Lonely Planet Writer

How the Pokémon Go phenomenon is providing a boost to tourism around the world

It’s hardly surprising that various countries are developing an interest in Pokémon Go, as the augmented reality mobile game has turned into a massive global sensation since it launched in July. This has led to tourism chiefs seeing its potential for attracting visitors to their respective areas, because the app uses GPS to determine players’ locations to allow them to hunt down 250 Pokémon characters superimposed on real sites.

Pokémon Go is attracting the attention of tourism chiefs. Image: Getty Images
Pokémon Go is attracting the attention of tourism chiefs. Image: Getty Images

Thailand is hoping to use the game to restore tourists’ confidence following recent negative incidents in particular areas. The Tourism and Sports Ministry has requested that Pokéstops, where players can stock up on items and catch Pokémon, and gyms, where players battle their characters, be added to popular and safe destinations. They hope to boost tourism activities by attracting players to the area to catch rare Pokémon items.

Children searching for Pokemon Go near the Thamassat university in Bangkok.
Children searching for Pokemon Go near the Thamassat university in Bangkok. Image by Getty Images

Similarly, Japan is also hoping that the game will entice tourists to visit four prefectures affected by the 2004 tsunami – Kumamoto, Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima – to help drive their reconstruction.    The small Norway town of Vindenes was so keen to have its own Pokéstop, it built what is deemed to be the world’s first Pokémon Go-dedicated statue.

A fan manoeuvre his smartphone as he plays Pokemon Go in Hong Kong. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
A fan manoeuvres his smartphone as he plays Pokemon Go in Hong Kong. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

As it stands, residents and tourists have to walk 3-5 miles to get to the nearest Pokéstop, so Vindenes released a video explaining that they feared they weren’t considered worthy of one because they didn’t have any major landmarks. They constructed the statue to put themselves on the map in the hope of being given one by the game’s developer, Niantic.

 
However, not everyone is as keen on the augmented reality game. The Auschwitz Museum in southern Poland has asked for the former Nazi death camp to be removed from the app’s possible locations. The museum deemed it inappropriate to have people running around collecting cartoon characters on the site where one million Jews died.

The Auschwitz Museum has asked the makers of Pokémon Go to block players out of respect for the dead. Image: joe8211943/Budget Travel
The Auschwitz Museum has asked the makers of Pokémon Go to block players out of respect for the dead. Image: joe8211943/Budget Travel