3 ideas to promote tourism with serious games

7 min readMay 18


There are 195 countries in the world, over 4 million unique cities and towns, and the number of smaller settlements like villages and hamlets becomes even harder to satisfyingly quantify. The point we’re making is, for tourists, there are a lot of exciting places to visit, and wherever they choose to go in big numbers, serious spending money comes with them.

When people go on holiday, they’re away from work, they’re often with loved ones or friends, and they’re going to do things that they wouldn’t normally do at home. They’re going to patronise restaurants and eateries for most meals, go to bars, visit museums, buy mementos and souvenirs, and generally seek out experiences. They typically have 1 to 2 weeks, and in that short window, they’re nearly always going to live their best, most extravagant lives. The expression “When in Rome” is a catch-all justification to treat yourself when travelling in a new country or city. Take a tuk-tuk? Indulge in a ride on a gondola? Spend a couple of days training like one of Genghis Khan’s warriors? “Why not?” the little voice asks. “When in Rome… or Thailand, or Venice, or Mongolia.”

The economies of tourism hotspots lean heavily on the money that seasonal trade brings in, and being able to successfully convert historical, cultural, or natural aspects of your area into places people want to visit is a sure-fire way to boost the local economy. Not only do businesses primarily concerned with tourism win, but all local businesses see a boost from higher footfalls. However, attracting people to spend their hard-earned free time and savings is a competitive game. The rewards are great, but the competition can be to the death. Not every locale gets dealt a Pyramid of Giza or a Christ the Redeemer to play with, but creativity, both in marketing and delivering engaging experiences, can go a long way to make the most of what your local area has to offer in terms of attracting tourists. This is where gamification and serious games can play their part.

Serious games and gamification

Gamification is the application of game mechanics to tasks or processes to make them more engaging and fun. For example, adding points or a leaderboard to a work task to foster a competitive atmosphere, and encourage employees to try to “win” would count as very basic gamification. Serious games can be looked at as being related to gamification, but by definition, it almost takes the inverse route. While gamification applies game mechanics to a real life purpose, serious games take a real life purpose and put it at the core of the design of a game. For example, to educate tourists about a particular cultural attraction, a game could be designed which, through the course of playing, they would learn things like dates, historical significance, and tips on what to look out for if they’re visiting said attraction. Through game play and simulation, players can interact with and be more susceptible to knowledge acquisition. Ultimately, the serious game is exactly that, a game. It’s a digital experience with no direct effects on the real world, only on the motivations, knowledge, and behaviours of the players.

There are a number of ways serious games and gamification can be utilised to engage tourists and drive visits. To attract tourists, full-blown virtual reality marketing campaigns can give potential visitors a taste of what it’s like to explore the Parisian catacombs, while more accessible formats, like interactive, customised pathways of mini-games and Quizzes can serve to whet an explorer’s appetite for adventure, incorporating information about animals they might see safariing across the Serengeti into gameplay, and that’s just the beginning. Serious games can be used to amplify the experience of tourists on holiday, help support specific attractions or locations, and foster audience engagement that could encourage further visits through recommendations, reviews, and social media.

Top tips to use gamification in tourism

So how do you begin? What’s the starting point for using games and gamification to support tourism in your area? How can you use serious games to put the spotlight on your beaches, your cathedrals, or your country’s biodiversity?

Here are our top 3 tips to use serious games and gamification to amplify what your country, town, or city has to offer.

1. Create games that encourage your visitors to explore your area, and highlight its best features

If you’re coming at this from the position of being a tourism office, you want to think about how your serious game can deliver the biggest impact across the biggest area. If your area is especially photogenic, something as simple as creating a Photo Contest for visitors could go a long way to encouraging tourists to explore, and not just stick to the tried and tested hotspots. This could be effective for well established touristic cities as it would encourage visitors to tread off the beaten path and explore more than they would normally, and could also work wonders for less well known places that ace the eye test but just don’t have the reputation of a St Lucia or a Bora Bora.

While it’s a simple enough concept, you could use it for the purposes of not only encouraging footfall, but also in terms of building up a portfolio of high quality stock images to use in future promotional material. Customising the Photo Contest format on the Drimify platform would allow you to either make it a simple “best photo wins” sort of approach, or even to highlight a particular work of art, or natural feature, or one that’s localised to a hiking trail or an architectural achievement. All the games on the Drimify platform can be customised in minutes, work on any modern device, and integrate easily through social media and QR codes, making it incredibly versatile from a user perspective, and easy to encourage participation.

Since nearly every tourist is snapping relentlessly on their smartphones, has an action cam strapped to their chest, or is ready to whip out their shiny new SLR at the drop of a sunset, the Photo Contest is an incredibly attractive format for engagement purposes. There could be a prize at the end of it, though even just the kudos and social currency of winning or being shortlisted could suffice as motivation to take part.

2. Use games to educate, entertain, and entice your audience

Most holiday making Westerners are tired of being tagged as the “ugly Americans.” The sandy beach and the palm trees aren’t the be all and end alls they used to be. The psychology behind going on holiday is now more broadly akin to travelling than seeking rest and recuperation in exotic locales. Most tourists want to engage with the culture and leave knowing more about where they visited than before. Cultural interest can be as much a motivator to encourage a visit as the climate or the geography, so make that a factor in your serious games.

Here, the Dynamic Path™ format could be utilised, which allows you to easily create a game of multiple levels, which could be put together using any game engines available in the Drimify catalogue. You could have levels of Quizzes, levels of pure content, and even mini-games tailored to your theme, to create an engaging, playable experience that allows tourists and prospective tourists to learn more about your country or region. This could work in marketing approaches with the purpose of putting your destination in people’s minds with interesting facts, but could also work as a game they can access through QR codes at destinations — giving tips to get the most out of their trip, and helping them learn key phrases in the local language or dialect to help them interact with the local culture.

3. Be adaptable from one season to the next with your serious games strategy

Pompeii may be frozen in ash in AD 79, but the tourism industry changes every year. In the microcosms of touristic cities developing to accommodate modern industries and their populations, and in the larger sense of travel trends and influencers casting certain destinations in vogue, tourism is more dynamic than people might think. The strip of restaurants and bars that printed money one season may find that a new shopping mall built 5 kilometres away has altered the commercial gravity that used to serve them. A human rights violation in one place may blacklist destination A, meaning destination B enjoys a swell in interest and bookings.

These are extreme examples, but the point we’re making is that your gamification and serious games strategy needs to evolve season to season. Every game on the Drimify catalogue has built-in data collection which can be monitored from your dashboard, so you can monitor participation, and see how effective your games are proving. This information, along with broader industry information, can allow you to keep developing your serious games approach to effectively promoting tourism in your area.




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