The inaugural Santa Fe International Conference on Creative Tourism was a first-of-its-kind effort, bringing together a global community of tourism professionals, creative thinkers, and UNESCO Creative Cities representatives, to consider a redefinition of the travel experience. Held September 28th through October 2nd, 2008, the conference was organized by the City of Santa Fe in collaboration with the UNESCO Creative Cities Network and was, by any measure, a great success.
Over 375 delegates, panelists and speakers participated in a mix of intellectual and participatory events including: multiple plenary sessions led by some of the top thinkers in their areas of expertise; 5 UNESCO Creative Tourism Conversations in the fields of folk art, crafts, design, music, gastronomy, and literature; 25 panel discussions featuring 80 speakers/presenters; and 33 Creative Tourism Experiences led by more than 40 artists in and around Santa Fe. Throughout, the notion of balancing historic preservation with innovation and emphasizing “Next practices” vs. “Best practices” kept the conference’s focus on what’s new and possible.
“Santa Fe’s own creativity, the enthusiasm of the delegates, the knowledge of the discussion leaders, and the great variety of hands-on experiences all played a part in making the conference valuable for participants,” said Rebecca Wurzburger, Conference Committee Chairperson and Santa Fe City Councilor. “I heard from so many people who took away new ideas for extending the concepts of travel to their communities and who now have a better, operational understanding of creative tourism.”
Charles Landry spoke about creativity and how creative cities necessarily have a large creative class and a creative economy that is built on engaging curiosity within travelers rather than feeding them “pre-digested experiences.” Crispin Raymond likened creative tourism to the way in which cities and visitors exchange information, each engaging the other, while Robert McNulty expanded on how tourism is a reinvestment in people and their community.
Especially inspiring were Jack Loeffler, 2008 recipient of the New Mexico Governor’s Arts Award, who spoke passionately about the Spirit of Place and its effect on creative enterprises and tourism, and Hayes Lewis, from the Institute for American Indian Arts, who told of the migration patterns of his Hopi ancestors and how those patterns manifested in the culture of the southwest, its architecture, arts, commerce and sense of place.
The UNESCO Creative Cities Network’s theme of cities helping cities through cross-cultural engagement and benefiting from working together for their common good laid the foundation for the conference. This same fundamental principle is sure to be the key to future conferences and to continuing the work started in Santa Fe.
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