Capitalising experiences and tools for mass tourism management in Mediterranean heritage sites through open data

Over the last four years, the HERIT DATA Interreg MED project has implemented impactful activities that were showcased during a Final Conference held on the 7th of April. The event was hosted by the CPMR’s Intermediterranean Commission (CPMR-IMC), partner of the HERIT DATA project particularly involved in capitalisation activities and held in Madrid (hybrid), following the closing conference of the PANORAMED held at the same place just a day before.

The conference ‘Capitalising experiences and tools for mass tourism management in Mediterranean heritage sites through open data’ focused on the achievements of the HERIT DATA project, based on pilot’s actions conducted in six natural/cultural heritage sites from the project partner countries (Italy, Spain, France, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Portugal). The conference gathered around 75 participants including, heritage sites managers, professionals, and local/regional policy makers, as well as representatives from the academic, the private sectors, the Interreg Euro Med Programme, the WestMED initiative, alongside with key institutions for the sector (EC DG GROW, EP, UNWTO, UNESCO, UfM etc.).
Ms Patricia Carmona from the UN World Tourism Organisation opened the conference with a presentation on the state of play of tourism in the Covid-19 pandemic era. The sanitary restrictions have had a huge impact on the tourism industry at large. Ms Carmona highlighted the importance of data management for destinations connectiveness in the context of the pandemic. She concluded that data management plays a key role in assisting Destination Management Organisations and actors to make better decisions for touristic destinations.
Mr Carlo Francini from UNESCO Florence stressed the importance of HERIT DATA in supporting the analysis and use of big data for the protection of cultural/environmental heritage sites and World Heritage sites which are perfect case studies due to their international nature. After Ms Flora Leroy from the CPMR’s Intermediterranean Commission introduced the agenda of the conference, Mr Davide Bruno, from the Tuscany Region, in quality of coordinator, offered a general presentation of the HERIT DATA project. Mr Bruno recalled the key results of the project, namely the benchmark of Mass Tourism impacts on cultural heritage sites, the comparative study of destinations with an indicators system, the HERIT DATA platform (Snap4City), the development of a mainstreaming model and the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). After that, he gave brief snapshots of each of the six pilots conducted during the project: Florence, the old bridge in the old town of Mostar, the historical core of Dubrovnik, the Pont du Gard, the Western Greece Ancient Olympia, and Valencia port and city center.

Mr Joan Meseguer from Foundation Valencia Port, shared in detail the results of each pilot site with a special focus on the pilots in Valencia and presented the HERIT DATA platform where all the project’s partners upload the data obtained thanks to the installation of cameras, sensors, and other data collection technologies. The platform provides cities’ tourism managers with a useful tool for decision-making process while an App gives visitors useful information to improve their experience.
Dr Alessandro Monti, from Foundation for Research and Innovation dived into the HERIT DATA results by detailing the pilot conducted in the city of Florence. Notably, he provided additional information on the HERIT DATA platform. “The strength of this tool is that it is very adaptable to difference needs and contexts,” he highlighted. This tool, like other tools mobilised during the project (e.g., for data collection) are not new. Quite the opposite, Dr Monti pointed out that HERIT DATA made use of already existing efficient tools to create new solutions--one of the key lessons learned during the project. Dr Monti concluded his presentations showcasing the FeelFlorence mobile app, specifically tailored to the city and influencing users to avoid the creation of over-crowded areas.
Ms Angelika Sauermost, from the Occitanie Region, provided an overview of the HERIT DATA study visits which were milestones of the project. Ms Sauermost recalled the essential educational purpose of these visits to explain various stakeholders (from security to customer management) how to use digital tools and Smart Data. During long study visits, peer-to-peer exchanges were a great opportunity to work together on technical and strategic issues.

Then, it was time for representatives from HERIT DATA partners to put the participants in the situation of replication of different models developed during the project. Mr Michele Colavito on behalf of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) showcased the handbook for the social and economic regeneration of the Mediterranean area after the pandemic, co-developed by the UfM and the CPMR-IMC and presented the usefulness of Capacity Building in inviting the sharing of good practices and the appropriation of tools/methodologies. Subsequently, Ms Maria Kandilioti from the Region of Western Greece, presented the Mass tourism management model and how to become a smart tourism destination as a response to mass tourism’ negative effects. Lastly, Ms Laura Taroncher from in2destination presented the mainstreaming model of HERIT DATA focusing on the case of Dubrovnik.

During the second half of the conference, Mr Jordi Juarez from the CPMR-IMC opened a session on policy recommendations and presented a series of 10 recommendations for sustainable tourism developed by the HERIT DATA consortium.
Keynote speakers from the European institutions then shared insightful presentations on sustainable tourism in the Mediterranean.
First, Ms Ramune Genzbigelyte Venturi from DG Internal Market Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs introduced the tourism transition pathway co-creation process used to foster the green and digital transition of the tourism sector. She showcased attendees existing tools developed by EU institutions to support data-based and digital tourism (e.g., EU Tourism dashboard) as well as sustainability in the sector.
Second, Ms Josianne Cutajar MEP & member of Seas, Rivers, Islands and Coastal Areas Intergroup (SEArica) tackled the issue of resilience of the tourism sector. To achieve resilience and more stability, Ms Cutajar recommended the use of data and the creation of a proper legislation and data governance. She then pointed out that SMEs (highly present in the tourism industry) needed support to undertake their green and digital transition, recalling that “it is important to assist SMEs to access funding and digitalisation, to help them reaching existing opportunities.”
The session was followed by interventions from Thomas Guillot from NECSTouR and Anna Grimault from ERRIN who gave an overview of their respective networks' initiatives in line with HERIT DATA's policy recommendations. The moderators of the session, Ms Angelika Sauermost and Magali Ferrand from Occitanie Region, concluded that “mass tourism is not about figures, but about policy management (…)” and that “indicators to measure mass tourism cannot be the same for all sites: each site must be able to adapt its indicators to its situation.”

The second session of discussions went on with capitalisation within the Mediterranean and future opportunities.
Mr Josep Rodríguez, from Barcelona Provincial Council (DIBA), and coordinator of the MED Sustainable Tourism Community, presented how the Community can help to capitalise on HERIT DATA results through the transfer and capitalisation activities and existing tools.
Ms Ksenija Slivar, from the Ministry of Tourism and Sport of the Republic of Croatia and SMARTMED Lead Partner, highlighted the synergies with HERIT DATA and the SMART tourism business model focusing on the integration of technology and innovation. She stressed the importance of multilevel approach which was recalled at the PANORAMED final event.
Ms Stephanie Vella, from Malta National Hub for the WestMED Initiative, highlighted the possible capitalisation of the project results to the Southern shore and the scope for improving Capacity Building. Finally, Ms Pascale Fauveau from the Interreg Med programme presented future opportunities for fundings with two upcoming Interreg Euro MED calls for governance and thematic projects in 2022.
Mr Gianluca Vannuccini, from Tuscany Region, concluded the conference by sharing some lessons learned from the project, such as the importance of the integration with the Apps already developed and promoted by local authorities and the reuse of existing data, the strong coordination and involvement of multi-level public bodies and adaptable data.
The conference ended on hopeful news: Dr Monti declared that the Municipality of Florence took the initiative to sign the HERIT DATA Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). Ms Leroy invited other public authorities present at the conference to sign the MoU, after she announced that the agreement already gathered 16 signatures.
The signatures give a hint of local and regional stakeholders’ alignment with HERIT DATA goals and the project’s high potential for continuous impact on Mediterranean destinations.

1. Presentation of Patricia Carmona
2. Présentation of Davide Bruno
3. Presentation of Joan Meseguer
4. Presentation of Alessandro Monti
5. Presentation of Angelika Sauermost
6. Presentation of Michele Colavito
7. Presentation of Maria RWG
8. Presentation of Laura IN2
9. Presentation of Jordi Juarez
10. Presentation of Ramune Genzbigelyte
11. Presentation of Ksenija Slivar
12. Presentation of Pascale Fauveau
13. Presentation of Stephanie Vella
14. Presentation of Gianluca Vannucini