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Google Maps deterring outback tourists, say small firms

An unidentified woman holds a phone showing a Google Maps icon Image copyright Getty Images

Tourism operators in Australia claim inaccuracies in Google Maps are deterring potential visitors, by making remote attractions appear further away than they actually are.

The Queensland government in north-east Australia has complained to Google, which says it will look into the issue.

Firms looking to promote their small towns as remote tourist destinations say Google Maps inflates travel times.

Outback businesses say errors in the map app can add hours to a journey.

'Confidence'

"People aren't coming to places because they think it takes too long, or they're missing opportunities to refuel and they're getting sent off on another road that has no fuel [outlets]," Robyn Mackenzie, of the Eromanga Natural History Museum, told national broadcaster ABC.

"People will get frightened of travelling in the outback, because they don't have any confidence in the mapping," the general manager of the small town museum added.

In one case, the journey time from Birdsville, on the Queensland border, up to the Western Star Hotel in Windorah, in the centre of the state, was estimated to be close to 11 hours by Google Maps.

After claims the time was inaccurate, Google changed the estimated time to about 7 hours and 45 minutes. But locals say the drive is closer to four hours with no stops.

'Accurate model'

Now the state government has been in touch with Google.

"We are so dependent on these apps now to get us around cities, to get us around towns and to get us around big states like Queensland," acting Queensland premier Cameron Dick told the ABC.

"We need to ensure that those apps and the information they are providing are as accurate as possible."

Google, which takes mapping information from a range of sources, including public information and data from users, said it was investigating.

"Google Maps strives to accurately model and reflect the real world," the firm said in a statement.

"We are investigating to see what may have happened here and will take the appropriate action. We apologise if any businesses or communities have been affected negatively due to errors on the map."

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