‘Geek tour’ operator aims to beam up more customers

Teras Cassidy has always sought solace in podcasts. When his pair of travel agencies took a huge hit during the 2008-09 recession, he filled his downtime with 40K Radio, an online station for fans of tabletop miniature gaming.

In 2010, when he starting putting together and selling vacations to comic conventions and famous battlefields as Geek Nation Tours, he chatted on podcasts to get the word out.

So it’s not entirely shocking that the Hinton, Alta., entrepreneur in March bought Freebooter’s Network, the fandom-focused podcast site, to help expand his company’s footprint. “It has a huge reach, with potentially 200,000 listeners,” Mr. Cassidy says, adding that he divested himself of his travel agencies two years ago to focus exclusively on Geek Nation Tours.

He has had no problem selling “Zombie Apocalypse Training 101,” for instance, a nine-day trip featuring survival training, a visit to filming sites from The Walking Dead and a tour of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Georgia. Customers come from Canada, the United States and as far away as Japan and Australia.

Other offerings include a 50th anniversary of Star Trek tour featuring drop-ins by famous actors, a Mexican gaming holiday and a Doctor Who tour in Scotland.

Each excursion averages 20 to 25 participants and costs $2,000 to $5,000 per person, and up to $13,000 for “elite” tours, such as a space-themed trip that will include a visit to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, interactions with astronauts and visits to Star Trek filming locations.

But while Mr. Cassidy’s podcast network may be a one-stop shop for everything nerdy, it’s a little too niche to be the sole source of marketing for Geek Nation Tours. Especially if Mr. Cassidy wants to expand beyond a small one-man outfit with two contract guides – one in the United States and one in Britain – and 10 to 12 tours a year.

“I’m blessed with tons of support in the geek community from clients and people who really like what I’m doing,” Mr. Cassidy says. But tapping into the vast communities of superfans out there continues to be a nagging challenge.

“We’ve dabbled in advertising on large comic book websites like Comic Book Resources and Comic Book News,” he says. “But they were super expensive, and I think that was a mistake … the reach is so big.”

Mr. Cassidy says his “next big dive” will likely into advertising on Google and social media; he’s just not sure where to begin.

[Source:-The globe & mail]