Life Beyond Tourism: An Innovative Approach to Tourism in Africa

Earlier this month, Mr. Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, the UCLG Africa Secretary General, led a 3 days mission (2-5 August) with UCLG Africa’s consultant, Mr. Jewel Adjei, to the Fondazione Romualdo Del Bianco in Florence, Italy, following an invitation extended to UCLG Africa to collaborate with the Foundation.

One of the flagship tools of the Foundation is the not for profit ‘Life Beyond Tourism’ (LBT) heritage community, a network of over 500 institutions and 250 cities from around the world, focusing on travel as an instrument for intercultural dialogue. This network is developed around an online booking platform in which cities, hotels and tourism operators affiliate in order to promote tourism as a basis for intercultural exchanges.

Life beyond Tourism offers an opportunity for territorial development through intercultural dialogue. Figures for world tourism reached 1.25 billion in 2015, with the most significant increase seen in Africa and Asia (+8% growth per year). Life Beyond Tourism has presented a model to facilitate intercultural dialogue using three instruments: an online booking platform; an LBT international institute; and a certification for the Quality Management System for Intercultural Dialogue.

  • The online booking platform is a network of local portals dedicated to fundraising to promote tangible and intangible cultural heritage through its website: Local leaders and tourist operators are invited to connect tourism with the development of their cities, cultural sites and territories through multicultural interaction. Learning communities who use the online booking platform include travellers and residents; cultural institutions; research communities; onsite services; online services; public services; and local food and beverage services, amongst others. Cities and cultural sites will learn how to present and promote their culture and heritage, engage with others and encourage travellers to become involved in local life.  As part of its good practice framework, LBT is advocating the issuance of LBT passports for travellers, which will show the willingness of both residents and travellers to interact and participate in an authentic cultural experience including slow travel packages, cooking classes, exploration of local handicrafts and gastronomy, interaction with local customs and cultural expressions. Through this tool a city or territory is given the opportunity to defend its cultural identity, diversity and visibility in the general tourism environment.


  • The International Institute of Life Beyond Tourism (IILBT) proposes research activities and training courses with the objective of creating learning communities for intercultural dialogue and territorial development. Educational and vocational courses are organized in Florence for 1-2 weeks, including train the trainer courses and the production of training materials. IILBT contributes to raising awareness for the preservation and safeguarding of the natural and cultural heritage of the territories and the promotion of values-based travelling associated with the ‘economic and cultural development of living environments and respect for cultural diversities, with an ultimate aim to protect the planet Earth as our first and unique heritage.’


  • The certification for the Quality Management System for Intercultural Dialogue is based on the values highlighted in the 2008 LBT Manifesto. The objective of the certification is to create and promote a database of entities, institutions and organizations operating in the field of natural and cultural heritage ensuring affiliated institutions and companies offer high quality travelling experiences, concrete contacts with the people in the territories visited and creating unforgettable memories of intercultural exchanges. Candidates for certification will need to submit an application and can be local government structures; hotels, restaurants and tourist facilities; craft and commerce businesses; travel agencies and tourism operators; cultural players; academia and research institutions.


To promote intercultural dialogue, LBT have also initiated a monthly photo competition on Heritage and the Planet Earth with a winning prize of 10,000 euros. The competition is open to youth from around the world and will be launched during the next conference of the International Institute LBT to take place in Florence on 3-4 March 2018.


Signing of an MOU between UCLG Africa and LBT

In Africa, the Life Beyond Tourism Heritage Community includes 30 cities from 20 countries. To ensure the involvement of African cities in the promotion of intercultural dialogue in this innovative platform, UCLG Africa has forged a partnership with LBT.

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed on 4 August 2017 for a 3-year term by Mr. Paolo Del Bianco, President of the Foundation Romualdo Del Bianco & Life Beyond Tourism; and Mr. Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, Secretary General, on behalf of UCLG Africa, witnessed by a Councillor of the City of Florence.

For the implementation of the MOU a series of working groups will be held around:

– The development of a call for interest targeting cities and local governments in Africa as well as all the actors interested in participating in the Life Beyond Tourism booking platform and the certification process;

– The development of relations between the International Institute Life Beyond Tourism (II LBT) and the Africa Local Government Academy (ALGA), including the development of a train the trainers course in Florence, Italy, for African participants; the development of a curriculum to be included in the ALGA College on local economic development or the creation of a specific ALGA College on Tourism, Heritage, and Intercultural Dialogue; and the promotion of the photo contest for youth in Africa;

– The organization of a side event by Life Beyond Tourism and participation in the exhibition fair during the coming 8th edition of the Africities Summit scheduled for 4-8 December 2018 in Brazzaville, Congo.