The European Cultural Capital title appeared in 1985, then the Greek minister of culture, former actress Melina Mercouri together with the French counterpart-jack came up with the idea of bringing Europeans closer together through highlighting Europe’s richness in diversity of culture, while creating their common history as well as well values. The title is managed by the commission of the European Union. Every year a ministerial council of the E.U. confers the title to a winning city or cities after bids are assessed by the committee of international cultural experts through criteria formulated by the E.U. So far more than 40 cities have been conferred the honour of hosting the title (Ashworth et al 2000, p. 48).
Though Athens was the first city to host the title in 1985, the idea was conceived way back in 1983, with the title called the European City of Culture. It was renamed the European Capital of Culture during the presidency in the E.U in 1999.
Use of images and cultural attractions to lure visitors has been effective since the 17th century. The European grand tour is an example. The European Commission sponsored -the Atlas Cultural Research Programme that was launched in 1991 and aimed at the better understanding of the motivations, behaviours, profile of, and attitudes of the European tourists. Richards I affirms that it is one of the forms of tourism that most policy makers seem to be betting on for the future).
When the terms “cultural tourism”, “cultural tourist” became widely used, misunderstandings also arose. McKercher and Du Cross queried, what is “cultural tourism?”. They concluded that the question though was difficult as there were as many definitions of cultural tourism as there were tourists, but based on the World Tourism Organisation’s definition, it meant “all aspects of tourism, teaching tourists about their past inheritance, and contemporary lifestyle” (Dixon 2009, p. 200).
From Du Cross and McKercher, we gain two significant insights in the definitions of cultural tourism:
- Cultural tourists can come from distant geographical source markets;
- Cultural tourists can be first-time visitors;
- They can stay longer at the destinations;
- They can use travel guides (information);
- They spend more time and money than non-cultural tourists while sampling other hospitality activities.
Cultural tourism can be categorised into different markets based on tourist engagement activities and the motivating factor, whether cultural attraction or programme for the tourist (Hannam et al 2010, p. 78).
Types of Tourists
Tourist destination managers need to understand the travel motivation and type of experience that cultural tourists would seek. Thus, for purposes of categorisation, cultural tourists can be defined as:
- Purposeful tourists who seek a very deep experience and have a specific destination. Cultural tourism is the major motivating factor;
- Sightseeing cultural tourists who have less deep experience, but cultural tourism is the key motivating factor;
- Serendipitous cultural tourists who do not have specific cultural reasons but only deep cultural experience;
- Casual tourists who have a weak travel motivating factor with shallow resultant cultural experience;
- Incidental cultural tourists who do not travel for cultural reasons although engage in some cultural activities with some resulting experience that is shallow.
Regeneration, Culture and Tourism Led Regeneration
The idea of culture incorporated as a marketing component of tourism attraction in tourist destinations to gain a competitive edge, especially urban destinations, specifically cities, is on the upward trend (Caves 2005, p. 160). Use of strong historical and infrastructural tools is emerging in the following ways:
- Attracting big-spending tourists;
- Supporting socio-economic as well as physical regeneration;
- Image creation;
- As a main place making resource.
These cultural tourist objectives interrelate in contributing to the growth of the economies of the host regions. This is exemplified by many European cities where culture is the main component of the urban tourism sector. A number of cities like Barcelona, Dublin and Glasgow have an authentic tourism destination image built up by investing in cultural tourism (Meethan 2002. p. 87). This accelerates the change by acting as a transformational catalyst.
Many urban centres have utilised cultural resources to act as complimentary factors in marketing for inward investing, resulting in saturation of the market with cultural attractions.
This has led to small towns and regions, especially those found in medium sized industrial cities without a distinct image as “cultural centres”, to struggle in marketing themselves. However, culture-led regeneration is still a major item being used to achieve broader economic and social objectives. This still is being highlighted by the U.K. government. This is corroborated by efforts made by the Labour government in 1997. It published its vision-1998 of the “creative Britain” discussing the impact of the culture-led regeneration.
D.C.M.S (Department of Culture Media and Sport) produced a report highlighting the increased importance of the European Capital of Culture Programme. After the success of Glasgow that enhanced itself as a tourist attraction jumping from a minimum baseline to one of the prominent tourist destinations as a consequence of being named the European Capital of Culture in 1990., its reign marked its growth in prominence as well as in international status (Smith 2009, p. 168).