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Travel CD ROMs have yet to find a home in market

Even though information presented through multi-media technology - Internet, CD ROMs, virtual reality - is all the rage in an information-crazed world, Slovakia has yet to capture that spirit. Recently, however, manufacturers have tried to wed theory to practice by promoting one of Slovakia's greatest assets and future prospects, tourism, through CD ROM technology.
Thanks to Slovakia's extensive mountains, quiet village life and numerous castles, promoting tourism seemed like a natural business venture. However, a combination of slow growth in the tourist industry and a lack of hardware to support CD ROMs has meant that travel books with a similar content sell much better than CD ROMs. CD ROM makers, however, have not lost hope that the market will grow.

Even though information presented through multi-media technology - Internet, CD ROMs, virtual reality - is all the rage in an information-crazed world, Slovakia has yet to capture that spirit. Recently, however, manufacturers have tried to wed theory to practice by promoting one of Slovakia's greatest assets and future prospects, tourism, through CD ROM technology.

Thanks to Slovakia's extensive mountains, quiet village life and numerous castles, promoting tourism seemed like a natural business venture. However, a combination of slow growth in the tourist industry and a lack of hardware to support CD ROMs has meant that travel books with a similar content sell much better than CD ROMs. CD ROM makers, however, have not lost hope that the market will grow.

Another factor contributing to low sales of travel CD ROMs has been the inevitable high price due to production costs. "The price of CD ROMs may be the cause," said Darina Švihranová, deputy manager at Academia bookstore in downtown Bratislava. She pointed out that the price of tourist and travel CD ROMs ranges from Sk 390 ($11) to 4,000 ($120) per CD, depending mainly on the amount of installed information.

Eva Reháková, Project Manager at European Databank (EDB) Slovakia, believed that the lack of interest from computer users in multi-media was due to insufficient hardware, either at home or at the office. "Very few travel agencies are equipped with the hardware needed to use CD ROMs," said Reháková

Low CD ROM sales haven't deterred manufacturers though. EDB recently released a new CD ROM version of "Accommodation in Slovakia and the Czech Republic," which combines information about accommodation possibilities with supplementary information on entertainment and sports facilities, and which is available at EDB offices for 599 Sk ($18). "We believe that the project has fine prospects," he said. "It [CD ROM] has been met with a great response, and many people like it just because it's easy to use," Reháková said.

Anton Magula, Director of MAPA Slovakia, the cartography company that recently released a CD ROM map of Bratislava for 984 Sk ($30), is also optimistic about CD ROMs. "This was our first attempt to enter multimedia," he said. "However much we tried, we just could not put in any pictures and video sequences on the CD this time," Magula explained, adding that the visual material tended to be more understandable and might attract more customers. Magula said that they would monitor response to this first release before upgrading the product.

Many information technology (IT) media producers claim that a travel or tourist oriented CD ROM is not a product with a large market. Erika Liptáková, Director of Future Media Slovakia, an international IT media producer and distributor, expressed her reaction, after releasing a CD that gave information about Bratislava's center, as "never again!" She said that selling the whole release of 500 copies would hardly cover the costs. "A return on investment can only be reached by paid advertising."

In February 1998, All For All (AFA), a private IT agency from eastern Slovakia, finished a three year process and finally released a pack of four CD ROMs that contain global information on Slovakia's regions, including 6,000 photos, and a few hours of spoken commentary in both Slovak and English. "We did it all on our own," said Vladimír Štelbacky, AFA Director. "The state [institutions] had no intention of supporting us. All they did was give us a 'keep-going' pat on the back."

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