CREATOUR: Creative Tourism Destination Development in Small Cities and Rural Areas

Launched in November 2016, CREATOUR: Creative Tourism Destination Development in Small Cities and Rural Areas ( is a national, 3.5-year, research-and-application project to develop and pilot an integrated approach and research
agenda for creative tourism in small cities and rural areas in Portugal. The project concentrates on creative tourism as a strategic area for diversification and a contribution to culturally-sensitive and inclusive local sustainable development.
Since its launch, CREATOUR has been encouraging experimental practices and pilot trials to more fully understand the issues and potential of creative tourism in small cities and rural contexts in Portugal. Interlinking culture, tourism, and local
development perspectives and methodologies, the project has catalyzed and researched creative tourism in small cities and rural areas across the Algarve, Alentejo, Centro, and Norte regions. The project has enabled and empowered an array of bottom-up
development approaches and initiatives. We have learned that creative tourism development outside large cities is feasible, but challenges of distributed geography and the diversity of small-scale initiatives require significant attention to capacity-building,
training, and mentorship; dedicated resources for collective marketing; and time to deepen knowledge networking and the development of partnerships. We also found that creative tourism has significant potential for inspiring new ideas for revitalizing local
culture and heritage resources, reimagining community self-representation for tourism, and providing social, cultural, and economic added value for smaller places.
As a multidisciplinary research and incubator/demonstration initiative, CREATOUR is guided by both scientific and application objectives. The project’s design is guided by OECD advice that creative sector development can be enhanced by policy
measures and programmes designed to build knowledge and capacity, support content development, link creativity to place, and strengthen network and cluster formation (OECD, 2014). These dimensions form the framework for CREATOUR’s approach.
On the research side, the project examines and reflects on the creative tourism activities, including development dynamics and patterns, reception experiences, and community impacts, using methodologies and theoretical perspectives from the fields of
tourism, cultural development, and local/regional development. On the practice side, CREATOUR explicitly nurtures applied experimentation and the implementation of projects that diversify tourism offers and deepen connections between culture and
tourism. The project aims to inform and learn from their development and link them with each other through the development of a national network. This network offers visibility through critical mass as well as support through research, co-learning, and
capacity building. The project also aims to inform policy development for creative tourism.
The CREATOUR project (initial phase) operated from November 2016 to June 2020. It was funded by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT/MEC) through national funds and was cofunded by FEDER through the Joint Activities
Programme of COMPETE 2020 and the Regional Operational Programmes of Lisbon and Algarve. It was an ambitious experiment, involving five research centres and 30 researchers working with 40 participating ‘pilot’ organizations, including art, culture,
environmental, local, and regional development associations; science and education organizations; municipalities; and entrepreneurs.
The project was coordinated by the Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra.

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