The New Times (Kigali)

24 March 2012

Rwanda: RDB, Google Partner to Map Tourism Sites

Rwanda Development Board (RDB) in partnership with Google, yesterday, commenced the mapping exercise where all tourism attractions in the country will feature on the web.

The two-day event dubbed, Rwanda Tourism MapUp, started with the team's road trip from Kigali where key touristic features were mapped and continued to Musanze and Rubavu districts whose attractions were also added to the Google map list.

Google Map is a web mapping service application and technology provided by Google; it offers street maps, a route planner for travellers and an urban business locator for numerous countries around the world.

Speaking at the official launch of the exercise, yesterday, Rica Rwigamba, the Head of Tourism and Conservation at RDB, said that the initiative is part of the government's strategy to enable the world know all touristic areas in the country.

"We are proud to be the first African country to work with google, citizen mappers and tourism operators to systematically map all tourism facilities and attractions to increase discoverability through search engines," she said.

"Today, more tourism destinations are chosen through online searches and recommendations by other travellers and this presents a great opportunity for our country to earn revenues from tourists who will be visiting the sites".

Rwigamba stated that the technology will boost the tourism industry as many tourists will be able to easily identify Rwanda touristic features on google search engine and consequently come to visit areas of interest.

During the exercise, all the national parks, lakes, Congo Nile Trail and key locations and attractions, islands and trails, villages and towns, restaurants, bars and hotels among others will be cartographed allowing visitors to Rwanda to get a Google Map location of them.

About 40 participants, including professional mappers, Geographic Information System (GIS) experts, university students as well as tourism operators are involved in mapping all the major tourism features.

According to RDB, the exercise will be held regularly so as to preserve the accuracy of the maps.

Edwin Sabuhoro, the Chairman of Tourism Chamber at the Private Sector Federation (PSF), said the chamber anticipates an increase of businesses .

"This will market our businesses, industries and gives us more hope that we are going to sell more to the tourists who will be visiting our country," he noted.

Sabuhoro pointed out that the kind of initiative was very important as it markets the products offered by Rwanda to the world.

"In this era, information is vital and having Rwanda tourism sites on google map will attract more tourists who end up investing in our country hence promoting economic growth," he said.

Last year, the country hosted 908,000 tourists from all over the globe and the industry earned $252 million.

Tourist attractions in Rwanda include Mountain Gorillas, Nyungwe forest canopy walk, national museums, Lake Kivu, bird watching, national parks, Congo Nile Trail and culture, among others.

It's estimated that around 70 per cent of travel decisions are made using websites to research information and google map is a major source.

Google Mapper, Gilbert Mucyo, said that so far they have mapped over 100 tourism features on google map.

"One of the outcomes of this exercise is to enable people easily access Rwanda touristic destinations on Google search engine," he noted.

"We hope to complete mapping all the features in the next few months".

Dennis Karera, the Chairman of Rwanda Hotels and Restaurants Association (RHRA), welcomed the idea saying that hotels and restaurants will generate more income from tourists since they will be easily located on the map.

"Our mission will be a success. The biggest challenge all the restaurants, hotels and bars I chair have , is that of being not known worldwide to our customers, and these customers can be best reached through Google mapping," he said.

Hermant Bulani, the Branch Manager of Satguru Travel and Tour Services, hailed RDB and Google for easing their work.

"We hope to receive more tourists coming to see the tourism features in Rwanda after searching them on Google," he said.

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