How Pokemon Go Is Changing Travel

Pokemon Go only came out a few days ago, but here’s the incomplete but totally shocking list of things it’s already surpassed in popularity:

  1. Facebook
  2. Tinder
  3. Twitter


I’ll let that sink in for a moment. These megatrends work well in the travel industry, where Pokemon Go serves a dual purpose. For some people, Pokemon Go marks a long-overdue outdoor venture while helping them relive a memorable part of their childhood fantasy. Still others, like a tech editor at Forbes, praise Pokemon Go as the new travel app–a tourism stimulus that puts businesses and attractions on the map.

Those herds of people you see wandering around looking at their phones? They aren’t just scrolling through Facebook anymore — they’re out seeing things and getting some exercise. For some, it’s also the new way to socialize: Poke-hunters form meetups to battle their findings and exchange tips.

When you think about the concept, maybe the travel app theory makes sense. The New York Times suggested it could serve as a digital tour guide in this recent article. If you don’t believe us, just reimagine the game as virtual geocaching because it is — Niantic’s mega-game guides people places they normally wouldn’t visit, even if that’s just their neighborhood. For travelers, it helps them embrace the local, authentic experience of seeking out landmarks and unique places.

According to a Tech Crunch interview with Niantic CEO John Hanke, sponsored locations will increase revenue for millions of American businesses. Naturally, the tourism industry is feeling a big boost, and people are chasing the “little monsters” straight into stores, restaurants, and other businesses. How?

Retailers and businesses will get a chance to nab top spots on the game’s map and drive prospects into their realms. For example, The Art Institute of Chicago tries to lure a wave of monster seekers through its doors with catchy tweets saying “Catch them if you can!”. The museum hosts 14 separate Pokestops. Here’s the catch: While the app is free, entrance to the museum (except on Thursdays for IL residents)…is NOT. Sure, you can catch those Pokemon, but it will cost you $30 per person. Well played!

If you choose to Go, do so with caution. So far, the main risk appears to be mindless wandering into the street to catch these creatures. Pokemon makes no effort to hide it: As soon as you’ve customized your character (Yes, we’ve downloaded it for educational purposes!), the game flat-out warns you: Mind your surroundings.

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