Community Resources & Economic Development

Voices of Change

About this project

Using the National Rural Tourism Development Project as a model, with funding provided by a West Virginia University Faculty Senate Research Grant, CRED developed case studies of tourism development in West Virginia. Communities selected were:

The resulting videos feature “Voices of Change” from tourism leaders in West Virginia discussing the successes and challenges of tourism development in each rural community.

Core values

Successful community tourism development is built on communication, partnerships, a community vision, and a long-term commitment to bring that vision to fruition. It embraces five core values:

  1. Maintaining Authenticity and a Sense of Place
  2. Providing a Quality Experience
  3. Economic Diversification
  4. Transforming Obstacles to Opportunities
  5. Shared Benefits and Local Control

Follow along

These communities have experienced the benefits and challenges of developing a sustainable, community-based tourism economy. As you listen to the community’s story think about these four questions:

  1. What was accomplished?
  2. How did they do it?
  3. Who was involved?
  4. What opportunities and challenges are they facing?

Why it matters

The development of tourism case studies of four West Virginia communities is intended to:
  • Identify opportunities and challenges communities face in developing tourism
  • Identify important community and tourism development values to guide tourism development
  • Inspire other communities
  • Provide guidance on how to develop and maintain a quality community tourism industry
  • Empower community leaders to implement an effective tourism development program


Today more communities seek to link strategic tourism planning with sustainable development. To address these needs, the National Rural Tourism Development Project (RTDP) was designed by the University of Minnesota Tourism Center to help communities develop and expand their tourism industries.

Many communities in West Virginia have transitioned to service-based economies that depend on tourism. While economic growth is desirable, rapid and unplanned tourism growth can generate unintended consequences including congestion, unrealized economic benefit, and a loss of regional character.

Tourism leaders in Elkins, Berkeley Springs, and Fayetteville, West Virginia were interviewed to better understand how they managed tourism growth and successfully positioned themselves as destinations built on outdoor recreation and Appalachia’s unique history and traditional culture.

This project was designed to highlight successful tourism development strategies, educate West Virginia and Appalachian community leaders, and help communities guide tourism growth in ways that both maximize its economic potential and preserve regional character.

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