The contribution of tourism is particularly important to the economy of an area. Under certain conditions, tourism has proven to be an important growth driver. This is attributed to the particular nature of tourism as an activity, which develops primarily at a regional and local level. The tourism and cultural products are key to boosting development in Greece, with significant potential to have a positive financial impact on the productive base of regional economy. On the other hand, most activities related to both the tourism and cultural aspect of an area are located outdoors and are directly exposed to natural events, which are increasingly manifested in extreme forms. An instance of such traumatic experience and negative tourism promotion for Greece internationally was the case of the archaeological site of Olympia, which was hit by a major fire on 26 August 2007.
Improving tourism promotion and tourist information and providing more secure access to cultural and tourist sites is essential for the economic development of many areas in Greece. In regard to tourism promotion, it can be improved by broader use of modern technologies. For example, a relevant platform for the provision of tourism services, the iGuide, was developed a few years ago, funded by the General Secretariat for Research and Development (Synergasia [Cooperation] 2011 Programme). Through an online platform and mobile app, it offers guided tours in areas where there is no organised and structured access to relevant information, such as archaeological sites, areas of natural beauty and other points of tourist and cultural interest. The platform is based on innovative technologies and aims exclusively at tourist content, while it does not in any way address the issue of visitor protection and safety.
The scope of the proposed project is to design and develop an online platform for supporting the management of natural hazards posing a threat to tourist and cultural sites, substantiate prevention planning and decision-making, improve the safety of the public and the visitors and incorporate all these in the context of site protection. The platform will function interactively throughout the risk management levels, from the local (cultural/tourist site) to the regional and national ones, by exchanging informational material, and real-time status reports and updates.
More specifically, the platform to be developed aims:
- To provide authorised bodies and organisations (e.g. Hellenic National Tourism Organisation, Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, General Secretariat for Civil Protection) with an online map predicting the degree of threat that natural hazards pose to tourist and cultural sites in Greece, in multiple spatial and temporal scales.
- To offer the capacity to simulate the spatial behaviour of fire at a local level, in order to plan prevention and take protection measures for the site and its visitors.
- To detect precursor events that occasionally increase risk (e.g. increased amount of visitors at locations of increased risk).
- To continuously record and monitor the number and dispersion of visitors at each site, while also informing them of points of interest and sending them warnings and instructions in the event of an emergency or problem, through a smartphone app.
- To set up a call centre so the site management body or agency may receive emergency calls from visitors, while identifying the caller’s location and particulars.