Calgary

Travel Alberta taps Pokémon Go as opportunity with Calgary tour

Pokémon Go could be the next big tourism opportunity, at least that’s what Travel Alberta is hoping by sponsoring a tour of Calgary landmarks Saturday afternoon with the viral game that was only released in Canada six days earlier.

'When we posted this online the tickets were sold in 20 minutes'

Justin Solamillo joined about 50 players on a Pokémon Go tour of Calgary landmarks Saturday afternoon. (Kate Adach/CBC)

Pokémon Go could be the next big tourism opportunity, at least that's what Travel Alberta is hoping by sponsoring a tour of Calgary landmarks Saturday afternoon. Since being released last Sunday the augmented reality app has gone viral.

"When we posted this online the tickets were sold in 20 minutes," organizer Mike Morrison tells CBC News.

"What I love about this group is there is every type of person here. There is old, there is young , there is guys, girls, couples, fathers and sons. I can't think of something that has brought that many types of people together."

Organizer Mike Morrison said the response to the tour was overwhelming. (Kate Adach/CBC)

Pokemon Go, a new mobile app for iOS and Android phones, is the latest craze from Nintendo, featuring creatures that you catch in the wild and train to take down gyms that are also located at landmarks.

The app has become so popular so quickly that reports have emerged of people injuring themselves while walking outside, their eyes glued to their phones.

Eleni Kappos hasn't played the game yet, but has already noticed its impact on her downtown Calgary neighbourhood.

"Over the last couple of days we have just seen tons of crowds all over the city. It is crazy. Never seen anything like that before," Kappos said.

"Heads down, phone in hand."

Pokémon Go can be a family affair. (Kate Adach/CBC)

Justin Solamillo joined the Calgary tour of about 50 players.

"It forces you to be outside. There are aspects of the game that require actual walking. You have to make the journey out," Solamillo explains.

"I think it is a great way to promote cities and towns. It seems like a natural progression to link so I am glad we saw this come up."

Solamillo says normally players have their screen set to view what's in front of them.

"Most people have the background of the city but it drains a lot of battery when you do it that way so I have turned that piece off," he said.

"This game has infiltrated the world by storm. Basically it is using the actual scenes to capture Pokémon, this game that I played as a kid on my Game Boy."

Justine Talbot was also on the Saturday tour.

Justine Talbot says there is a social aspect to the game. (Kate Adach/CBC)

"It gets me out and going places instead of sitting in my room watching TV all day," Talbot said.

"My mom doesn't like it because she says too many people are getting hurt. I keep telling her, those people are down in the U.S. and they are not paying attention. I have heard no one is getting hurt up here."

She says there is a social aspect to the game.

"Someone sets up a lure, it is to lure more Pokémon in. When people set up a lure at one of the Pokéstops, a lot of people tend to gather there waiting for Pokémon to show up," Talbot said.

"I have been having a lot of fun catching Pokémon, I am on level 13."

Morgan Worth is a photographer and social media manager. She was asked to help organize the tour.

Morgan Worth said 'I like the community that is coming from it.' (Kate Adach/CBC)

"My cousins were here from Florida and they were playing, so I am super intrigued, because when the original game came out I was already out of there key demographic because I am older," the 43-year-old confided.

"I like the community that is coming from it. Instead of downtown being dead at night, you now see lots of people playing and interacting with each other which is really great to see. There is definitely interaction that maybe wasn't there before."

Worth said the app could be an amazing marketing opportunity for some businesses.

"It is a genius way to help small businesses," she said.

"I am hoping people are going to see parts of the city that they don't ordinarily go to and a Pokéstop gives you a little bit of information about the landmark."

With files from CBC's Kate Adach, Jonathan Ore