UNESCO and the European Commission are launching a project to develop cultural routes that would benefit from the power of World Heritage sites to attract tourists to promote other cultural assets such as museums and festivals, for example, along selected European itineraries.
Funded by the Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (DG-Growth), the project entered its first, preparatory stage on 1 February with a provisional budget of 1.5 million euros.
The first Heritage Routes will be offered to travelers by late 2017. The project foresees that visitors to UNESCO World Heritage sites will be able to use consumer-friendly platforms and mobile applications to get maps and information concerning cultural places and, where appropriate, visits to intangible cultural heritage events that they can include in their trip.
“The European Heritage Routes’ project is a welcome concrete demonstration of the power of cultural heritage to serve as a wellspring for sustainable economic development for communities and regions,” said the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova. “I am confident that this European project will provide communities, conservationists and political leaders with a model that can inspire development strategies drawing on the outstanding universal value of World Heritage sites in many parts of world.”
Elżbieta Bieńkowska, EU Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, said. "I warmly welcome this project since tourism is indeed a great opportunity for UNESCO sites. It gives new life to historical places and cities, helps people to understand each other's past and - what is of paramount importance nowadays - it brings growth and new job opportunities."
"I'm pleased that this pilot project I proposed to enhance itineraries, products and projects around UNESCO sites is about to become reality" said Silvia Costa, Member of the European Parliament and Chair of the Committee on Culture and Education. “The project fully meets the European Union’s commitment to helping institutions and other constituencies in the field of culture create synergies and strengthen cooperation to effect change,” she added.
The project will involve local authorities, heritage site managers, cultural institutions such as museums and galleries, intangible cultural heritage players, and members of the travel industry. Its internet sites and applications will seek to promote European Heritage Routes to the public, particularly in China, North America, and Europe.