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Sustainable Tourism

With an influx of visitors and residents to the Mountain State, planning for long-term, sustainable tourism opportunities is critical for our communities. Join our tourism experts each month for a free webinar series.

Sustainable Tourism Webinar Series Dates & Details

About WVU Extension's Sustainable Tourism Webinar Series

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, sustainable tourism “takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, and environment and host communities.”

West Virginia is one of the most rural states in the country. According to Dean Runyan Associates, West Virginia’s $4.6 billion in travel-generated spending is a vital part of the state and local economies. In some areas of the state, it is one of the primary sources of earnings and employment. UNWTO designated 2020 as the Year of Tourism and Rural Development stating that the sustainability of tourism in rural areas will only be successful if a comprehensive, inclusive planning strategy is adopted and implemented based on a multi-action and multi-stakeholder participatory approach.

Through partnerships and collaboration, West Virginia University Extension has been working to build and enhance West Virginia tourism opportunities. Our Extension experts developed the Sustainable Rural Tourism webinar series to help West Virginians learn about sustainable rural tourism development using interactive and engaging discussions. Drawing from lessons learned and programs implemented during the past 10 years, these sessions are designed to illustrate basic principles and demonstrate how individuals can apply them collaboratively to further enhance the future of tourism in West Virginia.

UNWTO has recognized that in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the role of tourism in rural development is more relevant than ever. Tourism in rural communities offers important opportunities for recovery from the pandemic as tourists look for less populated destinations and open-air experiences and activities.

This program is designed to help tourism stakeholders in West Virginia harness these opportunities using a sustainable tourism approach focusing on topics such as:

  • Breaking down the principles of sustainable tourism and how to apply them
  • Building capacity through participatory approaches
  • Destination management vs. marketing
  • Using data to make informed decisions
  • Local and regional planning and action
  • Funding tourism action plans
  • Evaluating success

Our series covers the basics needed to understand and implement sustainable tourism development. Industry speakers will help to illustrate key concepts and draw on examples from across the state while engaging participants in interactive discussions.

Tourism can change the face of communities in many ways. West Virginia has tremendous potential to harness the positive outcomes of tourism and to avoid negative impacts as the tourism industry continues to grow. Join us in learning more about sustainable tourism while gaining resources you can use to implement these principles in your own community.

Register to Attend the Sustainable Tourism Webinars

Kids explore rural tourism as tourists in the forest at summer camp, surrounded by tall green trees

2022 Sustainable Tourism Webinars

181 West Virginians participated in our free 2022 webinar series. Watch the videos again and get inspired to start with rural tourism in your local area.

Access the 2022 videos

2023 Webinar Series

Sustainable Rural Tourism in West Virginia is a free, yearlong series with a webinar that occurs on the last Monday of the month (unless that conflicts with a holiday) at 11 a.m. EST. The webinars will run from 11 a.m. until noon, however, we will provide the option to stay on from noon to 12:30 p.m. for additional discussion for Q&A. See below for the full schedule. Recordings will be available afterward for those not able to attend.

January 30, 2023

What is the future of sustainable tourism and destination management in West Virginia? (Interactive webinar with breakout rooms)

Interactive conversation about the future of destination management in West Virginia.

Breakout rooms included interactive discussions to help us understand your needs and how we can all move forward:

February 27, 2023

Andrew Grossman – Director of Destination Development for the Colorado Tourism Office

Andrew will join us and talk about rural destination development in Colorado and the Colorado Rural Academy for Tourism with some practical examples of rural destinations developing and implementing a destination management strategy.

March 27, 2023

Scott Bricker – Travel Oregon Destination Development and Oregon Rural Tourism Studio

Scott will join us and talk about destination development engagements, experience development and stewardship, destination investments, Oregon’s community of practice work, and other aspects related to how development and stewardship lead to other outcomes for tourism and local livability.

Outdoor Economy & Community Development Series (April, May, June)

Led by Andy Williamson - Director of Outdoor Community Development for the Brad & Alys Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative and WVU Extension Specialist

April 24, 2023

Topic: Outdoor Economy Foundations and Trends

Guest Speaker Rebecca Gillis - State & Local Government Affairs Manager, Outdoor Industry Association will kick off this mini series with an overview of current trends of outdoor economic development, resources available to local communities, case study examples of how communities are working to grow their local outdoor economy and how the Smith OEDC, in collaboration partners, are working to support efforts on the ground across West Virginia.

May 22, 2023

Topic: Infrastructure - Core Component of an Outdoor Economy

Guest Speaker Richard Edwards - Outdoor Infrastructure Coordinator, WVU Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative. You can’t have an outdoor economy without outdoor recreation infrastructure. This session will focus on best practices on how to leverage investments in quality, connected, progression based outdoor infrastructure and share some examples from other communities making similar investments.

June 26, 2023

Topic: Activating Your Investment

Guest Speaker Brent Anslinger - Outdoor Recreation Program Manager at Five Rivers MetroParks in Southwest Ohio. Brent will be joining us to share their strategic approach to activating their outdoor assets to bring positive change and build outdoor culture in their community. If you build it, will they come? That is the question. The answer is, No, they won’t come if you don’t activate it. Or at least not as many as you had hoped. This session will dive into different tactics to ensure people, both residents and visitors, know of, have the skills, and the tools to take full advantage of your outdoor infrastructure investment and the role of activation in building a vibrant outdoor culture in your community.

July 31, 2023

What is the Future of Sustainable Tourism and Destination Management? (Interactive webinar with breakouts)

We will come back together as a group to discuss where we want the future of Sustainable Tourism and Destination Management to go. Interactive conversation about the future of destination management in West Virginia.

August 28, 2023

Agritourism Best Practices

with case studies from West Virginia and Vermont

September 25, 2023

Effectively Branding and Promoting the Destination - Strategies and Best Practices

Presenters: Don Anderson and DMO Practitioner Brady Dawson

October 30, 2023

Cultural Heritage Tourism Trends and Opportunities for West Virginia

Presenter: Cheryl Hargrove, Hargrove International

November 27, 2023

Sustainable Tourism in the New River Gorge Region of WV

Presenter: Andy Davis New River Gorge Regional Development Authority

December 18, 2023

Discussion of the future of the webinar series​