from learning local crafts and other practices such as pottery, mosaics, masonry and earth-bag constructions, cooking, painting, music, etc. to the most advanced technologies. Main key issues such as sustainability, differentiation and active participation are quite essential and usually at the core of creative tourism considerations. Tiago Vinagre de Castro, a Tandem associate and CREATOUR team member As visitors and locals are meant to share experiences in an interactive learning atmosphere, socio-cultural and environmental sustainability should have as much importance as economic results. Moreover, when it comes to differentiation, it is important to note that creative projects are embedded in a region and therefore impossible to reproduce in the same way elsewhere. In addition to that, authenticity does not always necessarily mean old or traditional; as seen during the conference as well, there are several examples where values are created or transformed with reference to the local cultures. Best practice examples introduced during the conference: – Cerdeira Village (Portugal): An art and creation centre and accommodation with courses, workshops, art residency and other events for beginners and masters. – Art and Adventure (Poland): A non-formal youth education programme using arts and creativity while travelling. – The Rajzefiber Biro Project (Slovenia): Another informal but creative approach to tourism services, which is described as ‘nano-tourism’ and involves visitors in a co-creative performative experience as well as giving individually tailored tours by local unofficial guides. – LOA (Brazil): A Brazilian creative tourism agency, which in a sustainable way managed to combine culture (art, dance, gastronomy, etc.) with entrepreneurship to improve socio-economic and cultural conditions of several local destinations, where tourism was never a possibility due to insecurity and low quality of life standards. – 5Bogota (Columbia): A tour operator, which gives tourists a different ‘5 senses’ experience with local values; some of the tour types are ‘food by foot’, ‘salsa like a local’, ‘cooking lesson’, ‘coffee area tour’, etc. – Gangneung Coffee Festival (South Korea): A relatively small destination in South Korea that then became a coffee city with a project in 2009. The festival celebrates the scenic city’s past and present culture with a variety of coffee-related events such as exhibitions, coffee-making and coffee bean roasting experience programmes as well as artisan cafes. Finally, it is evident that there is a clear shift from product oriented mainstream tourism towards experience driven tourism based on the creativity of the supply side. Studies have shown that creative tourists are seeking for an authentic experience, self-development, and meaningful interaction with local people. Hence, meeting these expectations would be through identifying and promoting local tangible and intangible richnesses, conducting in-depth studies with the locals to define their values, designing programmes with them, and planning experience oriented offers via co-creative events. Thanks to informative sharing platforms and projects like CREATOUR, the tourism industry in all its different and alternative forms and aspects, will continue to grow in a promising, responsible and even art themed way. * As defined by Greg Richards, Professor of Place-making and Events at NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences and Professor of Leisure Studies at the University of Tilburg in The Netherlands. Special thanks to the conference organisers, in particular Tiago Vinagre de Castro also a Tandem alumnus; the amazing Tandem Europe-Turkey team, in particular those who were on -or about to finish- their maternal leaves and those to replace them in MitOst and of course our ‘networking-star’ Serra Özhan from Anadolu Kültür.