The dissemination of game mechanics in non-gaming settings has also affected the tourism sector and its digital side in recent years. Gamification, once again, enters in the strategic process of digital creation with full rights, as capable to unify experience and engagement objectives, strengthening the results of marketing and tourism promotional campaigns.
“Games and travel are temporary escapes into another world”
(Ermi and Mäyra, 2005)
Let’s start from an indisputable fact: tourists, in their travels, rely more and more on their cell phone or their tablet to find a museum to visit, a B&B to sleep in, or a restaurant to eat in.
The mobile marketing is now inextricably tied to tourism, and a tourism promotion agency, or any other company in the territory who operates in the sector, can not help but exploit this trend, if it wants to stand out from its competitors.
That’s how many applications were born that allow to check in and out quickly and to provide detailed information on attractions and services in the area, to ease booking, to promote the territory and to secure customer loyalty and comeback.
Moreover, booking portals as Booking and TripAdvisor based part of their success on the spontaneous contribution of the community, a huge mass of user created content uploaded by the users themselves in terms of reviews, comments and photos.
However, to encourage user active participation and first-person contribution to reviews, sharing of experiences or using a territory promotion app, remains a difficult task.
This is how the inclusion of mechanics and dynamics typical of the gaming world, able to leverage user motivations, comes into play once again and becomes a central part of the user experience of tourist apps, succeeding at the same time in putting itself at the service of four ambitious objectives, achievable through a new way to present the experience:
USAGE OF GAMIFICATION IN TOURISTIC APPS
How gamification techniques can be applied to improve the tourist attraction visit process, to entertain and ensure the visitors’ loyalty, and to give tourist attraction managers a tool for raising interest in less popular shows and events?
The desire of the cities to offer their guest new and updated information during their visits, confirms what was predicted in the World Travel Market Report of 2013, according to which gamification would have been the main tendency to affect the digital tourist communication.
The ways in which the game has become part of the digital tourism communication are multiple. For example, there are intermediation touristic apps centered on augmented reality, local thematic apps or treasure hunt apps, organized on real itineraries, which unravel through the destination’s POI (Points of Interest).
Internationally one of the most interesting cases was that of Nexto, the smartphone app that transforms the classic audio guides in actual augmented reality challenges, which motivate the user to look for new monuments to collect badges, climb the ranking list and unlock new, entertaining levels. The user has the chance to listen to the guides, both on- and offline, and, at the same time, to virtually recreate ancient buildings, to search for famous objects that belonged to people of other times, and to see renowned historic characters pop out from the screen. The project was born on October 2017, and is available only in Berlin for now, but there are all the conditions for it to be made available in other European and extra-European cities.
In the usage of gamification apps, the social perspective of the travel experience is everything: the experience, shared through posts, local check-in, images, videos, music or written tales, acquires in this way a strong social value. Between many, the app Stray Boots from Stray Boots Inc. offers touristic tours in New York, during which users are to follow game directions that lead them to get in touch with POI but above all, with real people.
In the end, how not to mention TripCollective, the advanced program of TripAdvisor, that rewards the user every time they adds content on the main app. Users gain points for each action they perform inside the portal, as reviews, photo publications and sharing their scores; the more points they get, the higher their level and recognition for contribution in the travelers community. Obviously, the TripCollective level is shown in the traveler profile.
Those that were once seen as customer loyalty systems (points collections, prize games, discount systems) have now become real gaming experiences, which find in touristic and local promotion apps an excellent ally.