Cultural activities have traditionally been regarded as costs to society. A new report by an Expert Group on Cultural Heritage established by the European Commission under the Horizon 2020 Programme (DG Research and Innovation) shows that “cultural heritage is increasingly regarded as a positive contributor to European GDP” . For instance, Europe is the world’s no. 1 tourist destination and tourism is the third largest socioeconomic activity in the EU contributing 415 billion Euros to the EU GDP and employing 15.2m citizens many of whose jobs are linked to heritage.
The ten members group, chaired by Dr. Philippe Busquin, former Commissioner for Research, Science and Technology and former Member of the European Parliament, comprised renowned experts from the private and public sector, including Professor Simon Thurley, CEO of English Heritage, who acted as rapporteur, and Guy Clausse, Dean of the EIB Institute.
The report shows how cultural heritage can contribute to smarter, more inclusive and more sustainable development in Europe and gives concrete examples of how cultural heritage has been a production factor in local and national economies. As the experts write :“Evidence demonstrates that relatively modest investment in cultural heritage can pay substantial dividends.”
Yet “in many places, both urban and rural, rich cultural assets have not been recognised for the potential they hold (…).” For the experts “the European Union should vigorously promote the innovative use of cultural heritage for economic growth and jobs, social cohesion and environmental sustainability.” And the lessons learned from creative approaches such as “innovative financing, new forms of governance, unified landscape management, public private partnerships, crowd-sourced funding, philanthropy (and many others) should be applied to unlock the possibilities for growth and development that cultural heritage holds across Europe.”