World Trade Organization’s 6 Categories of Cultural Tourism

Excerpt from our Cultural Tourism Whitepaper, available via newsletter sign-up:


The most comprehensive view of cultural tourism comes from the World Trade Organization. Based on 2012 global survey, they identified six categories:

  1. Handicrafts and visual arts
  2. Gastronomy and culinary
  3. Social practices, rituals, and festive events
  4. Music and performing arts
  5. Oral traditions and expressions
  6. Knowledge and practices concerning nature

They consider these “pivotal areas” to be the basis of cultural tourism success.

To the extent a local planning or leadership team can discover, develop, package, and promote these six aspects of local culture, a destination can build a more robust tourism program. The obvious implication is that most destinations do not necessarily have an even or symmetrical understanding across the six areas. Some areas are well-developed strengths while others are not well understood and/or represent latent opportunities at best. So, optimization across the six categories is the hallmark of an effective program. And, program optimization depends on a process.

Our premise is two-fold: First, tourism promotion is more effective when the destination is connected to a strong branding idea. Brands create interest, relevancy, and differentiation. A set of assets are more easily understood and remembered when they are associated with a brand idea. Second, local culture and the branding idea that supports it are more discovered than they are created. Therefore, a discovery process is necessary to understand and gain consensus around a set of marketable ideas.

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