U.S. Cities Are Betting On a Pokemon Go Tourism Boom
Pikachu is driving America Pika-crazy.
The pandemonium surrounding Pokemon Go this week continued on Friday as tourism departments have begun creating marketing programs centered on the mobile game, even as police and emergency officials across the country rack up Poke-related complaints of people walking into traffic, getting robbed, even walking off cliffs chasing Pokemon.
In Los Angeles, restaurants and hotels offered Pokemon-related giveaways and deals while city tourism marketers had already created a Pokemon Go handy guide by Friday for visitors to “catch ’em all.” Two days earlier, two men playing the game walked off a cliff hunting the digital characters in North San Diego County and an Anaheim man was robbed by a group of teens as he hunted Pokemon in a local park.
“We think [Pokemon Go] is an interesting way to explore the city and see parts of the city you might not see otherwise, but people need to stay safe and aware of their surroundings,” a city tourism spokesperson tells Fortune. “At the end of the day, it’s an interesting way to see landmark attractions around the city, assuming people are paying attention to their surroundings and not walking into oncoming traffic.”
In Western Pennsylvania on Tuesday, 15-year-old Autumn Deisenroth did just that. The Tarentum, Penn. native pursued a Pokemon across a busy highway near a local museum and was hit by a car. She received a few scrapes and bruises, but was home with her family by Wednesday. Her mom, Tracy Nolan, blames the game.
“Kids don’t just cross a highway,” Nolan told an ABC affiliate in Pittsburgh the next day before vowing not to let her daughter play “Go” anymore. “”This thing had her walking across a highway to catch a Pokemon.”
After the incident, Pennsylvania state police issued an advisory to motorists to watch out for unwitting Pokemon hunters crossing streets.
In Las Vegas, there haven’t been any major crimes or accidents, but tourism insiders say they’re exploring “Go” related marketing campaigns to accompany all the local business promotions around the game.
“It’s something we’re taking a look into,” says Molly Castano, communications manager at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “It’s so new and it happened so quickly. We have people that are definitely playing it all over the place.”
In New York, Poke-players have set up group Pokemon hunting expeditions as city officials warn New Yorkers to be safe as they wander the city looking for the animated characters.
“We are thrilled that New Yorkers—both young and not so young— have more motivation to explore our many parks, landmarks, public art installations, outdoor spaces and historic buildings,” says a rep from New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office. “It is important that New Yorkers engage with AR games safely, staying aware of their surroundings, alert to danger, and following all laws.