Winter School in Cyprus: the role of digital technologies for cultural tourism


Institutional Communication Service

4 March 2022

Exploring the opportunities provided by digitisation to preserve and enhance cultural heritage, with a particular focus on the touristic experience. It was the main objective of the Winter School dedicated to the role of digital technologies in cultural tourism held in Cyprus in February.

The Winter School was organised by the USI UNESCO Chair in ICT to develop and promote sustainable tourism in World Heritage Site, in collaboration with the UNESCO Chair in Digital Cultural Heritage at Cyprus University of Technology (CUT). The course took place from 13 to 20 February and was attended by 30 people from 17 countries, including students of the second year of USI Master in International Tourism, researchers and tourism professionals.  

During the week, speeches were given by local and national representatives of the tourist and cultural sector. Among them, Giannis Karousos, Minister of Transport, Communications and Public Works of Cyprus (the ministry within which the Department of Antiquities is included); Savva Perdiou, Deputy Minister of Tourism, Pierre-Yves Fux, Swiss Ambassador in Cyprus, and (by videoconference) Fergus Maclaren, President of the Committee dedicated to cultural tourism of ICOMOS, the International Council on Monuments and Sites. Moreover, some of the main projects funded by the European Union's Horizon2020 research programme on cultural heritage and tourism were presented. Participants also attended lectures on methods and principles for the communication of cultural heritage, models for understanding the role of digital media in tourism, innovative technologies to design meaningful experiences.  

Students had the opportunity to visit the most emblematic sites of Cypriot history, such as the archaeological park of Paphos (UNESCO World Heritage Site), the medieval castle of Limassol and the Orthodox monastery of Chrysoroyiatissa - all entirely digitised by the team of the UNESCO Chair of CUT - and the more rural areas where significant upgrades of intangible heritage and promotion of tourism are underway. Direct cultural experiences with local food and wine were are also abundant, such as tasting and sharing the story of Commandaria - considered the wine with the oldest history in Europe.  

"An enriching experience" - commented Prof. Lorenzo Cantoni - UNESCO Chair at USI - and Dr Silvia De Ascaniis - Chair Coordinator - "which allowed participants to experience both the richness of Cypriot culture, which stems from the history of the Mediterranean and the people who have lived on the island, and to understand the key role that digital technologies play today in cultural tourism. They are not a complementary feature to embellish the tourist's experience, but an integral aspect that influences every phase: before, during and after the visit." Finally, the numerous presentations and the direct experience of local tourism made it possible to grasp "both the richness and complexity of the tourism sector, one of the most affected by the Covid19 pandemic, and the common goal of all stakeholders: to share the beauty of their country, integrating and orchestrating every available technology."