Extending Our Welcome: Trends and Strategies for Tourism in Appalachia

Author(s): Tim Ezzell, Ph.D., Stefanie Benjamin, Ph.D., Catherine Wilt, Bruce Decker, Rachel Chen, Ph.D., Emily Isaacs.
Author Organization(s): University of Tennessee, Knoxville; Collective Impact, LLC.

Extending our Welcome uses qualitative and quantitative research to assess the history of tourism in Appalachia and make recommendations for communities looking to employ it as an economic strategy. The report also provides 12 community and establishment profiles from eight Appalachian states as a source of best practices. Though the research was conducted prior to COVID-19, many of these findings remain relevant—bearing in mind the pandemic’s impact on the tourism industry and public safety guidelines—and useful for current and future tourism planning. 

Recommendations include:

  • Embracing major changes in modern tourism, including the role played by technology and the diversity of the current traveling public, 
  • Educating and training local officials to help them better understand local tourism strategies, 
  • Connecting communities, especially rural areas, with hands-on technical assistance in tourism planning and hospitality, 
  • Training rural communities to prepare for and welcome visitors of all backgrounds,
  • Practicing good stewardship of public lands, which are the foundation of Appalachian tourism, 
  • Creating authentic local experiences unique to a community’s natural and cultural assets, and 
  • Addressing issues, like substance abuse, affecting Appalachia’s front line tourism workforce. 

Community profiles include:

Extending Our Welcome was conducted by a team from the University of Tennessee Knoxville and Collective Impact, with support and guidance from the Appalachian Regional Commission.  

Read the full press release here.