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Brief Published: 3 Jun 2020

Singapore Welcomes Tourists – on Nintendo's Animal Crossing

During May, Singapore’s tourism board invited the 13 million players of hit Nintendo title Animal Crossing to explore a recreation of its island resort Sentosa. It’s a shrewd move that taps into The Virtual Travel Boom, and appeals to those consumers blending digital and physical experiences (see Gaming Goes IRL).

Singapore’s Tourism Board and advertising agency BBH Singapore teamed up to create the virtual Sentosa resort. The island featured all the attractions in-person visitors would experience, such as the onsen suite at Le Meridien hotel, the grounds of luxury hotel Capella Singapore, and even a beachside wedding at the Shangri-La resort. In-game visitors could also enjoy virtual activities like beach ball volleyball, spa treatments at the Sofitel Sentosa, and the Skyline Luge go-kart course.

The island also nodded to the overtourism issue we unpick in Ethical Travel’s Mainstream Breakthrough by limiting visitor numbers to ‘prevent overcrowding’ – only opening for three two-hour slots a day. During this time, four visitors could explore the island for 30 minutes. To further restrict numbers, visitors had to pre-register and correctly answer a trivia question to receive a time slot.

While there’s a practical element – too many visitors would overload servers and cause crashes – restricting arrivals also imbues each trip with a sense of exclusivity that resembles the physical limitations of in-person travel.

As virtual escapes continue to be the most reliable route for immediate travel, tourism boards and tour operators would be wise to experiment with these interactive campaigns, which leverage the appointment-viewing anticipation we highlight in State of Media 2020. For another example of how to interact directly with housebound travellers, read about Faroe Island’s remote tourism campaign on The Brief.