Technology, Tourism, and Nonmotorized Transportation

Google and Pure Michigan teamed up to produce 44,000 panoramic shots of Michigan’s premiere natural, landmark, and historic destinations. Lt. Gov. Brian Calley excitedly introduced the initiative at the Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism. “[It] opens up all Michigan has to offer to the rest of the world,” Calley told the Free Press. The results utilize and present Michigan’s offering of non-motorized transportation options. Michigan’s tourism industry is largely fueled by bicycling, walking, and canoeing.

Google transformed Street View cameras into the Google Trekker, a 40-pound version fit to a hiking backpack instead of an automobile. The new incarnation allows adventurous volunteers to map out areas unreachable by the traditional car system. It provides a worldwide interactive gateway to famous locations, including the Grand Canyon, Taj Mahal, Great Pyramids, and the Galapagos Islands. Michigan is the first Midwestern location mapped by Trekker. Over 43 Michigan locations have been mapped, including the State Capitol, Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Mackinac Island, Sleeping Bear Dunes and various water and land trails.

Google Trekker captures the action at Tahquamenon Falls State Park

Google Trekker captures the action at Tahquamenon Falls State Park

Much of Michigan’s attraction is in the natural beauty of the state, much of which cannot be traveled by the traditional Google street view camera, which is attached to the top of an automobile. Google Trekker communicates through the power of images, including unique views from the top of the Mackinac Bridge. This opens up new possibilities for a national and international audience to experience the authentic setting on historic, car-free Mackinac Island. Not to mention that Michigan contains thousands of miles of non-motorized trails, a portion of which can now be explored remotely. Volunteers also paddled their way down miles of river trails. Views of the Detroit Riverwalk help showcase the walkability of urban Detroit. Social media has already provided a powerful platform for the Pure Michigan campaign, as people share images of the state that can reach around the world– just search #puremichigan on instagram and you’ll know what we mean–but Google Trekker adds an interactive dimension.

The Mackinac Bridge at sunset.

The Mackinac Bridge at sunset epitomizes Pure Michigan’s breathtaking beauty.

Tourism is a powerful driver of economic development for the state. In 2014 113.4 million out-of-state visitors spent $22.8 billion in Michigan and the Pure Michigan campaign generated $6.87 for every dollar spent. Tourism spending directly supported 214,333 jobs. Gov. Snyder sees the tourism industry as a “strong pillar in our state’s economic foundation” that can “showcase all our state has to offer to a national and global audience, fuel new growth, and create new jobs.” International visitors contributed a notable 6.1% to tourism sales last year, and offers a potential for future growth.

The potential reach of the Pure Michigan campaign through the internet is immense, and can reach these growing numbers of international visitors. “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,” the lieutenant governor told Metro Times, “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.” Google has successfully utilized nonmotorized transportation to engage and showcase the state’s walkability and myriad of other recreational opportunities.

Discover the walkability of Urban Detroit's Downtown RiverWalk via Google Trekker.

Discover the walkability of Urban Detroit’s Downtown RiverWalk via Google Trekker.

Visit the Pure Michigan website to experience all destinations.

Written by Elle Getschman, Trans4M Fellow


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