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Tourism Extension Projects and Programs



Pick your own customerTourism Extension is advancing knowledge of agritourism’s role in revenue diversification of family farms and revitalization of rural communities. In North Carolina, depressed agricultural revenues and the decline of demand for traditional cash crops like tobacco are encouraging farmers to offer a variety of recreational, educational and tourism activities to make their finances more resilient. Our experience on the motivations and outcomes of agritourism development among family farms and small landowners is critical to facilitate successful agritourism operations.


visiting a small enterpriseTourism Extension enables rural tourism micro-entrepreneurship through People-First Tourism, a project currently supported by NC Sea Grant and NC Rural Center that incubates networks of very small tourism businesses in economically depressed rural communities throughout North Carolina. The Project now involves CES agents, tourism division directors and natural conservation and economic development agencies in twenty counties.

Tourism Partnerships

tourism partnershipsTourism Extension works in partnership with communities and natural resource agencies to facilitate the development of nature-based tourism and outdoor recreation opportunities (e.g., the North Carolina Birding Trail). Further success in rural tourism development in NC will hinge on the collaboration between natural resource agencies, branches of the military, the tourism retail and lodging industry, economic development agencies, communities, and other groups. We have experience in engendering multi-stakeholder consensus and cooperation and can provide CES agents with skills to mediate conflict, build partnership capacity and facilitate rural tourism development.

Hospitality & Leadership

Hospitality and LeadershipTourism Extension provides resources which develop the skills necessary to build strong businesses and communities, improving tourism service and community involvement. By improving understanding of the different factors that shape a tourism experience, rural communities are able to manage economic development while ensuring representation throughout the community. Our services are based around our NC Hospitality program and provide additional resources for youth and local government.



Birder Friendly

Birder Friendly Business LogoA training program developed by NC Tourism Extension and Audubon North Carolina to provide training, tools, and information to market local businesses and communities to birders as they travel the North Carolina Birding Trail. The NC Birding Trail is a state-wide comprehensive effort to link bird watchers to great birding sites, communities, businesses and other local historical and educational attractions. To learn more go here and visit the NC Birding Trail Website.


NC Hospitality Program LogoNorth Carolina Hospitality

A customer service training program developed by NC Cooperative Extension and the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism at NC State University. This program is designed for front line employees and small business owners. <read more >

Homegrown Handmade Art Roads and Farm Trails of N.C.

Homegrown Handmade websiteHomegrownHandmade brings together the artists, farmers and creative entrepreneurs rooted in North Carolina's rural countryside. Self-directed driving tours across the state put visitors in touch with hands-on farm experiences, u-pick organic produce, art galleries, artists' studios, live music, handcrafts, vineyards and wineries, historic sites and picturesque bed-and-breakfasts. Tourism Extension partnered with the NC Arts Council, Handmade in America and Golden Leaf to implement this program.

People First Tourism

People First TourismPeople-First Tourism is a marketplace for buying and selling genuine tourism experiences. This project links entrepreneurs trying to pursue dignified and sustainable livelihoods through tourism with adventurous and conscientious tourists interested in unique off the beaten path experiences and in making positive impacts on the communities they visit.

County Focus Groups

CES districts in NCBeginning in November, 2012, Tourism Extension personnel hosted focus groups in each of the five CES districts, and invited CES personnel to Raleigh for two program-specific focus groups. CES personnel provided valuable information on their specific needs and recommended improvements to our existing TE existing programs. This information was compiled to develop a cumulative list of suggestions for updating our programs.

In the Past:


NCANA To Examine NC Agritourism Farms and Vineyards

NCANA LogoTourism Extension partnered with Martha Glass and the North Carolina Agritourism Networking Association (NCANA) to examine agritourism farms and vineyards in North Carolina. A total of 267 individuals responded, of which 195 provided agritourism activities in 2011.  Click HERE to view the full report or HERE to view a comparison report between the 2005 and 2011 survey results.


Increasing On-Farm Sustainability Through Agritourism Research (2010-2011)

Patterson Farms-Farmer eating strawberry

Tourism Extension recently completed a study that worked with 6 North Carolina farms to examine agritourism from the perspective of the visitor and of the farmer.

Click HERE to learn more about the study.

Click HERE to read the final report.


NC_camperEconomic Impact Study of Summer Camps in Western North Carolina (2010-2011)

In partnership with the North Carolina Youth Camp Association and the American Camp Association, Dr. Michelle Gacio Harrolle and Dr. Samantha Rozier Rich conducted an economic impact study of summer camps in Western North Carolina. According to the study, residential summer youth camps in four western North Carolina counties (Buncombe, Henderson, Jackson and Transylvania) contribute $365 million in total economic impact to western North Carolina.The study also estimated a direct economic impact of $218 million, more than 10,000 full-time equivalent jobs created in addition to camp staff, $260 million in increased resident income, and $33 million in new tax revenues during the summer of 2010.

Click HERE to read more about the study and to access a complete copy of the final report.


North Carolina Zoo Visitor Study (2011)

Tourism Extension conducted a year-long visitor study in 2011 to better understand visitors to the Zoo and gain insights into the visitor profile, their preferences, motivations, and experiences. The information gathered will help guide marketing efforts, as well as future development of services and offerings.


Using Reservation Data to Examine Visitor Demand and Marketing Effectiveness (2010)

Tourism Extension worked with a NC Bed and Breakfast to examine their on-line reservation data and explore current and future marketing strategies, based on the analysis. 


Using Visitor Preference Data to Guide Managerial Decision Making (2010)

In 2010, Tourism Extension conducted a visitor study for the NC Zoo to determine visitor preferences for new amenities and services that might be added to the NC Zoo in upcoming years.  The outcome of the study provided insights into visitor demand for future development, helping Zoo management make informed decision as to where to focus resources in the future.  For more information, click HERE.

Tourism Extension Needs Assessment (2006)

In 2006, two needs assessments were conducted to help set priorities for Tourism Extension. The Internal Needs Assessment contains information provided to us from within NC Cooperative Extension (for example, extension agents and other university extension departments). The External Needs Assessment contains information provided by partners and agencies across the state who work with Tourism Extension. Results of the needs assessments are below.

2006 External Tourism Extension Needs Assessment
2006 Internal Tourism Extension Needs Assessment

2006 Equestrian Report

In 2006, a state-wide survey of county needs regarding equine tourism was conducted. The resulting report is provided below.

Developing Equine Tourism Opportunities in North Carolina: An Online Survey of County Needs in 2006