Retail, hospitality, and tourism management students at UT are trying to identify niche tourism markets that may help Lenoir City’s downtown revitalization efforts.
The students are a part of a class taught by Stefanie Benjamin, an assistant professor of retail, hospitality, and tourism management in UT’s College of Education, Health and Human Sciences.
The senior-level students are working with students from various disciplines including architecture, public relations, consumer sciences, and Spanish on projects for Lenoir City as a part this year’s Smart Communities Initiative.
The students will produce a sustainable strategic tourism marketing plan, rack card, and photography portfolio for Lenoir City.
“Students will leave this class with two deliverables,” said Benjamin. “The first will be a strategic marketing plan, which consists of background research of tourists and residents, niche tourism markets, short- and long-term marketing goals, potential community partnerships, itineraries for tourists, photographs, and logo designs branding Lenoir City. The second will be a rack card, which is a simple front-and-back marketing brochure that highlights important facts about Lenoir City and provides a quick reference for places to visit for tourists.”
Benjamin won a Teaching Innovation grant from the Tennessee Teaching and Learning Center to help her students use a data collection method called “photo voice.” This method has students using iPads and smartphones to create portfolios through innovative participatory photography and digital storytelling methods. The portfolios will capture the positive and negative attributes of Lenoir City’s current downtown that may deter or attract potential tourists.
Students recently visited Lenoir City to begin their extensive projects.
“I am in the photography group,” said student Krista Lucas. “We visited several businesses and interviewed the owner of one business. Then we visited Fort Loudon Dam and took some photos there. The visit really gave us an idea of what Lenoir City needs most.”
Student Courtney Barnes said visiting Lenoir City helped her see ongoing construction as a large part of the problem.
“Right now, it makes Lenoir City unattractive to tourists, but once the construction is complete and businesses move downtown, it will be an entirely different town,” she said.
Benjamin also won a Teaching Leadership and Compensation grant to hold workshops for her students to learn more about communicating, collaborating, and listening.
Through a partnership with Lenoir City Visitors Bureau, a reception will be held December 2 in downtown Lenoir City so students can present their final projects and showcase their “photo voice” project.
“Overall, we hope to give Lenoir City and Loudon County ideas and suggestions that they hopefully choose to use,” said Benjamin. “Our department is training students to be experts in the field of tourism and hospitality; so hopefully, our completed strategic marketing plan will help Lenoir City’s revitalization efforts and showcase our students’ creativity and hard work.”
The Smart Communities Initiative, overseen by UT’s Office of Service Learning, pairs faculty and students with Tennessee cities, counties, special districts, and other government organizations to engage in real-world problem solving. SCI is part of the university’s Experience Learning initiative, which stresses real-world problem solving to bring classroom lessons to life.
Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, email@example.com