The Center is kicking off its new Northern Forest Rural Tourism Academy with an open webinar on emerging national and global tourism and recreation trends on Tuesday, May 4 from 8:30-10:30 a.m.

The Rural Tourism Academy is part the Northern Forest Rural Destination Initiative, a regional program that helps Northern Forest communities better capitalize on outdoor recreation and cultural amenities for community economic development, workforce, and business benefits.

Funded by the Northern Border Regional Commission, the Northern Forest Rural Destination Initiative offers technical and financial assistance through the Rural Tourism Academy, Outdoor Recreation Grants, and regional network development to help destination communities learn from one another, make better use of limited resources, and build a more cohesive and rewarding experience for potential new residents, businesses and visitors.

“Rural tourism is an important part of many regional economies,” said David Beurle, CEO of Future iQ, the global consulting firm facilitating the Rural Tourism Academy for the Center. “The key challenge for rural tourism destinations is getting the balance right between positive economic impacts and potential community and environmental impacts.”

The 2021 Rural Tourism Academy will focus on northern New Hampshire and Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. The May 4 webinar is the first of two sessions that will engage regional stakeholders in exploring emerging recreation and tourism trends and drivers and future sustainable tourism scenarios. The second session is scheduled for May 18. Click to register!

Sustainable tourism graphicPhase two of the Academy will kick off this fall and deliver professionally led training and planning services along with direct financial and technical assistance to support destination development projects in selected high potential Rural Destination Areas.

“We know recreation and tourism development can come with the challenge of managing competing land uses, seasonal influxes, and potential overuse of sensitive areas,” said Mike Wilson, senior program director for the Center. “We also believe that inclusive approaches, strategic investment, and a proactive commitment to sustainable tourism principles can generate new economic opportunities and quality of life benefits for local residents.”

The new initiative is modeled on the successful Community Destination Academy program developed jointly by the Center and the Maine Office of Tourism over the past three years. That program has led to new community-based tourism activities in communities across western Maine – including a health and wellness-based brand positioning effort in Rangeley, and the Mahoosuc Way sustainable tourism initiative in the Bethel area.

The free May 4th Rural Tourism Academy webinar will give participants a chance to meet and interact (virtually) with people working in similar rural and regional destinations across the US and beyond, and to learn directly from their work and experience. Topics will include:

  • Latest emerging trends in rural tourism and outdoor recreation -- who are the emerging outdoor travelers, and what are they looking for now?
  • How are rural outdoor recreation destinations managing tourism as travel returns at even higher levels than before? How do we find the right balance and create sustainable tourism? What are other regions doing with creative destination development and management approaches?
  • What are creative ways to use tourism as a force for good – from uplifting local food systems to preserving local economies and land use traditions.

Click here to learn more and register!