“Tourism is too important to be left to the marketers. It needs to be managed and owned by the community to insure that the benefits are realized,” Robert McNulty, the founder and president of Partners for Livable Communities, recently commented. When a destination’s genuine culture and nature are preserved, visitors get a true sense of the place, which is what they are after. “People keep looking for originality. They don’t want to recreate their experience in your town, they want to enjoy what the town has to offer.” This concept is at the heart of the creative tourism experience.
Mr. McNulty will explore further the role of tourism, creativity, and community as one of the keynote speakers at the Santa Fe International Conference on Creative Tourism. The conference will be held at the new Santa Fe Community Convention Center, September 28–October 2, 2008 in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The civic vision and ownership of tourism McNulty refers to also has long-lasting benefits for a city. “Tourism is a form of community development,” McNulty continued. “Cities have needs that visitors can financially support. By balancing the tourism infrastructure with existing city services, the year-round resident has a higher quality of life.” The goal of creative tourism is to engage visitors more completely by encouraging a deeper understanding of a place, increasing the vitality of the local tourism industry.
This community-based model is supported by Greg Richards – an originator of the ‘creative tourism” concept, international authority on tourism, and another conference speaker. Said Julie Wilson in their 2007 book, Tourism, Creativity and Development, “…the concept of ‘creative tourism’ as originally conceived by Richards and Raymond places the onus on the destination to actively identify those areas of creativity, which can be anchored in the destination and developed as specific products and experiences.” Using a creative tourism model, communities both preserve their heritage and make it available for visitors to experience.
While travelers are thinking hard about how to get the best vacation for their money in today’s economic environment, creative tourism offers something with lasting value. The opportunities for visitors to interact with the local culture in an intimate way, deliver the kind of original experience Robert McNutly refers to, making return visits more likely and establishing tourists as an ongoing resource for the community.
The US tourism industry is expected to slow in 2008. However, over the next 10 years, the industry is predicted to grow, increasing the contribution to the US Gross Domestic Product from $5.899 billion in 2008 to $10.855 billion in 2018 and adding almost 580,000 jobs in the same time period, according to a study by the World Travel & Tourism Council. Through a comprehensive schedule of theoretical and practical activities, the Creative Tourism Conference intends to provide instruction on putting the creative tourism experience to work so communities can prosper during this future period of growth.
Mornings at the conference are planned for discussion. Afternoons will include useful sessions on creative tourism fundamentals, hands-on creative tourism experiences and how-to sessions for implementing creative tourism in a variety of ways, from agritourism to gastronomy to the arts. In addition to Mr. McNutly and Mr. Richards, the conference includes an outstanding group of guest lecturers and leaders in creativity and tourism from around the world who will help facilitate and guide conversation on various topics.
Finally, representatives of UNESCO’s* Creative Cities Network from Montreal, Edinburgh, Seville, Berlin, Bologna, Aswan, Popayan (Colombia), and Buenos Aries will be presenting ways in which their cities are using creative tourism. Santa Fe, with its rich cultural influences and highly-creative population, was designated the first UNESCO Creative City in the US and is a living example of creative tourism at work.
Creative entrepreneurs, city and urban planners, tourism professionals, community leaders, municipal economists, creative industry developers, educators, cultural experts and artists will all benefit from the skills learned during this unique participative conference. Conference registration, schedules and information is available online at www.santafecreativetourism.com .
*United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
The Santa Fe International Conference on Creative Tourism is being organized by the City of Santa Fe in collaboration with the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.