Cultural tourism: Art en route

Cultural tourism is a necessary option, after the sun and beach destinations have shown their limitations to provide added value to the sector. Cultural tourism has a philanthropic base that, in the medium and long term, provides unquestionable mutual benefits. The UdG trains specialists and researchers in the only Master’s in Cultural Tourism offered by a Spanish university.

In the beginning culture was the lure used to attract tourists. The customs and landscape, in short, the life forms and lands of different people caught the attention of some wealthy English people. It all started with them. Then Fordism: mass production, trivialization of places to the verge of boredom. However, there is no alternative for the 21st century: we must return to roots to save tourism, art must be put back at the very center of the route.

Dolors Vidal, arts graduate and doctorate –she wrote a thesis on the promotion of tourism in Barcelona-, coordinates the UdG Master’s in Cultural Tourism. He points out a detail: governments place tourism in the economic areas. She is right: the Generalitat (Government of Catalonia) places it in the Department of Enterprise and Employment and the central government in Madrid, in the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism. Vidal has shown an interest in proving that culture depends on other areas and that the good point of this programme is that it is placed within this space of intersection, where tourism and culture converge. In the historical sense, the monoculture of sun and beach is an exception which has required major investments in our country, in transport networks and hotel facilities (Spain has the most diverse and capable hotel sector in the world) that, in spite of having brought an income that has contributed to the country’s economic growth, it has blurred the capacity of relations between the local culture and visitors.

This expert considers it absolutely necessary to recover that bond, the one established between the site and the visitor, so that the latter considers it the fundamental element of their decision. Culture is an aspect which is not taken into account when tourists come to Spain. “In 2000 the government commissioned a survey among tourists that showed we are only well known because of the sun and the beach, and with regard to cultural destinations, we are less well known than Malta” Vidal said. There is a lack of knowledge in the historical sense associated to this issue, that has been partly solved thanks to the research done by members of the Multi-disciplinary Laboratory of Tourism Research at the University of Girona, which has a long tradition dating back to 1989 and has produced several doctoral theses and a number of articles in specialized publications.

Specialists in cultural tourism needed
Dolors Vidal insists that specialists and researchers specializing in cultural tourism are needed. A good proof of that is the fact that the Carolina Foundation, in collaboration with the University of Girona and the State Department for International Cooperation in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation have decided to present this master’s programme in several South American countries in order to train specialists in this field. “This year is the third edition of the course, which is the only official master’s programme specificaly devoted to cultural tourism is Spain”, its coordinator highlighted. She clarified that the course is aimed at Catalan, Spanish and Latin American students and to all students in the world who understand Spanish, and also informed that they are planning to offer a virtual alternative very soon, both in English and Spanish,. As for job opportunities for students, Vidal highlighted a couple of very active areas in which some former students are working: religious tourism (“because eighty percent of our artistic heritage belongs to the Church,” she said) and management of tourism events and cultural infrastructures. Thus this master’s programme focuses its lectures on a combination of the humanistic knowledge essential for understanding the cultural dimension of heritage, and tourism issues, necessary to add value to heritage.

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