Taking advantage of the Pokémon GO craze for your hotel

Phil Mackie By Phil Mackie
Uploaded 10 August 2016

Phil Mackie of staySky Hotels & Resorts looks at how hotels can benefit from the Pokémon GO sensation.

In case you haven't heard, Pokémon GO has become a worldwide phenomenon. Everyone from young children to savvy and nostalgic CEOs are playing the game, and there has been plenty of press, both good and bad.

But how does this affect you, as a hotelier in 2016? Can you afford to ignore one of the most downloaded Apps in recent years? I leave that choice up to you. I will mention that Yelp has gone so far as to add a column in their business listings for in game locations near your favourite businesses, if that tells you anything…

Using my experience with staySky Hotels & Resorts and my numerous hours trying to "catch them all" I'd love to share with you some simple tips to help you leverage the frantic trend for the benefit of your hotel. These steps are simple enough for anyone to apply to their hotel and with some minor adjustments, these rules can work for your particular property.

Let's get started!

Step 1: Find someone in your staff who speaks Pokémon
I cannot fault you if you aren't obsessed with the game as much as I am. But there must be someone among your staff who plays or has at least fiddled with the ubiquitous App. Finding someone who has experience with the game and previous titles will lessen the learning curve on locations, monsters in your area, in-game utilities to use and learning the "lingo". 

Step 2: Map your Hotel's grounds for PokeStops (or the nearby area)
A PokeStop is an in-game location that gives players items and is a location for you to place a Lure Module (more on that later). They can be found by logging into the game and looking for the arch structures that appear throughout the map.

If you are fortunate to have a PokeStop on your hotel grounds, great! If not, locate all of the PokeStops for the surrounding area and find a way to logically lay this out for your staff to direct guests and nearby players. One of our properties, Hawthorn Lake Buena Vista has gone above and beyond and has created a Pokemon Map of Universal Studios Orlando, a popular nearby theme park, for guests to check out.

Thinking outside the box and finding those opportunities to really help out players is another way to prove to your guests that you are more than four walls and a place to catch some shut-eye.

Step 3: Find out which Pokémon are in your area, paying close attention to Rare or Uncommon Types
Your Poke-Expert in your staff will be able to tell you what is worthwhile catching near your hotel. Keep these Rare and Uncommon catches in mind for when you do your social media blasts.

Step 4: Ready your hotel: update your staff, signage, water cooler, Wi-Fi and charging stations
By now you have Locations and the types of creatures you can catch, now you can educate your other staff members who aren't wrapped up in the craze. Go into as much detail as you like, but most important is to have staff be able to tell players where the nearest PokeStop is located. Again, some hotels have it lucky to have one on the grounds themselves, but if not you can direct players to the nearest one and advise about the types of Pokémon caught out by that area.

If you have particularly awesome news for players, like a PokeStop on hotel grounds or rare Pokémon nearby you may want to consider printing up some simple signage.

A nice way to accommodate your players, is to provide an area where they can recharge their phone and get a cold drink of water while playing. The game uses the player's data plan during play so having a broad Wi-Fi network that covers your grounds and especially places of interest is an added perk.

Step 5: Purchase "Lures" if a PokeStop is on hotel grounds
As mentioned above, if you are lucky enough to have a PokeStop on your hotel property, you can purchase Lures which cost around $.60 for a half hour of higher-than-normal appearances of Pokémon.

Players instinctually walk towards and hang out in these areas for the duration of Lure. If you are looking at having a social media campaign centered around Pokémon, it would be worthwhile to announce when the Lure is going live a few days before or have a schedule. For example: if your hotel is busier on the weekends, make Saturday afternoons when you bust out the Lures.

Step 6: Blast it on social media
If you've taken all the steps to make Pokémon work for your hotel, tell everyone you can! Blasting the most recent catches, locations and Lure times online is a great way to echo your message and make sure you get the most impact of your efforts.

Step 7: Get Creative!
With the game being so new, there are no hard and fast rules to this. I invite you to get creative and try to find new ways to make Pokémon really catch the attention of guests. My favourite example of this has to be Austin's Sound on Sound Fest, which is asking players to take a photo of a Pokémon in front of one of their numerous billboards and tweet it or post on Instagram for a chance to win VIP passes to the festival.

All in all, it doesn't take weeks of effort or a massive budget to better accommodate the Pokémon players who stay at your hotel. Have you used Pokémon GO in interesting ways at your hotel? Let us know in the comments below.

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