Ithaca Trails – is the new hiking tourism development program implemented by the Ithaca Municipality.
Ithaca has a valued and reliable network of walking routes, which was determined from specific experts Paths of Greece at 107.6 km and 31 distinct paths, almost equally spaced north and south of the island, 16 and 15 lanes, respectively.
Based on this finding, the Municipality of Ithaca has elaborated and implemented this hiking tourism development plan, which is based on the utilization of the paths of the island of Ithaca based on the international requirements of the hikers.
The total Ithaca hiking network, as identified in the study, is a large circular route, referred to as Ithaca Trail, which consists of stretches of the proposed network and future routes.
Of the network routes, 62% of the routes and 72% of the kilometers are completed, while the future routes represent 32.3% of the routes and 36% of the total number of kilometers of the island’s hiking network.
The objectives of the project are as follows:
-Extending the tourist season: Hiking in Greece, due to the high summer temperatures, takes place mainly in spring and autumn. Therefore, the completion of the network will substantially contribute to the prolongation of the tourist season, a strategic goal of the Programming Project of the Municipality of Ithaca.
-Building the local labor market: The literature shows that hikers as a tourist community are generally of a higher educational and economic standard than the average visitor of a country, stay on average more nights at the place they visit and spend proportionally more. Their off-peak visit, combined with the largest influx of money per visitor-hiker, creates jobs directly and indirectly in one place. Direct jobs mainly concern hotels and restaurants, which are open more months a year. At the same time, the conditions for running new businesses, such as walking tours, are created. Indirect jobs result mainly from the sale of locally grown products,
-Supporting benefits to society: In addition to boosting the local market, local communities also benefit in a variety of ways from the creation of a network of paths, as the cultural heritage of the island is highlighted, the prerequisites for educational programs are created, but also a field for physical exercise, all within a natural environment context.
The implementation of a network of paths means that the old paths, which were people’s communication paths, will emerge. Their emergence today is a connection with the past, with the lifestyles of older generations, such as stone walls, water mills, windmills, terraces for crops and wells. At the same time, some lost cultural monuments, such as old chapels, buildings, castles and others, which are particularly important for the culture and memory of the local community, are being opened up and displayed.
Also, for the schools of each place, the paths are a basis on which many activities can be organized – from simple physical exercise excursions, nature and culture learning games, and “adoption paths” where children are invited to take care of and promote the paths.
-Protection of the environment: As regards the protection of the environment, the pathways operate in a dual way. In principle, they give access to nature. Walking, as the speeds are slow, the hiker can listen to nature in detail, enjoy the view, the fresh air, the colors, the movements and the sounds and acquire a full sense of the importance of a healthy natural environment. Considering the above, it is reasonable to try and protect them. Environmental protection has a long-term positive economic impact, and is used to calculate the viability of the projects being carried out. At the same time, the paths, often passing through sensitive ecosystems.