Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Google Maps making its mark among Malaysians

THE online map, which is becoming popular globally, is a new business opportunity for the Malaysian market. It is also an alternative tool in promoting tourism, instead of the conventional advertising platform like the print and electronic media.

“Many people are realising the benefits of online mapping as there is so much more information you can obtain from it,” says South-East Asia marketing head of Google Inc, Derek Callow.

People can look out for places they would travel to or seek information, such as hotel or restaurant listings, and places of interest to visit and events though the online map, he says.

“It would be a great tool to showcase beautiful and diverse Malaysia to the rest of the world.


“Malaysians, for instance, are becoming avid users of Google Maps Malaysia to search for geographic information online,” he says, adding that many people are already creating their own customised maps for personal use or to be shared publicly.

For instance, many food bloggers have listed their favourite eateries and included them on their websites or blogs.

Google Inc operates Google Maps, the number one online map in the world, and launched its Google Maps Malaysia in May this year.

It is more than just addresses and directions. It is a virtual guidebook filled with detailed, up-close information on local places and businesses with local insights, photos and videos created by people who live or have been there, and more.

On the profit that can be generated from the online map service, Callow says the company is not focusing on monetising Google Maps. “Our goal is to provide a free online map platform to connect users and businesses with geographic information.

“Businesses are encouraged to add their company listings and details for free on Google Maps, for example.”

What are the business opportunities that the market can explore on the online map service?

As Google is providing a free marketing channel for Malaysian businesses and small and medium enterprises to be listed on Google Maps, it is thus directing potential customers to their sites.

“Businesses can increase their visibility online by registering their details for free under the service,” he says, adding that business owners can also view detailed information about how users would interact with their listings, and attract more online traffic and potential customers to their businesses.

Vincent Kok, the chief operating officer of Creative Advances Technology Sdn Bhd, the operator of Virtual Malaysia Google Mapplets, says online maps have become more accessible nowadays, especially free maps with street information.


Virtual Malaysia is chosen by Google Maps to be the only travel content partner in Malaysia.

“Our own traffic statistics have shown that since we launched our new geocoded map, such usage has grown by 140%,” Kok says, adding that its maps are also linked to travel packages, and driving directions with estimates of travelling time to the desired destinations.

“We think that maps are more popular in Western countries as street information has been available in those countries for a long time. As for Malaysia, we see the potential usage of online maps growing,” he says.

Other sites that provide street-mapping information for Malaysia include maps.yahoo.com, streetdirectory.com/malaysia and maps.mapking.com, malaysia-maps.com, and map.com.my.

“Maps are an integral part of the travel-planning experience and not being listed could limit the opportunity for them (destinations) to be discovered by travellers,” he says.

From a user’s point of view, Ang Yong Shing says the online map is very useful, especially for someone who is new to a place.

“It helps us to know more about the location and its landmarks,” he says, adding that it is efficient in promoting the tourism industry as this is a free advertising channel.

He urges travel agencies to upload their listings on the online map.

Unfortunately, he says, some of the small places or roads are not visible as the online map is only popular in cities but not really rural areas due to the lower usage of the Internet service.

Source : STAR
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