Tourism sector gets major boost following launch of Google Street View for national parks

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Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala.
Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala. PHOTO/COURTESY

Kenya’s tourism sector has gotten a major boost after technology giant Google, in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism and the Kenya Wildlife services, launched Google Street View for the country’s 21 national parks and one conservancy.

Street View is a 360-degree ground-level imagery layer found on Google Maps. Users are able to remotely explore landmarks, navigate a trip, explore the streets of cities and towns, and visit other places of interest from around the world. In Kenya, imagery has already been published for major cities, towns, roads and other places of interest. Capturing of the national parks imagery was the second phase.

According to Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary (CS) Najib Balala, Google Street View will allow potential visitors to virtually experience what Kenya has to offer in terms of tourism before settling on a travel destination.

“Google Street View will bring Kenya to the world, by providing a global audience with tools to virtually explore Kenya’s cities, other urban centres, attractions and places of interest; and also bring the world to Kenya, by growing a user’s interest to physically visit a place of interest that they have experienced virtually.”

In August this year, the tourism CS revealed that approximately 2.2 million international tourists are expected to visit the country by the end of year translating to a 10 per cent increase in the number of expected international arrivals. According to the Tourism CS, the number of foreign tourists will increase by approximately 174,000 individuals adding on to the 2,025,206 persons who vacationed in the country last year despite the number of international arrivals in the first half of the year dropping by 0.7 per cent to 921,090 compared to 927,797 registered in the first half of 2018 and with the launch of Google Street View the numbers are expected to rise next year.

“Tourism is a vital contributor to our GDP and I believe that we at Google can play an active part to help grow this sector through our products. With 82% of travellers undecided on a destination and 74% of them starting their research or inspiration online, it’s critical that we have Kenya online, Charles Murito, Google Kenya Country Director said on his part.

The parks whose imagery have been published are the Maasai Mara; Amboseli; Nairobi National Park; Mount Kenya; Hell’s Gate; Samburu National Reserve and Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

Others include: Chyulu Hills National Park, Lake Nakuru National Park, Meru National Park, Mount Longonot, Ol Donyo Sabuk, Sibiloi, Tsavo West/East, Bisanadi National Reserve, Aberdare National Park, Saiwa Swamp National Park, Mount Elgon, Kakamega Forest National Reserve, Ruma National Park and Shimba Hills National Reserve.

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