Let’s catch ‘em all in tourism


Unless you live under a rock, it’s almost impossible to miss the hype Pokémon Go has unleashed around the world in the last two months. Based on the 1990s game but levelled up with the latest technology, this augmented reality (AR)  game has taken the world by storm since its release in more than 70 countries.

Thanks to its virality, there are now more people than usual walking around with their eyes locked on their phones, raking up Poké-related complaints of people walking into traffic, reckless driving and even causing stampedes. But the Pokémon Go craze has also spurred novel services such as private car/motorbike services to chauffeur Pokéholics to nab the elusive Snorlax or Dragonite.

Seeing the possibility of attracting existing and new visitors through the game, Singapore Wildlife Reserves promptly hatched Pokémon-related lures and prizes. While some people may visit the wildlife parks just to hunt for the animated characters, the management hopes that in the process of roaming the grounds players get to bond together and, of course, learn and appreciate the majestic real-life beasts standing in front of them.

In Thailand, the enterprising managing director of Phuket Holiday Tour, Yongyuth Chankul, himself a Pokémon Go player, reaped unexpected benefits from launching Pokémon hunting tours. He rolled out promotional material in Thai with the domestic clientele in mind, but several foreign travellers also signed up for the Pokémon tours.

At the end of the experience, these French and German tourists told Yongyuth that they had fun catching the virtual monsters while visiting the major landmarks of Phuket. “Phuket has some unique Pokémon characters different from those back home,” these travellers told Yongyuth.

And herein lies the beauty of Pokémon Go and its relevance to travel: whether you are a proponent or critic of this game, this hit mobile app promotes wanderlust, getting players to move around and explore new places and routes.

While earlier AR devices like Google Glass have faded following a much-lauded debut, will such a fate await Pokémon Go? And how will it compare with virtual reality, which has been adopted by several tourism pioneers in their marketing strategies too? Only time would tell, but this mobile hit has changed societal expectations of how information is presented and assessed, so there is a real chance of it influencing successors in the gaming and non-gaming fields alike.

Meanwhile, for travel industry players who are less enamoured with the game, they can consider branding themselves as no-Go zones, just as how some resorts have positioned themselves as adults-only getaways.

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