Morvan, Bibracte, 2022. Photo by Pietro Masi, CC-BY-SA

The INCULTUM project deals with challenges and opportunities of cultural tourism with the aim of furthering sustainable social, cultural and economic development.

It explores the full potential of marginal and peripheral areas when managed by local communities and stakeholders.

Innovative participatory approaches are adopted, transforming locals into protagonists.

Participation and collaboration are promoted in the INCULTUM pilots by:

  • perception interviews about positive and negative impacts of tourism and the expectations of the local population
  • participatory proposals of initiatives and local management of tourist resources
  • collective discussion about potential impacts of the new interventions
  • direct field data collection for statistical and GIS analysis
  • creation of dissemination materials
  • creation of educational and training materials
  • networking, internal communication and collaboration among stakeholders to generate returns and exchanges between different sectors
  • involvement of stakeholders in the preparation of policy papers


A participatory approach in tourism has been a widely studied concept due to its significance as a key success factor in tourism development. It is an approach that tries to move away from top-down one-way decision-making. The goal of this approach is to balance the power between all parties to promote a win-win situation in tourism development (Ozcevik et al. 2010, Arnstein 1969). Therefore, the participation is defined as “a process of involving all stakeholders (local government officials, local citizens, architects, developers, business people, and planners) in such a way that decision-making is shared” (Haywood, 1988, p. 106). In sharing the decision-making, responsibilities, and benefits among stakeholders, the ultimate goal is to move the power of development from the government and ‘outside experts’ to the citizens and local communities.

The participatory approach is useful in all stages of destination planning as it helps decision makers to maintain traditional lifestyles and respect community values (Murphy 1985, Wild 1994, Cater 1994). A collaborative approach in the tourism sector refers to an interactive process of sharing experience and ideas as well as forming a pool of finance and human resources among stakeholders in order to solve a problem or fulfil a specific aim (Vernon et al. 2005). Wang and Fesenmaier (2007) argue that the collaborative approach in tourism is important in developing destination image and brand, implementing holistic tourism products and increasing destination competition by providing better customer services or generating innovation or innovative
tools in tourism. In conclusion, we perceive the relationship between tourists, host communities, businesses, attractions, and environment as complex, interactive, and symbiotic and have therefore opted for implementing a participatory-collaborative approach in the INCULTUM project.

In the context of tourism development, the participatory-collaborative approach is an essential prerequisite for achieving sustainability and the SDGs. Robson and Robson (1996) asserted that “the involvement of stakeholders in tourism has the potential to provide a framework within which sustainable tourism development can be delivered” by striking a balance between those who have the traditional power (those who possess money, knowledge and control, such as governments, investors, and outside experts) and those who have to live with the outcome of the development project (the host community) (Vijayanand 2013). Once the power relation is balanced and each stakeholder has the opportunity to express opinions in decision-making, tourism development will be more fully developed, fair and ultimately sustainable. Another rationale of the participatory-collaborative approach is that participation and collaboration contribute to a process of capacity-building for all stakeholders in several dimensions. The positive outcomes of the participatory-collaborative approach are: decision-making based on public opinion, improved decision legitimacy and quality, enhancing tourism products portfolio, generating new ideas and innovations, increased trust among stakeholders, conflict reduction, cost reduction and efficiency, and shared responsibility (Byrd 2007, Palmer and Bejou 1995), contributing ultimately, in our case, to European social and economic development.

The INCULTUM project uses different participatory and collaborative approaches: community-based tourism and cultural participation belong to those that are most widespread.

Community-based tourism refers to tourism that involves community participation while generating benefits for local residents. This happens by allowing tourists to visit these communities and learn about their local environment, their culture, habits and natural or cultural heritage (Garcia Luccetti and Font 2013). It is the endogenous approach of development which can be seen as a challenge to the traditional top-down government-led development policy as it shifts control of the tourism industry from governmental officers to the community itself. Community becomes the main actor and decision-maker in planning, developing, and managing resources to serve the purposes of the tourism industry (Simpson, 2008). It is an alternative way of ensuring that the host community will gain benefits from tourism development rather than only bearing the costs and withstanding nuisances.

The World Tourism Organization (WTO) recognizes an increasing consumer demand for educational and participatory travel experience. Community-based tourism offers not only this, but at the same time provides a tool that strengthens the ability of rural communities to manage tourism resources while having the potential to generate income, to diversify local economy, to preserve the local culture and habits, to conserve the unique environment, to generate innovations, and to provide education opportunities (WTO and UNEP, 2005). The reasons for community participation and collaboration in tourism development is widely accepted as a criterion of sustainable tourism. As a service industry, tourism is highly dependent on the good-will and cooperation of host communities. Service is the key to the hospitality atmosphere (Murphy, 1985) and community participation and collaboration can result in an increased social carrying capacity (D’Amore, 1983). Virtually, all tourism surveys show that the friendliness of the local people rates high on the list of positive features about a destination (Sweeny & Wanhill, 1996). Support and pride in tourism development are especially important in cultural tourism where the community is part of the product.

Cultural participation is a multifaceted and complex concept, and cultural economics contributes to its understanding by modelling participation and studying the determinants of the demand for cultural activities (Ateca-Amestoy 2008; Ateca-Amestoy and Prieto-Rodriguez 2013; Falk and Katz-Gerro 2016), as well as the relationship between the cultural sector (cultural participation and cultural heritage, specifically) and the tourism sector. In general, there is extensive evidence of a link between the two, which would benefit reciprocally from common and harmonised policies. A first strand of research studies the role of culture, cultural heritage, and cultural participation on the attractiveness of tourist destinations (Guccio et al. 2018).