Google and Tourism New Zealand today announce a jointly created Google Earth mash-up site, which provides geographic and general information about New Zealand locations, visitor centres and scenic highlights.
It is a huge opportunity for Tourism New Zealand to be associated with Google Earth, says Minister of Tourism Damien O'Connor. The partnership with Google could potentially expose the www.newzealand.com website to Google Earth’s 200 million unique users. Tourism New Zealand’s official website has around 500,000 visitors in peak months, according to O’Connor.
Google has partnered with other organisations — such as National Geographic, the United Nations Environmental Program and Discovery Networks — to develop layers for Google Earth in the past, but this is the first time the search engine giant has worked with a tourism organisation to create a layer, says Rob Shilkin, Google’s recently-appointed head of communications for Australia and New Zealand.
Tourism New Zealand has provided information for the “100% Pure New Zealand” layer, which graphically illustrates visitor centres, “Points of Interest” (towns) and “Bubbles” (scenic highlights) on Google Earth. There is also a link to www.newzealand.com.
New Zealander Craig Nevill-Manning, Google's head of engineering in New York, is in New Zealand for the launch and also to speak at the 5th New Zealand Computer Science Research Student Conference held at the University of Waikato.
"The ‘100% Pure New Zealand’ layer will allow users worldwide to explore the best that New Zealand has to offer,” he says. “It will also show how Google Earth can serve as a dynamic tool for discovery."
Originally from Blenheim, Nevill-Manning studied at Canterbury and Waikato universities before leaving for the US eleven years ago. He started working at Google in California six years ago, but moved to New York to start up Google’s software development centre there four years ago. Today, he is in charge of 350 software engineers at the New York centre.
“It’s a lot of fun working for Google,” he says. “Among the best things are building things that people use. The fact that [we are] building and improving products that we know hundreds of millions of people across the world are using is very rewarding.”
“It is a really interesting environment to be in, kind of like being at graduate school at university, but you are actually building real things,” he says.
Google now has an office in Sydney and has started hiring software engineers and computer scientists in Australasia, he says. It is “certainly possible” that Google will open shop in New Zealand, he says, but the company has no plans to do so at the moment.