A series of innovative virtual projects for Larnaka region were presented on Thursday, October 21, 2021, at an event held by Larnaka Tourism Board (LTB) and the Youth Board of Cyprus (ONEK), with the support of Larnaka Municipality and the Cyprus Deputy Ministry of Tourism (DMT). The ‘Virtual Larnaka’ event took place at the premises of Youth Makerspace Larnaka under the auspices of the Deputy Minister of Tourism, Mr Savvas Perdios, in the presence of distinguished guests.
LTB and ONEK joined forces to implement a multifaceted project to promote their common innovation; specifically, four interconnected, complementing virtual experiences that offer both locals and visitors interactive technological applications to enjoy the region’s attractions. Combining modern technology with landmarks, historical and cultural attractions, Larnaka’s tourist offering has been given a new dimension, with information given in a more engaging and immersive way.
Statues that speak; a 3D reconstruction of the Ancient Port of Kition; a virtual underwater navigation of Larnaka’s seabed, and interactive tours of museums that present exhibits with additional, enriched information and media all come together to offer a complete virtual experience of the region.
The pioneering Larnaka Storytelling Statues incorporates QR codes on various statues, monuments and busts across the region. Visitors simply scan the code from a mobile device with internet connection to receive a call-back from the monument recounting their unique story. The number of talking statues in Larnaka city has increased with the latest addition of the statue of Leo the Wise at St. Lazarus church; the Armenian Genocide Memorial; the bust of poet Tefkros Anthias and the Fanfare of Peace statue in the Municipal Gardens, as well as Makarios and Sister Sophie Chambon. Further afield in Pervolia village, a statue of Kallipateira has been included. There are also talking statues on display at various museums, such as the Cruciform Figurine at the Pierides Museum and a bust of Hippocrates at Kyriazis Medical Museum.
For the first time in Cyprus, an ancient archaeological site has been virtually restored to show historical accuracy in a 3D reconstruction. Utilizing virtual reality technology, the user can discover what the Ancient Port of Kition looked like 2,500 thousand years ago. A team guided by a French archaeologist leading the site’s archaeological expedition worked on the project, and it is worth noting that the video has already won the ‘Phoenicians’ Route – Iter Vitis Awards’ of the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe.
An important element of Larnaka’s touristic product is its wealth of diving sites and as such, the forthcoming Larnaka Underwater Diving Routes projects was presented, showcasing the Zenobia, Elpida, and LEF1 wrecks as well as reefs in Xylofagou’s Watchtower area and Voroklini’s Dorida. The routes will include all the details for each diving spot and present them in a virtual, 360° format.
The fourth pillar of Virtual Larnaka is an interactive 360° tour of Larnaka region museums with information and enriched content for selected exhibits. The first phase includes the museums: Municipal Museum of Historic Archives of Larnaka, Pierides Museum – Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation, Kallinikeio Municipal Museum of Athienou, Livadia Craft of Caning Museum, Kyriazis Medical Museum, and the Environmental Information Centre of Larnaka Mountainous Area.
Through the innovative platform, the museums can be virtually toured by viewers at home, or at the museums for a hybrid experience that accesses bonus material, including 3D representations of spaces and exhibits, and audio-visual content.
During his welcome address, the President of LTB, Mr. Dinos Lefkaritis, stressed the need for tourism destinations to adapt to the trends of the modern era in order to survive, and that this is the driving force of the joint initiative and the innovative projects of Virtual Larnaka.
The President of ONEK, Mr. Kleanthis Koutsoftas, stressed the need to utilize modern technology and the professional knowhow of young scientists in order to review and revamp the way that history is presented and attract the interest of the younger, tech-savvy generation.
The Deputy Minister of Tourism, Mr. Savvas Perdios, said of the project: “The Deputy Ministry – in the context of its ‘National Tourism Strategy 2030’ – supports such innovative efforts to digitize and enhance the visitor experience through modern, technological means, and it is with great satisfaction that we see the commendable efforts of Larnaka Tourism Board in this direction.”
During the event, Larnaka mayor, Mr. Andreas Vyras, stated that these projects – combining modern technologies – greatly contribute to the creation of an open and accessible city where both residents and visitors are entertained and educated on Larnaka’s history in a pioneering way.