Hotwire: Saskatoon

Roadtrip is not my first choice for travel adventure, but this time, I have personal reasons for making the trek.

Our first stop would be Saskatoon Saskatchewan. It’s my first time in the city and I won’t have time to explore. It’s simply a bed, breakfast and gas stop.

I was very surprised to learn that on a Tuesday night, the going rate for hotels was $170. Whether I checked Expedia.ca, Trivago.ca or the hotel sites themselves…. nothing for under $170. Best Western, Mainstay, 4Points, Courtyard, Holiday Inn… I checked them all.

So, we waited to the last minute to book something. And went with Hotwire.ca

We chose a 2.5star hotel, in the north side of Saskatoon, at $106 per night. Included free parking, free breakfast, WIFI and had guest laundry. As per Hotwire, it had a 95% approval rating. So, that was good enough for me.

We got the Country Inn and Suites. It’s right next to the Sandman Hotel and has a Denny’s restaurant adjacent.

Check-in was smooth, free coffee in the lobby. Rooms were big, the bedroom was separate from the sitting room which boasted a pullout couch, wet bar and microwave. Though the decor was dated, and the room bothered my allergies (probably the carpet) it was absolutely fine. Actually, for $106, it was great!

We went next door to Denny’s for dinner. It was as anticipated, mediocre. Factory prepared food, assembled and microwaved on location. But, I will say that the server, Jenn, was really great. She did her job well and we left her a large grat.

The breakfast at the Country Inn & Suites was actually fabulous! Cereal, 4 types of juice, bagels, muffins, waffles, Canadian bacon, omelettes and more. I was surprised and very impressed with the actual fruit (looked like thawed frozen berry mix) and the actual dairy whipped cream for the waffles. I’m really fussy and won’t ever eat cool-whip or the like. Two thumbs up for the top quality food and selection at the breakfast room.

So, a good day. Decent pit stop. My son would give the hotel/Denny’s a slightly higher rating though… as he found 4 different Pokemon characters in the parking lots here and two more in the lobby of the Country Inn.  That made him very happy.

Pokemon Go: Good for tourism?

From New York’s Central Park to the little Scandinavian Heritage Park in Minot, North Dakota, the phenomenon that is Pokemon Go, is taking over.

Since its release, less than a week ago, the on-line gaming APP has become the best seller on iTunes, has rocketed Nintendo’s stock up in value by 25% and has everyone talking.

Where I noticed it, was on a Monday morning, in a small US city. We were visiting from Canada (where Pokemon Go is yet unreleased) and as tourists we were deliberately in the park to learn and explore. But we couldn’t help but to be distracted by the incredible number of young adults wandering around the park and all engrossed in their phones. They were stumbling about, even some bumping into each other. What was going on? Could the Scandinavian Heritage Park really be such a draw on a Monday morning?

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Nope, it was the game! My teen son alertly recognized this and filled me in. To be certain, I bravely asked a group of guys if they were playing the Pokemon game and they enthusiastically explained it to me and showed me their phones. Apparently, there’s 134 characters to catch and battles that take place in “gyms.” You basically wander about chasing these on-line characters in a hybrid-reality. You can set “lures” to attract character and also other players.

25 foot tall Swedish Dala Horse. A character in the park, NOT the Pokeman game
25 foot tall Swedish Dala Horse. A character in the park, NOT the Pokemon game

But what does it all mean to tourism? Most of these meeting places in the game are public spots…tourist centres, churches, parks and the like. And when you are at a location, little info bubbles pop up on your screen, so as a player if you wanted to learn about where you were located, you certainly could. Of course, you could also actually look up from your phone and see the buildings and sites around you as well.

I chatted with a tourism host at the Scandinavian Heritage Park. She said it was ‘absolutely packed’ on Sunday with Pokemon Go players. She’d never seen so many people. Was that good for business though? Maybe. It was in fact putting this park on the radar of a younger audience. And it was certainly causing a buzz around town, getting the gamers out of their homes and into city streets and public places. But were there increased sales, revenue or even signatures in the guest book? No. Not yet anyways.

What do you think? Is this a new breed of gamer-tourism? Is this going to change the way people travel and interact or are we cluttering public places and creating new obstacles?  Is this the new selfie…being seen in a hybrid on-line/reality game?

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The Gol Stave Church Museum over my shoulder. A Norwegian wood building, made without nails.

Link to a CBC News’ piece on the phenomenon.