Leveraging Pokémon Go to Foster Recreational Tourism

I’m Allyson and I’m a Pokémon Go addict. Pokémon played a HUGE role in my childhood. I collected the cards and played avidly from 4th through 6th grade (1998-2000). Being six to ten years older than my three younger siblings, Pokémon was one of the few games that I could share and play with my siblings – the colorful and cartoonish characters made for a favorite television show in my family, and while I collected the cards, my siblings collected the branded stuffed animals of the characters. The card game made for a family-friendly way to practice basic math skills and to teach competitive strategy. I even went so far as to go as Ash Ketchum (main character from the Pokémon TV show) for Halloween in 5th grade. I never imagined that my elementary school obsession would come back 18 years later and have me glued to my iPhone 6.


Ash Ketchum, from Pokémon TV Show (1997-present)


My Halloween costume, insipired by Ash Ketchum, 1998

For those who must have been off the grid the last few weeks to somehow miss this phenomenon, here are the basics:

  • Pokémon Go is a free, app-based augmented reality game
  • Users must move around in the real world to play the game – it’s not a game intended to be played while stationery
  • Because of the necessity to move around, Pokémon Go is intended to promote exercise
  • Users can catch Pokémon in the real world, collect them, grow their strengths and use them in battles
  • The app uses your location to send Pokémon your way. Your location generates the types of Pokémon – for example, you are more likely to find water type Pokémon near bodies of water, grass type Pokémon near forests or open spaces, and ghost Pokémon only appear in the evening.
  • You can catch and attract Pokémon by using the accessories available at Pokestops. Pokestops are GPS-based destinations that are often in the same locations as landmarks, public attractions. For example, in Brown County there are many on our trail system, at historic buildings, public art installations. Many Pokestops include factual information that serve to educate people about the local community.

Now that you know the basics of the game, know this: the game went VIRAL in a very short timeframe. Boasting more than an estimated 9.5 million daily users, the value of Nintendo increased by more than $12 billion within one week of the game’s release. Nintendo owns a 32% stake in Pokémon Co, which invested in Niantic, the developer and distributor of the game. Alphabet (Google) also is a Niantic investor.

Because of the focus on public landmarks in the game, communities have seen swarms of users visiting these areas. I love this photo one of my friends took of the De Pere Riverwalk this past weekend. 60+ teens using the app and enjoying a summer evening on the water!

de pere riverwalk

In order to leverage these very real numbers of app users, privately owned companies, local communities and public attractions are coming up with creative strategies to attract players to engage directly with their brand, visit their locations and have fun while doing so. And the dollars are behind it! There is huge potential to generate tourism and recreational activity through the use of this app – and local amenities are jumping on board. I’ll be highlighting specifically the creative actions of tourist attractions and public amenities in this post.

Botanical Garden

Visiting the Botanical Garden will run you $5-9 in admission charges normally, however on Wednesdays throughout the summer – admission is FREE. How do you turn a location based app into a moneymaker locally when your admission is free one night of the week? Easy – host an event on a non-free admission evening. The GBBG will release Pokémon 35 lures (a paid feature where you can attract Pokémon to designated areas for 30 minutes – and anyone can reap the benefits and catch them) today (Tuesday) between noon and 6:00. It’s summer – kids aren’t in school – and the GBBG would rather they come and pay to play on Tuesday than play for free on Wednesday.


The NEW Zoo in Suamico (Brown County) runs $5-7 in admission charges. On Wednesday evenings, admission is HALF PRICED between 6-8pm. Fittingly, the NEW Zoo distributed this press release last week, detailing the number of amenities solely within the Zoo for app users. You’ve got to love the opportunity to engage with the Zoo’s social media accounts, too. Smart thinking!

neville public museum

The Neville Public Museum (Green Bay) runs $3-7 in admission charges. On the first Wednesday evening of the month, admission is free for Brown County residents. However, that didn’t stop the Neville from unleashing lures last Wednesday (second week of the month – not free!) for guests. Also a great way to promote in-museum WIFI connectivity.

Other examples of creative Pokémon Go promotions:

On a last note, it’s important to remember (and reminder users) to be safe and respectful while playing the game. It’s probably not worth breaking the law to catch a rare Pokémon! I’ll leave you with one last note – the message that was across digital reader boards from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation this weekend:

journal sentinel