Soon after “The Hobbit” movie hits theaters Dec. 14th, film-induced tourists again will be converging on New Zealand, as so many did following the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. All types of media, whether books, music or film, have always had a influential grip on travelers’ destination choices. Also notable is another type of film tourism which cropped up recently: “on location vacations,” in which travelers can subscribe to a list of current filming locations so they visit places in hopes of catching a glimpse of their favorite celebrity or be lucky enough for a chance to sign on as an extra.
These and other genres of specialized pop-culture tourism over the past decade or two has gained great popularity, especially as filming locations become more exotic and surreal. Niche tourism has taken a new angle recently with the popularity of media or fan conventions and events relating to comic books, video games, sci-fi, fantasy and horror, anime, movies and TV shows – many fall within the realm of “geekdom.”
At the 2011 Star Trek convention, I first encountered Geek Nation Tours in the vendor (dealer) room. Immediately this innovative travel business piqued my interest. Geek Nation Tours is a tour operator of – just like it says – planned trips and vacations appropriately pointed to geekery, which includes themed vacations about science fiction, films, fantasy, war games, battlefield miniature collections, to name a few. There’s also a tour for Lego lovers. Geek Nation Tours also includes historical “geekness,” and added to its list of tour offerings are vacations surrounding historical battlefield events like Gettysburg and Waterloo.
Last summer at the 2012 Star Trek convention I had the chance to talk briefly with Geek Nation Tours owner Teras Cassidy, who is planning a couple of tours for 2013 with a definite appeal to geeks within the blogosphere of AZGetawayTravel.com.
One tour includes events of a war gaming convention called Duel Con, at the Mesa Hilton. On “Geeking Out at the Duel Con” tour, participants can enrich their convention experience with activities they may not have considered on their own, such as a tour of the Battlefoam facility in Gilbert, Zombie target practice at local shooting range, (no, not real Zombies, of course) and a Jeep trip along the Apache Trail. The tour includes accommodations, exclusive Duel Con Welcome Dinner, Duel Con VIP weekend passes, Apache Trail and Desert Jeep tour and swag, according to its website. This happens at the end of September 2013. (Hint: it still might be a great Christmas gift idea for the geek in your life.)
Another tour of interest to Arizona Getaway Travelers (okay, mainly me) is the Star Trek tour, “Exploring Trek Sites: Hollywood to Vegas with Larry Nemecek.” The August 2013 trip starts in Los Angeles with a welcome dinner at Cirroc Lofton’s restaurant. (Cirroc played Jake Sisko on “Deep Space Nine.”) The following days of the tour are filled with filming location visits and meeting Star Trek actors from select Star Trek television episodes and some of the full-length movies. The real treat is that participants will have Nemecek (“Dr. Star Trek”) accompanying them. Nemecek is well-known in Trek fan circles as being one of the foremost authorities about all things Star Trek and has written books and produced documentaries on the subject. After tour-goers visit several filming locations in California, the group will travel to Las Vegas for the Star Trek Convention.
Cassidy said Geek Nation Tours, which he founded in 2008, “is really a child of the recession.” He decided to fine tune his travel agency business and run tours to locations in which he was interested — “geeky places, places that cater to specific interests like comics, sci-fi and toy soldiers. I have been a geek my whole life; I own a travel agency… and the business originated from there.”
Not all who come along on these tours are geeks. Cassidy has coined what’s called the “Parallel Universes” department, where some separate activity arrangements are made for non-geek spouses or family members. They can enjoy portions of the tour with a wider interest, then take time for such activities as shopping, spa trips, sports and visits to other nearby tourist attractions.
“We even have a property in Huatulco, Mexico… that you can get your geek on, and visit tropical beaches as well,” said Cassidy.
Geeks with some booking savvy could probably put a similar tour together on their own, but it’s doubtful it would have the same amount of detail Geek Nation Tours puts into their tours. Plus, Cassidy arranges all the “guest speakers and geeky celebrities” for the tour. All the participant has to do is “just sit back and enjoy the ride.”
His business attracts geeks from around the world of all ages, but most range from 28 to 35. Many of his clients are those who have been dreaming about a such a specialized vacation, and now that Cassidy as made these available – they have the chance.
“Mostly we find that our tours attract socially savvy, financially secure people that have a deep passion for what they love and want to share it with others,” Cassidy explained. “We provide tours to destinations that allow them to get the social, intellectual and ‘geek itch’ scratched at the same time.”
Geek Nation Tours appears to be doing quite well. Cassidy says his customers are happy with the service. “Honestly we have not had a customer complaint yet. That is five years of doing tours and five years of satisfied participants. This is something we are very, very happy about, indeed.”
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Note: for more photos of past Geek Nation Tours vacations, visit the Facebook page