Retailers, restaurant owners and hoteliers received a boost to trade from an unusual source over the weekend as thousands of Pokémon GO players visited for two days of events designed to use the game to educate young people about history.
With trading figures still being collated, Marketing Cheshire said it expected the economic uplift to be into seven figures.
The weekend’s activities were organised by Chester-based non-profit Big Heritage, run by archaeologist Dean Paton, with Niantic Labs, game developer, and publisher of Pokémon GO, the Pokémon Company International.
Paton said he estimated between 16,000 and 18,000 people had visited the city for the inaugural Pokémon GO event of its kind in Europe, which coincided with a similar event in Chicago. Paton approached Pokémon GO with an idea to attract a younger demographic to the annual Chester Heritage Festival. Players, or “trainers” as they are known, were given “pastports” containing a tour of the city’s Viking, Medieval, Roman, and Civil War sites where they could hunt their virtual prey.
The weekend coincided with the reopening after 20 years of Chester Castle, which saw 10,000 visitors over the two days.
Paton told Place North West he knew the weekend would be successful but not quite so successful. Many local hotels had been fully booked before the weekend, he said. The turnout was buoyed by good weather on both days.
Katrina Michel of Marketing Cheshire was “extremely happy” to see such a young demographic of visitors, and attracting a worldwide audience on social media “with no down side”
Cheshire Police praised attendees and reported not a single crime at the Pokémon GO Chester Heritage Festival.
John Hanke, Niantic founder and chief executive, said he was “incredibly excited about this partnership linking local history and Pokémon GO. We love the idea of using mobile games as a motivation for families to play outside together and perhaps to learn something interesting while they are at it.”
Images by @ChesterPokeGO, Steve Casey Photography and @ShitChester