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WVU Extension Webinar Series to Focus on Sustainable Rural Tourism in West Virginia

From WVU Today

The Mountain State’s communities have seen elevated interest in tourism staples and a new national park, and along with the COVID-19 pandemic and work-at-home expansion, have experienced more visitors and new residents. West Virginia University Extension Service experts can help those communities be equipped with the resources and knowledge to sustain the momentum.

The “Sustainable Rural Tourism” year-long monthly webinar series is designed to illustrate basic principles and demonstrate how individuals can apply them collaboratively to further enhance the future of tourism in West Virginia. The sessions will cover topics such as destination management vs. marketing; leadership and capacity; using data to make informed decisions; and more.

Doug Arbogast, WVU Extension Service rural tourism specialist and associate professor, notes that now, more than ever, many West Virginia communities have a unique role to play in growing tourism.

“Tourism has always been an important economic driver for the state, but the pandemic has created unprecedented interest in rural tourism that provides unique opportunities for West Virginia’s communities,” Arbogast said. “During the past 10 years, WVU Extension has been working alongside community partners, tourism leaders and others throughout the state to grow tourism using a participatory approach. Through these collaborations, we have accumulated knowledge and lessons learned to share as we work together to grow tourism, drive economic prosperity and address other potential effects to create a long-term plan for tourism.”

Sustainable Rural Tourism in West Virginia is a free yearlong series with a new webinar every month from 11 a.m. to noon. See below for the full schedule. Recordings will be available afterward for those not able to attend.

January 31, 11 a.m. – Intro to Sustainable Rural Tourism Development
February 28, 11 a.m. – Sustainable Rural Tourism and West Virginia: Lessons Learned
March 28, 11 a.m. – Marketing vs. Management
April 25, 11 a.m. – What is a Destination Management Organization?
May 23, 11 a.m. – Leadership and Capacity
June 27, 11 a.m. – The Role of Extension and Non-traditional Stakeholders
July 25, 11 a.m. – Making Informed Decisions – Community Assessments and Inventory of Attractions and Services
August 29, 11 a.m. – Making Informed Decisions – Understanding Secondary Data
September 26, 11 a.m. – Making Informed Decisions – Collecting and Interpreting Primary Data: Understanding Visitor Preferences and Resident Attitudes Toward Tourism
October 31, 11 a.m. – Product Development: Intro to Participatory Planning and Action
November 28, 11 a.m. – Product Development: Funding Tourism Development
December 19, 11 a.m. – Sustainable Rural Tourism: Implementing and Evaluating a Destination Management Plan

The free series, which runs from 11 a.m. to noon each month, is open to West Virginia residents, community leaders, tourism operators and others interested in the topic. A schedule of topics, along with a registration link, can be found on the Sustainable Tourism webpage. The webinars will be held the last Monday of each month (unless specified otherwise). All participants must register for the educational series.