How to Drive Hotel Sales with Pokémon Go Marketing

By: on August 25, 2016

Hospitality companies are well-positioned to tap into popular trends. The Pokémon Go craze is a perfect example. The augmented reality game boasts more than 30 million players who are roaming their real-world environments to catch and battle fictional creatures.

The app has broken App Store download records and is especially popular with millennial travelers, a segment the hospitality industry strives to attract for their increasing travel frequency and spending habits.

Several hotels and resorts across the globe have created marketing campaigns and promotions to drive sales and bookings for Pokémon seekers. Here are some examples of how businesses in the hospitality industry are trying to catch ‘em all.

Silverton Casino Drives Bar Sales, Foot Traffic With Timely Social Media Promotion

A game that involves walking is sure to be popular in a city like Las Vegas. Even when travelers lose $50 on an ill-advised roulette spin, they can catch an Electabuzz Pokemon as they amble toward the nearest blackjack table.

Catching this powerful, jolly guy will make any unlucky gambler feel better

Silverton Casino picked up on the game’s buzz early and launched a promotion: From July 11th to the 24th, Pokémon Go players 21 and above could enjoy the Pokédraft with a $2 draft beer at the casino’s Mermaid Bar. All they needed to do was show the bartender the app was installed on their smartphone, says Kimiko Peterson, the property’s director of PR, social media and advertising.

Peterson says the campaign was promoted on Facebook, Twitter, the hotel’s website, on local television and on-property via posters.

The Silverton Casino posted their campaign on Facebook just five days after the game’s release

If you’re unfamiliar with Pokémon Go lingo, here are a couple key concepts relevant to marketers:

PokéStops: Physical locations where players can grab free in-game items, e.g., Pokéballs.

Gyms: Locations where players can send their monsters into battle and gain dominance in that location.

The casino is home to four PokéStops and two gyms. Its marketing team saw a perfect opportunity to draw in visitors from the lucrative 21 to 40 demographic.

“While it was evident in the spike in sales, general foot traffic had also increased, along with how long guests would stay inside the bar that hosted the Pokédraft special,” Peterson says.

Hospitality companies are always looking to simply get people to their property, even if they hang out in the bar buying food and drinks. For a casino, increased foot traffic and cheap drinks can also lead to more gambling.

Peterson says the most effective move during the campaign was jumping on the trend and promoting online so quickly.

“Social media was the driving factor, but timing was what was the most effective,” she says. “Finding a way to capitalize on a trend that spoke to our guests before others is what helped it to gain as much attention as it did in such a short amount of time.”

Marco Island Resort Boosts Guest Engagement With Pokémon Tour

The Marco Island Beach Resort in Marco Island, Florida took a different route to cater to younger visitors.

Resorts often attract more families with kids than a Las Vegas hotel does, so Robert Pfeffer, the resort’s sales and marketing director, decided to turn the property into an entire Pokémon region for younger guests to explore. Launched in late July, Pfeffer says the weekly tour is still gaining new participants.

“Tour numbers have been increasing week over week,” he says. “We first started with 10 people experiencing the tour and now we have an average of 30.”

A poster from the Marco Island Resort’s Pokemon Tour promoting the event

In addition to physical posters, the campaign was promoted on social media channels and front desk workers informed guests as they checked in.

The hotel named employee Caroline Waterman as the official Pokémon Go Trainer. She hosts the tour, which guides guests from the resort lobby, to the pool areas and gardens, past PokéStops and ending at a gym located near a waterfall.

Hotel employee Caroline Waterman leads the Pokémon Go tour as guests catch creatures

The tour also includes a custom map of the resort with key locations and stops at the property’s restaurants for a virgin strawberry banana daiquiri called the Pokéball.

While Pfeffer says he’s unsure how much the tour increased sales, he says the benefits included:

  • Encouraging guests to explore the resort and see amenities they may not have noticed
  • Offering another activity that engages guests of all ages

“Guests rave about the tour, even those who aren’t actively on the tour stop and take pictures with our tour guide,” Pfeffer says. “This tour has grabbed the attention of teens and pre-teens who often struggle to find engaging activities on family vacations, and guests have commented that this tour provides a great activity that every member of the family can enjoy.”

Remember, hotels and resorts don’t have to market Pokémon Go activities to just kids. As both are products of the ’90s, Pokémon and millennials go together better than Mewtwo and a Master Ball (or peanut butter and chocolate for those out of the loop). Now that millennials are adults, the powerful nostalgia of Pokémon is hitting this group the hardest.

Rosewood Sand Hill’s Pokémon Dessert Popular with Travelers and Walk-Ins

Madera, the restaurant located at the Rosewood Sand Hill Hotel in Menlo Park, California, extended its Pokémon Go promotion to dessert.

The hotel staff noticed the hotel was a popular hunting ground for the digital creatures in August among players ages 10 through 45. Executive Chef Peter Rudolph and Assistant Pastry Chef Lance Nitta worked to create a sweet treat to draw players, as well as casual fans, into the restaurant.

Madera’s bon bons feature the three legendary birds, Pokéballs and assorted monsters

The restaurant has a history of launching themed offerings, such as Angry Birds chocolate sculptures. The Pokémon dish combines fine dining with the more whimsical characters that Rudolph says is popular in the tech culture of the Bay Area.

Bolstered by promotions on social media, on-premise publicity and media outreach, the bon bons have been so popular that they often sell out.

“Since launching the Pokémon bonbons, we have guests come to Madera specifically looking to try the dish, leading to a modest increase in the total number of desserts sold at the restaurant,” Rudolph says.

Food and beverage sales at successful properties often make up roughly 20 percent of revenues, and tapping into current trends is a practical, simple way to increase sales to guests, but also to draw in locals.

Rudolph believes the success is a result of the restaurant’s creativity and care put into each dish. Consumers can sense when companies attempt to cheaply cash-in on a trend, and a commitment to quality is much more likely to drive sales.

Best Practices for Marketing with Pokémon Go

When using a popular trend such as Pokémon Go to market your hotel, there are some best practices to follow that can help make the campaign a success. The more your staff is invested in promoting the campaign, the more likely guests will be to participate and potentially drive more sales or post positively about the property online.

  • Advertise with a promotion or contest. This one is somewhat obvious, but your guests should know about the promotion before and during their stay. Create posters to spread around the property and post on all social media profiles to draw as many guests as possible. It’s super effective!
  • Set boundaries for guests. Some users have fallen into ditches or walked into traffic playing Pokémon Go. While these hazards shouldn’t be present at a hotel or resort, it’s important to remind players to remain aware of their surroundings while playing. Hotel marketers should also make players aware of the off-limits spots on property. One way to do that is to …
  • Create a map. Marco Island Resort created a map of the property to show the locations of PokéStops and gyms on the tour; this gives players a sense of the play area and encourages them to stick to the path. You can even use a service such as Pokecrew to find exactly which Pokémon are on your property.

Custom map of the Pokémon Go Tour created by the Marco Island Resort

  • Use lures. In the game, lures are items that attract more and rarer Pokémon to your current location, which in turn draws more players. The lures cost $1 for 30 minutes of use. Strategically launch these lures during the busiest times of the day to get the most bang for your literal buck.
  • Establish messaging for employees and play along! “Communication is key, having the whole hotel staff informed and willing participate has really driven the success of this campaign,” Marco Island’s Pfeffer says.

    Especially for hotels or resorts that receive a lot of young visitors, the staff can help play up the theme and get visitors excited.

    Yes, fake animals that shoot rainbow energy beams from their mouths may cause some eye rolling from employees. But encourage workers to avoid diminishing the fun guests can have with the game.

    Besides, with 151 Pokémon in the game (and 722 total), you’re likely to fall in love with at least one of them. I mean, just look at this guy:

Cubone is cute and throws femurs like a boomerang. What’s not to love?

Overall, the goal is to delight guests and make sure they’re creating fun memories on your property, and you can make some extra sales and encourage positive reviews.

The online reputation of a hotel can impact direct bookings, as positive reviews help your hotel rank higher in OTA and Google searches. If hotels can impress children and families with a fun Pokémon Go (or other trend) promotion or activity, the inevitable positive reviews can lead to increased bookings.

How Software Can Help

Hotel management systems offer the functionality to perform more than just check-ins and manage housekeeping; They can also help marketers and general managers craft and track promotions for campaigns.

Here are some specific ways hotel management software can help drive campaign success:

  • Track campaign details. Some hotel systems offer marketing applications, or at least offer integrations with other marketing management systems. This functionality gives users the ability to create and track the success of campaigns. Set goals, record participation rates and generate reports to determine how to improve results.
  • Send notifications and promotions directly to guests. Hospitality organizations with a custom smartphone app can send notifications to guests about upcoming activities or promotions related to the Pokémon Go campaign.
  • Record participant information for future reference. Hotel systems typically include a customer relationship management application, which allows users to note details about guests with the goal of improving their experience next time. Users can make a note of those who participated in the campaign, then offer them small discounts or gifts to encourage a repeat booking.

Next Steps

Clearly, the popularity of this game can be harnessed to engage guests of all ages, increase sales and attract new visitors to your property. Hotel managers and marketers must educate staff on the promotion details, and create maps and boundaries for players to ensure success.

Here are some next actions you can take to create a successful marketing campaign:

  • Read about strategies for implementing culinary experiences and loyalty programs. When promoting a Pokémon Go or another campaign, you can amplify the experience by including a culinary aspect and offering loyalty points for participating.
  • Contact me at I’m available to answer questions about marketing campaigns for hospitality, or to assist in the software selection process.

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