The adoption of the Declaration of the World Tourism Organization (WTO) in 1985, which points to the importance of protecting and promoting natural, cultural and historical heritage and measures for its use for tourist purposes, corresponded with change in tourism relations, primarily in the sphere of tourist demand.
This has led to creation of a new alternative concept of tourism, along with existing concept of mass tourism. Unlike the approach that characterizes mass tourism on the principle of a production line and with unlimited growth that did not respect the values of resources and environment, an alternative approach was the determining authenticity of the area in terms of preserving natural resources and cultural and historical heritage. This can be considered as the precursor of the idea of sustainable tourism development, whose main goal is to enable the enjoyment and acquisition of knowledge about natural, historical and cultural characteristics of environment, while preserving integrity of the area and encouraging economic development and prosperity of local communities.
By incorporating culture into the concept of tourism development, cultural tourism has been created, which can be simplified as a trip to persons outside the place of permanent residence with the aim of gathering new information and experiences in which they satisfy their cultural needs. The popularity of cultural tourism in the world is best manifested through the fact that almost 40 percent of tourism trips relate to this form of tourism, and that tourism demand grows at an annual rate of 15 percent. Some studies show that tourists, who within their travel make visits for cultural purposes, have significantly higher income than average tourists, and accordingly they are ready for higher consumption, which indicates possibility of achieving higher economic effects of tourist destinations with such contents.
Promoting this form of tourism positively reflects on culture in the context of creating an additional source of income, which enables professional management of cultural goods and a more rational control of the use of cultural potentials, a more efficient marketing approach, and improvement of relation of the domicile population to cultural values.
In line with these tendencies, the Council of Europe established the Cultural Roads Program or Routes in 1987 with the aim of raising the level of awareness of European cultural heritage and values and adopted the Resolution on Cultural Routes. Basic elements on which cultural routes are based are natural or cultural context, preserved cultural heritage, intangible heritage that functions as a historical and cultural importance of the route, and identity of the route as a result of intercultural connections and influence, that is, interaction and establishment of common characteristics and value systems of various cultures. In order for such a cultural route to function successfully, it is necessary to work on construction of a recognizable brand that would position itself in the awareness of potential visitors, which requires the offer of more thematic and non-thematic attractiveness and adequate development of tourist infrastructure.
This form of tourism has realistic preconditions for development in Bosnia and Herzegovina and it is necessary to use all experiences and good practices of successful cultural routes in the world. The reality of such assessment is reflected in inclusion of historical and cultural heritage of several cities from BiH into regional cultural tourism routes within the Tourism Development and Promotion Project of joint regional cultural offers of adventure tourism.
The aim of this Project is to increase the number of tourists visiting six countries of the Western Balkans and to extend their stay, which should be effected through increasing income and employment, as well as by removing political obstacles to further development of tourism. The project is managed by the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) and financed by the European Union with five million euros, out of which € 1.62 million is a grant, which will be implemented through allocation of 30 small grants of 54,000 euros. All this suggests that cultural tourism has a strong potential in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but that the attitude towards this form of tourism must change considerably, primarily in an institutional way.