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46th Congress of the European Regional Science Association: "Enlargement, Southern Europe and the Mediterranean", August 30th - September 3rd, 2006, Volos, Greece
The introduction and pilot application of innovative methods in the field of cultural heritage can have a significant effect on local development by boosting tourism and the related economic activities, increasing familiarity with new technologies and creating a sense of local pride. The five Centres for Heritage Interpretation that were developed in the Region of Sterea Ellada within the framework of the RI-SE Innovative Actions Programme offer a good example of this process, illustrating the contribution of innovation to local development and the integral role played by the Local Authorities. This paper aims to examine the role of cultural innovation in local and regional development, mainly through the promotion of cultural tourism. The use of new technologies in the interpretation of cultural heritage upgrades the services provided to the visitors of cultural sites and can promote archaeological and historic monuments and sites that are less known to the wide public, therefore channeling the flow of tourists to under-developed areas of a Region. Furthermore, it is a means of introducing new technologies and innovation in a way that is user-friendly and appealing, regardless of the user's degree of familiarity with information technology. The European Regional Innovation (RI-SE) Programme for Sterea Ellada, was implemented in 2003-2004, and aimed to introduce and incorporate innovation in the region's economic and cultural activities through the provision of new services and the utilization of high technology. Within the framework of this programme, five pilot Centres for Heritage Interpretation were established in the towns of Orchomenos, Lamia, Gravia, Karystos and Fragista, in close collaboration with the respective Municipalities. The case study will examine the methodology and criteria that were used for the selection of the specific heritage sites from the plethora of monuments of the Sterea Ellada Region. It will also present the different multimedia solutions that were employed in each case and outline the reception of the Centres by the public. In addition, it will focus on the contribution of the Municipalities to the success of the project and analyze its effects on local development, both in the specific Municipalities, but also in the entire Region. Finally, the project's demonstration effect will be evaluated and the prospects of its implementation in other Regions and other countries will be considered: the RI-SE programme developed an innovative model that can easily and successfully be adapted and implemented in every country with a rich cultural heritage (like, for example, in the Mediterranean countries: Spain, Italy, Turkey), especially in areas that are not included in major tourist routes.
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