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Conference set on outdoor tourism, community partnerships in Western North Carolina

Western Carolina University will host a regional conference addressing “Growing Partnerships with Outdoor Tourism and Local Communities” on Tuesday, Feb. 28, at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in Cherokee.

Organized and facilitated by WCU’s Hospitality and Tourism Program, conference goals are to discuss ways to grow demand for outdoor tourism that contributes to the Western North Carolina economy. Conference speakers will address evolving outdoor tourism and generational marketing trends and how the outdoor tourism economy contributes to the region’s economic development.

LEADWNClogoRegistration is $139, and the event runs from 9:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. A pre-conference workshop will be held the day prior from 1 to 5:30 p.m. on the fundamentals of operating a tourism development authority. The TDA session costs $29 with conference registration. A special discount rate of $89 per attendee is available for overnight accommodations onsite.

“Western North Carolina has some of the most accessible natural resource assets with national parks, national forests and state parks providing enormous opportunity to continue the growth in our very popular outdoor tourism businesses,” said Steve Morse, director of the Hospitality and Tourism Program at WCU. “This conference will help identify and discuss the issues that will help market the region with tourism community partners to grow these sustainable businesses in the future, and the role they have in future economic development.”

Conference topics will include:

  • Trends in Outdoor Tourism for the Next 10 Years
  • Generational Marketing of Outdoor Tourism
  • Branding Your Community as an Outdoor Tourism Destination
  • Success Factors of Regional Tourism Partnerships
  • Discovering the Role of Outdoor Tourism in Economic Development

Those in attendance will receive customized tourism economic fact sheets with detailed analysis on the impact of tourism on the economies of counties across WNC. The fact sheets are compiled by a senior-level tourism business analysis class in hospitality and tourism taught by Morse. Sessions will include comparisons on branding and marketing techniques, identifying target markets for outdoor tourism and using partnerships for maximum mutual benefit.

The keynote address will be by Berkeley Young, president of Young Strategies of Charlotte, on outdoor travel trends and how the future of outdoor adventure tourism fits into market demands.

Pre-conference topics will include developing a destination marketing plan, identifying primary target markets and visitor profiles, marketing and public relations, and the basics of partnerships. A featured speaker will be John Whisenant, director of tourism for Tennessee Hospitality and Tourism Association. Concluding pre-conference remarks will be from Nick Breedlove, director of Jackson County TDA, titled “What I Wish I had Known When I Started That I Know Now.”

The conference is part of a series of spin-off events from the inaugural LEAD:WNC, a one-day summit convened in 2014 by WCU to discuss solutions leading to sustainable economic and community development. Launching an annual conference of regional leaders and thinkers to work collaboratively on solving regional issues was among the pledges made by WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher in his March 2012 installation address.

In addition to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and Resort, conference sponsors are Duke Energy, Nantahala Outdoor Center and Smoky Mountain Host.

For more information or to register, visit the website tourism.wcu.edu or contact the Division of Educational Outreach at 828-227-7397 (toll-free at 800-928-4968).

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