Following the opening of its first ever office in Thailand, internet giant Google has revealed that its Street View feature will be introduced to the country in association with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).
In a recent op-ed released to media, Google’s newly appointed Country Manager, Ariya Panomyong, revealed that proportionally “no other country in the world sends as many visitors to [Google Maps] as Thailand does”, making the decision to introduce Street View a logical one.
It is likely to take the Street View team between two and three years to collect enough data to add the feature to Thailand’s maps, which is where TAT comes in.
The organisation has invited Thais to come forward and propose their favourite parts of the country which should be included in Street View. The most popular places will be captured by the Google team and made available via Street View, a move that the TAT believes will help raise awareness of Thailand’s most visit-worthy places amongst tourists, both domestically and overseas.
Suraphon Svetasreni, the governor of Tourism Authority of Thailand outlined the thinking behind the partnership with Google to The Nation:
The internet is a powerful platform for raising awareness and increasing travel to and around Thailand and with Google cars ready to start capturing images today, we see the long term output of Street View as a real opportunity for Thailand to showcase its tourist destinations and unique culture to the world while strengthening our economy.
While Street View is undoubtedly a popular feature with many internet users, it remains to be seen exactly how much visibility it can provide. Like many Southeast Asian destinations popular with tourists, Thailand and its hotspots are served by a huge number of travel guides – both on and offline – with a growing number of blogs and websites showcasing other, less known places.
Street View alone is unlikely to make a huge difference to Thailand’s visitor numbers but it might give the TAT a platform from which to be creative. The TAT has made a concerted effort to use the internet and social media amongst its marketing efforts, like other tourism authorities in neighbouring countries, and it will be interesting to see if further competitions are spun off from the introduction of Google Street View.
Neighbouring Singapore has enjoyed Street View since 2009 and with Google now actively expanding its presence in the region, it seems only a matter of time before other countries will be supported too.
Thailand has an interesting history with Google and its maps after the service caused controversy last year when Cambodia accused the search giant of “radically misleading” with its interpretation of a disputed Thai-Cambodia border area.
UPDATE: As Aman Firdaus notes, Malaysia is set to get Street View for the first time too and Google is conducting a poll to decide which landmarks the Street View trike should capture as part of the rollout.