Business Impact Article
Posted: 9/14/2012
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City of Luxor, Egypt Egyptian World Heritage Site Launches Mobile Portal to Enhance and Revitalize Local Tourism

The city of Luxor, Egypt, wants to help up to 12,000 daily visitors to its temples, tombs, and other historical sites get the most out of their trip, while supporting its tourism industry by helping visitors find tour guides, hotels, restaurants, transportation, and other services. In 2012, the Egyptian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) launched the Luxor Mobile Portal, powered by Windows Azure and designed specifically for smartphones running the Windows Phone 7 operating system. Now visitors can now use a single mobile application to take virtual tours of historical sites and locate services in Luxor, and MCIT has helped support one of the most important segments of the Luxor economy.

Summary
The city of Luxor, Egypt, is the site of the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes. Tourism is a significant part of the city’s economy, with as many as 12,000 people a day visiting the World Heritage Site. “We need to offer foreign visitors the information they want, and help them find the services they need, while also serving the people who live and work in Luxor,” says Wafaa Hassan, Governorate Development Consultant at the Egyptian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT).

In 2011, the sweeping social change taking place in Egypt reduced tourism by almost 75 percent, and MCIT wanted to harness the power of new technologies to help bring visitors back to Luxor. The ministry worked with independent software vendor (ISV) Tagipedia to develop the Luxor Mobile Portal, designed for smartphones running the Windows Phone 7 operating system and powered by Windows Azure. By scanning quick response tags installed at designated sites in Luxor, visitors can activate virtual tours on their phone—complete with links to historical material—or get regional information about guided tours, lodging, and other services.

Now tourists can use a single mobile application to find their way around Luxor, fully experience the richness of its historical sites, and even make hotel reservations. “With the Luxor Mobile Portal, we can provide visitors with a much richer experience,” says Hassan. “It’s like having a tour guide in the palm of your hand.”

By launching the Luxor Mobile Portal, MCIT has helped support one of the most important aspects of the Luxor economy and enhanced the city’s ability to serve visitors and local businesses in Luxor. The city can more effectively promote its historical sites, and, as the mobile portal expands, Luxor can cross-market with other regions. By July 2012, the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities wanted to deploy similar portals for other sites in Egypt, and South Sinai was interested in a portal to promote its beaches, activities, and resorts.

The Full Story

Promoting World Heritage and a Local Economy
Luxor, Egypt, is a modern metropolis, the capital of Luxor Governorate, with a population of almost 500,000. Luxor is also the site of the Ancient city of Thebes—a United Nations World Heritage Site—which includes the temple complexes at Karnak and Luxor, the West Bank Necropolis on the Nile River, the Valley of the Kings, and the Valley of the Queens. As many as 12,000 visitors a day come to see what has been called one of the world’s great open air museums.
 
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* As the political situation in Egypt stabilizes and tourism increases, we can scale up Windows Azure easily and duplicate the success of the Luxor Mobile Portal in other cities. *

Dr. Hesham Farouk Ali
E-Content Department Manager, Egyptian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology

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Tourism is a significant part of the city’s economy, generating E£400 million (US$66 million) a year. Luxor wants to encourage people around the world to visit its temples, tombs, and other historical treasures, and help visitors get the most out of that experience. To help support the local tourist industry and promote amenities offered in the modern city, Luxor also needs to help visitors find tour guides, hotels, restaurants, entertainment, transportation, and vital services.

“Luxor is an important cultural site and an international travel destination. We need to offer foreign visitors the information they want and help them find the services they need, and still serve the people who live and work in Luxor,” says Wafaa Hassan, Governorate Development Consultant at the Egyptian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT). MCIT works with public entities in Egypt to help introduce new technologies and develop new business models that can be repeated throughout Egyptian society.

New Opportunities, New Technologies
In 2011, Egypt entered a period of sweeping social change, which, while generally positive, reduced tourism in Egypt by almost 75 percent. Observers have noted the role that new technologies, such as that of social media, smartphones, and other mobile devices, played in the country’s transformation. MCIT wanted to harness the power of these technologies to help bring visitors back to Luxor.

MCIT began working with Tagipedia, an independent software vendor based in Cairo, to help develop the Luxor Mobile Portal. Visitors to Luxor can use smartphones running the Windows Phone 7 operating system to scan quick response (QR) tags installed at monument sites, visitor centers, and other locations around Luxor. The QR tags activate virtual tours of specific sites, with text, images, sound, and video. When visitors scan a Luxor Mobile Portal QR tag at a temple or other site, they can take the virtual tour of that site and follow links to related monuments. They can also search the portal for historical material or information about guided tours, lodging, dining, bank and ATM locations, and other services available in Luxor, with the ability to instantly connect with the businesses or organizations online or by direct phone call.

Tagipedia and MCIT originally supported the Luxor Mobile Portal with a private cloud environment and Windows Azure, the Microsoft cloud service development, hosting, and management environment. According to Dr. Hesham Farouk Ali, E-Content Department Manager at MCIT, scalability of Windows Azure is a key benefit; seasonal increases and decreases in tourism directly affect demands on application usage, so MCIT quickly decided to manage the Luxor Mobile Portal solely with Windows Azure. The portal uses Windows Azure Blob storage and SQL Database to store and manage data. When a user scans a QR code, Tagipedia technology hosted in Windows Azure identifies the application associated with the code, and either runs the program from within Tagipedia—as with the Luxor Mobile Portal—or allows the user to download the app from another source.

For the Luxor Mobile Portal, Tagipedia manages the Windows Azure infrastructure and operates analytics tools to monitor the application, estimate tourism levels or evaluate marketing campaigns, and deliver reports to Luxor. Luxor staff manages content on the portal. “If a new bank or other service opens in Luxor, city staff can easily add the new information to the Luxor website and the mobile portal with a single update, which saves significant time,” says Hassan.




Reaching New Travelers
In March 2012, MCIT launched the Luxor Mobile Portal and installed permanent signs with QR tags at monument sites and other locations in Luxor. MCIT will also distribute tags with promotional material on airline flights and in magazine advertisements, so from anywhere in the world, users can scan a tag with a Windows Phone 7 device, take a tour of the sites at Luxor, and even begin planning a trip.

Once they are in Luxor, visitors can use a single mobile application to fully experience some of the most important historical sites on Earth, find their way around Luxor, have a meal, and even make hotel reservations (Figure 1). “With the Luxor Mobile Portal we can provide visitors to Luxor a much richer experience,” says Hassan. “It’s like having a tour guide in the palm of your hand.”

Real Impact on Regional Tourist Industry
By launching the Luxor Mobile Portal, MCIT has helped support one of the most important aspects of the Luxor economy and enhanced the city’s ability to serve visitors and local businesses.

The city can track and analyze its marketing campaigns, so it can more effectively promote its historical sites. And, as the mobile portal expands, Luxor can cross-market with other historical sites, resorts, or regional activities, such as hot-air balloon trips or photo-safaris. By July 2012, the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities wanted to deploy similar portals for other sites in Egypt, and South Sinai was interested in a portal to promote its beaches, activities, and resorts. “As the political situation in Egypt stabilizes and tourism increases, we can scale up Windows Azure easily and duplicate the success of the Luxor Mobile Portal in other cities,” says Farouk Ali.

Figure 1.
Figure 1. When visitors scan a Luxor Mobile Portal QR tag with
their Windows Phone 7 smartphone, they can take a virtual tour,
navigate to more historical material, or find information about
services available in Luxor

















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Solution Overview



Organization Size: 2000 employees

Organization Profile
Luxor, Egypt, is the capital of Luxor Governorate, with a population of almost 500,000 people. The site of the Ancient Egyptian city of Thebes, Luxor hosts as many as 12,000 visitors a day.

Software and Services
  • Windows Phone 7
  • Microsoft Azure SQL Database
  • Microsoft Azure

Vertical Industries
Government

Country/Region
Egypt

Business Need
  • Business Productivity
  • Customer Service Management

Languages
English

Partner(s)
Tagipedia

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