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New report confirms that market for cultural tourism is huge

I am grateful to Steven Thorne for sending over links to a series of excellent posts he has written which both debunk the notion that cultural – and by extension literary – tourists are just a small band of slightly nutty enthusiasts who:

“do not generate sufficient travel volume or spending to justify more than the obligatory listing of arts, culture, and heritage attractions found in a destination’s visitor guide, a few dedicated pages on a destination’s website, or perhaps, help in marketing a heritage trail or an artists’ studio tour; ”

and, clearly and methodically state the case for why towns and cities around the world should wake up to the fact that their cultural assets possess enormous economic potential.

The argument is simple: the market for cultural tourism is huge. This is documented in a new Canadian publication called Cultural & Heritage Tourism: A Handbook for Community Champions, and in the 2009 Cultural & Heritage Traveler Study, which identifies 14 per cent of all domestic U.S. travelers as ‘Passionate Cultural Travelers’ who actively seek out cultural destinations. Total expenditures by these ‘passionates’ is pegged at $43 Billion a year in the U.S. and $8-12 Billion in Canada in The Economic Impacts of Cultural and Sport Tourism in Canada 2007 (the most recent study available).

Thorne argues that many cities in North America are missing out on this market because the ‘marketing planning paradigm’ that their DMOs (destination marketing organizations) work within is obsolete. 

This is exactly the argument that we at Literary Tourist have been presenting for much of the past several years. As Thorne puts it: ” Effective tourism marketing is marketing by segment.  To this end, destination marketing organizations cannot rely on generic leisure travel campaigns to reach cultural travelers.  Cultural travelers must be targeted using purpose-built marketing platforms and targeted cultural campaigns.”

Thorne calls for a “much more sophisticated process of identifying a community’s cultural tourism asset base, uncovering its cultural identity, and crafting a visitor experience that will capitalize on any community’s most strategic asset: its sense of place.” Something perhaps a bit like this one.

I plan in coming posts to describe some of the specific experiences that have brought joy to me as a literary tourist; ones the type of which I think could be replicated, facilitated and nurtured by cities interested in attracting visitors with interests similar to my own.


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