Despite the mobile game not yet being official in the country, Some South African tourism sites have become Pokémon Go hotspots, which translates to more visitors and more revenue, Reuters reported, according to Herald Live.
Pokémon players search for virtual creatures in the real world, using sophisticated mapping that requires them to physically go to local sites.
John Hanke, the CEO and founder of Pokémon parent Niantic, is a Google veteran. He was one of the founders of Keyhole, the company Google bought to start Google Earth, and had a hand in Google Maps before forming Niantic, according to Mashable. The company spun off from Google’s parent company Alphabet in 2015.
Accurate mapping is integral to Pokémon Go, Hanke said.
Pokéstops are submitted by users, so they’re based on places people go, Hanke said. “There are portals in Antartica and the North Pole, and most points in between.”
Henry, the resident Nile Crocodile, is one of the Poké stops at Crocworld Conservation Centre on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast, Reuters reported.
The tourist destination has seen an influx of visitors recently. Manager Martin Rodrigues said Crocworld discovered that’s because Crocworld plays host to five Poké stops and one Poké gym.
“We were extremely surprised to notice that we were getting a lot of people coming to Crocworld because of Pokémon Go,” Rodrigues said. “These are people who wouldn’t necessarily have visited the center without the Pokémon attraction.”
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Gamers get to see the famous reptile while collecting sought-after Pokémon characters, Rodrigues said.
Durban’s Botanical Gardens is another tourism site that’s seen more visitors since thousands of South Africans downloaded the unofficial version of the app in July.
Pokemon GO South Africa already has a Facebook page with 11,092 members. It has weekly “PokeGoZA” updates and reminds members that it is not affiliated with Nintendo, Niantic, Pokémon or Pokémon Go.
“There is definitely an increase in visitors,” said Kerry Phillips. “The only negative is that they are so busy on their phones that they are not taking in their environment.”
There’s a huge interest in the game from businesses but many can’t use Pokémon Go to their full advantage because it’s still unofficial in South Africa, said Adam Oxford, of tech website htxt.Africa.
“To increase business, they could request to be a Poké stop but that cannot happen as the game is not here as yet,” he said.
Businesses should be promoting their locations as desirable destinations on the game, said Arthur Goldstuck, founder of technology market research firm World Wide Worx, in a Reuters interview.
“South African businesses are still blissfully unaware of Pokémon Go. Numerous potential tourist hot spots and shopping malls could benefit if they got the word out,” Goldstuck said.
Pokémon Go is official in at least 69 countries including many in Central and South America, according to CNet. It is not available in Africa or China.
Originally, the worldwide release was supposed to happen the first week of July. After going live in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, developer Niantic decided to hold off on releasing worldwide until it could address server issues.
Some big businesses are wary of Pokémon while others are cashing in, Oxford told Reuters.
“Recently, an unofficial event took place at Montecasino,” Oxford said. “Management couldn’t stop it. Mugg & Bean saw the business potential and offered a promotion for all Pokémon Go players. There were 600 people there for the event.”
The anticipation and excitement are tangible among Pokémon Go fans who can’t wait for the game become official in their country.
“Anxiety (is) building within Pokémon fans worldwide who can do nothing but hope that today is the day,” Polygon reported. “Niantic Labs hasn’t been giving us much of a heads up before launching the game in a new territory, so it’s hard to know for sure when those left out of the phenomenon right now will be able to participate … feel free to live vicariously through our Pokémon Go guides and coverage.”
Niantic recently angered Pokemon Go fans when it took away a system that helped players locate Pokémon near them, HTXT reported on Aug. 2. Niantic also cracked down on Google Maps-based tracking websites and tools for players that could help them locate Pokémon outside of the app.
To make matters even worse, Niantic’s CEO John Hanke’s personal Twitter account was hacked — admittedly his password, “nopass” was extremely poor. The hackers, OurMine, said that they did it to “test security” and “for Brazil & Argentina & Chile.” That last part refers to the fact that those countries don’t yet have official access to the game, and, like South Africa, are being left out in the cold.
To put a bandage on these gaping wounds, Niantic took to Facebook recently to explain the situation, saying:
We have limited access by third-party services which were interfering with our ability to maintain quality of service for our users and to bring Pokémon GO to users around the world. The large number of users has made the roll-out of Pokémon GO around the world an… interesting… challenge. And we aren’t done yet! Yes, Brazil, we want to bring the game to you (and many other countries where it is not yet available).
We have read your posts and emails and we hear the frustration from folks in places where we haven’t launched yet, and from those of you who miss these features. We want you to know that we have been working crazy hours to keep the game running as we continue to launch globally.