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  • Why are we still talking about gender equality?

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    Why are we still talking about gender equality? The FEMACT-Cities Action Planning Network: Addressing the implementation gap in gender equality policy

    According to the EIGE’s Gender Equality Index, progress has been very mixed across the EU-27, and true gender equality still remains out of reach. Source: EIGE(2023).

    A person with a tote bag walks in front of a yellow metro or train.
    From urbact

    It’s been over 25 years since the signing of the Treaty of Amsterdam, the legal document that made gender equality compulsory in the European Union. The work on the topic however has a longer history, as even before that, a handful of Member States were already enacting their own gender equality policies. 

    A wide range of laws and measures that have been put in place to combat inequality in the last quarter century, and yet it continues to be a main policy topic. So, why are we still talking about gender equality? Haven’t we moved beyond this topic?

    Unfortunately, the reality is that not only haven’t we closed the gap between men and women in terms of wages, pensions, school achievement, participation in STEM fields, number of political representatives, and many other topics; in fact, recent data from the European Institute on Gender Equality (EIGE) shows that, on the whole, the EU-27 are still far from achieving gender equality. These statistics, which come from the Gender Equality Index 2022, attributed the stalling or fluctuations in progress predominantly to the gendered effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.


    Figure 3. Gender Equality Index

    While all 27 Member States have enacted federal laws to translate the principle of gender equality into the national legal framework, implementation at local level remains uneven and tends to favour certain topics, despite the fact that women continue to experience urban spaces, public services, the labour market, education and training and even healthcare in Europe differently than men. Despite nearly a quarter-century of policy, the role of gender equality as a cross-cutting topic that is vital to all policy areas remains poorly understood. 

    This does not mean that there haven’t been some positive trends. Disparities between Member States have decreased between 2010-2022. Furthermore, there has been an increase of women in decision-making roles across 19 Member States since 2020. According to the Gender Equality Index 2023, this is a key driver of gender equality, more generally. 

    A handful of cities and regions, for example Vienna (AT), Barcelona (ES), Umeå (SE) and the Basque Country (ES), have made a concerted point of focusing on the role of gender in urban and regional development and have worked to push policy innovation and new approaches, including in sectors which were previously not considered relevant. Some of these cities are documented in URBACT’s Gender Equal Cities - Inspirations and Knowledge series, which is filled with testimonials and interviews from URBACT experts, partners and workshop coordinators.

    However, the reality for many more municipalities, intermunicipal areas and regional authorities in Europe is that their work on gender equality implementation is hampered by knowledge and data gaps, lack of dedicated personnel, lack of awareness, lack of political support and both active and passive resistance. 
    For gender equality to become a reality in European cities and regions, it is critical not only to work across sectors and with a variety of stakeholders but also to work on awareness, acceptance and training at the municipal or organisational level, identifying and actively combatting stereotypes and raising awareness and allyship among men, who are all too frequently missing from the conversation. Networking and peer learning between municipalities can help transfer knowledge and effective practices as well as increase the effectiveness of those working on this topic and the policies they develop.


    FEMACT-Cities & gender equality policy: taking on the implementation gap


    Against this backdrop, the URBACT FEMACT-Cities Action Planning Network seeks to improve the implementation of gender equality on a local level and to increase innovation and knowledge sharing in gender equality in topics shared by the partners. Following on the success of other cities, the network’s work plan will focus on both internal and structural gender mainstreaming in the partner organisations and three thematic clusters shared by the partners: urban development, labour market and training, and health and safety. The goal of the network is to create cities and regions in which all residents, irrespective of gender, can experience freedom of movement, freedom from violence, freedom from fear, freedom to pursue their dreams, and freedom to reach their full potential.

    FEMACT-Cities is composed of eight partners (Länsstyrelsen Skåne (SE), Comunidade Intermunicipal da Região de Coimbra (PT), Clermont-Auvergne Métropole (FR), Kraków (PL), Turin (IT), Municipality of Postojna (SI), Cluj Metropolitan Area Intercommunity Development Association (RO), and Szabolcs 05 Regional Development Association of Municipalities (HU)) who have embarked on a two-year journey of learning, sharing and testing in order to create integrated action plans for their local policy challenges. This network will tackle a host of topics, including gender-based violence, women’s health issues and gendered approaches to mobility planning. It will build on and complement the work of the URBACT Action Planning Network GenderedLandscape (2019-2022).


    Doing the work: more from URBACT


    To learn more about URBACT’s work on gender equality and how it affects your sector, check out the Gender Equal Cities report (2022), which is packed with case studies, helpful tools and methods. 

    Watch this video for an introduction to gender-responsive public procurement.

    You can also get a refresher on 10 times URBACT has driven change for gender equal cities in recent years.


    Photo by Christian Lue.

    Submitted by Mary Dellenbaugh on 28/11/2023.





  • FEMACT-Cities

    LEAD PARTNER : Clermont Auvergne Métropole - France
    • Szabolcs 05 Regional Development Association of Municipalities - Hungary
    • Postojna - Slovenia
    • Comunidade Intermunicipal da Região de Coimbra
    • Torino - Italy
    • Länsstyrelsen Skane - Sweden
    • Krakow - Poland
    • Cluj Metropolitan Area - Intercommunity Development Association - Romania


    First transnational meeting on 5-6 December 2023 in Coimbra, Portugal.

    Transnational meeting on 22-23 Febuary in Vienna, Austria.


    Lead Expert



    The objective of FEMACT-Cities is to support the drafting of eight “Local Action Plans on Gender Equality” about main challenges regarding women's liberty and empowerment:


    - a society that adapts and protects,

    - a society that enables education and personal development,

    - a society that enables emancipation and economic autonomy.


    These challenges come together in a transversal fight against stereotypes.

    Transforming cities for women

    LEAD PARTNER : Cesena - Italy
    • Kazanlak - Bulgaria
    • Krakow - Poland
    • Gdańsk - Poland
    • Vila Nova de Cerveira - Portugal
    • Bétera - Spain
    • Leros Island - Greece
    • Leipzig - Germany
    • Përmet - Albania


    First Transnational meeting in Cesena (IT) on 30 November to 1 December 2023.

    Second Transnational meeting in Gdansk from 9th to 10th April 2024


    Lead Expert



    ARCHETHICS network brings together nine European cities that share the presence of heritage linked to a complex and controversial historical past (totalitarian regimes, contentious borders, etc). Architecture, People, History and Ethics will be the four project dimensions to activate urban community labs to transform this heritage, composed of formerly abandoned spaces, into places for locals and visitors for sharing knowledge and coming to multi-perspective understandings of the past and new visions for the future.

    Dissonant European heritage as labs of democracy
  • Is the compact city model endangered?

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    Is the compact city model endangered? Article COVER

    Three Action Planning Networks (2019 - 2022) came together to gather inspiration on how people can experience and move through the city.

    From urbact

    The Walk’n’Roll initiative, 27 different towns, cities and metropolises from the RiConnect, the Thriving Streets and the Space4People networks had a common mission. Together, they reflected about how mobility can play an important role when building better public spaces and increase the quality of life for local communities.  Iván Tosics, URBACT Expert who followed their exchange and learning journey, shares with us some of the key take-aways, findings and open questions that were raised during the Walk’n’Roll many and which are compiled in a brand new Guidebook. Take a ride with us and enjoy the read!



    URBACT Walk'n'Roll


    The recent pandemic was an important episode in the history of urban development. Much can be learnt from the immediate reactions to the health crisis, especially in dense cities. There were many brilliant examples about innovative tactical interventions in public space, inclusive housing policies, new types of economic support and social protection mechanisms, from which we can take stock.

    As the peak of the pandemic has slowly come to an end, the life in cities has quickly returned to its pre-Covid pace. A negative legacy is the incessant growth of suburbanisation, a process that has exploded over the last two years not only in Europe, but also in almost all parts of the world...


    A common effect in different cities


    In Oslo (NO), internal movements in and around the city, have shown an increased outmigration in the past two years with people aged between 25-30 and 60-70 moving away from the city, towards its outskirts and beyond. The “working from home effect” can partially explain this phenomenon. People with higher wages had a tendency to move away. It’s interesting to note though that most of the outmigrants were people who were not born in Oslo, according to studies.

    Likewise, in American cities, a substantial reallocation of housing and office demand has become tangible. People chose to move to the suburbs, away from dense city centres. Some analysts have called this as the “doughnut effect”. Meaning the rise of the suburbs and the slump of the city centre, driven by a fear of crowds and the opportunity of working from home.

    In a very recent analysis on the situation of the Paris urban area (FR), the academia has tried to collect all available information about internal residential migration, using unusual data. Information from rural associations, from the post office regarding permanent re-direction of mails to new address, or even schools' registrations were used as unexpected, yet rich sources. As evidence shows, migration flows from the downtown to the urban fringe are visible. According to this analysis, such movement of people cannot be considered as an urban exodus though. So, if not an exodus, what are these new forms of migration then?


    The new intra-urban migration tendencies


    First of all, research suggests that no direct, causal links exist between the spread of the virus and urban density. According to an OECD, it’s not density alone that makes cities vulnerable to Covid-19, but rather a mix of factors. The structural economic and social conditions play a role in this regard with overcrowdness, inequality, insufficient living conditions and the spatial concentration of the urban poor.

    The consequences from this new suburbanisation, on the other hand, are very clear: growing climate and energy problems due to increasing car-use, intensification of social disparities, since those who are leaving the city centre are the ones who can afford to do so. Moreover, there are also more and more problems in places where people tend to move out from. In the Budapest area (HU), for example, there are growing complaints in the agglomerational settlements with physical and human infrastructure problems, caused by the quick, unplanned growth of new residents.

    That being said, the post-Covid city presents us with a silver lining, an opportunity to rethink the principles of the urban compact development. For instance the British professor, Greg Clark, offers us a vision with blended cities and a more spread planification process. He argues for a wider distribution of activities between urban areas to offer second and third tear cities more chances. He also makes the case for better disposition of services within functional urban areas, based on the growth of "neighbourliness" and the emerging social capital.  

    Clark argues that people living in the fringes might still travel to the larger city centers from time to time, and acknowledges that they might not always work from home. At the same time, they will also get a taste for the local life where they live. People will spend more time – and money – in their neighbourhoods and, by consequence, new opportunities might arise for towns, suburban and secondary downtowns. So, these are not simply places where people sleep and work from home, but also places of exchange and for gatherings. Where, eventually, communities might thrive.

    This idea raises challenges for future urban development, for instance, issues related to metropolitan planning. Where to build new housing and dwellings? And how to regulate transport fares? These are just a few of the questions that were discussed during the Walk’n’Roll conference in Barcelona (ES), held in July 2022. The findings are summarised below.



    How to improve existing dense areas?


    The most widely accepted definition for adequate urban density is the one that acknowledges the need for an accessibility shift: changing urban transportation and land-use planning on the basis of people's ability to reach destinations, rather than on their ability to travel fast. This vision relies on the principle of re-humanising cities.


    The proximity aspect


    In the Walk’n’Roll conference the topic of proximity was at the heart of the discussion. In order for residents to give up the frequent use of car and, in perspective, also the ownership of a car, urban areas have to be changed. They must allow people to reach the most important everyday-destinations in a short time on foot, by bicycle or using public transport rides. There are many ideas raised for this shift, like the concept of the 15-Minute city. Besides the innovative practices of superblocks, Tempo30 and parking management – which are thoroughly described in the Walk’n’Roll Guidebook, Booklet 2 – you can find below two other ideas.


    The pedestrian-priority city


    Pontevedra (ES) is a medium-sized city with 83 000 inhabitants. In 1999 it was just another car-oriented city, but things started to change with the election of a new mayor – who still holds this position until this day. Mr Miguel Anxo Fernández Lores told citizens back then that the act of buying a car didn’t magically grant people with 10 square meters from the public space for a parking spot.

    His ideas consisted of making a distinction of the need for mobility, according to social criteria. He put people in the foreground, with at least half of the surface of all original streets turned into pedestrian areas. Intersections without lights and raised promenades were created, alongside he limited of parking hours in the downtown to a maximum of 15 minutes. In addition, underground parking was built under a concession and free public parking spaces were provided within a 15-20 minute walk of the centre.

    The results of these interventions were staggering: a decrease of motorised traffic by 77% in the dense urban area and by 93% in downtown, besides a decline in traffic accidents with no fatalities at all. Pontevedra became a high quality place to live with all public spaces serving the people, instead of the cars.


    Car-free places in every neighbourhoodURBACT Walk'n'Roll


    Back in 2014, in collaboration with 24 parish councils, the municipality of Lisbon (PT) started a programme called “Uma Praca em Cada Bairro” (“A space in every neighbourhood”). Currently being implemented, the programme is helping to renovate areas in the city to get people out of cars and to create new public spaces. The squares and streets will become the meeting point of the local community and “microcentres”, concentrating activity and employment.

    Henceforth, walking, cycling and public transport will be favoured, as the car traffic will be significantly restricted. The citywide programme in 150 squares and streets, practically in all neighbourhoods of Lisbon, could only be carried out with the support of the population. The programme counted with strong public participation processes.


    Potential externalities of public space improvement policies


    It goes without saying that the improvement of living conditions, with more public spaces and fewer cars, can lead to raising rents, pushing the most vulnerable residents away from the city. This is why it’s fundamental for the public sector to control the gentrifying effects. The efficiency of the public intervention depends on the willingness and political power of the municipal leadership, as well as on the housing system of the given city. A good example is the city of Vienna (AT), where the majority of the housing stock is under direct or indirect public control, with little or no gentrifying effects as a consequence of mobility and public space improvements.

    The situation is slightly more difficult in Barcelona, where the share of rental housing represents 31% of the housing sector. Only a small portion of these houses is actually owned by the public sector, making it almost impossible for the municipality to defend tenants. To tackle this challenge and avoid a “New York Highline effect”, the municipality provides subsidies to the urban poor, regulates private rents, oversees the housing market and even negotiates with landlords.



    How to create efficient metropolitan cooperation in blended cities?


    In the post pandemic world it’s not enough to make the dense urban cores more attractive, attention has also to be paid to those peripheral locations where many families aim to move to. Planning in larger territories can bring to light different questions, as to where new housing stock should be constructed or how to regulate and tax different forms of transport. The key aspect for public intervention in wider territories is a metropolitan coordination, which can be illustrated by the examples below.


    Turning highways into urban boulevards


    The classic period of suburbanisation started in the late 1950s in the USA, with the construction of 40 thousand miles of motorways financed by enormous central state grants. Urban planners were unstoppably carving highways into the urban structure, eradicating vulnerable neighbourhoods with fewer abilities to resist and, finally, ensuring the separation of functions following the leading planning concepts of the time. A similar car-oriented “modernisation” wave also reached most of the European cities. During the Walk’n’Roll conference, city practitioners showcased examples of recent efforts to reverse this phenomenon.

    In the course of the work done by Metrex for the From Roads to Streets learning platform –with support from Eurocities and URBACT – many European cases are analysed, including the transformative strategies adopted in Helsinki (FI), Oslo (NO), Lyon (FR) and Brussels (BE). In these dynamically growing cities the leading model is the urban intensification to concentrate growth and avoid urban sprawl. One way to achieve this principle is to direct new development to areas along the highways – provided that these are transformed into urban boulevards, with more space given for non-motorised vehicles. In Utrecht (NL), for example, two alternative projections were calculated for future scenarios and, according to them, the "A Proximity Model" foresee 20% less car-use.

    The opportunities and challenges of these new urban boulevards are gathered in a project to humanise the N-150 road, which is the central element of Barcelona’s Integrated Action Plan for the RiConnect network. This project deals with the motorway-like national road at the fringe of the metropolitan area, which created a division between the settlements and was putting the speed of mobility as the top priority. In order to restore old connections between the peripheral municipalities, the concept of metropolitan roads was born: without building new roads the extinct links between areas should be revived. This shall calm down traffic on the national road and even enable people to cycle from one town to another, which was not previously possible with the highways.


    URBACT Walk'n'Roll


    Improving the rail network to ensure metropolitan cooperation


    The Krakow (PL) Integrated Action Plan for the RiConnect network shows another way how metropolitan cooperation can be created. The Skawina Mobility Hub aims to create a connection point in one of Krakow’s satellite cities, on the line of the fast speed agglomerational railway that is under construction.

    Besides exploring the future functions of the evolving mobility hub, the intermodal links, park and ride (P+R) facilities and how to connect the station with city centre of Skawina, many efforts are being made to change the mobility mindset of people. This includes co-creation workshops, which resulted in the establishment of the integrated ticket system.

    Krakow is a good example for bringing public transport to the overall reflection on the metropolitan area. Such strategies, however, have to face the financial challenge of running public transport. During Covid times the ridership of public transport decreased almost everywhere and the rebouncing is still slow.


    Bringing planning and governance together at metropolitan level


    The Metropolitan Area of Barcelona (AMB) is a great example of how planning and governance can come together, not only at city, but also at metropolitan level. The AMB, the Lead Partner of the RiConnect network, is an agency with competencies in terms of mobility and public space in the metropolitan area – which counts with the double of inhabitants in comparison to the city itself. AMB is managing a very innovative mobility plan covering different aspects, such as generating safe and comfortable spaces for pedestrians, and sustainable methods of mobility, while reducing the use of private motorised transport.

    Unfortunately, not all cities have powerful metropolitan governance systems and/or strong agencies for planning and mobility. In the lack of these, urban planning cooperation between the municipalities of the urban area can help a lot. Sometimes these are initiated in bottom-up process, in combination with the national level, in order to use efficiently the EU Cohesion Policy resources. The Kraków Metropolitan Area (KMA), for instance, is responsible for coordination of transportation investments, which are implemented in the Integrated Territorial Investment (ITI) framework for the city and and its 14 surrounding municipalities.


    How to move towards an accessibility shift?


    Action Planning Networks labelThe new Walk’n’Roll Guidebook is split in three booklets – WHY, WHAT and HOW – and brings to light solutions that any city, regardless of its size, can use as a reference to drive change towards more blended and less compact cities. In order to tackle the most recent challenge of post-Covid suburbanisation, however, the practical interventions that are presented have to be combined with territorial visions. Regulation, planning and the support of governance institutions are equally important. Although this might sound challenging, there are different resources that can be particularly useful. Take for instance the EU Cohesion Policy, where investments in urban transport have more than doubled – from 8 billion EUR in 2007 - 2013 to 17 billion EUR in the 2014 - 2020, with even more opportunities in the next programming period.

    The first URBACT IV (2021 - 2027) call for Action Planning Networks is also a great occasion for cities to find partners to exchange, pilot ideas and develop an integrated set of actions at local level. While URBACT stresses the importance of the priorities of green - gender - digital, the RiConnect, the Thriving Streets and the Space4People networks are living proof of the wealth of themes that can be tackled within the spectrum of any urban subject, as today’s mobility challenge. These projects are in the crossroad of building more inclusive cities – for women and all – while also promoting the reduction of carbon emissions.

    Cities that wish to apply to the call are welcome to choose whichever network topic they deem relevant to their context. URBACT welcomes – and always will – bottom-up approaches that look at the big picture. Walk’n’Roll is bear fruit of the past round of Action Planning Networks and, hopefully, the next batch of URBACT cities will carry on its legacy and put its knowledge into action.

    URBACT Walk'n'Roll Guidebook

  • URBinclusion


    Kick-off meeting at Paris URBACT secretariat (Phase I)
    Thematic Seminar in February (Trikala), Transnational Meeting and Final Conference “Networking for social inclusion in Europe” in March (Barcelona), URBinclusion Manifesto, partners Operational Implementation Frameworks (OIF), Partners Solution Stories
    Transnational Meeting in February (Barcelona), Project Phase I closure, Project Phase II launch, Transnational Meeting in September (Copenhagen - Kick-off meeting Phase II)
    Thematic Seminar in January (Lyon), June (Glasgow), December (Naples), Transnational Meeting in April (Krakow), October (Turin), URBinclusion partners Implementation Plans

    Arwen Dewilde
    City of Ghent



    Plaza de la Constitucion 1

    Baena (Cordoba) - Spain


    Artur Katai
    City of Újbuda


    Barcelona City Council - Social Rights Area

    Lluis Torrens:

    Sebastià Riutort:

    Socioeconomic disparities and other forms of inequalities are a major issue in European cities which are threatened by social polarisation increase. Poverty does not only create social differences between people and groups; it also leads to spatial differences.
    URBinclusion implementation network focused on the co-creation of new solutions to reduce poverty in deprived urban areas, focusing on some key challenges to be tackled when going from the strategic to the implementation dimension: integrated approach and inter-departmental coordination, involvement of local stakeholders, monitoring and evaluation and financial innovation.
    Partners cities interchange showed that this requires integrated, cyclical and monitored processes made of recursive actions and feedbacks that produces stable conditions of engagement for continuous improvement.

    Combating poverty in deprived urban areas
    Ref nid


    Kick-off meeting in July (Birmingham). Transnational meeting in November (Liepaja).

    Transnational meeting in March (Rieti).

    Final event in April (Loule).

    Municipality of Athienou
    2, Archbishop Makarios III Ave.
    7600 Athienou Cyprus


    Municipality of Santiago de Compostela


    Municipality of Udine (Italy)


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    2700-595 Amadora



    +351 21 436 9000

    Ext. 1801


    City of Rome

    Department of European Funds and Innovation

    Via Palazzo di Città, 1 - 10121 Turin (Italy)



    Câmara Municipal de Lisboa

    Departamento de Desenvolvimento Local

    Edifício Municipal, Campo Grande nº25, 6ºE | 1749 -099 Lisboa



    Laura González Méndez. Project coordinator.

    Gijón City Council


    Municipality of Piraeus


    City of Ljubljana

    Mestni trg 1

    1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia


    Project Coordinator Martin Neubert

    +49 371 355 7029



    Riga NGO House


    City of Antwarp
    Grote Markt 1 - 2000 Antwarpen

    Manchester City Council
    Manchester M2 5RT

    City of Rotterdam
    Coolsingel 40, 3011 AD Rotterdam

    City Council Bielefeld
    Bürger Service Center
    Phone +49 521 510


    City of Eindhoven
    Stadhuisplein 1, 5611 EM Eindhoven

    City of Loulé
    Praça da República, 8104-001 Loulé
    Phone +351 289 400 600


    Seeking answers on how to combat social exclusion through the redesign of public spaces in deprived residential areas by using the power and common language of sport, this Action Planning network found solutions through innovative urban sport actions, physical equipment and better orchestrated service delivery. Active living positively contributes to social cohesion, wellbeing and economic prosperity in cities. However, currently cities are challenged by the opposite: dramatic increase in the frequency of diseases as a result of sedentary life style and social exclusion. To tackle these challenges, European cities have invested in large scale sports facilities over the past decades. These strategies have a limited success, hence a new approach is needed: instead of ‘bringing’ the inactive citizens to the sports facilities, public space itself should be turned into a low threshold facility inviting all citizens to physical activity.

    Urban sports promotion for social inclusion, healthy and active living
    Ref nid

    LEAD PARTNER : Rome - Italy
    • Caen - France
    • Coruna - Spain
    • Krakow - Poland
    • Loures - Portugal
    • Thessaloniki - Greece
    • Vilnius - Lithuania



    • Kick-off meeting


    • Transnational Meetings in Rome, Caen, Vilnius and Loures
    • Thessaloniki Transnational Meeting and Mid Term Reflection
    • Krakow Online Transnational Meeting
    • Bi-lateral online meetings between Rome and all Project Partners






    This Transfer network builds upon the "Management model of Urban gardens in Rome" Good Practice, in order to transfer to EU cities geographically distant from each other to ensure sharing of experiences to enhance the capacities of local governance. Transfer efforts will be given to 3 distinct, interlinked, thematic components/elements that the Good Practice is divided into: Capacity building in organizing urban gardens, Inspiring and training people to manage urban gardens (Gardeners) and urban gardens governance & regulations.

    RU:RBAN Transfer Network logo
    Urban agriculture for resilient cities
    Ref nid
  • Tourism Friendly Cities


    Lead Partner : Genoa - Italy
    • Braga - Portugal
    • Cáceres - Spain
    • Druskininkai - Lithuania
    • Dubrovnik - Croatia
    • Dún Laoghaire Rathdown - Ireland
    • Krakow - Poland
    • Rovaniemi - Finland
    • Venice - Italy

    Municipality of Genoa - International Affairs Department


    Watch all the Tourism Friendly videos here.


    • Kick-Off Meeting - Genoa - Phase I
    • TNS Meeting - Braga - Phase I
    • Online Kick-Off Meeting - Phase II
    • e-Dubrovnik meeting - Phase II
    • Online Meeting - Phase II
    • e-Druskininkai meeting - Phase II
    • TNS Meeting - Dun Laoghaire - Phase II
    • TNS Metting - Rovaniemi - Phase II
    • TNS Meeting - Krakow - Phase II
    • Final Meeting - Venice - Phase II

    Integrated Action Plans

    Dun Laoghaire Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Dun Laoghaire - Ireland
    Druskininkai Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here

    Druskininkai - Lithuania
    Integrated Action Plan for Sustainable Tourism – Cáceres

    Read more here

    Cáceres - Spain
    Braga Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Braga - Portugal
    Krakow Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Krakow - Poland
    Integrated Action Plan for Dubrovnik as a Sustainable Tourism Destination

    Read more here !

    Dubrovnik - Croatia
    Enhancing sustainable tourism in Venice

    Read more here !

    Venice - Italy

    Read more here !

    Rovaniemi - Finland
    Integrated Action Plan for Sustainable Tourism

    Read more here !

    Genoa - Italy

    TOURISM-FRIENDLY CITIES is an Action Planning Network aimed at exploring how tourism can be made sustainable in medium-sized cities, reducing the negative impact on neighbourhoods and areas interested by different types of tourism and its related aspects through integrated and inclusive strategies keeping a balance between the needs of the local community, in terms of quality of life and of services available, and the promotion of sustainable urban development at environmental, social and economic level.

    Local community & tourists together for urban sustainability
    Ref nid
  • Alternative to mass tourism? Sustainable tourism and the regulation of short-term rentals

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    A study involving URBACT cities highlights the need for local solutions that ‘Prepare, Preserve, and Platformise’ holiday rentals.

    From urbact

    Airbnb and other Short-Term Rental (STR) platforms are the phoenixes of todays economies: they beautifully thrive and when they are at the risk of disappearance, they are reborn and fly up again, says URBACT Thematic Expert Laura Colini. Here, she presents the outcomes of the EU Urban Agenda for Culture and Cultural Heritage work on better regulation of short-term rental platforms and sustainable tourism, which includes a study conducted with URBACT cities.


    In recent years, we have seen Short-Term Rental (STR) appear on the market as a social innovation for sharing domestic spaces, turning houses, public spaces, entertainment, culture and heritage into a successful tourism machine all over the world. This produces profits for different types of stakeholders, from individuals to large enterprises, thus creating troubling issues for cities. First and foremost, STR platforms such as Airbnb thrive on a shallow mechanism that allows unlicensed properties to be listed; it encourages landlords to change long-term into short-term rentals, reducing the amount of affordable housing stock for locals; it reinforces mass- and hyper- touristisation, gentrification and Disneyfication of historical cities in Europe, and ultimately monopolising the tourism economy, overshadowing traditional and alternative ethical forms of tourism such as Fairbnb and others.


    Inhabitants, social movements, and city administrations have voiced these detrimental  effects, creating measures to control the STR in their cities (for example banning illegal STR leasing in Berlin by law, capping the amount of days for STR in Amsterdam, and other cities, in France and elsewhere) while demanding better regulation of Short-Term Rental at EU level (for example the Eurocities initiative).


    The COVID emergency knocked Europe’s tourist economy hard and just when Airbnb seemed to lose ground, it reinvented itself, turning investment towards digital nomads, diversifying its offers towards leisure and assuming an ethical approach for humanitarian causes. Nevertheless, as we look beyond COVID-19, tourism has come back with new soaring prices catching up for hotels and flights, with $1.5 billion realised by Airbnb in the first quarter of 2022, equal to an increase of 70% compared to the previous year, and with the same detrimental issues for cities as we knew before 2020.



    URBACT cities supporting sustainable tourism



    The EU recognises the crucial role of tourism in the European economies, and a range of different actions, funding and initiatives are geared towards fostering sustainable tourism. In particular, following the pressures for better regulations at EU level from cities, the EU Urban Agenda took an opportunity to dedicate an action led by URBACT to this aspect. In collaboration with cities from the URBACT networks Tourism-Friendly Cities and KAIRÓS, and in exchange with the European Commission’s Directorate-Generals for Regional and Urban Policy and Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, the action for Sustainable Tourism and better regulation of Short-Term Rental is now in the Action Plan of the EU Urban Agenda Partnership on Culture and Cultural Heritage (EU UA C&CH). The scope was to outline potential perspectives for sustainable management of tourism at city level in relation to STR, respecting the definition of sustainable tourism of the UNWTO.


    The main outcomes of this EU UA C&CH are:

    1. A Memorandum 2021, a legal input analysing the bottlenecks at EU level in regulation of STR by Yolanda Martinez; Marimon Avocados ES 'Regulatory enforcement difficulties in the short-term rental accommodation sector stemming from the European legal framework on digital services’
    2. The 'Sustainable tourism – Regulating phenomena of sharing economy’ Study by Prof Ugo Rossi, GSSI IT, and Dr Laura Colini, URBACT with the collaboration of URBACT cities
    3. Peer-learning and exchange among cities, the researchers, the coordinators of the EU UA C&CH and external input from prof Claire Colomb UCL UK
    4. Collaboration with the EU UA C&CH, DG GROW, DG REGIO and URBACT for the EU COM STR initiative to strengthen links between the European Commission’s work and cities.



    Sustainable tourism – regulating phenomena of sharing economy



    The Study 'Sustainable tourism – regulating phenomena of sharing economy’ focuses on a range of towns and cities that differ in terms of population size, geographical location, and tourism offers across Europe: from top tourist destinations such as Berlin, Bordeaux, Dubrovnik and Krakow to popular small towns such as Druskininkai and Rovaniemi, to emerging destinations such as Braga, Caceres, Dun Laoghaire, Šibenik. These cities have been selected from members of the EU UA Culture and Cultural Heritage, as well as two URBACT Action Planning Networks (Tourism-Friendly Cities, which explores the potential for sustainable tourism in medium-sized cities, and KAIRÓS, which looks at cultural heritage as a driver for sustainable urban development and regeneration). 


    As the sector saw largely unregulated growth during the second half of the 2010s and a popularisation of digital platforms in the holiday rental business, cities across the world – and especially Europe – witnessed an unprecedented acceleration in the influx of tourists and the rapid expansion of the digital platforms industry, exacerbating the housing crisis in Europe and elsewhere. This expansion poses a threat to urban societies, as fast-growing numbers of homes move from standard rentals for residents to short-term rentals for platform users. This tends to drive permanent residents and indigenous businesses out of urban districts and neighbourhoods that attract large numbers of short-term rental listings, due to a shrinking supply of affordable housing.


    The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically impacted cities, and particularly their service-oriented economies. Departing from the assumption that pandemics and similar threats offer opportunities for substantive change, this unprecedented slowdown posed by the COVID-19 pandemic to the global economy may represent a unique opportunity to correct the distortions of the standard pattern of economic development, including the urban tourism industry.


    In the Northern hemisphere, the summer of 2021 saw urban tourism getting back to pre-pandemic levels, especially in environmentally attractive destinations like coastal cities, while in other cities it is still well below those levels.



    Community-led rental platforms?



    The Sustainable Tourism study is based on exploratory research into how to pursue a stronger, socially supported regulation of short-term rentals, using the debate in 2021 about the need for recovery from the pandemic slump of 2020 as an opportunity to achieve more sustainable urban tourism. In particular, the study proposes combining a prescriptive approach to regulation with a proactive strategy that considers the role of risk management and community engagement in the pursuit of sustainable urban tourism. The study emphasises the role of municipalities and local communities, stressing the importance of the local context not only as a site for policy implementation, but also in a generative sense as a breeding ground for the development of deeper institutional capacity.


    The study involved a qualitative survey based on in-depth, semi-structured interviews conducted with city officials of the selected cities on the regulation of short-term rentals from the perspective of sustainable urban tourism. It tested the interest and availabilities of these cities to experiment with locally managed, community-led rental platforms, following a multi-scalar approach with three main founding principles:


    • Prevention is better than cure: in tourism policy, an anticipatory approach seeks to avoid the reproduction of a systemic risk of over-tourism.
    • Community engagement is key to success: cultivating a sense of belonging to the local community means embracing an approach to tourism that places the needs of the local community at the centre of local policy strategies committed to economic diversification and urban sustainability.
    • Local power matters: the local scale is crucial not only from the point of view of societal impact and policy implementation, but also in terms of institutional empowerment of local communities.

    Departing from these principles, the policy approach put forth a '3Ps strategy’: Prepare, Preserve, Platformise. The goal of the study is to deal with the regulation of short-term rentals from a wider perspective, linking regulations to risk management and the experimentation with local alternatives to corporate-owned platforms. In particular, ‘Prepare’ means working side-by-side with local communities to prevent the risk of over-tourism; ‘Preserve’ means implementing regulations aimed at preserving urban areas and their communities particularly exposed to the risk of over-tourism; ‘Platformise’ means experimenting with community-led short-term rental platforms.


    The study proposes to re-think urban tourism as a process of sustainable transition where new regulations call for a socio-ecological approach that incorporates the needs of local communities, as well as their institutional capacities and that relies on three main aspects.


    First, the issue of risk awareness and preparation of communities: when not effectively regulated, tourism is no longer a resource for local communities, but becomes a threat that requires general awareness of the consequences of an unbridled tourist sector. Second, the socialisation of regulation is essential for making regulations implemented successfully to contextual constraints and demands. Third, municipal experimentation should be encouraged to further innovate on municipal-led platforms and peer learning as in the philosophy of URBACT.


    In conclusion, short-term rental platforms can be re-thought to bring inhabitants, businesses, and tourists closer, re-considering platforms as a positive potential for a more sustainable tourism.



    Visit the Cities engaging in the Right to Housing platform.


  • 9 ways to support the development of sustainable tourism

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    9 ways to support sustainable tourism_COVER

    Understanding the focus of the Integrated Action Plans of the Tourism-friendlyCities network.

    From urbact

    How can a city balance the inevitable conflicting needs of its residents and its tourists? Can tourism be a viable local economic sector, that acts as a leverage for sustainability, well-being and reduction of inequalities? Through what mechanisms can we really integrate the lesson learned from the recent pandemic? Finding collective answers to these questions, involving stakeholders from NGOs, businesses, academia and public institutions, was the core of our common work within the URBACT Tourism-friendly Cities (TFC) network during September 2019- August 2022.


    The Integrated Action Plan (IAP) is the main output of cities participating in Action Planning Networks such as the Tourism-friendly Cities one, financed through the URBACT programme. IAPs define the local actions to be carried out in response to the sustainable urban development challenges addressed in the network. It is a way for cities to develop their local development strategy using the URBACT method, which is informed by principles of integration, participation and action learning. Here are 9 strategic directions the TFC cities have chosen for their IAPs on sustainable tourism:

    #1: Genoa: addressing conflicting visions on growth and outlook of the tourism sector for local economy

    Genoa underwent in the last decades a major transformation, strategically investing in the revitalization of its cultural heritage. Moving away from its recent history connected to steel industry and the maritime port, the city, and entrepreneurs alike, were experiencing a growth of the share that tourism has on the local economy. This growth was in return causing frictions with local residents and accelerating the process of gentrification of parts of the old city centre. Thus, Genoa’s IAP is focused on co-creating a shared vision of a balanced tourism strategy informed by both residents and the industry. To achieve this, for the next years the Genoa ULG determined an extensive set of actions and projects under three key areas of action:

    (1) raising awareness among city stakeholders also on the negative effects of tourism. This would also entail encouraging residents to become ambassadors for their own city and guide visitors on how to experience the place as a local and keep disruption at a minimum. (2) improve city amenities, from housing, tourist accommodation, urban mobility to public space. Key is to always invest in assets that would not only solely benefit tourists, but also residents. On this, Genoa also builds on its good practise of the tourism city tax, where parts of the funds collected are earmarked for public works. (3) pushing the tourism industry to innovate. This would include development of new tourism packages, such as nature tourism, that would diversify to existing offers, as well as increase the use of digital tools and gamification ways for promoting sustainable behaviours from tourists.

    #2: Braga: raising awareness at international level on the diversity of its tourism offer

    Group of local citizens that attended the first tour “Enjoy The City Like a Tourist” in 27th September 2021 - World Tourism Day.Already named European Best Destination 2021 Braga wants to change its international perception which is still mostly connected to religious tourism. Being able to accommodate a much wider tourism offer, but also to sustain a balance between tourists and residents needs, Braga is actively working in avoiding the mistakes of the past of other cities which are now experiencing overtourism. For this, the process of developing the IAP using the URBACT method was a key step in establishing a multi-stakeholder working group and co-designing actions that can sustain the fragile balance of sustainable tourism.

    Thus, most measures of Braga TFC IAP are connected to how to consolidate collaborative practices between city residents, tourists and tourism industry. An example of such action, was already tested through Braga’s small scale action on a training and immersive experience for local residents to experience the city as a tourist.

    #3: Caceres: focusing on increasing length of stays of tourists

    Cáceres, located in central western Spain, in the autonomous community of Extremadura is a welcoming city of 96,720 inhabitants. A UNESCO World Heritage City, the old city centre has attracted constant visitors for short-term stays. Due to its suboptimal connectivity with key transport hubs such as Madrid, Caceres is sometimes missed as a tourist destination. Other times, it is visited alongside other cities in the Extremadura, making the duration of the visit relatively short. This is why, the city wants to encourage the development of sustainable tourism, one that brings prosperity to the local community, while also balancing the needs of inhabitants and protecting the cultural and natural heritage.

    More specifically, the main strategic objectives of Caceres connected to sustainable tourism are: (1) Increasing overnight stays; (2) Improving long-haul connections; (3) Attracting foreign tourism; (4) encouraging demand all year round and (5) Improving the profitability of the value chain. In fact, Caceres has implemented a Small Scale Action within the co-development process of the IAP related to supporting local producers by organising a bio-market in its UNESCO city centre.

    #4: Druskininkai: leveraging the local success of developing a sustainable tourism destination with more international connections

    Druskininkai is a balneological, mud and climate therapy resort, located in southern Lithuania. Historically developed around its spas, it is a city that welcomes tourists. In recent years, it proved also a viable option for welcoming new residents- young families moving away from the big city rush and searching for better quality of life.

    The city has invested constantly in tackling the challenge of seasonality connected to tourism demand and achieved impressive results. By building venues that can function year around and that are complimentary to the spas, such as the Snow Arena, Druskininkai was not experiencing significant differences in number of visitor between winter and summer seasons. However, the restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic significantly changed that- the number of foreign tourists in 2020 compared to 2019 decreased by 77.8%, meanwhile in the first half of year 2021 it fell by 98.3% compared to the same period of year 2019. Thus, the focus of Druskininkai IAP is to actually consolidate the image and perception of the city as a sustainable and high-quality tourism destination. For this, the Druskininkai ULG has determined several areas of focus, mixing priority investments for residents with international digital marketing plans for tourism promotion.

    #5: Dubrovnik- Incremental changes to move away from over-tourism

    After the warning issued by UNESCO in 2016 that its World Heritage Status was at risk, Dubrovnik took significant measures to tackle the negative effects of tourism. Measures included restricting and monitoring the number of visitors to its Old Town area and the development of the Respect the city programme. The programme sets out a set of guidelines to be observed by tourism businesses, visitors and residents alike, tackling issues related to quality of life of neighbours, urban mobility, environment and cultural and natural heritage.

    However, tourism is part of the DNA of Dubrovnik, as the city is widely known as “the pearl of the Adriatic”, and much of its local economy is based on this economic sector. This is why, the co-development of Dubrovnik IAP was a much needed process to reach a common vision and consensus on how the local economy can develop in a sustainable why, while also taking into account the quality of life of residents, especially the ones who are not involved in tourism. For this, the actions identified in the Dubrovnik IAP will focus for ensuring transformation in these three key areas: (1) Sustainable, smart, socially conscious mobility system in Dubrovnik with optimized traffic flow based on adequate traffic infrastructure and improved/smart traffic management which meets the needs of both citizens and tourists; (2) Transformation to a sustainable tourism destination which manages its development using a participative, agile, integrated and multidisciplinary approach and strongly relies on intersectoral cooperation and (3) Improved quality of life of citizens, through preservation of public resources and natural and cultural heritage and sustainable and responsible development of tourism.

    #6: Dún Laoghaire- endorsing a common branding strategy with the city of Dublin and focusing on coordinated visitor experiences that are reflective of the environment and the communities in which they sit.

    Located about 12 km south of Dublin city centre, Dun Laoghaire is a suburban coastal town in County Dublin. It is governed by the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, which represents the Dún Laoghaire town and over two dozen unique and thriving areas – some recognised as communities and others as villages, but all known for offering one of the best quality of life for residents in Ireland. This proximity to both a major metropolis and a tourism hub such as Dublin, but also its rather hard to grasp name for foreigners, put Dun Laoghaire is a challenging position to determine its international branding strategy.

     Thus, the Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County, home to 218 000 citizens, made the strategic decision to endorse the branding concept proposed by the Irish Tourism Board, which meant that that the destination would be promoted under the name of Dublin, but with a distinctive focus on the outdoor experiences a visitor can enjoy outside Dublin. This approach proved successful, with a significant and stable number of visitors discovering the beautiful costal area. However, this meant on the one hand that overnight visits in the area were quite unlikely, and also that only the communities ( small towns part of Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County) with good connectivity to Dublin city centre would be discovered by tourists.

    This is why, in order to make tourism a viable and strong economic sector, Dún Laoghaire wants to (1)ensure that an increased number of visitors to Dublin City find their way to Dún Laoghaire Rathdown to experience a variety of unique experiences; (2) enhance the level of connectivity between the coastal villages and the range of experiences they have to offer visitors and (3)support the level of collaboration between all the key stakeholders active in tourism development in Dun Laoghaire.

    #7: Krakow: building internationalization for the rich cultural and art local scene

    Krakow, Poland’s second largest city, is a preferred destination by both domestic and international tourists all year round. Boosting a rich history and being an UNESCO World Heritage site, the city also hosts yearly nearly 100 festivals and other world-famous cultural events. This cultural offer does not represent however the main point of attraction for the city, as before the COVID-19 pandemic Krakow was also preferred for weekend trips and parties. In fact, it was the development of this type of tourism that brought about complaints from local residents.  In addition, the constant growth of the number of tourists meant that the city was beginning in 2019 to experience over-tourism and a steep gentrification of central areas. While the pandemic changes slowed down these processes, the city remains committed to changing the model of tourism into a sustainable one and consciously investing in internationalization for its rich cultural local scene. For example, Krakow is among the most active cities in the European debate on sustainable impact of tourism, especially related to short-term rentals that need solid regulatory frameworks. 

    This is why, the Krakow IAP focused on opening up the strategic discussion on the future of tourism with more stakeholders and finding new way of engaging the tourism ecosystem. In fact, the IAP describes several mechanisms through which the Krakow ULG can monitor whether the strategic objectives outlined in key programmatic documents of the city are actually being observed. These mechanisms are: (1) the Historical Cities conference, taking place every two years; (2) the set of sustainable and responsible tourism indicators measured yearly; (3) the development of the sustainable tourism quality label and (4) a public-private partnership named the Sustainable Tourism Krakow Lab.

    #8: Rovaniemi- putting the natural heritage first

    Rovaniemi is the Official hometown of Santa Claus®, and one of the major Finnish cities in Lapland. The destination is extremely popular in the winter season, with over 63% of tourism related activities taking place in the winter months. Even though this Arctic Circle has been experiencing constant tourist growth before the COVID-19 pandemic, its challenges are not necessarily related to over-crowding. Rather the discomfort experienced by residents connected to urban mobility, peer-to-peer accommodation, recreational facilities and use of nature are among the contant points of concerns. Moreover, the centralized Finnish system of collecting taxes also poses some governance challenges for the local municipality on how to collect revenues from tourists that could be eventually used for better financing local needs of residents.

    This is why, the Rovaniemi ULG agreed on several bold actions to be included in the IAP that address the following four objectives: (1)Reduce the side effects during tourism high season in winter; 2. Reduce the impact of tourism on Arctic nature and mitigating climate change; 3. Strengthening the socio-cultural benefits of tourism and 4. Building up an active Destination Development Group (working name). Most importantly, all these objectives stem from the shared vision that sustainable development of tourism can only be a reality if the “carrying capacity” of nature is respected and is both starting and end point.

    #9: Venice – adopting smart city solutions for addressing over-tourism challenges

    Venice and its Lagoon, an UNESCO World Heritage, has long brought wonder for its unique landscape, and also attracted significant number of tourists. Tourism is actually key for the local economy, with 1 in 3 people employed in the commerce and tourism sector. However, due to constant growth, Venice also become an international poster city of the adverse effects of over-tourism on the quality of life and heritage. This is why, in the last years, the city has become strongly committed, both locally and internationally, to the agenda of sustainable tourism. In fact, the city has committed to bringing changes to its entire system connected to the destination management system. This includes the way it manages the resources and making a priority the protection of residents from the inconvenience caused by tourism activities. In fact, Venice was one of the first cities to innovate in terms of marketing and communication, launching the still existing campaign of #EnjoyRespectVenezia

    The Venice IAP has thus focused on how to create a greater engagement among tourism and city stakeholders for the vision of a new model of sustainable tourism for Venice. Two key objectives were identified as a priority, namely: (1) governing the tourist flows to make them compatible with the daily life of the residents by enhancing the traditional craftsmanship and cultural offer and (2) promotion of a strategy for the relaunch of the tourist offer of the city and its mainland. Both directions are and will continue to rely on several smart city solutions, such as the Smart Control Room and use of innovative marketing and communication.