Michigan chosen as 1st Midwest partner for Google views

Michigan has been selected as the first Midwest state to partner with Google on making photos of travel destinations available through Google Maps.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, Travel Michigan Vice President David West and Steve Silverman from Google Maps announced the partnership Monday at the Michigan Tourism Conference in Grand Rapids.

“The Pure Michigan campaign has elevated Michigan as a national travel destination, and we are taking that one step further by having these images globally accessible on Google Maps,” Calley said in a statement. “This initiative combines our natural beauty with innovative technology in a way that really speaks to all that Michigan has to offer visitors, residents and businesses alike.”

The partnership between Google and Pure Michigan will make attractions such as Mackinac Island, Sleeping Bear Dunes and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore viewable online through Google Street View with 360 degree imagery.

More than 44,000 panoramic photos were taken last fall by members and volunteers of the Pure Michigan team and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The images were captured using Google Trekker, a backpack system with a camera on top.

A new report was also released at the Michigan Tourism Conference on Monday, showing the state’s tourism industry grew in 2014 despite the cold, wet year, and the tourism outlook is sunny going forward.

The Michigan State University report said 2014 was 6 percent cooler and 11 percent wetter than normal. Even so, hotel occupancy was up 2 percent and car traffic increased 1 percent, according to the report.

The researchers said 2015 should be another year of growth for tourism in the state. The number of people traveling to and around the state is expected to increase 1.5 percent this year.

Tourism spending is also expected to climb an estimated 2.5 percent from 2014.

The state predictions fall in line with a nationwide trend of people spending a higher percentage of their income on leisure travel, which represents a larger portion of Michigan’s tourism industry than business travel.

Tourism supported 200,000 jobs and generated $18.7 billion in direct spending in 2013, the researchers found.  (AP)

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