Many European territories have developed strong relations with a river, that both take an economic and social role in their history. In the heart of European cities or in suburban areas, riversides offer exceptional natural, cultural and industrial heritage, both tangible and intangible. As these destinations are regional capitals or near a capital, they combine a tourism offer specific to urban areas (architectural visits, cultural activities) with a more natural one with sports and leisure, in particular related to water as well as wellness. This natural environment has historically been protected or is today the purpose of new environmental policies. That is why riverside development is a real opportunity for European cities to create innovative solutions for sustainable tourism development.
Unfortunately, riversides are rarely identified as touristic spots and not sufficiently addressed by tourism policies. They globally suffer from a lack of consideration from Metropolitan authorities and tourism boards, but also from a lack of professional skills and tools for tourism actors. However, those spaces are at the crossroad of tourism challenges faced by European capitals such as the high concentration of tourism in city centres, the Cities “Museumification” phenomenon, the increased attention to sustainable development and the new trends of tourism practices (authenticity, slow tourism, etc). European cooperation could help managing authorities in charge of Structural Funds, tourism strategies or urban development policies to better understand what needs to be changed and identify solutions by exchanging good practices. The STAR Cities project will involve the entire tourism ecosystem existing along rivers and, in this regard, is relevant to the Interreg Europe programme’s specific objective dealing with protecting, promoting and developing natural heritage, biodiversity and ecosystems.