Google announced a partnership with the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB) last week, outlining the tech giant’s plan to utilize a backpack-mounted version of its Street View mapping equipment to photograph iconic hiking trails on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Scheduled to wrap up at the end of September, the first phase of the project involves capturing 360-degree imagery on popular treks through Big Island natural attractions like Hawaii Volcanoes National Park or Akaka Falls State Park. The Kailua-Kona tour company Hawaii Forest & Trail has been tapped by the HVCB to help identify appropriate trails and provide experienced guides to walk them while carrying the 40-pound Street View Trekker equipment to gather images.
“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,” Deanna Yick, program manager for Google Street View, said in a statement. “Finally being able to photograph and share images from a variety of different terrain, including rain forests, beaches and even trails paved with hardened lava rock will help make Google Maps all the more comprehensive and useful for both tourists and armchair travelers alike.”
HVCB officials hope to have the first-of-its-kind trail imagery accessible on the organization’s official GoHawaii.com website in the fourth quarter of this year and are already touting the addition’s upside as a meaningful way to attract potential visitors.
“Maps and panoramic imagery serve an integral role in the vacation-planning process,” said John Monahan, the HVCB’s president and CEO. “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 Hawaii visitors across the globe.”
A finalized list of the starring Big Island trails will be released once Google’s Trekker image-capture process is complete, and according to Hawaii Forest & Trail co-founder and president, Rob Pacheco, his company’s more than 20-year history of helping visitors discover the destination’s natural splendor makes it uniquely suited to help “visually showcase to the world the beauty and fragility of areas in Hawaii that many may otherwise never see.”
While the Big Island is first on Google’s digital trail mapping list, Hawaii’s five other visitor-friendly islands won’t be far behind, and HVCB officials say a timeline to begin image capturing from popular hiking paths on Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Molokai and Lanai will be announced at a future date.
To follow the project’s progress and for more information, visit Google’s Blog about Google Maps and Street View (http://google-latlong.blogspot.com
) and the HVCB’s So Much More Hawaii Blog (http://blog.gohawaii.com