3D Hawaii, a free multidimensional travel planning and booking portal that lifts off tomorrow, will give site users the capability of feeling like they are literally flying over the Hawaiian Islands.
The brainchild of Team Vision Virtual Chief Executive Officer Craig Carapelho, the portal incorporates Google Earth 3D technology into a travel planning source that makes travelers part of the experience. 3D Hawaii provides virtual tours of more than 2,000 listings, including hotels, resorts, restaurants, shopping centers, beaches, parks and visitor attractions. The free site also offers exclusive stories, video galleries, propriety tours and live webcams.
"We’re impressed with 3D Hawaii’s implementation of the Google Earth plug-in," said Bruce Polderman, product manager for Google Earth. "And we think its visitors will appreciate this innovative approach to vacation planning."
HOW IT WORKS
Visit www.3DHawaii.com, install the Google Earth plug-in, and launch the site. The site will virtually fly visitors who are searching for five-star oceanfront hotels to Waikiki, where they can take guided tours of the properties. Along the way, they can veer off to walk the streets of Waikiki. Or they could click on beaches to view videos on surf lessons, click restaurants to see menus, or click on a shopping center for a 3-D tour of its shops and restaurants. They also can book hotels and activities on the site.
Carapelho envisioned Hawaii 3D when he saw Google Earth; however, the concept was not fully viable until the technology became available in a web-based solution. He took a chance, and along with members of his ad agency, Team Vision, began building 3D Hawaii two years ago.
"I knew that it was a great idea and I had faith that it would work," he said, but added that he exhausted his savings by making this effort when the economy was in a recession and his ad agency was flat.
Carapelho was exploring a second mortgage to finance the final leg when Ohana Holdings, the investment arm of billionaire eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, agreed in April to become the lead financier. Other local investors include Bill Mills and Mark Johnson.
The financial infusion allowed TVV to hire eight people, including Chief Technology Officer Paul Onnen, formerly the chief technology officer of Expedia and director of engineering at Google, Carapelho said.
With a dedicated staff and partner Cyber City 3D, one of the largest contributors of 3-D buildings on Google Earth, Carapelho expects to hire more programmers and roll out new sites in 10 markets over the next 18 months.
Hotels and retailers pay monthly fees ranging from $150 to more than $5,000 to have a presence on 3D Hawaii, Carapelho said. Nonpaying businesses may be represented for perspective, but will not be detailed, he said. Since activities are already paying fees to booking agent MC&A, they do not pay additional fees to 3D Hawaii, Carapelho said.
Qualified community members and groups can participate in the "Adopt A Location" program to provide free content about favorite towns and spots.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts’ Hawaii properties, Hilton Hawaii, Hyatt Regency Waikiki, the Royal Hawaiian Center, Waikiki Galleria, Shops at Wailea, the Kaanapali Beach Hotel, Polynesian Cultural Center, Paradise Cove and the Dole Plantation are represented or soon will be represented on 3D Hawaii.
3D Hawaii will enhance the experience for Starwood guests by allowing them to understand properties are positioned in relation to the beach and other landmarks before they arrive in Hawaii, said Michael Troy, director of field marketing for Starwood Hotels & Resorts in Hawaii and French Polynesia.
"Seeing our properties pop versus those that are flat or not easily defined will give us an advantage," he said, adding that the site also provides the company with another channel to promote direct offers.