Stories vs. Stories: The added value for managing the cultural tourism

Article by manager of European Cemeteries Route, Mr Dušan Vrban, presented at the international workshop "Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe: Cultural Heritage, Landscape and Tourism".
Article by manager of European Cemeteries Route, Mr Dušan Vrban, presented at the international workshop "Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe: Cultural Heritage, Landscape and Tourism".

The term storytelling seems well researched and used in tourism. Yet again the average tourism product still lacks the profound spirit of storytelling. Characters are factually presented, while details that contribute to the emotional experience are missing. Especially, in the highly dense tourism spots where the speed of interaction is high. Focus is often on the scale and beauty of scenery, objects or events, rather using the story just in brief sentences that provides context. Quite the opposite, cemetery visits are subject to slow-down exploring.

Using stories to promote cemeteries

Cemeteries provide materials and environment that can be used in a much broader sense to develop unexpected and engaging tourism products. As considered through the eyes of professionals in the field, and accordingly to what Ioanna Paraskevopoulou said, “cemeteries are spaces to celebrate the uniqueness of human existence”. To do so, tourism developers, together with cultural heritage and marketing teams need to have the right approach and understand the importance of several phases that contribute to this. Especially in the context of researching and promoting cemeteries. The latter is a particular challenge as cemeteries are still considered just as burial grounds in general public.

Using stories to promote cemeteries is as important as developing stories for tourism. This is why we consider discovering and exploring interesting stories through cemeteries an important step in creating added value for managing the cultural heritage and tourism. While cemeteries are still mostly associated with death and darkness, Stories is a project that effectively introduces the true aspect of a cemetery - life and lightness.

By exposing the most intriguing events of a person in a story format, people are very attracted to it. Adding the images of the person’s monument or other cemetery information enables us to connect the positive affirmation of the story to the cemetery. In the image we can see how in fact many graves are even built with this positive affirmation (fig. 1). How a tombstone can already uncover a story about the deceased just by a few words or a symbol.

Cemeteries as social media networks

When presenting a cemetery to the young generation (primary or secondary schools) we present it as (the biggest) social media network. Tombstones are posts (stories), symbols are hashtags, candles and flowers are likes and various culture’s funeral customs are groups (fig. 2). As social media networks are of course very important to the pupils, they get more attracted to the subject.

Especially the first part (posts) is extensively presented in a manner of posts about life instead of death.

Stories about the city and the region

Within cemeteries research for truly unique stories of the city can be easily found and sensed. A walk through and observation of the names and symbols may easily explain the story about the city and the region. Horticultural arrangements explain the connection to nature. War monuments present the role in the most devastating times. Unique monuments speak about the artistic interpretations of the society. Specific industries and even erotic arguments explain what the city really feels like and what values and religions are respected in the culture of its citizens.

Thus, a cemetery is a never ending source of powerful stories that may help the destination find new potentials (fig. 3).

Cemeteries encouraging slow tourism

Cemeteries affect visitors’ minds very strongly. Walking among the beautiful stories of life makes a visitor more respectful and humbler. The everyday problems and issues fall into the timescale and one cannot avoid realizing that each person is unique and respect for other people’s stories is as important as our own story. Cemetery visit slows down a tourist. Helps understand that discovering the destination can only be done by connecting with the stories of its people and their ancestors. Instead of a rush through the popular museum, cemeteries should be addressed in the tourism offers as a slowdown, sustainable tourism POIs (fig. 4).

Cemeteries as event venues

Vast space of a cemetery and its unique atmosphere offers incredible opportunities for developing most unique events. Especially as the content becomes more relevant and respected. Visitors take time to understand the content rather than just become a visitor to another stop in their daily agenda (fig. 5).


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