Engagement & Community Outreach
In partnership with the Office of Engagement, Innovation, and Economic Development, the Center advocates for the many businesses, communities, and travelers already implementing sustainable tourism practices. The Center also serves as a link between East Carolina University’s capacity and expertise in providing sustainability information and technical assistance and those seeking applicable, relevant, and research-based information on sustainable tourism. Examples of tourism organizations that have taken active steps to reduce their negative environmental and social impacts are profiled in the Center’s Sustainable Practices Initiative where readers can learn about these real-life sustainable practices in action.
The Center also reaches out to the public directly, conducting presentations to community groups and professional or civic organizations, conducting regional workshops, responding to sustainable tourism related inquiries, conducting joint research and publishing weekly sustainability tips, business tip sheets, sector specific sustainable practices checklist, sustainability reports, and a widely distributed quarterly newsletter for the tourism industry. These resources are intended to provide the basic but necessary information industry leaders need so that they may make well-informed decisions that benefit travel destinations today without sacrificing future opportunities.
The Center’s outreach initiatives also seek to build relationships with industry partners that result in unique experiential learning opportunities for students and applied research opportunities for faculty.
Collaboration with other governmental agencies and non-profit organizations is another important aspect of this initiative. To further this effort, a joint outreach coordinator position has been created that is shared between East Carolina University and the NC Department of Commerce Division of Tourism, Film, and Sports Development, establishing the first known sustainability focused position at a state tourism office. The Center is involved in efforts to support sustainable tourism within many other entities as well, such as the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the NC Cooperative Extension, and many of North Carolina’s economic development organizations, among others.
Here are just a few of the Center’s outreach efforts:
- Provided sustainability expertise to the 2009 NC Governors Conference on Hospitality and Tourism planning.
- Provided recycling coordination support for the 2009 Cycle NC program.
- Assisted NC Blue BBQ & Music Festival with improving composting and waste reduction efforts.
- Conducted sustainability and visitor-related survey research at the 2009 NC Sea Food Festival.
This program is a collaborative research
program designated by ECU's Center for Sustainable Tourism to assist
rural North Carolina communities collect and analyze information about
current visitor markets.
Tribal Sense of Place
Dr. Rebecca Sweet and her research team are investigating the meaning of place within in the tribal cultures of North Carolina’s Woodland Indian tribes. Through this study, participants generate self-directed photography of the interiors and exteriors of environments that are meaningful to them. These photographs will document the unique and defining characteristics of the tribes’ perceptions of place and will serve as a guide for reflective interviews with the participants. This project will bring their culture to light, and allow their stories to be told in their own words and through their own eyes. Dr. Sweet and her students also provided design guidance to the First Nations Heritage Project directed by Dreamweaver, a tribal member and the director of the Grandpa’s Children Foundation.
Wind Farm Impacts
Drs. Craig Landry and Tom Allen, along with colleagues from Appalachian State University, are examining the impact of coastal wind projects on recreation and tourism using survey data on beach visitation and site choices. They are applying a joint-revealed and stated-preference recreation demand model that estimates average annual consumer surplus for beach visitors from 16 coastal counties in North Carolina. They are also modeling how surplus might change with coastal wind projects (such as wind farms) at major beach destinations. Their data estimates how much visitors are willing to pay in order to avoid seeing wind turbines if they were placed in the ocean and/or sound at various distances from the shore.
Roanoke River Development
Paige Schneider is working with the Mid-East Resource Conservation and Development District, Inc., the Roanoke River Partners Board of Directors, and the Roanoke River Mayors Association on sustainable community-based development along the Roanoke River corridor. Along with her students, Ms. Schneider is updating an economic impact assessment of tourism and providing leadership in conducting an asset inventory and in applying for grants to stimulate the development process.
Crisis Communication in Tourism
Dr. Donna Kain, who conducts research on risk, hazards, and crisis communication, leads a team of researchers and students in the examination of crisis communication in tourism practices for the UN World Tourism Organization (WTO). This work consists of securing and evaluating examples of crisis communication plans from destination marketing organizations, state tourism offices, and select members of the WTO to determine common practices and policies and to compare these to non-tourism crises plans in areas such as health, natural disasters, and terrorism.
Standardized Measurement of Carbon Emissions
Dr. Shaun Willson has assembled widely-accepted, standardized protocols in order to perform measurements of what he considers to be the most critical component of sustainability for the tourism industry—carbon emissions. Unlike an index or business-to-business comparison, such a measurement can be compared to a known threshold and thereby used to guide consumers and businesses toward a specific, definitive goal of sustainability. This work has resulted in an online calculator to measure carbon emissions from tourism operations.
Sustainable Rental Properties
Hunt McKinnon is leading a team of students to examine and evaluate the options for sustainable renovations of Outer Banks vacation rental properties. This team is determining the environmental, economic, and aesthetic impact of these suggested renovations in order to establish a precedent of housing that is sustainable and will establish a reputation of being a green vacation destination. In addition, the team will produce detailed drawings for the existing properties, conduct a LEED evaluation for each rental unit, suggest appropriate improvements to make the properties as sustainable as possible, and provide cost estimates for the suggested actions.