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ECU conference to discuss climate’s effect on N.C. tourism

GREENVILLE, N.C.   (Nov. 10, 2008)   —   An economy that depends on tourism often depends on the weather.

This relationship and its impact on one of North Carolina’s most important industries will be discussed next week at a conference sponsored by East Carolina University’s Center for Sustainable Tourism.

The workshop, “Climate, Weather and Tourism: Issues and Opportunities,” will be held Nov. 14 and 15 in the Willis Building on ECU’s campus. Sponsoring partners include the National Climatic Data Center, North Carolina Sea Grant and the Institute for Coastal Science and Policy.

Patrick Long, director of ECU’s Center for Sustainable Tourism, said, “We recognize that tourism businesses, which represent a huge part of our state’s economy, are affected by climate and weather events. A key element of this conference is linking science with practice.”

Presenters include research scientists and business leaders from the National Climatic Data Center, the U.S. Forest Service, the World Meteorological Organization’s Expert Committee on Climate and Tourism, Great Wolf Resorts, Inc., the Outer Banks Tourism Authority, Pinehurst Resort and Country Club, Wildwater, Ltd.

“This workshop will explore the frameworks and dimensions that are necessary to connect scientific information with short and long-term decision-making needs of tourism businesses,” Long said.

Tourism is a major economic driver for North Carolina, accounting for $1.7 billion in travel expenditures and $4.2 billion in payroll. Almost 200,000 residents depend on tourism for employment.

Scott Curtis, a climatologist in ECU’s geography department, said weather conditions, such as changing rainfall patterns, climate changes and natural hazards like hurricanes, can affect the state’s tourism industry.

“All of these things can lead to a greater or fewer number of tourists coming into the region,” Curtis said.

To better understand these conditions and prepare for them, industry leaders need to work with the scientists who study climate and weather, he said. “We’re trying to find ways to communicate our science to the general public. We see this workshop as the first step in doing that,” Curtis said.

Long hopes the dialogue started by this conference – the first of its kind to be held in North Carolina – will expand to a discussion on the research, policies and practices that need to be embraced in the future.

“It is critically important that we further our understanding of how tourism businesses and government can best respond to fluctuating weather conditions and environmental changes that affect such an important part of our economy,” Long said.

Workshop attendees must register by Nov. 12. Program information and registration can be found at http://www.ecu.edu/cs-acad/sustainabletourism/Climate-Tourism-Workshop-2008.cfm . Cost is $25 for general public, $20 for ECU faculty members and $10 for students.

EDITORS: Reporters and photographers are welcome to cover this event.

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Contact: Patrick Long | 252-328-9469