Cross-sectoral working is key to creating cultural destinations

5 March 2018

New research by academics at Canterbury Christ Church University’s Tourism and Events Research Hub and Visit Kent, suggests that cross-sectoral working between tourism, culture and the arts is key to creating and sustaining cultural destinations.

The research is published as Hull completed its year as UK City of Culture 2017 to general acclaim, and at a time when Canterbury City Council starts to consider the feasibility of bidding to be UK City of Culture in 2025. The report, considered by Councillors last month, makes reference to the research in light of the enhanced knowledge it has provided on cultural tourism and cultural destinations in Kent.  

According to its findings, building a successful cultural destination requires sustained collaboration across the tourism, arts/cultural sectors, and the wider visitor economy, in order to create the kinds of joined-up destination experiences cultural tourists are now seeking. However, as the research shows, this in turn depends on organisations developing an understanding of each other’s needs, ambitions and working preferences, within an effective enabling environment.

The research was part of a three-year cultural tourism project, Culture Kent, and was conducted by the University’s Tourism and Events Research Hub and Visit Kent. Culture Kent was led by Turner Contemporary and funded by Arts Council England and VisitEngland, as part of their Cultural Destinations Programme.

Partnerships and collaborative working were central to the project and the wider ambitions of the Cultural Destinations Programme, and the research on organisational perspectives sought to uncover tourism and cultural/arts organisations’ perceptions of the opportunities and barriers to cross-sectoral working.

It also developed a new definition of a ‘cultural destination’, as a ‘networked space delivering a total experience to visitors that helps them understand a location and its people, through its history and contemporary culture.’

Highlighted in the research was the need for organisational networks to be place-based, rather than sectorally focused. Dr Karen Thomas, Director of the Tourism and Events Research Hub at the University, explained: “Our analysis shows that key drivers are converging to support the move to more cross-sectoral working between tourism and culture/the arts.”

Organisations involved in Culture Kent were brought together towards the end of the research programme, to reflect on their experiences and to help to identify key areas of best practice for building a cultural destination. They agreed that being part of a strong network had delivered multiple benefits, such as enabling strategic coordination of programming, which strengthened the appeal of the cultural destination, and allowing cultural tourism stakeholders in a locality to develop a shared vision and speak with a shared voice. Building inclusive networks incorporating the resident community had also boosted local pride, and secured local buy-in, generating a buzz about the destination that, in turn, makes it more appealing to visitors.

Project Director Sarah Dance said: “Through Culture Kent, we know that by working together our proposition becomes stronger.  The research gave us important new insight into cultural tourism to the county and the power of partnership working. It has confirmed that 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. Connected experiences enhance a location’s attraction, enriching visits and adding to the local economy.”

Culture Kent Pilot Project Leads described how their involvement with the Culture Kent Pilots has been transformative in raising the awareness of the benefits of cross-sectoral working. The successes of the Cultural Destinations Programme in Kent shows the effectiveness of collaboration when the right kind of enabling environment is in place.

Dr Thomas concludes: “The time is now right to build an environment and put in place longer-term structures that will help to continue cross-sectoral working between tourism, culture and the arts beyond the life of short-term projects to promote a more effective catalyst for permanent change.”

The legacy of Culture Kent has already begun with Turner Contemporary and Visit Kent once again joining forces as part of the Cultural Destinations 2 programme funded by Arts Council England, and VisitEngland’s Discover England Fund. The new cultural tourism project will bring cultural organisations from across Essex, Kent and East Sussex together to create an immersive new art trail, linking to GPS-enabled treasure hunt technology, to attract tourists from France and the Netherlands, as well as domestic tourists. You can find out more at

You can find out more about the research programme and read the research project reports and case studies on the Tourism and Events Research Hub.

Photo credit: Tango on the Terrace, courtesy of Turner Contemporary, Margate.  Photo Jess Limbrick.

Notes to editors

Other important findings from the research include:

  • 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.

About the Tourism and Events Research Hub

The Tourism and Events Research Hub at Canterbury Christ Church University aims to provide a clearly defined research and knowledge exchange offer to the visitor economy.  It brings together a team of researchers with areas of expertise ranging from tourism, culture and the arts, to stakeholder analysis and destination management and marketing, to collaborate on research and consultancy projects.

Canterbury Christ Church University is a modern university with 17,000 students across Kent and Medway. Its courses span a wide range of academic and professional subject areas.

  • Over 94% of our UK undergraduates were in employment or further studies six months after completing their studies*.
  • We are one of the South East’s largest providers of education, training and skills leading to public service careers.

*2015/16 Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey

About Visit Kent

Visit Kent Ltd is the Destination Management Organisation for Kent (the Garden of England), welcoming 60million visitors a year, championing the county’s £3.6 billion tourism industry and supporting more than 72,000 jobs. It is recognised as one of the country’s leading DMOs, targeting UK and overseas markets to raise Kent’s profile as a premier destination, improving quality and skills within the industry, and growing investment in tourism. Visit Kent is a public/private sector partnership supported by Kent County Council, Medway Council, district and borough councils, and the leading sector tourism businesses in Kent. Visit Kent is delivered by the parent company and destination management specialists Go To Places Ltd (

For further information visit (consumer) or tweet @visitkent.

About Culture Kent

Culture Kent was a three-year cultural tourism project, led by Turner Contemporary and Visit Kent from 2014 to 2017, and funded by Arts Council England’s and VisitEngland’s £3 million Cultural Destinations programme. Culture Kent’s vision was to increase the reach of Kent’s world class cultural institutions, reposition Kent as the UK’s creative county, attract new visitors, and create new strategic relationships between the cultural and tourism sectors in order to drive economic growth. For further information visit  or follow @culturekent

About Turner Contemporary

Turner Contemporary is one of the UK’s leading art galleries. The organisation was founded in 2001 to contextualise, celebrate, and build on the artist JMW Turner’s association with Margate, Kent. In 2011, Turner Contemporary gallery, designed by Sir David Chipperfield, opened, and has fast become a visitor attraction of national and international importance.

Situated on Margate seafront, on the same site where Turner stayed when visiting the town, Turner Contemporary presents a rolling programme of temporary exhibitions, events and learning opportunities which make intriguing links between historic and contemporary art. The gallery offers a space for everyone to discover different ways of seeing, thinking and learning. Turner Contemporary has led the regeneration of Margate and East Kent, already welcoming over 2.5 million visits and contributing over £58 million into the local economy through tourism and inward investment. The vision of the organisation is Art Inspiring Change, using collaboration, learning, ambition and transformation to effect change, inspire new ways of working and for everyone to have access to world-class art.

Cultural Destinations programme

Cultural Destinations is an initiative that was developed by Arts Council England as a result of a three year partnership with VisitEngland, the national tourist board. It aims to increase the reach of those experiencing arts and culture, the sustainability of cultural organisations in local destinations, and to encourage the public and private sector to work together to support the growth of the local visitor economy. Culture and the visitor economy are intertwined. Cultural attractions, including theatres, art galleries, festivals and museums, attract visitors to a place. Their resulting spend not only helps to sustain these cultural venues and organisations, but also contributes to the local economy. And at the heart of it all is an ambition to ensure more people from all backgrounds experience the arts and culture.

Arts Council England

Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2015 and 2018, we plan to invest £1.1 billion of public money from government and an estimated £700 million from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.

About VisitBritain/VisitEngland

  • VisitBritain/VisitEngland is the national tourism agency – a non-departmental public body funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS)
  • Working with a wide range of partners in both the UK and overseas, our mission is to grow the volume and value of inbound tourism across the nations and regions of Britain and to develop world-class English tourism products to support our growth aspirations. For further information and to access the latest in-depth market intelligence and statistics visit or and  for consumer information


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Last edited: 19/03/2018 17:47:00