Cultural tourism – what we know

Project Director Sarah Dance looks at the stats behind the project vision. 

As part of the Culture Kent project, extensive research was carried out for the first time to discover more about cultural tourists visiting Kent. From the findings, we discovered that cultural tourists have a higher propensity to stay longer when visiting the county than other leisure tourists.

That is a really significant new insight. The longer people stay in a destination, the more they spend and therefore the more the local economy benefits.

Pallant_Sutherland (c) Andy Smith for Art Fund

Pallant House Gallery. Photo Andy Smith for Art Fund

So we now know that our cultural tourists are more inclined to stay longer, bringing all those benefits – even more reason for us to showcase our unrivalled creative coast and the many cultural adventures that can be found there.

The Culture Kent project sought to reposition Kent as one of the UK’s creative counties, through a series of pilot events and artworks in key destinations: Margate, Folkestone, Canterbury, Whitstable, Medway and Dover. Lead organisation Turner Contemporary worked with Kent’s tourism body Visit Kent to bring cultural organisations and tourism businesses together to create new ways of attracting and engaging tourists.

Summer of Colour - from web

Summer of Colour at Turner Contemporary, part of Culture Kent

A key element of the project was commissioning the research, which examined the perceptions, motivations, experiences and demographics of ‘cultural tourists’ to Kent.
Cultural tourists are those visitors who are primarily motivated to visit a destination because of its cultural offer, and visitors who participate in the cultural activity of a place, even if it is not the prime reason for visiting.

Performance Klub Fiskulturnik - Yugo Yoga - 2012 - Yugo Yoga

Performance Klub Fiskulturnik – Yugo Yoga – 2012

Canterbury Christ Church University (Tourism and Events Research Hub) and Visit Kent were commissioned to undertake the research for a two-year period from 2015 – 2017.
The consumer research surveyed the behaviour and perceptions of three different groups of domestic tourists: existing Kent cultural tourists, potential cultural tourists and existing Kent leisure tourists.

The research found that:

• A higher proportion of existing Kent cultural tourists went on short breaks (51%) and mid-length holidays (21%) than existing Kent leisure tourists (43% and 14% respectively). Cultural tourists’ tendency to spend longer in Kent supports the need to actively engage in promoting the cultural tourism offer further.

54% of those surveyed associate Kent as a cultural destination (above the VisitEngland average of 35% for Great Britain)

• Cultural tourists also value destinations with an attractive natural setting.

Cultural trips are extremely diverse and are increasingly about authentic experiences across multiple sites and businesses in one destination, all of which help visitors to understand and experience the place, its people and its culture.

The research also created a new definition of what a ‘cultural destination’ is:

“The cultural destination is a networked space delivering a total experience to visitors that helps them understand a location and its people, through history and contemporary culture.”


Folkestone Digs, Michael Sailstorfer’s for Folkestone Triennial 2014

Culture is regarded as a key driver for tourism, with World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) figures estimating 37% of world travel is undertaken by ‘cultural tourists’. Cultural tourism has maintained its upward trend in the face of economic austerity, particularly seen along the South East of England’s Creative Coast.

Many declining coastal areas have experienced a renaissance, with economic investment in culture increasing tourism, both domestic and inbound, to the South East, such as Turner Contemporary in Margate, Folkestone Triennial and Whitstable Biennale.

Turner Contemporary has spearheaded the regeneration of Margate, welcoming over 2.6 million visits since it opened in 2011 and contributing over £58 million into the local economy through tourism and inward investment.


The Red Ladies for Summer of Colour at Turner Contemporary. Photo Manu Palomeque

So in order to become a really successful ‘cultural destination’ we need to be a networked area, delivering a total experience to visitors that helps them understand a location and its people, through history and contemporary culture.

Cue England’s Creative Coast.

We’re taking forward this knowledge to create a new and exciting connected experience for visitors to the South East coast region.

How will we be doing this?

New outdoor artworks and cultural adventures will connect the outstanding galleries across the South East’s stunning coastline of Sussex, Kent and Essex, tempting new visitors to the region. Here they can explore 7 original new art commissions by some of the world’s leading artists, uncover the creative spirit of each place as told by the locals that live there, and take part in a digital geocaching treasure hunt, all via package itineraries that include food, travel and accommodation.

ANOTHER TIME XXI, 2013 © Antony Gormley. On Fulsam Rock on the Margate foreshore. Photography by Thierry Bal

ANOTHER TIME XXI, 2013 © Antony Gormley. On Fulsam Rock on the Margate foreshore. Photography by Thierry Bal

World-class culture – internationally-renowned artists will create 7 new site-specific artworks, in locations across Kent, Essex and East Sussex. They will work with the England’s Creative Coast leading art galleries and organisations Turner Contemporary, Creative Foundation, De La Warr Pavilion, Jerwood Gallery, Metal, Towner Art Gallery and Whitstable Biennale.

A new digital cultural treasure hunt – we’ll be tempting visitors to travel to and between the outstanding galleries along the South East coast using Geocaching – GPS enabled treasure trail technology – where they can find, unlock and log new world-class cultural experiences, both physically and digitally, that have been created by the people that live in each location. We’ll be exploring what it means to live by the sea and the local community will respond to the new artworks in their area.


Art Homes – for the first time ever, a pilot will run where visitors can immerse themselves fully in the creative life as local artists open their homes and studios in a pioneering Artist Homes accommodation offer.

A unique travel experience – new itineraries with travel, food and drink will be available to complete this unique and compelling travel experience, all customisable via a new online platform and linked to key travel operators.

We’re directly responding to what we discovered in the Culture Kent research, and current travel trends. By helping theculture and tourism sectors to work together, we’re hoping to not only offer visitors the ultimate experience but also make our destinations even better places to live, work and visit. A plan that, if successful, will help us develop our income opportunities and our long-term resilience.

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