What if travel was also a great opportunity to develop your creative potential? This month, our “Travel Trends” column takes a look at creative tourism, a concept that is attracting a growing number of enthusiasts…
To be amazed during your travels is a good thing, but to learn to reproduce what amazes you yourself while on holiday is something else. For example, instead of taking home a replica of an ancient vase as a souvenir from Crete, why not sign up for a pottery class or, take a samba course in Brazil before joining the dancers?… Creative activities are an excellent way of blending into the local scene, discovering one’s many hidden talents and taking home memories of authentic experiences.
The origin of creative tourism
Even though it has basically always existed, the concept of “creative tourism” in its current concrete and organized form was launched in 2000. In a book entitled Creative Tourism, a Global Conversation published in 2009, Crispin Raymond provides the background to the concept which he co-originated. In 2000, as he and his wife read the emails sent by their daughter as she journeyed across Southeast Asia and Australia on her way to New Zealand, they were struck by what she was choosing to do on her journey. In Chiang Mai, a large city in the North of Thailand, she enrolled in a week’s introduction to Thai massage; in Bali, Indonesia, she spent a day learning vegetarian cooking; in the Australian outback she took a course on how to be a “jillaroo” [Jackaroo for men], or the local equivalent of a cowboy! In short, his daughter was using every spare minute to learn. But was there a name for this sort of hyperactive tourism?
Several weeks later, on January 24th 2000, Crispin Raymond he attended a lecture on cultural tourism in Portugal and met Greg Richards, who was speaking about the subject. Greg Richards argued that cultural tourism needed to become more interactive and creative, and that tourists should be offered something more engaging and satisfying than visits to museums and historical sites. This was a moment of revelation for Crispin Raymond. “Creative Tourism” was the perfect name for what his daughter had been doing! After the conference he went up to Greg Richards and they started to collaborate on this new, very promising concept.
In November of the same year, they defined the concept as: “Tourism which offers visitors the opportunity to develop their creative potential through active participation in courses and learning experiences which are characteristic of the holiday destination where they are undertaken.”
Today there is an international network dedicated to creative tourism. The Creative Tourism Network, which was founded in 2010 in Barcelona by the foundation FUSIC, aims to promote the trend and popularize the cities and regions that have the potential to welcome visitors seeking new artistic and human experiences. The network comprises a wide variety of member destinations, ranging from national or regional capitals like Paris, Barcelona and Porto Alegre in Brazil, to the village of Biot in the heart of France’s Côte d’Azur, and from the Spanish region of Galicia, to entire countries like Guatemala, Thailand, etc.
In October 2013, at the 7th International Conference on Responsible Tourism, Creative Tourism Network received the award for the Best Responsible Tourism Initiative. Hats off to them!
An abundance of activities
Plenty of activities can be undertaken during a creative tourism trip. Most are specific to each destination as defined by the concept’s co-originators. For example, the glass-making initiation course offered in the French village of Biot. Tourists taking this five-day course spend 1 ½ hours a day learning about the different stages with a local master glass-maker and then make their own object.
In Guatemala, the “Maya Textile Route” consists of a nine-day circuit where cultural visits of cities and museums are combined with weaving and dyeing workshops during which visitors learn how to create their own fabrics in the traditional brightly colored threads of the land of eternal spring. In Thailand, following in Professor Crispin’s daughter’s footsteps, visitors can take boxing, umbrella painting and origami classes.
In Porto Alegre, capital of the State of Rio Grande do Sul in Southern Brazil, visitors with a musical ear can take part in workshops to learn about regional Brazilian rhythms, with introductions to samba as well as gaucho regional rhythms such as milonga, chamamé, chacarera, etc. What is more, at the end of the workshop, participants are given a CD so they can relive the performances and doubtless make their friends and loved ones want to enjoy the same experience once they are back home.
Activities are spreading practically everywhere including in the cities that are not members of the Creative Tourism Network. They range from one-hour workshops to several day courses. Some destinations offer more universal activities like painting and photography courses that are not necessarily related to local traditional art and craft. These activities nonetheless provide visitors with an opportunity to meet locals and share in an activity that everyone is passionate about.
Creative tourism’s virtuous circle
According to Greg Richards, tourists are increasingly keen to take part in this kind of experience which reflects their desire to express themselves and connect with others. In his opinion, holidays are no longer just devoted to rest, but are also given over to learning and personal development.
In fact, creative tourism is similar to another trend, the DIY or “Do It Yourself” trend which involves making or doing things oneself instead of buying them, for example jewelry or home improvements. The economic crisis has probably helped turn this spirit of resourcefulness, which has always existed, into something fashionable. Several specialized blogs have sprung up and it seems that the DIY phenomenon has stimulated a taste for knowledge and creativity in many people.
Creative tourism doesn’t only benefit the tourists. It also serves the interests of local communities. A good example is the case of Louvre-Lens (member of the Creative Tourism Network), in the Nord region of France. When the branch of the famous Louvre Museum was set up in this not so touristy region, in 2012, the inhabitants created artistic and creative workshops for visitors about their regional culture and history, enhancing a heritage they had not previously embraced as such.
Similarly, creative tourism is a way of attracting visitors all year round. This is a godsend for places like Ibiza, which is usually swamped by party-goers in the summer but empty the rest of the year. This new tourism is also helping change the Spanish island’s image, which is often just associated with its night clubs and not with its stunning natural beauty. Today, people can travel to Ibiza to make their own espadrilles, stay in an isolated artists’ residence with local artists or even improve their DJ skills !
This summer, some tourists will chose their destination because they want improve their skills by learning about the traditions and crafts of other people around the globe, for example dancing, singing, cooking, painting, street art, fashion… Others, who have got caught up in the game will join the Maker Movement. The Maker culture blends DIY with digital technology in a bid to control technologies and use them as a collaborative cultural tool. Examples include the many Fab Labs that have opened all over the world and which give the general public access to big machines, for example 3D printers, so that people can create personalized objects and share their inventions.
Since its first edition in 2006 in San Francisco, the Maker Faire is held regularly and brings together creative enthusiasts, crafters, hobbyists, etc. Save the date if you are a maker and want to join the movement !
NB: Article on hotel industry trends drafted by the Accor Group’s communication department