Engaging Locals & Communities in river tourism: good practices and policy recommendations

Rivers are a valuable resource from which to create a common European narrative, and locals should be involved as key actors in this process

More and more tourists are looking for authentic and “real” experiences with locals: they want to feel “like a local” and discover a region off the beaten track, avoiding mass tourism. Although there are limits (reliability, professionalism, organisational weaknesses), it is worthwhile to engage locals and communities in the development of touristic products because it turns them into active stakeholders who benefit from river tourism and help to increase its acceptance. STAR Cities partners adopted this approach, responding to a common challenge and need, and made progress through the good practices, which have the potential to become successful case studies.

STAR Cities selection of good practices

PartnersGood practicesDescription
HamburgIndustrial Heritage FestivalBiannual event held over two days across the entire region to celebrate industrial monuments along the region’s waterways.
KaunasFluxus LabsCommunity laboratories which aim to empower the circulation of local people’s ideas, approaches and experiences.
HamburgPort Museum HamburgThe Museum is using an authentic location for port-related exhibits, bringing them to life with the help of a large network of volunteers.
KaunasZapyškis church projectReconstruction and adaptation of Zapyškis church for cultural purposes.
KaunasModernism for the Future programme Collaborative program for conservation, interpretation, promotion and activation of modernism heritage in Kaunas.
Lazio Region / Rome#RomaDecide Participatory Budget 2019Citizens and the Administration decide together, for the first time, how to invest 20 million euros throughout the territory.
Val-de-MarneVitry Street Art ToursGreat example of how to promote cultural content, starting from the passion of one inhabitant and reaching thousands of people.
Val-de-MarneIndustrial tourism : guided tours with workersGuided visits that aim to valorise the women and men who live and work in industrial territory in Val-de-Marne.
Val-de-MarneMigrant Tour programmeThe solidarity travel agency Bastina supports and trains migrants people to become tour guides in their cities.

Policy recommendations to develop and improve the engagement of locals and communities in river tourism projects:

  1. Engagement of locals starts with the reapropriation of riverbanks
  2. Keeping the memory of the rivers’ history alive helps to strengthen the storytelling potential of riverside destinations
  3. As institutions or public bodies, adopt bottom-up approaches by involving citizens
  4. Turn locals into active stakeholders to increase the positive reception of tourism
  5. Think small and start with small-scale events carried out on a voluntary basis for more sustainable tourism
  6. Tourism is becoming increasingly local!

Learn more on the Good Practices Guide