Updated: Mar 14
Back in the day (75 years ago) Appalachia was much more family (Aunts/Uncles/Cousins) orientated and resembled a collectivistic culture. As the generations have passed it has become more individualistic. Non-Coal Mining careers that pay well have always been scarce, so these jobs are much more likely to go to family and friends. Nepotism has been exacerbated by the large recession over the last 25 years, because demand for jobs has greatly decreased. Oftentimes your reference sheet will be far more important than your resume. However, over the last 10 years this has been slowly changing due to entrepreneurs who need labor in tourism. Many tourism jobs are seasonal with no benefits, so that will help you get a foot in the door. Lastly, because starting a career is not as easy as it is in the big city, you may want to go right into owning your own organization.
In the 90s and 00s, state capitals did little to help out communities because tourism jobs were frowned upon due to the excellent tax revenue streams from Industry jobs and how they prevented families from leaving the region. Oftentimes, as communities hit rock bottom just a few people made the monumental changes that created tourism opportunities. However, the greatest investment that state capitals did provide was a foundation for entrepreneurs to build off of with the creation of tourism authorities, which create and manage ATV trails. These trails have helped create cabins, resturants, and Outfitters, for more employeer growth. Look over our Tourism Site and explore the 65 pages to find the opportunity you are looking for. Explore our stakeholder site to find where the focus points are, or our Twitter Lists to find more opportunites.
Thankfully, industry jobs and non-tourism jobs are returning to Central Appalachia. Furthermore, due to COVID and the creation of Starlink, constraints that typically inhibited folks from relocating to Central Appalachia have been greatly reduced.
The growing town of Pikeville offers new homes and apartments to live in, something that is very uncommon in Central Appalachia.
There are plenty of Federal, State, and Corporate Partnership Grants and Loans for employers to take advantage of.
Over the last 10 years, tourism opportunities have greatly grown and improved and are trending positively. However, many tourism jobs like Shuttles, Transporters, Guides, and ecotourism, are way way behind when compared to Northeast TN, and Western NC.
Coal Country can host tourists 12 months a year, with May-August being the biggest months. WV is the most diverse due to snow on north facing mountain slopes.
Although deer are not large in Coal Country, there are growing Elk Herds which offer fall Guide hunts. ATV and SXS engines give off a lot of heat, so they are also around during the cold months. Climate change has barely impacted the region. However, summer floods are the biggest natural disaster due to so many communities found in floodplains. During the early fall, water is released from dams, which generates class 3 and 4 rapids.
4. Your Skills
Having a solid foundation of hard and soft skills will be needed. Specialized guiding skills, and the ability to work without supervision will be very important. Listening will be one of the greatest skills you have. You will be working with entrepreneurs who have sacrificed a lot to make their dream happen, so take the time to hear their vision and appreciate their work before offering immediate feedback. Also, the more you listen and take in your environment, the more you will know if your employers have the best model to survive or to keep you on board. Don’t worry too much about having a 4 year degree, because your boss most likely will not have one. Your attitude will be very important, which brings up…
Hospitality & Tourism is not a 9/5 job. Hospitality & Tourism is a 24/7 commitment. We must offer 24/7 VIP services in hopes of creating high quality tourism packages to brand Central Appalachia as a Global destination. How do you show that you are passionate?
6. Promote Yourself
Begin by having respectable social media accounts, and have your resume at the ready. Get involved with the community and talk with stakeholders by volunteering, and getting involved with community service projects. HIke the trails. You can also promote an idea that may help create improved tourism opportunities. Voluntourism is an option to network with stakeholders. Remember, your reference sheet is very important.
7. What the Employer brings to the table
Pay and Benefits
Kentucky: $7.25/hour. Last change 2009. (Current Federal Minimum wage)
Virginia: $11.00/hour. Last change 2022.
West Virginia: $8.75/hour. Last change 2015.
Some organizations may be exempt from minimum wage, so please do your research.
With a seasonal job, expect to make far more than minimum wage in KY and WV. Easily $10-13/hour.
Keep in mind that there is no universal living wage, because the cost of living index varies from location to location in the USA.
Benefits will greatly vary. There may be options for room and board at resorts and state parks. Do your research and ask questions. It’s not how much money you make, it's how much money you spend.
There are great career opportunities for middle class careers in areas with freindly people and lots of nature based tourism that offer fair wages and full time benefits.
8. Support Network
This is a rough spot. There are some locations that have no cell-phone coverage and that do not have broadband internet. If you work at a resort your support network will be supplemented by your co-workers. Road vascularity is great to take you to some of the larger towns (Pikeville, City of Norton, and Beckley.) Remember, once you become friends with folks they will take you in and offer you support. However, you must keep building upon these relationships to keep them strong. Thankfully, google can help you find people that share similar interests. Do some recon first to determine what kind of phone service you will need and how the cable internet is.
The best areas to find new apartments and housing will be near Pikeville, Bluefield, and Beckley. You could keep your expenses low by working out a deal to stay at the resort, Inn/Lodge, or RV camp. With a seasonal job, car camping at the facility would greatly reduce your expenses. If interested in taking courses related to Business, Culture, and Tourism there are Universities and Colleges to enroll in. There are lots of storage unit businesses to keep your gear in. Road vascularity is surprisingly great. Remember, 40 years ago the population was much higher, the tax revenue could build the roads, and they needed to get coal out of the mountains quickly.
Look for a mission, vision and the story of the organizations you are interested in working with. There are several types of social enterprises that may help you fulfill your talent’s and potential. You may reach greater self-actualization by working with organizations that offer bonuses, steady pay raises, community outreach, promotions, and taking your advice after listening to your ideas.
Please see our Tourism jobs page for links to help you find a job or career.
Thanks for reading.
Appalachia Sustainable Tourism Collaboration