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Two UT faculty members are leading a study to better understand Appalachian tourism and identify opportunities to grow tourism activities and encourage business development.

Tim Ezzell, research scientist in the Department of Political Science, and Rachel Chen, professor in the Department of Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism Management, have received a $200,000 competitive grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission—a federal economic development agency—to conduct the one-year study.

It is the largest and most comprehensive study of tourism ever conducted by the commission, which covers 205,000 square miles across 420 counties in 13 states.

“Results of the study will help us better understand the state of tourism of the region, new growth areas for tourism in Appalachian communities, and best practices and successful strategies to help the communities succeed,” Ezzell said.

The project is housed at the Center for Sustainable Business and Development, which Chen directs. The center is part of the UT Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment. Ezzell, Chen, and their team of researchers are working with a regional consultant, Collective Impact, based in Huntington, West Virginia.

The project, which began in November, will use surveys, site visits, and focus groups as part of the research method. The researchers also will identify communities to use as case studies to illustrate local tourism success stories and best practices for tourism business development.


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