European Capitals of culture and smart tourism 2020

Friday, 21 February 2020

The European Capitals of Culture 2020 are Galway (Ireland) and Rijeka (Croatia). The title of European Capitals for smart tourism 2020 has been awarded to Gothenburg (Sweden) and Málaga (Spain), instead.

Galway and Rijeka followed Matera and Plovdiv, while Gothenburg and Málaga came after Helsinki (Finland) and Lyon (France), the first cities in the Old Continent who were designed as “European Capitals of smart tourism”. The initiative “European Capitals of smart tourism” came out only last year, after its announcement on 2018.

Galway and Rijeka, the European Capitals of culture 2020


The history of the initiative “European Capitals of culture 2020” is a bit longer: it was launched in 1985 to «highlight the richness and the diversity of cultures in Europe, celebrate the cultural characteristics shared by all the European people, enrich the sense of belonging of European citizens to a common cultural space, promote the contribute of culture to the development of the cities», as the European Commission reminds.

The initiative “European Capitals of culture” proved to be «an excellent opportunity for the redevelopment of cities, to upgrade the international profile of cities, to promote the cities in their citizens’ eyes, to renew the culture of a city and to raise the tourism», as the European Commission adds.

The European Parliament underlines the importance of the title of “European Capital of culture”, too. «The title has a long term impact, not only in cultural terms but also in economic and social ones», as you can read on a press note dedicated to Galway and Rijeka.

Galway overlooks on the Atlantic Ocean and it’s the third Irish cities who won the title of “European Capital of culture”, after Dublin (1991) and Cork (2005). The plan of Galway 2020 develops around the celtic celebrations of Imbolc, Bealtaine, Lughnasadh and Samhain and three principal themes: immigration, environment, linguistic identity.


«Galway has a rich literary, artistic and musical tradition, it’s the cot of the Irish language and, at the same time, is modern and globalized, a focal point for technology and medical devices. I’m glad that this dinamic and lively city, on the border of Europe, has the opportunity to show itself to the entire continent», said Mairead McGuinness, vice-president of the European Parliament.

Rijeka, the principal port in Croatia, overlooks on the Adriatic Sea and it’s the first Croatian city to be awarded with the title “European Capital of culture”. The three main themes of the Rijeka 2020‘s plan are water, employment and immigration.


«Rijeka could represent an amazing example of tolerance and multiculturalism for all the European cities. I’m sure that the city will promote this event in the right way. I congratulate myself by heart with the city in which I studied for the prestigious recognition», as the Croatian deputy Valter Flego declared.

Gothenburg and Málaga, the European Capitals for smart tourism 2020


The initiative European Capitals for smart tourism – as the European Commission explains – was born to award the European cities who present the most smart, innovative and inclusive solutions in terms of:

  • sustainability
  • digitization
  • cultural heritage and creativity
  • accessibility

Specifically, the “European Capitals for smart tourism”, in order to be considered as such, have to present the best solutions in all the four categories explained above. The Award of the European Union for smart tourism is assigned to other four cities, as a reward for the results reached in the single categories.

All the cities situated in a Country member of the Ue with more than 100.000 inhabitants can join the context. In the Countries where there aren’t cities with more than 100.000 inhabitants, the biggest city can get the application.

In terms of competition – as the European Commission continues – a smart tourism city is a city who:

  • implements innovative, smart and inclusive solutions in touristic terms
  • uses its territorial, social and human capital for the growth of the touristic sector, for the prosperity of the city and for a better life quality for its inhabitants
  • offers a rich and personalized touristic experience, through the development of the territorial peculiarities, with respect and partecipation of the local communities
  • facilitates the access to services and touristic products thanks to the new technologies, the interconnection and the interoperability of services


In order to become a European capital of smart tourism, a city has to be:

  • accessible: phisically accessible to travellers with special needs, independently from the age, the economic or social situation, with or without disabilities. Easily reachable with different means of transportation and equipped with a functional and efficient internal transportation line
  • sustainable: the city has to work in order to preserve and improve the environment and the natural sources, by maintaining a balance between the economic and the sociocultural development
  • digital: the city has to offer an innovative system of touristic information, products, services, spaces and related to hospitality. This system has to be designed on the needs of consumers, thanks to solutions and digital instruments based on information and communication technologies
  • cultural and creative: the city has to put at best its cultural heritage and the industry of creativity, in order to create a rich and unique experience

So, Gothenburg and Málaga are the two European cities who distinguished in the whole four categories. The Swedish city received also the European Smart tourism award for the category sustainability.

The prize for the categoy accessibility was assigned to Breda (Netherlands), while the digitalization one went to Ljubljana (Slovenia). Karlsruhe (Germany), won for the category cultural heritage and creativity.

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