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Cultural tourism. Case study





 Carlos Perales Gomez

Cultural tourism and the contemporary city.

The comparative study  collect the experience in  Barcelona through the Icon serveis service , comparing it with the My + One service  Created in Berlin, this service has now been extended to many other European cities, including Barcelona itself.

Although both cities and the case studies show parallels as they are top cities in terms of culture, innovation and creativity, I found it interesting to make the comparison to detect if the same problems of tourist exhaustion that seem to emerge in Barcelona can also be identified in Berlin, and if so how do these cities try to deal with these. Another reason that has just decided my choice is how fascinating and energetic Berlin is for me.


In what environment do they arise? How does the territory determine the experience?

Both cases arise in an urban territory, this environment being a determining factor for the experience.

Berlin is currently the second largest city in Europe by inhabitants,  with 3,437,916 inhabitants, Barcelona occupying 11th place ( 1 ) in this ranking with 1,602,386, although the  Berlin's total area: 892 km² is four times that of Barcelona: 101 km². Berlin has become the largest tourist destination in Europe, according to the OECD in its yearbook (2014), with more than 22 million stays in 2011. Many of these visitors are attracted by the creative images of the city and the infrastructures " soft ”related to creativity, including restaurants, bars and life on the streets. Berlin's creative tradition has been driven by specific policies aimed at supporting the creative industries, identified as a priority in 2004. Success factors in developing creativity include:

  • The use of existing creativity as a resource for the city, instead of trying to import talent from other places.

  • Exploit  the strengths of existing creative networks, such as the electronic music scene.

  • Turn lack of resources to your advantage by emphasizing networking from small groups with frequent contact to build trust.

  • Policies consistent in development for a long period of time, using the knowledge of the key players in the creative field.


To compensate for the creative industries' relative lack of experience in the administration itself, the city created advisory boards to include key sectors, bringing together stakeholders from the public, private and voluntary sectors.

Berlin is an event capital  international events such as the Berlinale, dedicated to cinema [ link ] or the Transmediale digital art and culture festival [ link ] apart from  more than 400 fairs and congresses  that make Berlin a privileged international meeting forum due to its strategic position between two important world economic spaces: the European Union, and the countries of Eastern and Central Europe.

Berlin is a creative city, this can only be appreciated by walking through its streets, by reviewing its history or  breathe its cosmopolitan air. In November 2005, UNESCO declared the German capital a Creative City. Upon obtaining this official recognition, the city  it became part of an exclusive club of creative cities, made up of only 28 cities around the world.

The objective of UNESCO in giving this designation to Berlin was to make this metropolis practice the concept of “creative tourism.” “ Creative tourism involves a lot of interaction, in which the visitor establishes an educational, emotional, social and participatory bond with the place. It is to live the culture and the people who live there, to feel like one more citizen ".

Barcelona, for its part, is the tenth city  with the largest tourist flow in the world, the third most photographed on Google (2) and its tourism generates profits of between 18 and 22 million euros per day. A cosmopolitan city where the tertiary sector, specifically that related to tourism, has not stopped growing, making the city a  place to live it,  determining the experience. Barcelona is the capital of a Catalonia with a long tradition in mass tourism related to the concept of sun and beach as well as that related to tangible and intangible heritage. Barcelona was also recognized by UNESCO as a creative city linked to literature in 2015 [ link ]

What consumer profiles do the cases point to?

Both cases offer their services to people who have an interest in getting in touch with local people, discovering the city and the secrets it hides in a different way than the classic and formal proposal offered by any conventional tour operator. In the case of the cultural routes of Barcelona, the services are also demanded by the local public and residents of the city, eager to get to know the city from other perspectives, such as in this case through the literature that the city has generated. The case of My + one is more  intended for a public outside the city. They are tourists who want to know the city at the hands of a local. Both cases respond to a proactive public, of the so-called cultural omnivores, as Richard Florida describes in his book the rise of creativity class,  eager for new cultural experiences linked to creativity. My + One  makes it easy for your guests to get in touch with Berliners who share interests with them. Clare Freeman, the promoter of this service, says: “ They are not guides, but cultural companions, and the same thing they take you to their favorite restaurant to have dinner with some friends, when you go out on a night out or visit a gallery where a friend of theirs exhibits. We recently connected a guest interested in urban planning with an urban planning student ”. " I know how difficult it can be to visit a city where you don't know anyone, " Freeman says.








Differences and similarities of the purpose of each case

In both cases we find a high degree of similarities in terms of the purpose of both, which is to offer an experiential experience in the first person to the public who demands its services when discovering the city, endorsing the extended concept of "People that you know in a place and the experiences that you live with them is what you remember the most of a trip ”.

The creativity of the services is another of the elements of identity between both cases, creativity is a differentiating element over other more conventional proposals offered by the competition.

The contrasts could be located in the difference of the degree of experience, let me explain, the company My + One  part of a more innovative concept of tour operator, by offering the hotel and providing contacts of people residing in the city, according to the interests of the guest, being the offer of  Barcelona more focused on concrete experiences. The offer  Berlin would be more intense in a different form of experiential consumption,  also marked by the duration of the experiences because the organization offers you accommodation, meeting with local public, experiencing the city with local people, real life, feeling at home, discovering the best  secrets of the city, cuisine, music, network organization and not just an activity previously designed by a tour operator.

Serveis icon  part of excursions or experiences programmed by professionals.

Both experiences would conceptualize the new creative tourist, as defined by Greg Richards “ the growing demand for this type of experience is linked to the consumer's need to define their own identity through what they consume, with the desire to express themselves and connect with others, even if they are far away. Holidays are no longer a mere parenthesis for rest, they have become spaces for learning and personal development "


Differences and similarities in the origin of the idea and the development of the strategic lines.

One of the greatest similarities between this type of proposal, taking into account its idea and strategy lines,  is its high online presence. It is through a strong presence on the Internet, from where they contact their clients and offer their services. From a  A very dynamic website with a constant presence on social networks is defined as fundamental to contact a type of public that uses these media to search for their experiences.

Differences when targeting the product: The MY + One service  offers the possibility to anyone  that can be offered  as a guide-host  of your city, you do not have to be a professional related to tourism or history, but anyone can offer  his online profile for people to contact him. Being possible for anyone with a prior motivation to share experiences.

The case of Icono Serveis  it would be more focused on private consumption. The company offers cultural and creative services, but the experience is still an excursion, although more creative, more typical within the offer that we can find in conventional tour operators. And these would be based  in more specific consumer offers.

Territorial and social economic impact of the two cases and incidence on development

According to 2011 data, the GDP of the cultural sectors in Spain represents 3% of the total and 3.8 if all activities related to intellectual property are taken into account. In terms of occupancy, it represents 4.1% of the total occupancy. If the creative industries are added, the figures increase to unprecedented levels in this sector in our country. These data have been extracted from the Center for Economic and Social Studies of Barcelona  through the Cycle of Dialogues  that said entity organized at the Palau Macaya in Barcelona from May to June 2016. In the presentation by Félix Riera, he stated that although the data had not yet been recorded, the department of the Generalitat de Catalunya,  they had advanced the information  that in Catalonia there were 33,706 creative companies with a turnover of 10 billion euros, offering 147,000 jobs, which represents 4.7 of the workforce. [ Link ].

In the case of Berlin, although the forecast for the region is positive today, the city's economy has been affected in recent years by high indebtedness and the payment of higher interest rates than in other states. This situation led to the determination of a strict cost reduction policy in all areas. In 2007, and for the first time in Berlin's 58 years as a City-State, the economy ran into a financial surplus. This surplus is highly conditioned by trade and services  they carry great weight. More than 50% of workers in Berlin are employed in the private service sector. Great growth has also been reported in information and communication technologies, media, environmental technology, medicine, biotechnology, and transportation. Finally, it is worth noting the great importance given to research and innovation projects.

The 2008 study "The Economic Tourism Factor" in Berlin yields conclusive figures of what this represents for the city. Hotel guests stayed an average of 2.2 days in the city at a cost of 196.70 euros per person per day. The restaurants had a turnover of 3.9 million euros, which represents 42.8% of their income, currently 232,300 people are completely dependent on the tourism industry that contributes to 6.8% of the national income. ( 3 )

  The capital of Germany has for years been synonymous with culture and design. Berlin is specializing in areas such as e-commerce, new digital media, and social media games. Currently being one of the recommended sites to open a creative business ( 4 )

  In 2010, the growing tourism sector encompassed 746 hotels with 112,400 beds and around 20.8 million overnight stays, making Berlin the third most visited city in the European Union.  Berlin has  175 museums , it also has more than 50 theaters and around 300 cinemas, 4,650 restaurants , around 900 bars and 190 bars and nightclubs. And more Döner stores than in Istanbul,  being the island of museums a place declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO




Definition of the problems and challenges they face.


As has already been explained in the previous questions, both cases are strongly rooted in a highly productive territory in terms of cultural and creative tourism. Both cities compete in the top of the leading cities with power of attraction,  attracting millions of people simply with their name that has already become their market brand and positioning in it. But this too  It has created a serious problem when it comes to assimilating all that amount of people. Overcrowding problems have already begun to emerge in both cities, with constant debates over the type of tourism and the extent to which the city is capable of supporting the fragile coexistence of tourists with residents without being damaged, being the identity problems of the culture and Disneyfication that occurs in public spaces, generally those located in the center of the city, which originate a strong controversy.

Another major problem that both cities face is known as gentrification, the most popular neighborhoods in both cities have become hotbeds of creative people, creating clusters of creativity, being able to afford to pay cheaper rents, but this has in turn, it has generated that these places automatically become precious spaces for urbanization and urban speculation. A case that exemplifies this problem is that produced at the beginning of the year around the graffiti of Berlin (the city's identifying mark) and the speculation of the land around them. [ Link ]

The Barcelona of these times is an example that leads us to rethink some of the most successful categories of tourism promotion, such as turning certain areas of the city into an icon. A success that, taken very far, can call into question the very sustainability of the destination and the quality of the experience. And generate a series of resistance in the local inhabitants. From the famous campaign started in the 80s of “Barcelona més que mai” or “Barcelona posa´t guapa” to the present day, the city has experienced an unstoppable effervescence united  to tourism, but it is perhaps now when it is necessary to make a deep reflection and see in creative tourism a new way of sharing, improving  and live the city. Next I will add a series of consultation links  that have been very interesting for me to study and to understand all the problems generated around tourism.

Interesting article about the new creative tourist in Berlin:




One of the most interesting challenges for the future of both cities  it is to be able to reverse the problems raised previously to turn them into something positive for citizens and visitors. The creative, proactive tourist  and generator of knowledge, such as the cases offered by the companies studied for the comparison of cases, come to offer a new look that is more respectful of the environment and the heritage of the city. This will be one of the great challenges of these cities, to be able to offer experiences more linked to sustainability, offering products linked to the quality of experiences. In a highly technical globalized world, the appreciation of places has changed rapidly, this must be coupled with new sensitivities when offering products in line with these.

Comparison between the trends and future scenarios of the two cases

Both face the competition of a globalized world market, where anticipating changes is a great advantage. Both cases have a kernel installation  urban area of relevance, with consolidated tourist synergies.

In both cases, it is essential to continue with a high visibility on the network, in order to continue offering its products increasingly based on the cultural diversification of society.

Current trends lead to a new rethinking of tourism from how it had been considered in the past, together with mass tourism, often linked to the sun and the beach, current trends show a change in orientation, marked by an increasingly tourist informed, where their involvement in generating their experience is very high, facilitated by the technological world that the internet offers. The contexts of economic crisis paralyze tourism, always a volatile sector, as well as the problems that some places considered more unsafe may generate  but they generate new opportunities for other types of products, often linked to creativity. The need to generate new content and seek alliances between creative industries seems to be a new trend for the future, offering products that are increasingly moldable and ductile when it comes to the participation and modification of the end consumer while maintaining the quality of services.


Continue strengthening ties with creativity is one of the main ideas that I draw by way of conclusion, where public authorities and social agents,  Both the public and private sectors should practice policies to promote and strengthen creative industries as a model for innovation, sustainability and conservation of public space.

Creative industries play a role when it comes to generating, transforming and disseminating knowledge, this is given by the use of technology, talent and  the skills to generate values based on a creative and experiential context.

The cases studied add a  value to the territory, increasing tourist demand while diversifying tourist assets, fostering an atmosphere of creation, attraction and talent.

The OECD (2009) in The Impact of Culture on Tourism collects an intense investigation on the role of culture and tourism, establishing a mutually beneficial relationship between them  that strengthens the attractiveness and competitiveness of destinations, regions and countries. Culture generates a distinction in the global market. Barcelona and Berlin have built a brand linked to creativity and the environment (Vibrancy) signs of identity of both cities.  At the same time tourism is an important means of increasing culture and generating income that can support and strengthen cultural heritage, cultural production and creativity. On the other side of the balance would be fostering an understanding between quality versus massification in order to offer the most real possible experience of them.


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