Recognizing the importance of tourism development on the islands of the southern Aegean Sea, URENIO has developed a web platform that addresses the expectations and requirements of prospective or existing visitors to a geographical area. Most of the existing web portals that we have examined and evaluated were focusing on the description and presentation only of the attractions of each area that were focusing. Very few of them were designed to cover specific types of visitors needs. One of the best ways to present the challenges that our Web platform is facing is to identify what the visitors of an area are looking for:
A potential visitor who is a first time visitor will be looking for:
- A general view of the island (environment, landscape, people, activities)
- An overview of the island (pictures or panoramics)
- The country and the settlements: a basic map
- Key attractions and accommodation information
A visitor who wants to explore the island, and have as much information as possible, before he arrives on the island will be looking for:
- The hidden natural beauties and attractions of the island
- The routes, by different medium (i.e. 4×4 vehicles, trekking, public transports), and interests in each location (sites, beaches, museums, events).
A visitor having a more ‘traditional’ aspect of his visit will be looking for:
- The history and the tradition of the island
- To gain an overview of the services (accommodation, food, beaches, attractions), and not selectively based on nodes
All the users of the web platform are looking for:
- An interactive map that supports the virtual navigation on the island.
- A filter to set his/her user preferences
- Panoramics and photographs for each important point
- Downloads and print outs regarding his/her interests and choices.
- Detail information for each point of interest (businesses, activities, events) that might be of interest to him/ her
The idea of implementing the digital platform that represents the South Aegean islands relies on the use of an interactive map that offers its user a different virtual sightseeing experience. The user, using the interactive map, is forming the desired navigation paths, and selects points of interest. The choice of the route can be more sophisticated given additional information on how to travel, the attractions, restaurants, places of residence.
The following paragraphs briefly describe the use of the application in combination with the digital interactive map:
The visitor on the map defines nodes that there position is known and cannot change over years. These nodes correspond to places – landmarks, which can be settlements, monuments, beaches, natural scenery, archeological sites or other sites of interest.
On each node the visitor of the web platform has the ability to zoom in to a second map level (where this is applicable). This is a new map level is displayed with greater detail than the first, for example, the route network of a country island. In this level nodes can be further defined by the visitors (monuments, squares, important buildings, museums, natural sites) and places of entertainment and dining.
On each node of the map a lot of information is related such as tourist services, shops, hotels, events, cultural events, groups. The tourist services are registered in a database, providing the main data such as address, phone numbers, descriptions, etc.
The web platform is producing reports and roadmaps including all the selected points of interests and routes by the visitor. Each guide offers information on reservations, events, restaurants and other activities are available for printing. The guides can assist both visitors and tour operators.
The implementation of an interactive map and route selection offers an original and vivid way to tour visitors. Moreover, the way the attached information is structured and organized, allows the possibility to apply filters – preferences, so that the visitor be involved in the presentations of the island and creates his/her own desired routes and excursions.