The explosion in popularity of global positioning systems since the early 2000s, combined with the ease of use of these systems and the rising interest in eco-tourism has opened the door to a wildly popular new outdoor gaming experience known as geocaching.
Geocaching combines the skill and dedication of analysing latitude and longitude readings to decipher geographic locations with the fun of scavenger and treasure hunting. At this moment, there are in excess of 1,270,000 “treasure caches” hidden around the world, awaiting intrepid high-tech treasure hunters.
In its simplest form, a geocache is a small container with a log book and a few memorabilia or “treasures,” generally of nominal value. A geocache is hidden in a specific location, then the originator posts the geographic location (latitude and longitude) online, at any of hundreds of geocache hunting sites.
Hunters choose the cache that they wish to search out, based on the general description, approximate location and difficulty of search. Once they pinpoint the site and uncover the cache, these seekers record their “find” both in the log and online, along with the date of location. They may then take one of the “treasures” within the cache, so long as they replace it with something of equal or greater value. This leaves an opportunity for discovery for the next explorer.
To date, many communities have capitalized on the intrinsic capacity of geocaching to draw in tourist visitors to their villages and towns. That minor foray into eco-tourism offers opportunities for exposure to outsiders of a town’s other treasures.
However, for the most part, the most significant opportunities offered through geocaching remain relatively unexplored. Those opportunities center mainly around the natural and historical attractions of a rural community. By working with adjacent communities, your town, it or village could develop a network of geocache locations of interest to specific seekers.
For example, historic sites could harbour caches across a large territory, providing a treasure hunt capable of filling weeks of searches by eager explorers. Working individually, those communities would be less likely to attract dedicated geocachers than if there is a wealth of exploration chances.
Other caching collections could include geographic points of interest, monuments & community statues, structural oddities and interesting buildings, natural features, recreation locales, and so on. There is a limitless capacity to attract a diverse array of visitors.
By pooling resources and attractions, and relying on local volunteers to maintain the caches and webpages, financial investment is minimal.
Added impact can be generated if a regional partnership is able to set up a sufficiently popular geocache website to attract lots of online visitors, and increase web rankings. Coupled with that geocache website, local businesses are able to promote their own individual attractions.
Within the cache itself, treasures can be placed that include minor local artefacts, as well as specific coupons or prizes that draw in those geocache hunters to local restaurants or retailers. A skilled hunting family, for example, may be able to “cash in” on free or nearly free meals, discounted accommodations, tickets to events, and so on.
While setting up such a web package and physical presence may take some forethought and effort, ongoing maintenance becomes relatively easy.
A few years ago, an enterprising online fellow created a unique trading experience that led from him offering a giant paper clip in barter for some other item of value. After less than two dozen trades, his paper clip had been bartered upward and sometimes laterally, culminating in acquisition of a house in Kipling, Saskatchewan. This unique approach to barter offers similar, if less lucrative, prospects for diligent rural developers and community leaders.
Geocaching is an opportunity for treasure hunters, today. Properly orchestrated and organized, it offers a valuable chance to invite strangers into your rural homes, and increase the potential for economic success.