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UNWTO Conference 2022: Understanding potential of creative content as a driver for cultural affinity and tourism

FOR the second consecutive year, the creative industry in partnership with public and private entities hosted a series of events in support of the industry and its contributions to the overall prosperity of Nigeria’s economy. One of such events was the UNWTO Global Conference on Cultural Tourism and Creative Industries with the theme; Linking Tourism, Culture and Creative Industries:

This year’s UNWTO conference aimed at exploring pathways to recovery and inclusive development. An integral part of the conference was to understand the potential of cultural tourism through creative content. 

Also, the UNWTO discussed how local content that is distributed to a global audience impacts the perception of a country, to individuals and communities allowing them to connect with other cultures.

Without a doubt, Nigerian creatives whether in film, music arts and gastronomy have proven the economic viability and potential that exist in the creative space.  Rich in culture and diverse in traditions, the creative economy has become a means to channel cultural identity and to showcase national pride. Not surprisingly storytelling through film has become a means for countries to showcase their cultural attractiveness to the world.

Films and TV series can play an important part in promoting destinations and tourism development. In a breakout panel session on Tourism and culture: Leveraging screen tourism for destination branding, Shola Sanni, the Director of Public Policy at Netflix, explained the correlation between watching stories and how they drive tourism.She said; “Cultural affinity is having a connection with a culture which in turn fuels cultural tourism. Take Kunle Afolayan’s Anikulapo, for instance. The film   became the first non-English title from Nigeria to debut as number one on our global weekly Top 10 most watched shows in the second week following its release. ‘‘At its peak, Anikulapo was Top 10 in 24 countries around the world garnering over 14 million hours of viewing in its first three weeks of release. This simply goes to show that great content no matter where it comes from, can be enjoyed by anyone, anywhere.”

She explained further that when exposed to a specific country of destination’s content, the relationship between the viewer and that destination shifts from being merely a place of commercial interest, to one which the viewer feels a connection with, which may cause significant long term benefits including travel and affinity to a specific country’s culture. 

During the UNWTO panel presentation, Sanni shared results from Netflix’s Cultural Affinity study which revealed that, ‘globally those that have watched local content are 2.4x more likely to say the country is their #1 travel destination. Those who watch local content are also 1.8x more likely to express an interest in learning the local language.’

Mentioned during the event, in support of the potential of content as a driver for cultural affinity and tourism, was the 2021 Oscar winner for Best Documentary Feature, Netflix’s South African nature documentary My Octopus Teacher which showcased the beautiful scenery depicted in the documentary. Based on results from the streaming service’s study, after watching the title people were: 

71% more interested in nature and wildlife, 53% more interested in getting to know people from South African origin, 50% more interested in famous landmarks and monuments, 49% more interested in South African traditions and local history, 46% more interested in South African creative scene, 45% more interested in food and drink.

However, cultural affinity goes beyond the concept of screen tourism and explores how the distribution of films and TV series online strengthens cultural ties between countries and builds bridges between communities while at the same time fostering tourism. Its potential, when maximized, can reap substantial social, economic, and cultural benefits to both the private and public sector while also ensuring that our culture and traditions as Nigeria’s is preserved and showcased to a global audience by leveraging OTT services such as Netflix. 

Aside from Netflix, the 2022 UNWTO saw industry leaders, policymakers, and tourism experts, meet to discuss and share their knowledge and insights about changing trends in screen tourism, its impacts on strengthening cultural affinity and the role of online streaming services in promoting tourism and cultural affinity between people, cultures and countries in line with the 2030 Agenda. 

The event also served to underline how public-private partnerships can support destinations to promote themselves as attractive locations for content producers.

The UNWTO brings global leaders, governments, businesses, and local communities, which are seeking to identify industries that can stimulate socio-economic recovery, mitigate the effects of the pandemic, accelerate job creation, and address the challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss. 

The 2022 UNWTO gathering showcased good practices and demonstrated how creative industries generate business opportunities that enrich cultural tourism, which can serve as an invaluable means to economic recovery.

According to UNWTO, the travel of approximately 40% of international tourists is motivated primarily by culture-related experiences which includes film.

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