#FACTOR C Cultural tourism: an opportunity for museums and institutions

Home » #FACTOR C Cultural tourism: an opportunity for museums and institutions

Cultural tourism is an extraordinary opportunity for the cultural sector, let’s find out why it is worth considering as an ally.

cultural tourism opportunities museums and institutions

The debate in Italy is more open than ever: is cultural tourism an opportunity for museums and cultural institutions? Why should culture intercept tourists, and which ones? And most importantly, how?

Raise your hand if any of you, in the day-to-day reality of the cultural sector, have never come across similar questions arising from the desire to “attract cultural tourism.” Or who has never found themselves debating what “tourist enhancement” of cultural heritage actually is.

These and many other questions we want to begin to answer with a column that aims to shed light on cultural tourism as an opportunity that museums and cultural destinations can seize in attracting additional visitors to their ordinary audience.


Sure, here’s the translation: “Yes, “additional” is a primary keyword. Tourists are, by definition, visitors who reside elsewhere than the location or destination where the museum is situated, and who visit these places within a timeframe ranging from a few hours to several days. They may be residents of the same region or nation or come from abroad, but it is crucial to clarify that tourists are an additional audience for our museum or location.”

The concept may seem obvious, but in practice it’s not, and it also reveals the answer to the question posed at the beginning of the article: why should a museum be interested in tourists? Firstly, because more visitors mean more admissions and are therefore an opportunity to be seized to increase and diversify the sources of income for cultural institutions.

Cultural Tourism: How Many and Which Tourists to Attract?

“Not only that: according to the most recent available data from the years 2018/2019 provided by CISET, cultural tourism represents one of the main reasons for travel for those arriving in our country (historical and artistic cities attract 35% of arrivals and 26% of overnight stays) and accounts for a significant share of the total national tourist expenditure (57.4%, to which an additional 6.7% associated with cultural landscape tourism must be added).”

The dimension of cultural tourism in Italy is therefore considerable and cannot be ignored. However, a second question arises: which tourists do we want to attract?

Here we need to start thinking in terms of marketing, considering how our museum/location’s offering is characterized and how the market is composed. Knowing that cultural tourism today is no longer exclusively “mass tourism,” but rather a type of tourism that is conscious and highly interested in engaging with the local community, as explained by UNWTO – the UN agency responsible for coordinating and developing tourism.

Cultural tourism today is also no longer composed (solely or predominantly) of large groups but consists of individual visitors, traveling as couples, with family, or in small groups at most. Moreover, cultural tourists are no longer solely focused on major urban centers but are finally seeking out and visiting rural areas, small museums, and destinations that are still authentic.

Why Cultural Tourism Is an Opportunity

Perhaps this is the main reason why cultural tourism is a real and powerful opportunity for museums and institutions in Italy. The great “scattered museum,” as our country is often called, can now benefit from a favorable situation due to the transformation of travel behaviors and the newfound attractiveness of rural areas and lesser-known regions in Italy.

It is crucial to make museums and destinations aware that tourism should be managed, not merely endured. It is necessary to study and understand the dynamics of the sector thoroughly before initiating any activity to attract visitors. Once opportunities are identified, it is then essential to establish a strategy on solid foundations.

Data as the Foundation of Strategy

The first, extremely important aspect is data. Tourism today is data-driven. Consequently, the first thing to do is to understand how many tourists (and which ones) pass through our reference territory and contextualize this data within a national, European, and international framework.

The very first data useful for finalizing the strategy are arrivals, overnight stays, origins, and – last but not least – the traces that the tourist leaves online.

Where to find this data? It’s a thorny issue because in tourism, there isn’t a single data hub, and the only path is to search, analyze, and integrate data from various sources (being very careful about which sources to choose). The assistance of a professional in this matter can be crucial.

Once we’ve gathered our initial data lake, we need to ask ourselves: does the cultural offering of my museum or destination include any activities/services/products suitable for capturing these visitors? For example: do we have a guided tour service in multiple languages? If not, it may be appropriate to consider implementing one. If yes, it’s a good starting point to begin “leveraging.”

How? By identifying the touchpoints through which the tourist present in my territory definitely comes into contact. This is where the construction of the real tourist marketing plan, or destination marketing, begins.

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