|New technology may not be the first industry that comes to mind when you think of businesses that can help increase tourism, but for the city of Detroit, some help from Google’s brand new mapping technology and from new start-up travel services, might just put Michigan’s once-popular tourist destinations “back on the map,” as the Detroit News describes it.
State officials have been organizing the Pure Michigan campaign for a while now, focusing on ways to increase tourism in the state, especially after the fall of the auto industry during 2007-2008 (which was the primary industry for the state, and which contributed to an overall decrease in the quality of living for residents).
By partnering with Google, the Pure Michigan campaign has made Michigan the first Midwest state to use Google’s 360-degree “Trekker” technology, which provides a complete navigable view of popular tourist attractions, including Mackinac Island and the Sleeping Bear Dunes. Although Google Street View already provides an up-close view of many regions throughout Michigan, the Detroit News explains that many popular tourist attractions have never been accessible on Street View.
The service is free for internet users, and the organizers of Pure Michigan are hoping that it will help convince more people to visit the state; with more planning resources available, travelers are more likely to find destinations online that they’d enjoy seeing in person.
And making those destinations even more feasible are small “peer-to-peer sharing sites,” which appear to be driving forces in the state’s tourism industry at the moment. These sites, like Airbnb, allow residents to rent out their homes to travelers who want “a more authentic living situation than what a hotel could offer.”
The Detroit News notes that these sites have come under increased scrutiny lately, particularly in regards to taxes but also because of questionable security policies. On one hand, these informal rental opportunities are taking some money away from conventional tourism-related businesses, like major restaurants and hotels.
On the other hand, however, it appears that more people are using such arrangements in order to take affordable vacations and avoid the major tourist traps that take away from a city’s authenticity.
Between the use of Google Trekker and independent peer-to-peer sharing businesses, one thing is clear: the tourism industry has changed a lot since the rise of the digital age. It’s possible to “visit” and learn about nearly any city or famous site, so in order to make trips worth the cost, travelers want to make sure that they’re getting the most individualized trip possible.