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Cultural Tourism Goes Virtual: Audience Development in Southeast European Countries

Edited by Daniela Angelina Jelinčić
Culturelink Joint Publication Series No. 13, Institute for International Relations, Zagreb, 2009, 211 pp., 30 €, ISBN: 978-953-6096-49-7

Globalization has brought a number of changes in people’s everyday lives which also affect people’s holiday activities and habits. Ever growing industrialization and, eventually, greater earnings have resulted in more free time, which is often used for travel. When focusing on the characteristics of the new tourist, except her/his higher education and greater earnings, studies show that the post-modern traveller is keen on individual programmes (“do-it-yourself”) and Internet bookings. The changes mentioned are also evident in the cultural tourism sector, where three types of virtual activities are offered: pre-holiday, during-holiday and post-holiday virtual activities. Pre-holiday activities are reflected in bookings or pre-holiday on-line sales which are offered through the Internet, but also an initial information search is done through various existing on-line resources. Many new information and communication technology systems have emerged recently to complement or to directly affect tourists’ during-holiday activities, while the Internet is also an opportunity to extend the holiday experience even after the holiday itself, marketing the destination by way of post-holiday virtual activities.

Virtual space plays a great role in modern tourist activities and tourists’ tendency to use the Internet in the organization of their own individual trips drives us to reflect on traditional as well as contemporary marketing methods. It is thought that a quality website is a must, although practically no research has been done which would confirm its real impact on cultural tourism. How can we measure the influence of a website on the cultural tourism market? Do we know that it directed a certain tourist to a marketed destination? The answer lies in e-business. In line with the new individualized cultural tourist profile, some cultural institutions and organizations have realized the importance of quality Internet presentations of their activities, not only for enhancing the domestic sales of their programmes but also aiming at the foreign tourist market. Thus, they not only worry about the presentation of their institution but also offer various multimedia possibilities, virtual tours and opportunities for on-line booking/sales.

In June 2007, Culturelink/Institute for International Relations were the hosts of the International Symposium on Virtual Culture and Its Impact on Cultural Tourism: Experiences from Southeast Europe, which was held in Zagreb in the Vatroslav Lisinski Concert Hall. Thematically, it focused on how to measure the impact of cultural institutions’/organizations’ virtual presence on the development of cultural tourism. The aim was to offer precise data on usage of these websites by tourists, using the on-line technology relating, for example, to the sale of tickets, souvenirs, venue rentals and downloads. Best practice examples from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia were presented in order to map the situation in Southeastern Europe (SEE) which would serve as a basis for future comparative research in the countries involved.

After the Symposium, it was agreed with the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe (BRESCE – UNESCO Office in Venice) and the Croatian Ministry of Culture to deepen the subject by conducting a comparative research study in the countries of Southeastern Europe. This book represents a joint effort by researchers from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia who worked hard on the reports presenting the current situation in their respective countries, as well as providing possible recommendations for inclusion of virtual culture in cultural and tourism policies.

The introductory part gives information about the goal and objectives of the research, as well as the research methodologies. It explains the exceptions that were made due to the impossibility of applying a totally similar methodology to all the countries involved. It also gives some general data on European Union e-business and explains basic terminology that was used in the research.

The core of the research is presented by country in alphabetical order. The length of the contributions is not always the same, due to the various situations in these countries. However, the structure of the research has been kept as similar as possible. Each contribution ends with recommendations or guidelines for digital cultural policy in the country concerned.

A comparative analysis of the research is presented in the last text in this book. It highlights similarities and differences in virtual culture in the SEE countries and presents general digital cultural policy guidelines as well as recommendations which could be applied to enhance the development of audience and cultural tourism by way of virtual space.

This research is the first of its kind in the field of cultural tourism and it is hoped that it will stimulate cultural/heritage organizations to enhance their business practices. Thus, cultural tourism profits might be increased and it could lead to greater visibility of virtual culture for decision makers. Ultimately, this topic could become a constituent part of cultural/tourism policy documents./p>

We are aware that there is a great possibility to expand and deepen further research in this field and will be happy if this study serves as a starting point. Therefore, we deeply thank the UNESCO Office in Venice and the Croatian Ministry of Culture for recognizing the value and importance of this subject, both today and in the future, and giving support to our research.

Hoping to meet you all soon in the virtual sphere!

The Editor

 


 
 
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