European industrial heritage: a “niche” tourism market

The 2011 edition of the European Tourism Day, which took place in Brussels on 27th September, focused on industrial tourism. The European Commission organized a high level conference where tourism stakeholders discussed how industrial heritage can be a vehicle for sustainable development of tourism in Europe. Representatives of International Organizations such as the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the Council of Europe, ICOMOS (the International Council on Monuments and Sites), TICCIH (the International Committee for the Conservation of Industrial Heritage) as well as of local and regional authorities, and European networks participated to the event.

The conference run around four panels: Industrial tourism strategies: giving a future to the past; industrial heritage promotion and new tourism solutions; industrial tourism: local development and sustainable policies; and industrial tourism: “niche” markets and innovative tourism products.

The representative of the Council of Europe, Robert Palmer, presented three examples of cultural routes linked to industrial heritage in Europe: Iron Route in the Pyrenees, Iron Trail in Central Europe, Iter Vitis. The former Secretary General of ICOMOS, Jean-Louis Luken, introduced the joint ICOMOS – TICCIH principles for cultural and industrial tourism.

The debate highlighted best practices in Europe around the topic of industrial tourism and sustainable development: good examples are the Ruhr, the Blaenavon world heritage site (UK) and the Steam Railways in UK.

The event was also an occasion to present successful European projects for the promotion of industrial heritage. Several initiatives have been presented: from the experience of the city of Limoges with the ceramics heritage to the European Route of Industrial Heritage ERIH and the Industrial Monuments Route in Poland.

The conference focused also on innovative tourism products related to industrial heritage; a wide range of successful modern tourism products were presented: industrial sites linked to a pilgrimage route, tours to discover companies, disused infrastructures regenerated for non-motorised tourism or physical sites transformed in luxury products.

A presentation of the twenty-one European Destinations of Excellence (EDEN) awarded in 2011 in the category “Tourism and Regeneration of Physical Sites” also took place and awarded destinations were present alongside the conference with an exhibition.

Presentations and videos are available on the conference webpage: http://goo.gl/obCt8

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