Virtual Culture and Its Impact on Cultural Tourism: Experiences from South-East Europe
Zagreb, Croatia, 14-15 June 2007
Vatroslav Lisinski Concert Hall
The international symposium Virtual Culture and Its Impact on Cultural Tourism: Experiences from South-East Europe, organized by the Culturelink Network / Institute for International Relations, took place on 14-15 June 2007 in Zagreb, Croatia, at the Lisinski Concert Hall. It was supported by the UNESCO Office in Venice, with the help of the Ministry of Culture; the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports; the City of Zagreb Office for Education, Culture and Sports; and sponsored by the Lisinski Concert Hall, DEKOD Telekom Ltd., the Zagreb Tourist Board and Event Ltd.
Thematically, the Symposium focused on measurable methods of cultural institutions'/organizations' virtual presence impact on cultural tourism development. The aim was to offer exact data on the usage of those websites by tourists using the on-line sales technology of tickets/souvenirs/venue rentals/downloads etc. Therefore, the Symposium presented best practice examples from Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Slovenia and Serbia as to map the situation in South-Eastern Europe which would serve as the basis for future comparative research in related countries. It consisted of three thematic sessions:
- Websites of Music Institutions/Organizations and Their Impact on Cultural Tourism;
- Websites of Festivals and Their Impact on Cultural Tourism;
- Websites of Museums and Theatres and Their Impact on Cultural Tourism.
Within the first thematic session, best practice examples from Slovenia (Cankarjev dom), Bulgaria (Opera Varna) and Croatia (Lisinski Concert Hall and Dubrovnik Festival) have been presented. The second session included examples from Serbia (EXIT), Romania (George Enescu Festival) and Albania (Tirana International Film Festival), while the case of Bosnia & Herzegovina (Sarajevo Film Festival) has not been presented due to a representative's drawback at the last moment. The Montenegrins (Montenegro National Theatre) and Macedonians (Museum of Contemporary Art) presented their institutions within the last session, which also included an overview of the cultural, tourism and ICT sector in Macedonia presented by PAC Multimedia.
As a concluding overview of the symposium, a proposal of the common research structure which is planned has been presented, as to prepare the grounds for including the digital culture chapter in national cultural policies.
The Symposium showed that it would not be possible to research the situation in related countries using the same methodology since it differs from country to country. Some of the countries use on-line technology which can offer exact data on virtual culture impact on cultural tourism, while others do not perceive Internet as a relevant marketing tool. Therefore, it has been proposed to divide future research in two greater parts. The first part would be the same for all the countries involved and would contain the following:
- An overview of digitization in the related country;
- The number and percentages of Internet users;
- The connection between digitization and the cultural sector in the country (brief overview, including digitization in national cultural policy, present condition and tendencies);
- Identification of best practice examples of websites of cultural institutions/organizations regardless of the sector they belong to (public, private, civil) which are to be researched in regards to their impact on cultural tourism.
The second part of the research would again be divided into two parts:
- For countries which practice on-line sales/bookings (statistics on Internet sales; statistics on monthly sales; statistics on the type of the programme sold; statistics on the origin of customers; discovery route for the website/Internet purchase; increase or re-direction of the sales; organizational activities which are enticed by its Internet presentation/website);
- For countries which do not practice on-line sales/bookings (frequency of users' visits; origin of the users; possible statistics on sales in general; the reasons for not practicing on-line sales).
The Symposium gathered tourism, culture and ICT sector representatives either from the public, private or civil sphere with a total of 79 participants. The opening speeches for the Symposium were held by Mrs. Nina Obuljen, Assistant Minister of Culture for International Cooperation, Mr. Milo Sršen, Assistant Director of the Croatian National Tourist Board, Mr. Tomislav Šola, President of the Association of Cultural Tourism, Mr. Darko Fijember, Technical Director of the Lisinski Concert Hall and Mr. Damir Dijaković, Programme Specialist in Culture of the UNESCO Office in Venice, who officially opened the Symposium.
The Symposium presented a new subject in the cultural sector business management as well as a huge opportunity for economic ties with the tourism sector. In this way, the so far insufficient cooperation of those two sectors has possibly found a fertile soil for common goals.
The future of the project primarily depends on financing, which is planned to be agreed with the UNESCO Office in Venice among others. The research would result in the publication of a study presenting guidelines for digital cultural policy with an impact on a wider cultural tourism context.