Australia was one of the first countries to go nuts for it, but now the Pokemon Go craze has spread further across the globe. But what does it really mean for the world of travel?
If you haven’t heard of Pokemon Go by now, you must literally have had your head buried in the sand. Hordes of game-players have been trawling the streets of Australia armed with their smartphones in an effort to catch as many Pokemon as possible. It’s now spread to Asia, with Japan and Hong Kong the latest countries to be given the Pokemon treatment.
The augmented reality platform been credited with getting the inactive out and about, boosting both morale and fitness, with showcasing a range of tourist attractions, and even of driving sales for travel agents lucky enough to have a resident Pokemon or two. People have actually quit their jobs to devote their lives to chasing them.
Of course, it hasn’t all been good news. Auschwitz had to ban the game being played on the site of the former Nazi death camp, branding it “disrespectful”. One of Japan’s oldest Shinto shrines has followed suit, saying it was protecting the privacy of those who went there to worship.
Players have been robbed at gunpoint, knifepoint and beaten up. People have found dead bodies. And last Thursday saw the first death as a result of playing the game, when an 18 year old was shot dead in Guatemala after he broke into a house in pursuit of a Pokemon.
So let’s take a look at the true implications for the travel industry.
Many companies have been swift to jump on the craze so it’s clear that businesses are seeing immense potential in this newcomer which is already predicted to overshadow Twitter by the end of the year.
Geckos Adventures launched a $9,800 AUD Pokemon: Let’s Go! trip taking in some of the world’s most iconic destinations across six weeks, all while chasing the virtual characters.
Over in the US, Visit Anaheim and Visit Portland published pages on their websites directing users to places where they can discover Pokemon, instantly spiking traffic.
Meanwhile, Marriott sponsored Brooklynite Pokemon “master” Nick Johnson to travel the world to add to his collection.
We asked Tourism Australia what it thinks of the new phenomenon.
The tourism body revealed it is having quite an impact in China thanks to the prolific social media posts of Chinese people living, holidaying or studying in Australia. It aims to further tap into the interest by posting its own fun content with Pokemons captured around iconic Australian landmarks.
But it’s still early days, and there is “no evidence yet that it has directly stimulated travel”.
“Australia’s unique wildlife and impossibly cute animals already do a wonderful job of luring international travellers Downunder, but I’m sure they’ll be okay sharing their home with a few Pokemon visitors in the interest of boosting tourism,” managing director John O’Sullivan told KarryOn.
The reason Pokemon Go is creating such a stir in the travel space is because it has created a virtual world on top of the real world enabling people to reconnect with their surroundings in a entirely new and much more exciting way. People have been persuaded to visit places they don’t normally go to, discovering their own cities or further afield.
The opportunities are, well, ridiculous.
So if the sight of grown men and women chasing imaginary cartoon characters around the real world makes you cringe, swallow hard and try to join in the fun. Because if this is the next big thing for travel, well that’s something worth catching – even if you do feel like a idiot.
Have you been sucked into the crazy world of Pokemon yet?
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