Baidu's map service ventures outside China
SEARCH-ENGINE giant Baidu is gearing up to take its mapping services beyond borders with an ambitious goal to have 50 per cent of its map users coming from outside China by 2020.
The Beijing-based Internet company said on Tuesday that it will launch Baidu Map in more than 150 countries and regions by the year end, with an initial plan to serve the navigation demand of China's more than 100 million outbound travellers.
"Then, we will gradually launch mapping services in local languages and gain overseas users. The ultimate goal is to build Baidu Map into a truly globalised mapping service provider," said Li Dongmin, general manager of Baidu Map.
The plan puts Baidu Map, which has more than 300 million monthly active users in China, in competition with top global provider Google Map.
Baidu Map, which started to offer overseas services in 2014, has already expanded to 18 countries, mostly in Asia-Pacific, such as Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Singapore.
Baidu said the surging demand from Chinese outbound travellers is the main reason for it to speed up the expansion plan.
Statistics from the China National Tourism Administration showed that Chinese travellers made 120 million outbound trips last year, the world's most.
About 80 million of the trips were made by self-guided individual travellers, suggesting major demand for mobile mapping services.
Zhang Xu, who is in charge of transport-related research at Internet consultancy Analysys International, said: "With the number of Chinese outbound travellers (continuing to rise), an increasing number of them would want to use a mapping service they're already familiar with and comfortable to use in China."
But whether Baidu Map can win the hearts of those who were born and raised outside China is still a question.
To compete with other mapping services in overseas markets, Baidu said it is working to integrate more local services - such as restaurant booking and ride hailing - into the mapping service, like it does in China.
THE CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK