DEVELOPING A WEB-BASED GIS APPLICATION FOR TOURISM PROMOTION USING OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE: THE CASE STUDY OF BAHARIYA OASIS, EGYPT

 

 

Radwa A. Hamed

Lecturer, Tourism Studies Department, Faculty of Tourism and Hotels, Alexandria University, Egypt

 

Dalal M. Abd El-Hady

Tourism Studies Department, Faculty of Tourism and Hotels, Alexandria University, Egypt

 

Mahmoud A. Hassaan

Institute of Graduate Studies and Research (IGSR), Alexandria University, Egypt

 

Nashwa F. Attallah

Tourism Studies Department, Faculty of Tourism and Hotels, Alexandria University, Egypt

 

 

 

 

ABSTRACT

 

Efficient tourism promotion significantly helps in building a positive destination image. As a matter of fact, the tourism industry in Egypt is not gaining the expected foreign currency and is not promoting the desired image of the country. One of the major setbacks for the development of tourism in the country is failure to adopt innovative tools for tourism promotion to successfully attract tourists. Although Bahariya Oasis enjoys rich natural and cultural tourist attractions, the promotion of its various tourism activities is still inadequate. The main objective of this study is to develop a Web-based GIS application that allows the tourists to have both spatial and non-spatial tourism information about Bahariya Oasis anywhere on the internet. For this purpose, a prototype for a Web-based GIS application was developed using the open source software ArcGIS Online. The developed Web-based open source GIS tourist information system of Bahariya Oasis will offered the tourists an accessible, user-friendly interactive tourist map that contains spatial information about the major tourist attractions, hotels, restaurants, and other tourist services in the Oasis depending on the tourists' needs and requirements.

Keywords: Web GIS, Open Source Software, Tourism Promotion, Bahariya Oasis.

 

 

1 INTRODUCTION

An efficient promotion of tourism does not only allow a significant gain of foreign currency but also has an effect in building the tourist image of a country (Markos, 2012).

Tourism has been among the first to make the most of new technologies and innovations, where new technologies have significantly impacted the overall tourism sector and more specifically tourist destinations; in terms of promoting themselves and reaching out to potential visitors (Argyropoulou et al. 2011). Accordingly, to survive today's era of rapid technological change, destination managers need to keep up with the new technologies and concurrent innovations.

Over the past two decades, tourism promotion has entered a new era, accompanied with the development in information technology particularly the Web (Madasu, 2013). During this period the Internet has had a huge impact on the tourism industry, specifically in terms of services provided for tourists to search for information. In this respect, the Web became a major source of informative promotion, which is particularly crucial in times of increased competition in the tourism market (Petrevska and Koceski, 2012).

In spite of the fact that Information Systems/Information Technology (IS/IT) has grown into a strategic and a main enabler in tourism promotion throughout the past few decades, most developing countries are still striving for utilizing it as a support tool for tourism promotion. The tourism industry in these developing countries is experiencing an emerging need for a strategic innovative approach towards web-based tourism promotion in an attempt to enhance its web-based promotion activities within the current Web 2.0 framework (Sambhanthan and Good, 2014).

Such a need for a strategic innovative approach is necessitated in the case of Egypt, as one of the developing countries, trying to survive in a fiercely competitive environment; the tourism industry is in more need of capturing the opportunities and coping with the challenges posed by information technology.

 

2 WEB GIS APPLICATIONSIN TOURISM PROMOTION

Since most of the data associated with tourism are spatial data, GIS technology appears as an innovative approach that can be used by tourist destinations; its ability to analyze and visualize spatial and non-spatial data in the form of interactive maps made it an essential tool for travel and tourism (Markos, 2012). Furthermore, GIS is currently converging with several other technologies (Drummond and French, 2008), such as multimedia, virtual reality, and the internet to provide new levels of accessibility and functionality.   

As Web technologies and GIS advanced considerably and practiced widely (Tan, 2003), Web GIS have become a popular means of information sharing and visualization. Web GIS can be simply defined as: “The process of designing, implementing, generating and delivering maps on the World Wide Web by combining both the advantages of GIS and the Internetˮ (Markos, 2012, p.9).

Recently, Web-based GIS applications became the first choice in promoting tourism in most of the countries (Markos, 2012), which use these applications as an innovative tool to organize a high-performance web system for tourist attractions, services, and facilities in order to promote and fulfill the needs and interests of their tourists.         

Nevertheless, GIS though used worldwide over the last two decades, is still not effectively used in the Egyptian tourism field in general and in tourism promotion in particular. In fact, tourism promotion is still done traditionally using conventional methods; distributing brochures, billboards, etc., and though the Egyptian Tourist Authority (ETA) responsible for all the various promotion activities carried locally as well as internationally for tourism in Egypt possesses an official website it doesn't converge advanced GIS interactive capabilities. Such traditional tools of promotion can adversely affect the performance of ETA. Therefore, there is a need to adopt new and innovative technologies. In this respect, Web GIS has great potentials to be utilized.

Nowadays, there are many open source GIS servers that are readily available to easily develop web applications (Tyagi, 2014). Open source software (OSS) web-mapping can be an innovative tool that allows the tourism industry to capitalize on the value of GIS (Hamed, 2018). Using OSS platforms in the development of Web GIS applications proves that software innovation does not need to be expensive nor complicated to provide a competitive advantage (Supaket al. 2016).Thus, using OSS web-mapping can be beneficial for developing countries which are not able to capitalize on GIS technology due to the complexity and expense of the GIS software.     

 

3 STUDY AREA

There are five major oases in the Egyptian Western desert. Bahariya Oasis is the closest to Cairo. It is a start-off point to other destinations in the Western desert, situated in an oval-shaped NE oriented depression of approximately 1800 km2, surrounded by black hills. Bahariya Oasis is located about 370 km southwest of Cairo and 180 km west of the Nile valley in the north-central part of the Western Desert between 27° 48′ and 28° 30′ N and 28° 32′ and 29° 10′ E.

           Bahariya Oasis possesses various natural and cultural resources that qualifies it to be one of the most appealing tourist destinations in Egypt. It is characterized by its rich biodiversity in terms of Flora and Fauna and geological features (Boghdady, 2005). As a result of such significance of biodiversity, three main regions in Bahariya Oasis (Dist 
and Maghrafa mountains, Mandisha Mountain “the English Mountainˮ, and the Black Desert) were declared protectorates with the intention of preserving their natural and cultural heritage(EEAA, 2012).Bahariya Oasis has approximately 268 water springs and wells; warm and cold, rich with minerals that have a great effect in curing rheumatism, rheumatoid and various skin diseases. The medicinal properties of these ancient water springs could turn Bahariya Oasis to a very promising therapeutic tourism destination in Egypt for its dry climate as well (SIS, 2009; Boghdady, 2012; SIS, 2015). 
             Moreover, it enjoys numerous archaeological sitesdating back to different historical periods; the Pharaonic, the Roman, the Christian and a few to the Islamic; such as the ruins of the temple of Alexander the Greatwhich is the only known temple in Egypt to be built in the name of the Greek conqueror, and the Valley of the Mummies which is considered the largest mummy necropolis ever found in Egypt so far. As a matter of fact, Bahariya’s fame as a tourist destination heightened with the discovery of the “Valley of the Golden Mummiesˮ. It also provides a chance to visit the area of the only dinosaurs in Egypt, in addition to the traditional lifestyle of the Bedouin and their rich heritage and various desert folk arts.
              On these grounds, Bahariya Oasis appears as an appealing destination for Ecotourism, Desert/Safari tourism, Heritage tourism, and Therapeutic tourism as well, and needs to be effectively promoted.

 

4  METHODOLOGY

The methodology followed in the present study for the development of a Web GIS application for the tourism promotion of Bahariya Oasisis given in Figure 1 and isbriefly discussed below.

Figure1 Flow Chart of Study Methodology

 

4.1 Data Collection 

 

The study used both primary and secondary data collection methods.  A field study was conducted at Bahariya Oasis for primary data collection purposes; where an inventory of the natural tourism resources of the study area was carried out, coordinates of archaeological sites, tourist services, and infrastructure facilities were marked as well using GPS. As for secondary data collection, the historical background of the Oasis, tourist statistics, and maps were acquired from published and unpublished sources. Landsat 7 Enhanced Thematic Mapper (ETM) satellite image of Bahariya Oasis dated in 25-09-2001 was acquired from Anbar (2015) and used as a basemap.

 

4.2 Information Systems Development

 

·      After collecting spatial and nonspatial data, ArcCatalog was used for creating and managing the spatial datasets. Thereafter, the collected data was edited using ArcMap. The satellite image was georeferenced (Projected Coordinate system WGS 1984 UTM Zone 35N) and a spatial and non-spatial database for Bahariya Oasis was created using ArcGIS 10.2.1. Figure 2 illustrates the flow of data into the GIS when developing a working database for the Web GIS application.

·        

Figure 2 The Data Flow into Bahariya Oasis Geodatabase

Source: (Hamed, 2018, p.119)

 

 

·      The acquired tourism data were categorized into three main feature datasets: Historical and cultural attractions, Natural attractions and Tourism Services. Each one of these datasets has several associated feature classes. Table 1 lists the datasets of Bahariya Oasis. The features' attribute tables were updated with details like its name, address, telephone, … etc. Symbology was also defined in the layers.The data was ready to use after editing the existing layers as well as adding new layers to the database.Figure 3 shows the created data available for developing the web-based GIS application for Bahariya Oasis.

 

Table 1: Available datasets of Bahariya Oasis after Data Processing

No.

Dataset

Feature Class

Type

Description

 

1

 

 

Historical and Cultural attractions

 

Monuments Museums Temples Tombs

 

Point

 

Historical and cultural attractions of Bahariya Oasis.

 

 

2

 

 

Natural attractions

 

Forests Lakes

 

Polygon

 

 

Natural attractions of Bahariya Oasis.

 

Mountains Springs

 

Point

 

 

3

 

 

Tourism Services

 

 

Accommodation Services Sports

 

 

 

Point

 

Various services and facilities which a tourist requires when planning his trip to Bahariya and during his visit to the Oasis, such as tourist information office, hotels, restaurants, bus stops, the tourist police, hospitals, banks and gas stations.

 

4

 

-

 

Roads

 

Line

 

Main Roads from and to Bahariya Oasis.

 

5

 

-

 

Villages

 

Point

 

 

Villages of Bahariya Oasis.

 

6

 

-

 

Borders

 

Polygon

 

Administrative borders of Bahariya Oasis.

Source: (Hamed, 2018, p. 120).

 

Figure 3: Data of Bahariya Oasis available for the application development

Source: (Hamed, 2018, p.121)

 

·      The resultant geo-database was later made web-enabled using open source GIS to develop an online tourism application for promoting Bahariya Oasis. The research study adopted ArcGIS Online for the following reasons:

 

§  It is an easy to use platform meant to act as a Web-based mapping solution for everyone from GIS professionals to those with no formal GIS training.

§  There is no need to install any additional software which is a plus to overcome the problem of limited resources which normally face individual research studies.   

§  It offers access to the server software that ESRI hosts and thus helps solve a lot of the technical issues that arise from using ArcGISfor Server.

§  The resultant Web GIS application can be accessed from any device connected to the Internet.

 

 

5 RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

 

The present study aimed at developing a Web-based GIS application to provide both spatial and non-spatial tourism information, where a GIS-enabled online interactive tourist map of Bahariya Oasis wa designed using ArcGIS Online.

The users interact with the system through a web interface, which informs them about Bahariya Oasis by displaying the following:

·  An interactive map of the Oasis.

·  A table of contents that lists all the visible layers.

·  Links to external websites.

Also, the interface will provide the Internet users with the following functionalities:

·  Basic tools (e.g., Pan, zoom-in/out, identify, measure).

·  Turn on and off layers of interest.

·  Click on the feature points and retrieve associated images and information.

Moreover, the web interface allows Internet visitors to perform simple queries. 

 

5.1 Web GIS Application Development

Once the database was populated, the application was ready to be developed. ArcGIS Online platform was used to publish the geodatabase of Bahariya Oasis as a Web App. with a customized user interface that enhances the map's appearance, adds (or removes) functionality, and helps integrate the map with other media.

To make use of the capabilities of ArcGIS Online, a credential account was created. Afterwards, the data was imported from the geodatabase. In ArcGIS Online the added layers should be in a shapefile format, therefore the feature classes within Bahariya geodatabase were converted into shapefiles and zipped. The zipped file was added to ArcGIS Online and published as a hosted layer. In Map Viewer, the layers were added and their symbology was changed and pop-ups were configured to determine which attributes will be shown when a feature is selected in the map.For example, the field names which were not relevant for the users such as ‘OBJECT ID’ etc. were hidden from being displayed on the map interface. Basemap “OpenStreetMap” was also selected and the map was periodically saved under the name of “Bahariya Interactive Tourist Map”. The developed map can be accessed via the following link: http://arcg.is/0K1jnn

As the application is required for the purpose of tourism and exploring Bahariya Oasis locations, therefore, according to the user requirements, only simple tools were made available to help the users browse the application, such that a naive GIS user can easily navigate the map and perform various functions. Moreover, whenever the mouse pointer comes over the tool, its respective function is dynamically displayed in the form of a tooltip. And finally, a vertical Scrollbar located on the far right of the map window is provided to allow users to move the map window viewing area up and down. Using the scrollbar users can scroll down and click view larger map to open a new window with a clearer view of the map.             

Accordingly, the map tools were divided into three categories as follows: 

·      Map Navigation Tools: Pan, Zoom In, Zoom Out and Home (Default Extent).

·      Attribute Data Retrieval Tools: Identify and Search.  

·      Other Tools: Toggle buttons, Measure, Hyperlink, and Print.

 

5.1.1 Map Navigation Tools

Map navigation tools are the basic tools necessary to work with the interactive map i.e. Pan, zoom in (+)/zoom out (-) or return to default extent.

 

5.1.2 Attribute Data Retrieval Tools

Attribute data retrieval tools such as identify feature and search functions provide the user with the textual data for the map features.

·      Identify Feature:A user can click the map to obtain information about any features at that clicked point where a pop-up appears at that feature's location. 

·      Search Tool:Using the search tool, users can find a location or feature on the map. By default, users can search all available resources. However, for more accurate search results users can choose the option of limiting the search to searchable layers within the map instead of all the available resources by clicking the down arrow in the search box. The map automatically zooms to the result and a pop-up appears at the feature's location.  

 

5.1.3 Miscellaneous Tools

Other tools were also provided in order to help the users operate the map application, such as:

·      A Toggle function in order to switch on or off layers in the legend list. The double arrows button on the left side is used to toggle the Legend/Layer list. By clicking the double arrows, the legend appears on the left side of the map application. This legend consists of a list of all the layers on the map and their corresponding symbols. The Legend displays a total of 14 layers. Each layer is provided with two options: active or inactive which can be achieved by ticking or unticking the checkbox on its left side. When the map is downloaded for the first time, it is set to display all 14 layers of the map. Therefore, if a user wants to clearly see the features of one layer then she/he has to manually tick the checkbox before the respective layer and untick other layers. By clicking the double arrows button again the legend disappears. 

·      A Measure tool to help the users calculate the distance in kilometers/Miles between two or more points on the map.

·      Hyperlink is another function which is very useful for the users in terms of information. In any tourism-based application, hyperlinks are encouraged to give tourists relevant information as much as possible.  For example, information regarding the official websites of Bahariya hotels can be reached using this hyperlink tool available at the pop-up which appears upon clicking a hotel's location.    

·      A Print option which allows the users to create a hard copy of the map.

 

5.2 Online Tourist Application

With the help of this Web-based GIS application, the study aims to effectively promote the tourism activities of Bahariya Oasis and provide users with an innovative way to access the spatial content of the Oasis. To accomplish the objectives of tourism promotion, the study focused on the following requirements when developing Bahariya Interactive Tourist Map: 

  • Creating a user-friendly map; because the interactive map is designated to the potential tourists and tourism professionals who have no prior GIS knowledge. 
  • Keeping the map information clear; since Bahariya Interactive Tourist Map targets naive GIS users looking for tourist attractions and services, the clarity of the interface and the data organization is indispensable.  
  • Adding useful information to the map in order to support the trip planning process. For example, the map provided tourists with detailed information on accommodation services (type, class, services, address, telephone, price, coordinates, and official website link). 
  • Creating an aesthetically pleasing map using symbology; since the main objective is to promote Bahariya Oasis as a tourism destination of choice, thus, Bahariya interactive map must be aesthetically appealing, transmitting good sensations and triggering curiosity about the area.

 

5.3 Publishing

The final step in Web GIS implementation is to put the designed system to actual use by releasing it to the users. Therefore, the Web GIS application was made publicto be shared with everyone. This way, the map HTML can be easily copied andembedded in any externaltourism website (Figure 4).

 

Figure 4: Web GIS application embedded within a Tourism Website

 

It is worth mentioning that the success of the developed Web GIS application for tourism promotion has two main prerequisites; data availability and high internet access speeds.For instance, a tourism application should be equipped with a detailed street network at local level so that the tourists can get rich, and reliable information to freely explore Bahariya Oasis on their own.Actually, the geodatabase of the developed application included only the major roads, as the data available on road names, lengthes, and types was inadequate. This, condsequently, resulted in misleading measure tool results. Moreover, low Internet access speeds is a very important technical barrier; it results in longer response time, which is a great impediment for the users when trying to access the Web GIS application that they could  lose interest, and decide not to use it.

 

6 CONCLUSION

Using open source GIS, this research study has developed a Web GIS application for tourism promotion purposes, which can be used as a value-added service through Egyptian tourism websites as it provides specialized comprehensive information on Bahariya Oasis that can be dissipated to the world wide users.This integrated tourist information system serves as an online interactive guide for tourists coming fromfar destinations which helps them explore the Oasis's tourist activities and decide their own tours in an appropriate manner by performing simple online GIS queries and analysis. The developed application can also assist tourist officals to promote the tourist activities and increase foreign revenue as open source GIS applications are continually evolving to deliver better security, better quality, more control in addition to that fact that they can be easily customized and tailored to the organization's exact needs and purpose. Therefore, Oss web-mapping appears as a powerful alternative for ETA that allows broad accessibility without requiring recurring licensing fees or proper training and operational knowledge. Thus, it can significantly improve the ETA's tourism marketing efforts and help them promote the Egyptian destination effectively with the least possible costs.

Despite the great potentials of Web GIS applications for promoting tourism destinations, there is a number of obstacles that may limit the potentials of such applications in Egypt. For example, data availability and communication infrastucture are among these obstacles that represent a big challenge to the successful implementation of GIS-data-driven intelligence in Egypt.

Future research to be done can includeevaluating the developed Web GIS application from a user perspective; this includes the point of views of both tourists and tourist officials in order to get their feedback on the perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use. This can be achieved through carrying out usability evaluation techniques in order to assure that the developed tourist applicationprovides satisfactory performance and is of high significance to all key-tourism actors in the process of adopting the necessary measures for creating a competitive tourism product.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

The study was carried out as a part of an unpublished PhD. Dissertation titled "GIS-enabled Tourism Portals as an Innovative Tool for Tourism Promotion: An Applied Study on Bahariya Oasis", Tourism Studies Department, Faculty of Tourism and Hotels, Alexandria University, Egypt.

 

 

 

REFERENCES

Anbar, M. A. (2015), The Climatological and Environmental Hazards in Bahariya Oasis Depression: A    

           study using Remote Sensing Techniques and Geographical Information Systems Applications’. PhD.

          Dissertation, Geography Department, Faculty of Arts, Cairo University, Egypt (in Arabic). 

Argyropoulou, A., Dionyssopoulou, P. & Miaoulis, G. (2011), Tourist Destination Marketing and

          Management Using Advanced ICTs’. In Advances on Information Processing and Management.

           Proceedings of the International Conference on Integrated Information, Kos, Greece, September 29th   

         – October 3rd, pp. 365-369, Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Boghdady, M.D. (2005), Land Forms Resulting from Wind Action in Bahariya Oasis Depression: A

          geomorphologic Study. MSc. Thesis, Geography Department, Faculty of Arts, Minufiya University,

          Egypt (in Arabic).

Boghdady, M.D. (2012), Application of GIS and Remote Sensing in Geo-environmental Assessment for

           Support of Sustainable Development of Bahariya Oasis Depression. PhD. Dissertation, Geography

           Department, Faculty of Arts, Mansoura University, Egypt (in Arabic). 

Drummond W.J. & French S.P. (2008), The future of GIS in planning: Converging technologies and

           diverging interests’, Journal of American Planning 74(2), pp.161-174.

Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (2012), Natural reserves in Egypt; Laws, Regulations and 
           Agreements related to them. Cairo: Ministry of Environment (MOE) (in Arabic).

Hamed, R.A. (2018), GIS-enabled Tourism Portals as an Innovative Tool for Tourism Promotion: An

           Applied Study on Bahariya Oasis’. PhD. Dissertation, Tourism Studies Department, Faculty of

          Tourism and Hotels, Alexandria University, Egypt.  

Madasu, P. (2013), Social Media Marketing and Promotion of Tourism’, Management Insight 9(1), pp.71-

           80.

Markos, A. (2012), Web GIS for Tourism Development of Bahir Dar town and its surroundings, Ethiopia’.

           MSc. Thesis, Faculty of Science, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia. 

Petrevska, B. & Koceski, S. (2012), Enhancing Tourism Promotion by enriched Web-based Portal’, BH

           Economic Forum 4, pp. 259-274.    

Sambhanthan, A. & Good, A. (2014), Strategic Advantage in Web Tourism Promotion: An e-Commerce

           Strategy for Developing Countries’, International Journal of Information Systems in the Service

          Sector (IJISSS) 6 (3), pp.1-21.

State Information Service (2009), Therapeutic Tourism [online]. Cairo: SIS. Available from:

          http://www.sis.gov.eg/En/Templates/Articles/tmpArticles .aspx?CatID=429#. Vks 7ZrcrLIU.html

          [Accessed 17 October 2017].

State Information Service (2015), Cultural Tourism [online]. Cairo: SIS’. Available from:  
         http://www.sis.gov.eg/En/Templates/Articles/tmpArticles .aspxCatID=4840#.VsSvWf l97lU.html  
         [Accessed 30 December 2017]. 

Supak, S.K., Devine, H.A., Brothers, G.L., Rozier Rich, S. & Shen, W. (2014), An open source web-

         mapping system for tourism planning and marketing, Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing31(7),

         pp. 835-853.

Tan C.H. (2003), Application of Geographic Information System in a Web-based Query System for

         Farmland Irrigation in Taiwan’, [online].  Taiwan: Agricultural Engineering Research Center.

         Available from: https://www.geospatialworld.net/ [Accessed 25 October 2017].

Tyagi, N. (2014), Web GIS application for customized Tourist Information System for Eastern U. P., India,

          Journal of Geomatics 8(1), pp. 1-6.