The article draws on an original research study of 15 cultural tourism destinations in Europe, conducted in 2020 within the framework of the H2020 project, IMPACTOUR, co-funded by the European Union.
The importance of data and evidence has increased considerably in policy planning, implementation, and evaluation. There is unprecedented availability of open and big data, and there are rapid developments in intelligence gathering and the application of analytical tools. While cultural heritage holds many tangible and intangible values for local communities and society in general, there is a knowledge gap regarding suitable methods and data sources to measure the impacts and develop data-driven policies of cultural tourism. In the tourism sector, rapid developments are particularly taking place around novel uses of mobile positioning data, web scraping, and open application programming interface (API) data, data on sharing, and collaborative economy and passenger data.
Based on feedback from 15 European cultural tourism regions, recommendations are developed regarding the use of innovative tools and data sources in tourism management. In terms of potential analytical depth, it is especially advisable to explore the use of mobile positioning data. Yet, there are considerable barriers, especially in terms of privacy protection and ethics, in using such data. User-generated big data from social media, web searches, and website visits constitute another promising data source as it is often publicly available in real time and has low usage barriers. Due to the emergence of new platform-based business models in the travel and tourism sector, special attention should be paid to improving access and usage of data on sharing and collaborative economy.