If you’re interested in tourism and world heritage cities, 11-12 March 2020 is probably the date when you might want to be in Kraków, Poland. During those two days a long-awaited conference entitled HISTORICAL CITIES IN SEARCH OF A PREMIUM TOURIST will take place at the city’s iconic ICE Kraków Congress Centre. And here’s why it’s worth your time!

ICE Kraków Congress Centre (background: The Wawel Royal Castle)

The power of event-industry stereotypes

Conferences gathering heritage experts, practitioners and academics in the field of tourism, travel and cultural heritage management rarely invoke associations of excitement, inspiration, innovative approach, let alone creatively engaging content. This single fact is reason enough to look for event formats that are quick learners, from edition to edition, and eventually succeed in striking the right balance between informative debates, dynamic, content-driven presentations, project- and problem-solving-oriented approach (as opposed to abstract / theoretical / wishful-thinking) and the right event format.

What is the right event format, one might ask? Having watched, attended and analysed in excess of 300 conferences professionally, I’d probably say it’s one that stimulates creative thinking, networking, and experience sharing towards effective cooperation and tangible outcomes. In order to develop and promote convincing, socially- and economically-viable (thus, replicable) best practice, a conference must deliver valuable and “shareable” content. The only way to get there (other than pure luck/coincidence) is through smart, creative (micro)planning. Regardless of why you may want to do so in the first place, only then will you be able to meaningfully and effectively reach out to non-obvious categories of stakeholders (i.e. other than conference participants alone).

Bernatka Footbridge – View From Podgórze on Kraków’s Historic Centre (Kładka Ojca Bernatka)

Historical Cities 3.0

The Historical Cities 3.0 conference is part of the Historical Cities 3.0 project, focused on experiences, challenges and solutions adopted by historical cities, exclusively in the area of tourism development. Hence, the conference discussions and case studies will take into account today’s incredibly diverse landscape of tourism management while seeking to develop common tools for sustainable development and addressing the challenges of both the short-term and the long-term future.

The March conference discussions and debates will certainly be extremely interesting, says Bartłomiej Walas from the Department of Tourism (Municipality of Kraków). …mainly because of the growing discussion around the future of tourism in historical cities, i.e. what it should look like. The existing challenges translate to the growing need for a reliable diagnosis and valuable insights concerning the current condition of the tourism industry, he adds.

According to Robert Piaskowski, the city mayor’s plenipotentiary for culture, as the first European city to be included on the UNESCO World Heritage List, Kraków is one of the most attractive tourist destinations, famous for its architecture monuments, attractive festivals and a dynamically growing sector of meetings and congresses. On the one hand, the success of the city’s tourist industry is measured by visitor feedback (across stakeholder groups), on the other hand, we are constantly asking ourselves how to balance the dynamic and the growth of tourism in relation to such important aspects as the city’s key urban functions, demographic shifts, spatial planning, cultural life, measures to protect the local historical landscape of the city, last but not least, creating ever more and better common spaces. This approach requires integrated management, constant exchange of knowledge and agile implementations. Historical Cities 3.0 is primarily a platform for the exchange of knowledge about the latest trends and tourism-management solutions, taking into account demographic, spatial, cultural, social and economic conditions. It’s a place for people who look for common tools of sustainable development and flexible tourism planning, he adds.

From UNESCO to OWHC to Historical Cities 3.0

Over the past few years in particular, Kraków has gained a vast practical experience in cultural heritage management and expanded its network of international partners and experience-sharing platforms, which is reflected not only in the number and the calibre of conferences and congresses hosted by Kraków but the city’s incredibly dynamic festival landscape.

The 15th World Congress of the Organization of World Heritage Cities organised in Kraków, the city that prides itself on being the first UNESCO World Heritage Site, is seen by many as not only an important milestone but the result of a concerted effort to work much closer together with the international community of world heritage sites in addressing the challenges of the future.

St. Mary’s Basilica (Kraków’s Main Market)

The “premium” tourist stays longer and chooses carefully

The first edition of the Historical Cities conference discussed the relations between visitors and local residents. The second will focus on answers to important questions around the concept of premium tourism. Some of the best experts and authorities on tourism have agreed to share their knowledge and experience in Kraków, along the following areas/panel discussion formats:

  • Managing the tourist experience
  • The city of festivals or the festival city?
  • Congresses at any cost?
  • Outdoor sporting events: who are they really for?

The list of guests and speakers includes representatives of Poland, Italy, Czech Republic, USA, Great Britain, Canada, Belgium, Ukraine, Singapore and international institutions such as the European Commission, ICCA, Airbnb.

Who is it for?

The conference has been developed for the benefit of local governments, non-governmental organizations, tourism industry in general and tourism professionals. Early registration is required and available at: https://historicalcity.conrego.com/en/registration