Global tourism continues to grow at an astounding rate, with over 1.5 billion international tourists in 2019 alone, a 4% growth from 2018 and a record according to the UNWTO. In the US, tourism is directly connected to over 7.9 million jobs in the 2nd quarter of 2017 alone and continues to grow at a healthy pace Bureau of Economic Analysis. The tourism sector has the potential to improve economic growth for the private and public sector via employment opportunity, cultural exchange, and socio-economic benefits to the general public in any given city and scavenger hunting can be a powerful tool to drive increased tourism throughout the city.
There are several ways in which a city can incentivize tourism, some of them advertise their natural scenery, others showcase their history and culture, and some promote their lively night life. However, not all efforts related to tourism need to create a complete new, different and costly “attraction”. In this article, we will explore how scavenger hunt, perceived to be a children’s game, has the potential to enhance tourism by promoting art, cultural exchange and historic preservation. Emphasis will be made on why and how a city can implement a treasure hunt / scavenge hunt opportunity to the tourists that visit the city
The idea is quite simple, tourists are given a map for the city scavenger hunt with a circuit to travel around the city in search for its “treasures”. Now, during implementation is where the idea can take a more interesting turn and prove to be quite elaborate. For instance, the treasures’ location can be specifically chosen by the city to showcase its diversity or different historical monuments. For instance, one treasure can be in Little Italy, while another in Chinatown.
They could be murals painted by local artists that can interact with people, tell a piece of history, or even serve a comical purpose related to the region. Further, local businesses can also be introduced to the idea as a way of promoting local cuisine or crafts by adding a stamp element to the hunt.
After visiting a treasure, a nearby business would have a stamp that matches the treasure’s theme in which tourist can mark their map as completed. Scavenger hunt in New York city is already a part of the city’s attractions, helping to draw a unique experience to a portion of the 62 million tourists every year (NYC Future tourist numbers).
In practice, an individual would pay a small amount for the map at the starting point of the circuit. The money could be used to pay for the production costs associated to the map itself, as well as the maintenance and royalties of the treasures. The circuit should be physically attainable for most people otherwise they will simply give up on the play, so it is best to have a 2 or 3 hours walk or bicycle ride (there can also be bonus trinkets that are not part of the main circuit but can still be visited).
Once in possession of the map, the individual will proceed to the different points such as a comical mural in Little Italy (for example), designed by a local artist. Nearby the treasures, it would be a good opportunity to tell a bit of the history of the city or the area itself. The person then can take a picture of the treasure or, depending on the art style, with the treasure and then collect a stamp on a café close by, giving the individual an opportunity to have brunch at a local restaurant before following to the next point on the circuit.
Before implementing the game, elements such as location, culture and history, infrastructure, development, and potential for engagement should be considered. As said before, the hunt should be designed to be easily or moderately achievable for the average individual.
The treasure’s location has the potential to highlight factors unique to the area such as culture and history. Therefore, their location has to be well thought to drive more exploration and potential development to the area. In terms of development and infrastructure, the treasures have the potential to increase the number of visitors of a certain area which can in turn further develop the region.
It is advisable that the location is not placed in an area that lacks basic infrastructure or is underdeveloped as it causes individuals to skip that specific treasure or even diminish the reputation of the entire game. Treasures should be placed and designed in such a manner that engage with their audience while at the same educate them about local culture and history.
Scavenger Hunting does not have to be costly. Yes, the city can commission a renowned artist to paint the murals or make an installation but it also has multiple avenues such as opening a contest for local artists to submit their ideas, art and time on a volunteer basis while the city pays for the materials for instance, allowing the artist to gain brand recognition while the overall city benefits.
The city can also create a competition where arts students in university can compete for the ‘best mural’, the city can then create a website where people can choose their favorites (leading to increased marketing) and the city can commission an independent group to finalize the process. The private sector should also be taken into consideration by becoming co-sponsors of the initiative, this would allow the project to become less strenuous to the city. Tax deductions for commissioned public art could serve as an incentive. The use of available landmarks and prior works should also be main drivers.
Scavenger Hunt has already been implemented in different cities across the world such as Busan, South Korea and Penang, Malaysia. In the US, companies such as Let’s Roam (Google Apps) and ScavengerHunt provide guided experiences around the country. This provides tourists with a different twist to engaging and learning about local culture while also visiting unique areas of the city, providing an enriching experience that they can take back home.
In light of COVID-19, there has been a growing trend in digital scavenge hunt. This form of scavenging hunt aims to use sounds, images and other cues that can be searched or shared on the internet to engage the audience. It can be repurposed as a team-building activity, classroom teaching and leisure. Cities may still be able to engage with their audience by, for example, showing images and description of art from around the city and asking participants to find out where the image is from on Google Maps or requesting that the audience complete a sentence or find the right answer between a multiple-choice question.