Gamification in tourism: Designing memorable experiences (a book review)

By Paul Bulencea and Roman Egger (Books on Demand, Norderstedt, 2015, ISBN 9783734759673).


My life would probably turn out a lot different if I had the chance to read this book 10 years ago. For a start, I would probably not have felt the need to do a 3 month research project at Leeds Metropolitan University in 2007, trying to discover a missing link between two concepts that everybody in tourism talked about: stories (heritage) and extraordinary experiences.

Later that year, I would be much better prepared in facing the audience at the Slovenian Event Management conference, trying to convince them that this holy grail of tourism (and event management) is no other than the concept of PLAY. Ever since then, my work as an event manager and creator of experiences would be much easier. My learning curve in creating and experimenting with engaging experiences would surely be much steeper.

This book comes highly recommended for anybody that wants to create a better, more engaging and financially successful tourism experience. While the book is not really a blueprint for creating experiences (is such a book really possible?), it will certainly give you a very valuable insight into concepts, ideas and good practices that you should be aware of. In fact, just browsing through the book will give you plenty of ideas on how to create a new tourism product or improve an existing one.

The book will also give you a very broad insight into the entire body of knowledge that is relevant to designing memorable tourist experiences. A huge body indeed, since useful concepts arise from so widely diverse fields such as design thinking, the video games industry, gamification movement, motivation theories and last but not least, the positive psychology and the PERMA model (Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishment.

The core of the book is an original model presented by the authors: the memorable experience design (MED) framework that presents a summary of the design process and properties combined with theories, tools and techniques related to gamification and experience design. They are all based on the positive psychology  and place at their centre a target of the experience  – a user of tourism services with his preferences, values and attitudes .

The MED framework includes concepts and models that I have been successfully using in my work in creating experiences, including but not limited to:

-              The ideas by Pine and Gilmore on experiential and transformational economies. For example, P&G have argued in their widely quoted 1999  book The Experience Economy that a truly extraordinary experience combines elements of education, entertainment, aesthetic and escapism.

-              The concept of the Hero’s Journey, created by Joseph Campbell, adopted by Chris Vogler and extensively used in the Hollywood movie industry. And excellent concept for creating good dramaturgy for events, games and other experiences that you (can) provide for your guests.

-              Most relevant game mechanic elements that can be used to create a fully gamified tourism service or to gamify an existing  process in marketing, loyalty management or any other interaction with a tourist (mechanics such as boss fights, new levels, rewards, surprise, instant feedback etc.).

The only thing that is missing from the book is what we actually still miss in tourism: not just case studies of tourism products with gamified elements but more examples of truly gamified tourist experiences that would combine local stories and game elements to create an engaging (tourist) experience.

I sincerely hope that this book will prove to be a big kick in the butt for all tourism developers worldwide, both in public institutions and private companies.  For one thing is clear. Gamification is by far the best chance for any tourism provider to stand out from the crowd.

In short, well worth the read. Looking forward to the next edition, full of more case studies that we will create in the next couple of years.

More information and book orders.

ŽŽiga Novak has been designing games and gamified experiences in tourism for the last 10 years. Most recently, he has focused on creating escape rooms and escape projects for bigger, mostly corporate groups that include elements of live-action-role-playing (larp) and sensoric theatre. Žiga runs a group of companies that includes a unique event venue (The Walnut grove), a creative-event-management-team building agency (The TeamBuildingLab) and a consulting firm for developing experiential tourism (Martin Krpan Institute). Žiga can be reached at

Paul Bulencea, a co-author of the book, will speak at a boutique conference on Gamification in tourism (perhaps the very first conference under that name) that will take a place at the Walnut Grove, Ljubljana, Slovenia on 23rd of September 2015. The event is organized by the Martin Krpan Institute, primarily as a motivational event for Slovenian tourist developers to embrace the huge potential of gamification and include it in the next generation of the EU financed development projects. People attending the conference have the opportunity to buy the book for 50% of the price. Write to for more information on the conference.

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