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The Rise and Appeal of Cultural Tourism

Travelers want to immerse themselves in local experiences, culinary offerings and memorable moments

Eager to make up for lost time – and lost vacations – travelers are increasingly seeking destinations that offer authentic, unforgettable adventures. Cultural tourism is quickly becoming a booming market in the industry as consumers request community-based, sustainable and immersive travel. 

As a result, tour operators, travel advisors, DMOs and DMCs are working together to develop a wide variety of itineraries and options that feed into this growing trend. Appealing to everyone from couples to families to multi-gen groups, here’s why the momentum is swinging towards cultural tourism.

Discovering regional delights

Beyond the lure of typical tourist hot-spots, travelers want to connect with their surroundings and engage with the people living there. That could mean learning about an area’s history and traditions, sampling farm-to-fork cuisine or giving back to the communities visited. Tired of the been-there, done-that way of traveling, today’s consumers who want to truly experience a region come from different demographics and backgrounds — these are people who see travel as a worthwhile investment that leads to enrichment and overall well-being. 

Fort Lauderdale nsu art museum
NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale

Exploring diverse opportunities

Cultural tourism, which can include wellness, adventure, volunteer work or culinary travel represents about 40 percent of all global travel, according to United Nation’s World Tourism Organization, which reports that cultural tourism is one of the fastest-growing segments in the industry. 

Cultural tourism is responsible for boosting economic growth and sustainable development around the world. The concept has expanded in recent years — especially on the food and beverage side, thanks to the rise of artisanal breweries, small-batch vineyards and locally made delicacies. 

In large cities, there are a wide variety of ways visitors can immerse themselves in local culture. With more than 130 million visitors per year, Florida tourists contribute close to $1 billion annually to the state’s economy, according to Visit Florida, and more than two-thirds of guests participate in one or more culturally-based activities during their stay.

In Greater Fort Lauderdale for example, festivals, art exhibitions, concerts and craft fairs offer the chance for visitors to soak up plenty of local culture, feel connected to the destination and support small businesses and the creative economy. For example, visitors can enjoy celebrating National Caribbean American Heritage Month, or explore the city’s world-class museums and heritage venues to learn about everything from Native American history to fine art.

Making meaningful memories

Rather than a return to pre-pandemic travel habits, key markets including families and young couples want to learn about customs, hear different languages and push beyond their comfort zones to have a meaningful vacation. 

That could mean active adventure-based pursuits like hiking in a UNESCO World Heritage Site or enjoying enriching, heritage-focused cultural activities at an art museum. 

Consumers are keen on travel that not only allows them to walk in someone else’s shoes, but also helps preserve important traditions around the world. Travelers now want to open their minds to new experiences, friendships, cross-cultural exchanges and delicious cuisine — all of which encourages compassion, empathy and gratitude.  Cultural travel brings visitors to a new level of understanding about the places they see, the people they meet, and ultimately, they leave after having been transformed forever.

Driving change

Connecting with the local culture while traveling has shifted to gain more importance as consumers search for experiences that align with their social values. There’s the wish to better understand a destination, its people and its traditions through direct interaction, rather than following a splashy guidebook.

Whether participating in traditional rituals or giving back to the host community through voluntourism, cultural tourism allows visitors to live like locals. 

While culture and tourism have always been linked, the ease of international travel eventually led to the concept of cultural tourism first becoming popular in the 1990s with the rise of gastronomic, heritage and arts tourism. In turn, many regions strengthened their local identities to tap into the surging market of travelers wanting bucket-list experiences. Today, cultural tourism is a major priority for most countries around the world, according to the UNWTO.

Projecting continued growth

A recent study conducted by the Pacific Asia Travel Association showed that in general, cultural tourists tend to stay 22 percent longer in a destination and spend up to 38 percent more per day than other travelers do. CVBs are, of course, eager to welcome these visitors with open arms.

Fort Lauderdale stranahan house
Historic Stranahan House Museum, Fort Lauderdale

Not only does cultural tourism inject new money into the economy, it also fosters inclusivity and safeguards traditional cultures and resources. For example, travelers who visit the Stranahan House Museum — Fort Lauderdale’s oldest surviving historic home — help preserve, promote and protect the site for the future. The Stranahan House was built in 1901 by Frank Stranahan, Fort Lauderdale’s "Founding Father," and his wife, the area’s first school teacher. Attracting tourists then encourages the development and maintenance of existing and new resources that can benefit the entire community.

In addition, cities featuring a vibrant cultural scene that includes theatre, heritage sites and the arts draw skilled talent, who then contribute to the area’s long-term growth. 

Forwarding to the future

Beyond economic growth, cultural tourism strengthens social capital and helps improve a region’s sense of pride to benefit residents and visitors who want to learn more about its art, history and customs. It can also increase awareness of attractions and activities, which in turn draws more travelers to the destination.

As travel advisors and tour operators see increased demand to book culturally based travel, this market segment is slated for continued growth in the coming years. The more consumers ask for authentic, immersive experiences, the more value a trip becomes.



There's Culture of Every Color in Greater Fort Lauderdale 

The only thing brighter than the sunshine in Greater Fort Lauderdale are the cultural options that it offers. Whether your group event is culturally themed, or your group prefers cultural post-event options, Greater Fort Lauderdale has plenty to keep them happy and engaged.

Arts & Entertainment

From live shows to its generous offering of museums, Greater Fort Lauderdale is a cultural goldmine. See the schedules at the at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, Hard Rock Live or FLA Live Arena for starters.

New River Inn: The 1905 New River Inn, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has entertained presidents, governors, and international dignitaries. Today it hosts gatherings for 25 to 250 guests. 

Museum of Discovery & Science: There are more than 200 hands-on exhibits and five-story IMAX 3D Theater to keep your group enthralled.

NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale: NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale contains over 25,000 square feet of exhibition space, a 256-seat auditorium, museum store and cafe.

Coral Springs Museum of Art: This performance theater and art museum is housed in the 30,000 square foot center for the arts building.

Wiener Museum of Decorative Arts (WMODA): Visit the exhibit of studio glass, featuring a world-class collection of British and European pottery and porcelain.

The Downtown Hollywood Mural Project: Twenty-plus curated outdoor contemporary art murals by internationally & international recognized artists. 

Attractions With Cultural Enrichment

African-American Research Library and Cultural Center: This 60,000-square-foot public library is extraordinary for the quantity and rarity of books on Black history and culture. The facility’s meeting options include auditorium, exhibit areas, dance studios, kitchens, conference rooms, grounds and seminar rooms

Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum: A popular destination to learn about the Seminole people and their rich cultural and historical ties to the Southeast and Florida. 

Art and Culture Center / Hollywood: Presenting contemporary gallery exhibitions, live stage performances and high-quality education programs. 

Fort Lauderdale hollywood mural
Downtown Hollywood Mural Project in Florida's Hollywood

Tours & Sightseeing

Greater Fort Lauderdale’s cultural gifts are on full display with a tour or sightseeing cruise of the area lets you choose from boat tours on the Intracoastal Waterway and Atlantic Ocean, or tours on wheel and foot where you’ll get to know local restaurants and attractions and learn something about Florida’s history and nature. 

Whether you want to explore on a yacht, Water Taxi, helicopter, paddleboard, gondola, segway or bicycle, there’s a tour that’s just right for you.

Events & Experiences

Greater Fort Lauderdale loves to entertain you, inspire you and show you something new. The calendar is full with special events and experiences for every interest, from music and art to culture and pro sports. Food and wine events. See the events calendar here.

Meetings With Diversity

Greater Fort Lauderdale is emerging as the most diverse area in the country. It has an impressive resumé as the gathering place for large professional organizations. Here are just some events it has hosted:
* The Urban League, the Newspaper Publishers Association, and 100 Black Men of America have all made return visits;
* Members of Delta Sigma Theta and Omega Psi Phi lead the Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade; 
* The Cultural and Heritage Tourism Summit brought together small businesses, local artists and cultural groups with industry power players. 

More Reasons to Meet

Family reunions are drawn to Greater Fort Lauderdale’s suburban cities for affordable lodging and unique intergenerational activities.

Caribbean-style and Latin fusion cuisine and some of the south's best soul food and BBQ bring cultural richness to cuisine.

For more information on booking a meeting or event in culturally rich Greater Fort Lauderdale, visit www.visitlauderdale.com