Google Earth as Means to Increase Tourism
by Brady Klein
In addition to Google Earth’s content layers that are downloaded with the default program, Google Earth as a whole has proved to be an effective tool that organizations all over the world have used to increase the volume of tourist travel through their respective regions or cities. There are many instances in which tourism offices and tourism-based organizations around the world have teamed up with Google Earth in order to increase tourism through a particular country, state or city. This partnership has proven to be quite powerful, as growing tourism is often linked to increases in economic development within a certain organization, municipality, or country.
A multitude of government, as well as non-government organizations have taken advantage of Google Earth as a widely democratized source of travel information – in much the same way. Because Google Earth is an incredibly flexible and technologically adaptable program, data that a certain tourism organization wants to be accessible to users can be geo-referenced and added to Google Earth quite easily. Below are several examples of ways in which Google Earth has helped national tourism offices and businesses around the globe increase tourism and marketing activity.
The Pennsylvania state tourism office has partnered with Google, NASA, Carnegie Melon University and the National Civil War Museum to create technology within Google Earth that would allow the user to take interactive tours of historic sites, monuments and trails within American Civil War sites throughout the state (Mills, 2006). This geo-referenced content is designed to increase tourism in historic battle sites, like Gettysburg, by allowing users to take interactive museum-like tours of specific battle trails, battlefields, monuments and other areas of historical importance in hopes of drawing the attention of more potential tourists. Virtual tourists are given the ability to make “story stops,” and learn about elements of the war in a more personal context (Pennsylvania Civil War Trails [PCWT], 2008). In addition, many of the hallowed grounds and historic towns are presented in 3D, another factor contributing to the potential interest for tourists.
A British tourism organization, VisitBritain, has partnered with Google to create a visual guide, or “maplet,” that features 360-degree panoramas depicting tourist sites from five of Britain’s most popular cities (Mail Online, 2009). VisitBritain is confident that the launch of this new application will inspire more potential tourists to travel to see Britain’s most renowned sites.
Westport Ireland AMT3D City Model
Furthermore, the town council in Westport Ireland serves as yet another example of a municipality with the goal of utilizing Google Earth to increase tourism (Francica, 2008). The council commissioned AMT3D, a digital computer modeling firm, to develop a three-dimensional digital model of the entire town of Westport. Recently, in a joint effort with the town, Google launched the interactive model of the city on Google Earth. This application was set in place with the hopes of receiving larger numbers of international arrivals; the Westport model, along with the above applications, will likely cause local enterprises to grow and local economies to improve as more and more tourists travel to the city.
Israeli Attractions and User Forum
The Israel Ministry of Tourism added detailed information about tourist attractions and accommodations to Google Maps and Google Earth in the form of KML layers, along with a new user-based forum. Tourists planning a trip to Israel will now have additional resources other than official tourist websites and guides, which is likely to increase interest and thus tourism in the area. The Ministry of Tourism recently uploaded pictures, detailed information and links to over 300 tourist attractions throughout Israel including the Western Wall in Jerusalem and Masada National Park, and about 500 accommodation sites to Google Maps and to Google Earth (Gov.il, 2010). The Ministry has also launched a new user-based online forum, where tourists can post questions and get answers from both Ministry experts, tour guides, and other users. Tourism Ministry director-general Shaul Tzemah says that, “The new tourism community and working with Google will create a direct link between potential tourists and Israeli tourist bodies and enable new marketing channels…Increasing marketing activities on the Internet is of great importance to The Ministry of Tourism in order to promote tourism in Israel and improve the state’s image in general” (Gov.il, 2010).
Gov.il. (2008, March 27). Israeli Tourist Attractions Added to Google Services. Retrieved from http://www.gov.il/FirstGov/NewsEng/NewsEng_TouristAttractions.htm.
Israel Ministry of Tourism. (2010). Israel Tourist Attractions [KML application for Google Earth]. Available from http://www.google.com/gadgets/directory?synd=earth&hl=en&gl=&preview=on&q=israel
Mills, E. (2006). Pennsylvania using Google Earth to Promote Tourism. CNET News. Retrieved from http://news.cnet.com/8301-10784_3-6143010-7.html.
Mail Online. (2009, March). Google StreetView ‘may boost British tourism’. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/article-1163421/Visit-Britain-link-Google-Street-Map-offer-visual-guides-UK-cities.html.
Pennsylvania Civil War Trails. (2010). Retrieved from http://pacivilwartrails.com/google-earth/index.aspx
Francica, J. (Interviewer) & Hafferty, B. (Interviewee). (2008, January). West of Ireland Town Goes 3D [Interview transcript]. Retrieved from Directions Magazine Web Site: http://www.directionsmag.com/articles/west-of-ireland-town-goes-3d/122776.