It’s no secret that the internet is changing the way we travel. So much so that international online travel platforms are racing to meet the demands of tomorrow’s travelers as they search for their next destination. Providing reliable information has always been key, but, increasingly, an appealing presentation seems to be the secret to capturing people’s attention. Music, online tours, panoramic images, videos and interviews allow the user to digitally experience a destination before they travel.
For these online platforms to survive, they need to offer something special, which is exactly the case with the interactive website YouGoCulture. Created by Athens University, YouGoCulture provides a digital introduction to Greek culture and heritage.

The site is designed for international visitors to Greece and is entirely in English. It has been operational for almost a year, currently offering nine digital destinations: Mystras, Lavrio-Sounio, Elefsina, Marathon, Mycenae, Ancient Olympia, Messene, Epidaurus and Athens. Five more are set to be added in the near future (Limnos, Delos, Knossos and Delphi), while another 16 are in the pipeline.

The project has the support of Athens University Rector Thanos Dimopoulos and is funded by the institution’s Supplementary e-Learning program, through which many of its entries are evaluated. Kathimerini asked the man in charge of, Panagiotis Petrakis, a professor of economics at the university, how the website came about.

"We had the idea in 2016, when we started using online education programs from around the world, in English. We realized the programs with the highest demand were those that showcased Greek civilization, which inspired us to develop a side project with which we would explore how to familiarize foreign visitors with Greek culture. We should add that among the destinations under development are Syracuse in Sicily, Odessa in Ukraine and Alexandria in Egypt, as YouGoCulture is interested in covering the full breadth of Greek civilization, traveling to places of interest around the world where the Greeks put down roots and left their mark. It is for this reason that we are reaching out to people of Greek heritage abroad, as we are doing with the local communities of proposed locations within Greece, looking for collective support."

The website’s advantage over the competition is the guaranteed reliability it has as a project by the university, as well as its pleasing presentation and interesting features. The team leading the project, among whom are professors of classical archaeology Vassilis Lambrinoudakis and Petros Themelis, and theater studies professor Platon Mavromoustakos, makes sure the project only works with reliable partners.

It should be pointed out that all the content used by YouGoCulture is original, created for the website. This includes the texts, images, 360-degree panoramas and the many videos by director Elpida Skoufalou. The videos are beautifully composed, while taking great care as to the way both monuments and people are depicted. With short interviews, YouGoCulture also shows aspects of modern life in the destinations proposed. The site features music composed by Elias Pierrakos and includes an interactive map with which to navigate the various locations.

YouGoCulture is nonprofit, fully funded by the university and donations raised via a crowdfunding campaign. It is also supported by Act4Greece, a National Bank of Greece initiative aimed at promoting social and developmental banking which coordinates with a number of institutions, such as the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation, the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation, the Bodossaki Foundation, the Hellenic National Commission for UNESCO, and the Hellenic Network for Corporate Social Responsibility.

"The traffic our website is getting is remarkable, especially considering that our advertising campaign to date has depended only on word of mouth and people sharing on social media. YouGoCulture has become well known because people want to talk about it and share it with their friends, and I think that shows how successful it is. We know the project resonates with people because our funding is increasing thanks to donations through the Act4Greece program, which most Greeks don’t even know about. It is an activity that contributes to the university’s efforts to address the community, the ultimate critic, judging whether it has a positive, negative or neutral impact. Reaching as many people as possible has to be the university’s main goal, not just to ensure continued funding, but also to adapt to the modern culture landscape."