How to Provide Unique Creative Experiences for Travelers Worldwide

      What is Creative Tourism? Why should creative cities worldwide, and specifically those in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, collaborate about Creative Tourism? How can Creative Tourism be best organized to enhance economic benefits to cities and provinces and countries globally?
            These questions were among those discussed in September 2008 during the first International Creative Tourism Conference, sponsored by the city of Santa Fe and other members of UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network, including Aswan, Egypt; Bologna, Italy; Berlin, Germany; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Montreal, Canada; Popayan, Colombia; and Seville, Spain. At this conference delegates from 16 countries around the world convened to discuss emerging issues and best practices in the use of Creative Tourism as a powerful economic development tool for cities, provinces, states, and countries. Countries represented included Nigeria, the Bahamas, Spain, the People’s Republic of China, Japan, England, Mexico, Canada, Pakistan, Russia, Scotland, Australia, France, Egypt, Germany, Italy, and the United States. Conference participants interacted with some of the world’s renowned leaders in creativity, geo-tourism and cultural entrepreneurship. Through panel discussions led by UNESCO Creative Cities leaders, delegates had the opportunity to learn about best practices in a diverse range of creative industries represented by the UNESCO network, including culinary arts, folk art, music, and design. One of the highlights of the conference was the presentation of more than 50 Santa Fe creative experiences that showcased Santa Fe’s unique historical, cultural, and creative industries. Also unique was the Open Space session that allowed participants to build a networking agenda around Creative Tourism interests and activities in their home cities.
            This book was developed to further promote the provocative and informative global conversations that transpired at our Santa Fe conference. Intended audiences are not only conference participants but also creative individuals worldwide who are actively engaged in promoting creativity and Creative Tourism as both economic and cultural development.
            The format of our book basically follows the conference design, showcasing articles from keynote and panel presentations from the “tracks,” which included “UNESCO Creative Cities; The Road Ahead”; “Creative Entrepreneurs: How to”; “Creative Tourism and Economic Development” and “Creative Tourism Experiences in Santa Fe”.
            This introduction highlights key questions, definitional concerns, and the history of Creative Tourism, short though it may be. The rationale for why we consider Creative Tourism as an important emerging issue globally is introduced, and preliminary ideas for Santa Fe’s next steps in Creative Tourism are identified. We begin this introduction with a brief history of the conference to further clarify our intent and goals for this book.
            The Creative Cities Network was launched by UNESCO in October 2004, to enhance the creative, social, and economic potential of local cultural industries as a means of promoting UNESCO’s goals related to cultural diversity. The vision of the network was to create opportunities for cities to: “Showcase their cultural assets on a global platform; make creativity an essential element of their economic development; share knowledge across cultural clusters around the world, and cultivate innovation through the exchange of creative know-how, experiences, and technology.” Early on, UNESCO designated seven cultural/creative themes around which creative cities could collaborate: literature, cinema, folk art, design, music, gastronomy, and media arts. By 2006, nine cities had been selected to participate in the network including: Aswan, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Bologna, Seville, Montreal, Edinburgh, Popayan, and Santa Fe.
            From its inception, the UNESCO Creative Cities Network was envisioned as a global platform for local endeavor. As such the actual programming and collaboration opportunities were to be generated by network members. The first network member to propose such an international collaboration was the city of Santa Fe. In October 2006, Santa Fe convened a meeting of network members to explore the possibility of presenting an international conference on Creative Tourism. It was our belief that Creative Tourism could indeed bridge all seven of the cultural themes represented by the network. The design of the planning meeting was actually a test of the ultimate conference design in that hands-on experiences and active participation were the basis of the three day meeting. One of the highlights of the meeting was the collective experience of roasting chile, making handmade tortillas and experientially learning about local ingredients, including red and green chile, posolé, and beans. Building upon extensive research conducted by Creative Santa Fe (see Appendix), network members enthusiastically debated goals and objectives for the conference, and agreed upon a definition to guide the conference that underscored engagement in authentic experiences and conversation versus passive learning. And thus, the first International Conference on Creative Tourism, A Global Conversation was born.
            The specific, agreed-upon definition, developed by the conference planning committee, was: “Creative Tourism is tourism directed toward an engaged and authentic experience, with participative learning in the arts, heritage or special character of a place.”
            This definition is consistent with that promoted by Crispin Raymond and Greg Richards, who first coined the term Creative Tourism in their seminal work in New Zealand, starting in 2000. Through the Atlas Newsletter of November 2000, Crispin and Richards first described Creative Tourism as: “Tourism which offers visitors the opportunity to develop their creative potential through active participation in courses and learning experiences that are characteristic of the holiday destination where they are undertaken.”
            Central to both of these definitions are hands on experiences that are culturally authentic. These defining principles are the primary variables that distinguish Creative Tourism from other forms, such as cultural tourism or ecotourism or agri-tourism. Rather than viewing these forms of tourism as competitive or mutually exclusive, Creative Tourism should be viewed as a positive enhancement of other forms of tourism.