The Hawai‘i Visitors and Convention Bureau and Google Maps announced Thursday a first-of-its-kind partnership that enables HVCB to borrow the technology company’s state-of-the-art Street View Trekker equipment to collect 360-degree images and visually showcase the Hawaiian Islands' natural beauty like never before.
The initial phase of the project will focus on Hawaii's most popular hiking trails.
"We are absolutely thrilled and honored to be selected as Google Maps' first partner to borrow a Trekker, and to have the privilege of working with one of the world’s leading technology companies to enhance the way travelers can connect with the Hawaiian Islands," said John Monahan, HVCB’s president and CEO. "Maps and panoramic imagery serve an integral role in the vacation planning process. Incorporating this interactive and immersive technology on our gohawaii.com site once it;s processed and available online will deliver a powerful travel planning tool for potential Hawai'i visitors across the globe."
"The Hawaiian Islands are unlike any other place on the planet, so working with HVCB is a perfect partnership to introduce our new Trekker loan pilot program and bring these stunning landscapes online," said Deanna Yick, program manager for Google Street View. "Finally being able to photograph and share images from a variety of different terrain, including rainforests, beaches, and even trails paved with hardened lava rock will help make Google Maps all the morecomprehensive and useful for both tourists and armchair travelers alike."
Phase one of the project will commence on Hawaii, the Big Island this month with the help of Kailua-Kona-based eco-tourism company Hawai'i Forest and Trail (HFT). The outfitter was selected by HVCB to help identify appropriate trails for the project, as well as provide the manpower to physically carry the 40-pound Trekker camera pack on the back of their staff and walk the trails to gather the imagery.
"It was important for us to find the right partner who understood the balance betweentourism and sustainability to join us on this project," said Jay Talwar, HVCB's chief marketingofficer. "Rob Pacheco and his team at Hawai'i Forest and Trail have an impeccable reputation, decades of experience in the eco-tourism business, and a capable staff. We are confident they will be able to deliver with integrity."
"For more than 20 years, the mission of Hawai'i Forest and Trail has been to reveal thesplendor of Hawaii’s treasured natural resources to visitors through meaningful, interpretive experiences," explained Rob Pacheco, HFT co-founder and president. "Our partnership with HVCB and Google Maps on this project will allow us to play a direct role in mapping the places we know so well, and to visually showcase to the world the beauty and fragility of areas in Hawai‘i that many may otherwise never see."
A team from Google Maps has been on Hawaii Island the past week introducing HVCB and HFT staff to the special Trekker equipment. The team has already practiced on trails from the Pololu Valley Lookout, 'Akaka Falls State Park, and inside Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park as part of the training. The HFT team will officially begin collecting still images in July and they will eventually be added to and available on Google Maps later this year. The final list of featured trails will be disclosed publicly once filming has concluded.
"As one of HVCB's key roles is to create sustainable long-term demand for the Hawaiian Islands, this unprecedented partnership with Google helps us to fulfill that promise in a virtual way on a global scale," Talwar added. "The Hawaii imagery will enhance content on our gohawaii.com site, enabling kama'aina (locals) and visitors alike extraordinary access to hikes and beach walks in an experience previously unavailable."
"The natural beauty of our islands makes this the perfect location to launch the Trekker loan initiative, and we are honored that Google selected Hawai‘i as its first destination," said Mike McCartney, president and CEO of the Hawai'i Tourism Authority, the state’s tourism agency. "This new and innovative platform will be another way for us to share Hawaii's unique sense of place, while drawing visitors to experience our destination first hand."
Phase one on Hawaii Island is expected to be completed this fall. The Street View Trekker will then make its way to the other five main Hawaiian Islands -- Kaua'i, O'ahu, Maui, Lana'i, and Moloka'i. A timeline for these islands will be set at a future date.
For more information and to follow the project’s progress online, please visit:
Google's Blog about Google Maps and Street View - http://google-latlong.blogspot.com
Hawai'i Forest and Trail’s Blog – http://blog.hawaii-forest.com (set to go live July 1)
HVCB's So Much More Hawai'i Blog – http://blog.gohawaii.com