Let's Go Geocaching!

If you have never heard of geocaching, take a little time to find out about it because it’s a great way of attracting guests in the low and shoulder seasons.  It’s a year-round activity, with millions of participants around the world, and best of all, it’s mostly free.  I don’t see many listings promoting geocaching as an activity so there’s a real opportunity to capture this niche market with some relevant text in your listing or a page on your website.  This is a relatively untapped market in our vacation rental community, so you may find investing a little time is very worthwhile.

It’s helpful if you know what geocaching is about, because if you don’t have a basic knowledge of the game it may be hard to get enthusiastic about promoting it to others.  So, let’s start with a brief explanation:
Here’s a description from  Whatis.com :
“Geocaching  is a recreational activity in which someone "buries" something for others to try to find using a Global Positioning System ( GPS ) receiver. The pursuit can be thought of as a GPS-enabled treasure hunt. Usually, a geocache consists of a small, waterproof container that holds a logbook and inexpensive trinkets. Participants are called geocachers.

Participants in a geocaching adventure use the features and capability of a GPS unit (or a GPS app on any mobile device) to find the cache. Geocaching enthusiasts all over the world have hidden caches in a wide variety of locations and post the caches' coordinates on the Internet at www.geocaching.com . GPS users then follow the location coordinates to find the caches.

Here's one typical geocache hunt: The geographic coordinates of a geocache were described on a Web site, which the users followed to the cache. The geocache consisted of a plastic Tupperware box containing a little notebook, a disposable camera, a printed informational sheet about the location, and several trinkets (a pen, postage stamps, a rubber ball, and a local postcard). The finders were encouraged to write a short note in the notebook, including the weather that day, who was involved on the hunt, whether the cache was easy or hard to find, and any other information they wanted to include. One finder took out the rubber ball and left a little toy car in its place. The finder placed everything back in the box and rehide it for future geocachers to find. Back home, the finders sent a note to the Web site describing their experience.”

Although there are a couple of web sites that have tried to emulate it, Geocaching.com is the primary web site and the only one you will need to visit.  Just sign up for a free membership and check out the forums.  If you doubt that the market is there, the sheer volume of posts and replies demonstrate this is huge. 
A quick checklist to get started:
  • Learn about Geocaching at www.geocaching.com & sign up for a free membership.  Go to the Getting Started page and watch the videos – a really neat description of what this is about.
  • Find out how many caches there are in a 25 mile radius of your property – you may be very surprised at how many there are.
  • If you are not in an area with good cell service buy a handheld GPS and load with 25 local caches
  • Follow the instructions on geocaching.com and create your own cache near your property
  • Create a geocaching for beginners folder that describes what your guests need to do in case they are newbies
  • Get active as a geocacher yourself  and get active on the geocaching foums and create a signature that includes a link to your web site
  • Sign up for the Groundspeak newsletter (this lists events that may be in your area)
There are two types of guest you could attract.  The seasoned geocachers who have all their own equipment and maps and don’t need any ‘hand-holding’, and the beginners who have never participated before.   The former are easy to accommodate and all you need to supply are some suggested driving tours that include recommendations for restaurants and other places of interest along the way.

Newbies require a lot more effort but these groups are often the most enthusiastic and can become great at ‘word-of-mouth’ promotion for you.  Develop a Beginner’s Guide to Geocaching; make it really simple to learn, and promote it well, and you have created a new market for your off –season weeks.

A word of warning…you will likely get hooked on this hobby if you enjoy the outdoors but also like a goal for an outing.