Innovation and local tourism key to re-design Europe’s cultural and creative cities

Innovation and local tourism key to re-design Europe’s cultural and creative cities

European cities with a high share of cultural and creative jobs are particularly exposed to the economic impacts of the coronavirus crisis, according to a new JRC report.

The report identifies the cities most at risk and highlights inspirational practices and policies that have emerged during the crisis to support creative and cultural sectors.

Travel restrictions and social distancing measures have had an unprecedented impact on these sectors. The coronavirus pandemic has almost entirely disrupted the basic source of revenue that cultural operations need to meet their operating costs: paying visitors. 

By rethinking cultural venues and events, cities across the EU are staying culturally vibrant, and showing their ability to ‘bounce forward’ from this crisis.


Cultural jobs and workers are particularly at risk

During the confinement period, cultural activities were cancelled and cultural venues closed to the public in many EU countries. They are now subject to strict social distancing rules.

Therefore, cultural workers not only have lost many job opportunities, but may also fall through the cracks of existing social protection systems more than other types of workers. Around a third are self-employed across the EU.

The percentage is even higher among artists and writers (44%). Non-standard workers such as the self-employed are at higher risk of losing their income and are more likely to have no alternative sources of income or medical insurance.

Source: European Commission, Joint Research Centre, based on 2018 data from Eurostat (online data code: cult_emp_wsta).
Source: European Commission, Joint Research Centre, based on 2018 data from Eurostat (online data code: cult_emp_wsta).

©EU 2020

Self-employed persons in cultural employment and in total employment, EU-27, in %.


In addition to the EU, most national and local governments have promptly reacted to support cultural institutions and companies and preserve cultural jobs.

While cities of all sizes have proposed policy responses, it is mostly capital cities that have adopted large-scale support plans. This could lead to higher inequalities between cultural powerhouses and smaller arts cities, which future national and European policies should seek to address.


European cities with high share of cultural jobs are more exposed to COVID-19 shock

The overall economic impact of coronavirus is likely to be higher for those cities with higher shares of cultural jobs. Most cultural jobs are incompatible with teleworking and there is a strong interdependence with other sectors, from transport and tourism to food.

Most exposed cities includes medium and large Italian cities like Florence, Venice and Bologna; and Weimar and Mainz in Germany, where cultural jobs account for around 9 to 12% of all jobs.

The share of cultural jobs tends to be smaller in major and capital cities, having larger and more diversified job markets. In Paris (France), Copenhagen (Denmark), Stockholm (Sweden), Stuttgart (Germany), Frankfurt (Germany), Helsinki (Finland), Tallinn (Estonia) and Vilnius (Lithuania), cultural jobs represent between 5 and 8% of total jobs.

There are some exceptions. The share of cultural jobs is relatively high (9%) in a city like Milan (Italy), where culture is a main driver of the local economy.


By re-thinking cultural venues and events, cities are proving their capacity to 'bounce forward'

Local cultural institutions all over Europe are already developing health and safety-compliant event formats, testing new business models to ensure a fair remuneration for artists, or adapting their mission to meet local communities’ needs.

  • Vilnius (Lithuania) International Airport partnered with Vilnius International Film Festival to launch ‘Aerocinema’, the first airport drive-in movie theatre in the world.
  • In Berlin (Germany), United We Stream offers electronic music lovers varied DJ sets every day as a response to the shutdown of the Berlin’s nightlife. Thanks to its underlying donation system and monetisation of livestream flows, United We Stream succeeds in raising funds contributing to the financial survival of the music and live performance sector.
  • The MAMbo museum in Bologna has reconfigured its space to welcome selected artists to work on their projects, thus transforming its exhibition space into a residence and production centre for professionals mostly affected by the pandemic.

Other cultural initiatives were initiated to support socially disadvantaged groups:

  • the Municipal Library in Prague (Czechia) kept phone contact with elderly clients to offer emotional support;
  • the Turin (Italy) Municipality Libraries launched new services during the confinement period, such as language exercises and book readings;
  • the City of Ghent (Belgium) brought recordings of cultural productions to the elderly in residential care centres.


Cities support local tourism

Cities are also encouraging people to visit from closer to home.

Vilnius has initiated a tourism campaign that aims to encourage Lithuanian residents to choose Vilnius as a travel destination.

Milan is working on an agreement protocol with the cities of Genoa and Turin (Italy) to promote proximity tourism among these cities.

Prague (Czechia) is providing hotels with vouchers that can be used to access museums, art galleries and other venues.

Groningen (Netherlands) has launched a pitch for new ideas to re-think culture and tourism in post-COVID-19 times.



The JRC’s Cultural and Creative Cities Monitor estimates that, in Europe alone, at least 190 cities in 30 different countries have committed to raise more inclusive and sustainable societies through investing in culture.

As part of the European Commission’s efforts to monitor the effects of COVID-19, the European Commission has asked beneficiaries of the Creative Europe Programme to showcase their activities under the common hashtag #CreativeEuropeAtHome, and launched the EUCultureFromHome social media campaign to collect cultural initiatives accessible online in the open source web app Cultural gems.

With many people staying closer to home for holidays this year, the Commission launched the social media campaign ‘Europe’s culture – close to you’, to help Europeans discover the beauty and richness of places close to their homes. The campaign is backed up by digital resources that will make European holidaymakers’ lives easier, including the new Re-open EU web platform with an interactive map developed by the Joint Research Centre.

The third edition of the JRC’s Cultural and Creative Cities Monitor is currently being reshaped to reflect the impacts anticipated in this report, with more in depth analysis. In the coming months the Cultural and Creative Cities Monitor’s online tool will launch a new policy mapping tool with the results of a city survey launched last April. The survey gathered inputs on initial impacts, experimental initiatives and policy support measures from over 60 cities in 23 European countries.

The full third edition of the Monitor, including a new policy report and updated online tool, is planned to be released in the first quarter of 2022.


Source: European Commission

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