Heritage tourism in the digital era

Cultural tourism is one of the fastest-growing global markets accounting for 40% of the tourism sector, according to the OECD. It includes heritage tourism, which focuses on cultural, historic, and natural resources. Since the Covid 19-pandemic, focus has shifted to creating a more resilient and digitalised tourism model. Acknowledging the connection between tourism, education and employment, this sustainable approach also considers the environmental impact of tourism and opportunities for sustainable growth.

As it has a strong emphasis on strengthening cultural identity, this sector is a particularly promising avenue for diaspora-driven development. The nexus between diaspora engagement, heritage tourism and digitalisation has become a key area of interest for EUDiF, addressed through the annual Future Forum, a dedicated case study and two interventions at local level in Moldova and Sierra Leone. This page is based on the “Learning by doing” dossier in which we reflect on what we have learned from our research and actions in order to share inspiring practices and insights for future policymaking and initiatives.

Read on for a précis, or download the publication for the complete reflection.


Key challenges

Infrastructure and facilities

Heritage sites lack proper infrastructure, education, and leisure facilities.

Institutional capacities

Insufficient capacities for adequate preservation and marketing.

Raising awareness

Governments need to prepare the local population to see heritage tourism as a business opportunity.

Consumer understanding

There is a need to identify creative partnerships to re-brand tourism destinations and meet consumer demand.

Digital transformation

There is increasing demand for virtual access to heritage sites in the post-Covid era, yet a lack of “digital heritage”, i.e. digitally preserved materials.

Post-pandemic impact

Businesses and consumers are still recovering from the effects of pandemic lockdowns and related economic crises.

Did you know

…that a heritage tourist spends as much as 38% more per day and stays 22% longer overall compared to other travellers?

Diaspora roles in heritage tourism

Through EUDiF’s research and operational work we have observed seven roles diaspora often play in the consumption, development, and promotion of heritage tourism, though more may exist.  In addition, in the digital era, the tech-savvy youth diaspora can play a special role in innovating heritage products and advancing virtual tourism.




The sense of belonging, curiosity and strong connection to their personal heritage inspires many to travel to their ancestral homelands, search for roots and engage with the local community.


Thanks to their global mind-set and experience, diaspora can be pioneers in bringing new ideas and practical solutions, thus helping
reinvigorate the sector and rebrand tourism products.

Cross-cultural expert

The advantage of affinity, language, and understanding of the local context enables diaspora to transfer their transnational experience and transpose global practices into action at local level.


With social capital and migration experience, the diaspora can reach various social groups and take the role of influencers whose communication can impact the behaviour of a wide range of citizens and empower them to see the potential of sustainable heritage tourism.

Cultural ambassador 

Diaspora are well placed to promote distinctive attractions and the beauty of their country of heritage abroad, thereby supporting national branding efforts.


Having insider knowledge in both countries, diaspora are able to identify opportunities and invest in related businesses (package tours, branding of crafts), sometimes acting as angel investors or sending remittances to support local business.

Social entrepreneur 

Thanks to their great adaptability to change and ability to work in multicultural and digital environment, diaspora make promising social entrepreneurs. For example, young diaspora entrepreneurs have the flair to identify niche markets and to respond creatively to opportunities arising in the cultural sector.

Did you know

…virtual tourism is using technology to artificially enhance or create a tourism experience. It allows travellers to discover destinations without physically visiting. Virtual cultural tourism methods makes the most of technological advances and helps satisfy the millennial generation’s thirst for connectivity!

Roles in action

Through multi-country research and two capacity development actions related to heritage tourism, we have explored diaspora in their roles as tourists, cross-cultural experts, trendsetters  and influencers.

In these roles, diaspora had great impact in achieving the following:


  • Local communities and handicraftsmen gathering in Tipova, Moldova for the awareness activities on heritage tourism

  • Diaspora experts conducting the awareness workshop on modern heritage tourism in Tipova, Moldova


  • Festival of legends in Moldova piloted with the help of diaspora professionals from Sweden

  • Diaspora experts collecting materials and data about heritage sites in Freetown