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Promoting West Virginia Tourism
Tourism, Higher Ed Team Up to Showcase the Best of WV
Stacking opportunities to grow tourism industry
Faculty and staff from both WVU and MU have been meeting since the inception of WV Forward to determine creative ways to boost tourism, support and elevate the work from the WV Tourism Office, enhance and improve community development efforts and showcase the best of West Virginia.
During these internal meetings, faculty have not only become more familiarized with tourism-based research and projects among their peers, but have also considered new partnerships for current and future projects.
Most importantly, these meetings have contributed to breaking down academic silos, creating synergy and offering new opportunities for knowledge sharing and multi-disciplinary and intra- and inter-departmental collaboration.
Unprecedented collaboration unfolds
A year in the making, West Virginia universities' and colleges' faculty and staff met with the WV Tourism Office in April 2019 to share multidisciplinary tourism projects, resources and research. From state marketing to community tourism development, new ideas popped up and gained traction.
The Benedum Foundation's Mary Hunt facilitated a WV Forward workshop with over two dozen professionals joined together at the State Capitol to share joint projects that embody the Blueprint's findings, the goals of the Almost Heaven campaign, the universities' resources and state assets.
With enthusiasm high, participants identified research gaps and overlap, and discussed potential projects around asset inventory and mapping, trails, adventure tourism and “storytelling.”
Group members used this unique chance to connect, build relationships and explore partnerships to identify abundant opportunities on the road ahead. Collaborative project discussions are in the works now.
“The session proved that collectively exploring ideas produces great results. The discussions created fledgling partnerships and raised awareness about the substantial intellectual capacity which exists at the universities that can assist with tourism-based economic development. I look forward to faculty research, experiential learning for students, and other meaningful efforts which will emerge from the session.”
Joint meeting main takeaways
- Established a social network of faculty, staff and researchers* from West Virginia University, Marshall University, Concord University and Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College who are working on tourism-based projects and putting together concrete ideas on how to transform the state.
- Gave a platform for participants to share promising proposals for collaborative projects, which could be jointly implemented by WV Forward partners, and other powerful initiatives that are helping to move WV Forward, including apps and projects around asset inventory and mapping, trails, adventure tourism, “storytelling,” rebranding and showcasing West Virginia.
- Ignited conversations around collaborative engagement, which could possibly support more competitive grant applications, as potential donors and funders look more favorably at broad-based collaborations, to fund transformational community development and tourism-based projects.
- Produced additional opportunities for WVU and MU students to get hands on experience by working on real world challenges through the WV Tourism Office student requests.
“Let’s keep doing what we are doing right and increase demand, while also creating customized experiences for our visitors,” said Dr. Aluri. “As small as we are in West Virginia, we have a real opportunity to differentiate ourselves from neighboring states and become a smart destination. Today’s travelers want to stay connected. Let’s make that happen and ensure we are making the right connections to make the best experiences at the destinations and iconic events that will boost local economies and the industry."