Information and Infrastructure for WALKers In Islands Areas “i4walker”

I4WALKer was aimed to assist in the improvement and enhancement of the infrastructure and information services for walkers in 3 island areas, Crete, Chios and Cyprus. The project idea was based on the need to capitalize the investments already implemented 3 areas years ago (before 2001) which used to play a major role in the development of alternative tourism in the program area.

I4WALKer contributed to the implementation of 5 design studies for the construction and improvement of infrastructure and information services in 5 networks of natural and cultural heritage trails (Lasithi, Chios, Akamas, Troodos, and Kavo Greco). Moreover, the project contributed to the recovery, restoration and rehabilitation of the destroyed trails in Chios after the big fire in the island in August 2012. The project affected the improvement of four (4) trails in Cyprus (Persefoni 3.0km, Kalidonia 3.0km, Akamas 7.5km and Cavo Greco 4.8km, as well as its extension with a new part) and another extension in trails in Greece, Crete (Kato Zakros – Karoumes 5.5 klm, Karoumes – Chochlakies 3.5 klm).

Specific Targets of i4WALKer were:

• protection and enhancement of the natural and cultural environment
• strengthening the infrastructure supporting the development of alternative tourism
• improve the experience of visitors
• ensure easy access
• increase traffic routes
• extend the tourist season
• ensure the timelessness of investments

Besides tourists and visitors, the target groups of the population directly affected by the project results are:

• Farmers (who are familiar with the area and can work as mountain escorts)
• Small business in the hinterland (including hotels and restaurants)
• Members of climbing and other athletic associations
• Members of cultural associations
• Schools and students
• Public authorities.

Through coordinated effort, these different target groups were introduced to the project achievements with workshops and seminars, press releases, websites, flyers, handouts and manuals, tourist maps and tourist guides, etc.

During the whole year

The Region of Crete - Regional Unit Lasithi in the project i4WALKer (Programme "Greece-Cyprus 2007-2013") implemented actions related to the European path E4, known to all keen walkers and climbers. The implementation of the proposed interventions (enrichment and reshape the signaling system, organization and promotion) is to help improve the experience of visitors, ensure easy access and increase traffic of trekking routes in three (3) islands. Planned interventions complement existing infrastructure, utilizing past experience and implement approved design studies, creating and marking five route networks (N. Lasithi, Pref. Chiou, Akamas, Troodos and Cape Greco). At the same time, they enrich the existing knowledge, upgrade the system of organization and management of trekking routes, maintaining and ensuring the permanence of the investments carried out in the past.

Interventions of i4WALKer the last two years include:

• complement existing infrastructure (paths, cleaning existing trails)
• enrichment & remodeling signaling system, organization and display (with 600 new signs and where needed redesign)
• a pilot evaluation system of quality of services and management of trekking routes (with special stand and questionnaires)
• pilot implementation of new technologies for the qualitative and quantitative assessment of tourism infrastructure and services, (using innovative equipment)
• diffusion of know-how through training of special manuals and methodological guides
• combined viewing of route networks and environmental awareness residents, students, visitors (with websites, and promotional materials).

Cooperation with Regional Unity of Chios, Region of North Aegean and Department of Forests Ministry of Agriculture of Cyprus, in order to share views, ideas and know how.

The employees of the above mentioned institution.

Prefecture of Lasithi - Region of Crete

Already, the indicative results from the evaluation of visit, using the pedestrian sensor, placed in Lasithi paths, has record, during the period August to October 2013, totally about 15,040 visitors. Similar measurement results are expected from other regions, which demonstrates the importance of interventions. This action is recorded as the main project innovation point.

The sustainability of results are:

A) The commitment of the partners for maintenance of infrastructure according to the needs to be recorded, thanks to a pilot evaluation equipment.

B) In the regional political exercise tools in the development of route networks:

- Methodological Guides - technical specifications
- Manual Mountain Guides (Project website)

C) Strengthening the capacity of - population groups affected directly or indirectly by actions - partners manage walking routes.

The implementation of such project can have multiple benefits for the region of implementation, in particular:

• Routes can act as a catalyst for local development.
• Develop additional (business) activities.
• Improving tourism product.
• Converting Nightly tourism to Daily tourism.
• Attract new categories of tourists.
• Strengthening cooperation between local actors.

In conclusion, the enrichment of infrastructure and information and promotion system provides important facilities for visitors in mentioned areas. However, care must be taken to ensure sustainability and capitalization of the results of the project to achieve the multiplier effects reported.