After two days, Pokemon Go was installed on five percent of all Android devices. In just two days! In only week, its daily active user count is more than Twitter and it’s not slowing down either. With so many people downloading and playing the location-based game, it’s no wonder attractions, restaurants, and others in the travel industry are looking for ways to capitalize on the phenomenon. That’s a great thing for family travel.
How Pokemon Go is Changing Travel
There has been a lot written about Pokemon Go by people a lot smarter than me, but here are a few reasons why I’m excited to see where this goes and why I think it’s a terrific thing for travel.
Poke Stops: If you don’t play the game, a Poke Stop is a place where you can get Poke balls and other items that can feed or heal your Pokemon. The Poke Stop is often, but not always, a landmark in the community. For instance, there are many Poke Stops at state and national parks. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, in a single weekend, “hundreds if not thousands of people armed with smart phones swarmed onto the National Mall and Memorial Parks in Washington.” In my home state of Georgia, more than 500 people gathered in the small town square of Marietta, Ga. to catch Pokemon!
So what does this mean for travel? Well, it’s a great way to get folks to some of the more ‘undiscovered’ places, the small towns, the off-the-beaten path locations. Many of the Poke Stops show a picture of the actual stop, as well as information about the stop. Imagine if you could put together a tour of an area using Poke Stops? Or at a minimum, just expand on the information given at the Poke Stop? Of course, getting players to look up from their phones – maybe even put them away for a bit – and interact at the site, is a different story. But think about the possibilities. The hardest part of any adventure is to get going. Pokemon Go gets you out. Now the task is to experience where you go beyond just capturing Pidgey or Rattata, but hey, it’s a start.
Lures: Within the game, anyone can set up a lure. Think a fishing pole with a really delicious worm on the end that attracts Pokemon. This is a great way for destinations to attract Pokemon, and visitors. I received an email this week that Main Event Entertainment locations were Poke Stops, and/or Poke Gyms. To capitalize on the fun, Main Event was hosting a celebration. Setting lures during specific days and times to attract Pokemon (and Pokemon Go players), then offering them a $5 FUNcard to stay and play some real world games.
Local restaurants can use lures to attract Pokemon Go players during off hours. My nephew was chasing Pokemon and discovered a new restaurant. They ended up staying for dinner. I’ve thought lures are a great way to keep kids occupied at a restaurant while you wait for dinner. For a few bucks, set a lure, and watch as the kids capture Pokemon after Pokemon. Or maybe don’t watch and enjoy your cocktail in peace.
It seems everyone is getting into the action trying to figure out the best way to capitalize on the Pokemon Go craze. Six Flags Over Georgia has posted a Pokemon Players Guide for the park. In addition to telling users where all the Poke Stops and gyms are located, they offer advice on how to play the game. For instance, I didn’t know you could retrieve your spent Pokeballs if you act fast and tap them after a throw.
Setting Guidelines for Pokemon Go Stops
Of course, not all Pokemon Go stops are appropriate. The Holocaust Museum in Washington DC has asked that all Pokemon activity be discontinued at the museum because they deem it inappropriate for the site. I understand that. It would be terrific if developers were able to work with convention and visitors bureaus to put together a Pokemon Go strategy for their area. They could give some love to locations that might be hidden gems, and then offer the user additional information about the location, similar to a scavenger hunt. In addition, stops approved by a CVB could assist with the safety issues of Pokemon Go – if it’s an authorized stop, chances are, it’s safe. How fun would it be if an area could create their own Pokémon? Maybe you could capture the Olympic mascot, or the mascot for a particular attraction?
It will be interesting to see where Pokemon Go takes us, and how it changes how we explore our surroundings, and how we explore travel destinations