Updated Wed, Jan 11, 2012 2:42 pm
A popular, worldwide activity has made its way to southeastern Ohio providing big fun for Athens visitors.
Geocaching, a game of high-tech treasure hunting, has landed Athens a small fortune by attracting tourists to the town.
"It's had a great economic impact and it's been really successful and a lot of fun to see," said Jenna Dill, Athens County Convention and Visitors Bureau Marketing and Sales Manager. "Sixty percent of the people who have done the trails have been outside of Athens."
Since June 2011, geocachers equipped with a GPS, or a map for the old-school players, have made more than 2,000 finds at the various Athens County locations, but fewer than 200 people have actually completed the trail.
Every official geocache location around the country has been registered online; Athens County alone harbors more than 80 caches.
Geocachers who complete the Athens trail receive an official Athens geocoin, which features a Passion Works Studio flower on one side and an Ohio flag on the other.
The Athens County Visitors Bureau or the Holiday Inn Express administers these coins.
"It's been a big hit for us," said Dill. "We've had a lot of people come from outside the area, and everyone that's traveled in from out of state has stayed overnight, which has been pretty awesome."
According to Dill, those who stay in town often venture off and spend money in the uptown area, providing revenue for Athens businesses.
"We don't have any numbers yet or statistics of the economic impact, I haven't calculated that yet but from what I can estimate, it's been at least a $500,000 economic impact since June of 2010," Dill said.
Geocaching in Athens has been around less than a year, and its development was based on a similar trail across the border.
"The idea originated a year ago when I was in West Virginia," said Lenie Holbrook, Ohio University Associate Professor of Management Systems and a developer of the geocache project. "I was in an area even less developed than Athens, so I guess I just decided that we could have something like that here."
Due to its popularity, the creation of more geocaching trails is in the works along with plans for expanding the games.