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10 Recommendations for Tourism Entrepreneurs in Coal Country

Updated: Feb 11, 2022

The first 3 are the foundation.

1. It’s about Hospitality.

If you are getting into tourism because of the allure of loans and grants, you should reconsider your motives. Tourism is not a 9/5 job that you can check out of after the “work day” is through. Tourism is hospitality, and it's about helping people you’ve never met by taking care of their requests before they ask. If you take care of your guests then they will advertise for you, and possibly become even more interested in Appalachia.

2. The Coal Clause.

It’s not about replacing coal, but about diversifying the economy.

Many Stakeholders believe that coal is the only answer for economic development. First, show your respect for coal and how it forged the communities of today. Next, blame politicians who failed to diversify the economy decades ago, and then explain that you are a grassroots organization that is trying to not repeat the same mistakes. Whatever you do, don’t say that coal is dead, because it’s not. It will continue to be mined and used for energy for many years.

3. Policy Formation.

To prevent the same economic issues that have caused an incredible recession in Coal Country, you must help those who care to be a part of Policy Formation. Helping others with grassroots efforts allows better policy adoption and management. If people are a part of the planning process then they have skin in the game and will want it to be successful. Policy Formation is about enabling people to have a voice, it’s not about an agenda.

The next 4 are about forming your organizational model.

4. Compliment, Don’t Compete.

Find out how you can help your neighbors in the next town, county, or state improve upon their tourism services by creating an opportunity that will motivate them to work with you. Once you do this, they will send over their marketing team and promote your attractions, goods, and services. Furthermore, they may Shuttle tourists back and forth to your town! Just don’t mention any contested high school basketball games from back in the day.

5. Value Exchange.

No matter what kind of license you need, or what certification you obtain, it’s still about a face to face value exchange. Tourists are visiting an Outfitter for leadership, direction, and opportunity. Have a mission, vision, slogan, and a story. It’s not the one piece of paper that shows you are sustainable, but the bundle of papers that make it happen. Have the bundle of papers at the ready to win over a loyal fan base. Or better yet, let them open the hood and take a look at the engine of your enterprise.

6. Market Your Focus Area.

Whatever you decide to become, be the best so that others will outsource to you, or even better, try to copy you.

Some focus area examples:

A Guide who focuses on Wellness and Nature Rehab within a 3 state area.

A Transporter who always delivers their precious cargo, any time and any place.

A Travel Specialist who focuses on ecotourism.

Whatever you focus on, please market and advertise. With the internet, the return on investment is incredible. Whatever platforms you use to promote your enterprise, exhaust every resource that it offers.

7. Forming the Right Crew.

Having passionate and reliable staff is very important. Thankfully, it’s never been easier to advertise for positions. Internships and Apprenticeships are gaining traction to prevent the loss of labor in Appalachia. Organizations like Prosper Appalachia will help you get Interns at no cost! Leverage your value exchange to make it an intrinsic experience that will create loyalty. Find the best and keep the best by not only offering fair wages, but bonuses, promotions, and opportunities for Self Actualization.

The last 3 are all about Prime Time.

8. Exotic.

The area you grew up in may not seem exotic to you, but it is for 99.9% of the rest of the planet. Over the last 100 years, the USA has gotten a lot of press. WW I, WW 2, and The Marshall Plan, to name a few.

People want to travel here. You have to imagine that the Climate, Geography, and Culture are all exotic to them. Thankfully, much of the heavy lifting and branding with nature based tourism has already been done because our National Forests have been around for over 80 years. However, you must match this exotic experience with…

9. VIP Travel.

VIP travel is luxury travel, and luxury travel is how we get Travel Consortiums interested in Coal Country. So your region doesn’t have a 5 Star Hotel. No problem. Offering 24/7 customer service is VIP Travel. The people who travel deep into the sticks know what they are getting into, so have your version of Crocodile Dundee waiting for them when they get into town.

If tourists are paying the same amount for your VIP services that they would for luxury travel, then you have put enough blood in the water for the big sharks to swim over. Note, for more information on this topic, please consider reading this Blog.

10. Show Me the Money.

You can collaborate with others and create a week-long touring package that is $5,000. The potential is there to sign up people from all over the planet who have always wanted to visit Appalachia. These types of revenue streams will bring in high quality staff, and supplementary organizations that will create more opportunities for your guests, and job creation. This will create more VIP Travel. This in turn will motivate more people to relocate to your county, and it might be the tipping point for an employer to bring their plant there and the creation of 300 jobs. With money comes big players into your Appalachia community. Please be hospitable to these new stakeholders, but never forget the little guy who pioneered the revitalization of their community with grit and vision, because we don’t want to make the same mistakes from the past.

If interested in more entrepreneur writings, please visit our Blog section.

Thank you for reading.

Travis Stanley

Appalachia Sustainable Tourism Collaboration

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