Tourism and Outdoor Recreation

Tourism, hospitality, and outdoor recreation make up a rapidly growing segment of the economy and offer an important economic growth strategy to rural and urban communities of all sizes. NERCRD conducts research on the role of tourism, including agritourism, on economic resilience. NERCRD also provides critical support to the National Extension Tourism Network, whose work integrates research, education and outreach within the Cooperative Extension and Sea Grant systems to support sustainable community-based tourism.

Recent Publications

International Workshop on Agritourism 2022 Conference Proceedings

The International Workshop on Agritourism (IWA) 2022 Conference Proceedings is intended to increase access to the scholarship that was shared during the three-day conference, which was hosted by University of Vermont Extension in Burlington, Vermont, USA, on August 30 – September 1, 2022. It contains 27 peer-reviewed papers. NERCRD staff provided editorial, project management, and graphic design support to this effort.

Authors: Edited by Lisa Chase, Chadley Hollas, Xinyi Qian, and Claire Whitehouse

Publication: Published jointly by the National Extension Tourism Network and the Global Agritourism Network, with support from the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development   Date Published: July 13, 2023

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The NET Effect: Members of the National Extension Tourism Network Help Raise the Bar in Sustainable Tourism and Outdoor Recreation

This 57-page publication is available here as a Flipping Book or here as a PDF (6.8MB). It contains eight case studies that explore innovative Cooperative Extension and Sea Grant work in sustainable tourism and outdoor recreation. It features work being done in Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, and West Virginia.

The magazine is an outcome of a partnership of the National Extension Tourism (NET) design team, the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development (NERCRD), and the New Technologies for Ag Extension (NTAE) grant program.

Authors: Heather Martin, Rose Hayden-Smith, and Kristen Devlin

Publication: Published by the Extension Foundation   Date Published: January 22, 2023

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The U.S. Recreation Economy: Data, COVID-19, and Implications for Extension

The breadth, depth, and speed of the economic collapse associated with the COVID-19 pandemic was unprecedented in economic history. No sector was hit harder than Leisure and Hospitality, which accounts for the economic core of tourism and recreation-based activity. Only recently has employment in this sector begun to show signs of recovery toward pre-pandemic levels. Here we document the importance of the Leisure and Hospitality sector to the economy and identify impacts from the pandemic and recovery, at both state and local (county) levels. Selected implications for Extension Services programming by Land- and Sea-Grant institutions are highlighted.

Authors: Stephan J. Goetz, Luyi Han, Daniel Eades, Jason Entsminger, Doug Arbogast

Publication: 2021 NET Conference Proceedings   Date Published: October 4, 2022


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Impacts of COVID-19 on Northeast Tourism and Recreation Economies

NERCRD COVID-19 Data Brief 22-02: This data brief characterizes tourism-related economic changes in the Northeast during the COVID-19 pandemic. Comparisons between rural and metro counties are highlighted, showing that different tourism and recreation economies experienced the pandemic’s effects differently too.

Download the data brief:

Data Supplement

Download detailed Northeast state-level data here.

Authors: Jason Entsminger, Luyi Han, and Stephan J. Goetz

Publication: NERCRD COVID-19 Issues Brief Series   Date Published: July 27, 2022

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Linking research and practice: The role of Extension on agritourism development in the U.S.

Agritourism is a critical farm diversification strategy for farmers to enhance income and profit potential with benefits related to rural community development, increased awareness of sustainability practices, and local heritage preservation. For rural community and economic development professionals, agritourism has become an important strategy to develop local tourism, grow small businesses, and enhance regional economic diversification. We propose that the agritourism ecosystem would arguably benefit from more robust Extension programming and network development. A discussion of two state case studies, Vermont and California, provides an overview of the critical elements necessary to build a statewide agritourism program. The role of Extension in rural development and tourism underscores the opportunity to utilize agritourism as a broader development strategy. Finally, we make recommendations for growing the role of Extension in agritourism. More robust training and education for Extension professionals, stronger connections to state tourism departments, and more robust advocacy with university and state-level decision makers on the value of agritourism investments are all highlighted as crucial next steps.

Authors: Claudia Schmidt, Lisa Chase, Carla Barbieri, Ellie Rilla, Doolarie Singh Knights, Dawn Thilmany, Stacy Tomas, Lori Dickes, Sarah Cornelisse, R. David Lamie, Rachael Callahan, Holly George, and Penny Leff

Publication: Applied Economics Teaching Resources   Date Published: July 1, 2022

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Current NERCRD Projects

National Extension Outdoor Recreation Working Group

NERCRD is supporting a new initiative emerging from its collaboration with the National Extension Tourism Network, in response to the recently announced USDA Interagency Memorandum of Understanding on Supporting the Nation’s Outdoor Recreation Economy (MOU). The MOU states that building the U.S. recreation economy is one of the USDA’s top priorities and calls on the RRDCs to implement the MOU. To that end, NERCRD and NET co-hosted an outdoor recreation national networking meeting in November 2022 that resulted in the creation of the National Extension Outdoor Recreation Working Group (NEORWG).

A primary objective of this group is to convene a community of Extension professionals to engage with the goals of the MOU (PDF).

More recently, NERCRD organized and hosted three NEORWG steering committee meetings and has supported this steering committee as they establish a vision and mission for the NEORWG.

As of October 11, this group is planning to work in their respective regions to develop regional pilot projects that will leverage the MOU. Each regional group will work with their respective RRDC to develop a funding proposal based on the pilot project.

Funding Agency: Our staff support of this effort is funded by our core grant from USDA NIFA.

Principal Investigator: NEORWG Co-chairs: Doug Arbogast, West Virginia University and Jake Powell, Utah State University

Start Date: November 2022   End Date: Ongoing

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Tourism Resilience and Community Sustainability: Adaptation and Recovery of Rural Businesses and Destinations

This multi-state Hatch research project will examine resilience and recovery through the lens of rural tourism in the Northeast region. Planned objectives include conducting collaborative assessments of rural tourism at the multi-state level; investigating the resilience, adaptability, and recoverability of different components of the rural tourism system; and identifying strategies that tourism businesses and destinations are using to cope with the pandemic.

Funding Agency: Hatch Multistate Research Fund

Principal Investigator: Doug Arbogast, West Virginia University

Accompanying Institution(s): Penn State

Start Date: October 2022   End Date: September 2027

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Tourism, Resiliency, and Indicators for Post-Pandemic Planning (TRIP)

The long-term goal of this project is to enhance the sustainability and resiliency of rural destinations by providing research-based information and a destination management framework for rural gateway destinations.

Funding Agency: USDA NIFA

Principal Investigator: Douglas Arbogast, West Virginia University

Accompanying Institution(s): Penn State, University of Vermont, University of New Hampshire

Start Date: January 2022   End Date: December 2025

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Creating an Effective Support System For Small And Medium-Sized Farm Operators To Succeed In Agritourism

Agritourism activity has the potential not only to keep small- and medium-sized farms in business but also to provide important local economic development spillover effects. While agritourism is not profitable or even appropriate in all communities, various stakeholders report that key barriers currently prevent farmers who would like to provide agritourism services from doing so. These barriers represent opportunity costs and include not only lack of information among producers, consumers, supporting organizations and policy makers, but also regulatory gaps across the states. Drawing on extensive stakeholder input, guidance and collaboration, the goal of this four-year project is to develop and disseminate practical information that will allow small- and medium-sized farmers and rural communities to benefit from the growing consumer interest in agritourism activities. Supporting objectives include to understand the roles and educational needs of various organizations in supporting agritourism; improve understanding of factors that contribute to growth in agritourism across U.S. counties; and deliver peer-reviewed educational materials to farmers as well as supporting organizations and policy makers.

Funding Agency: USDA NIFA

Principal Investigator: Claudia Schmidt, Penn State

Accompanying Institution(s): University of Vermont, Oklahoma State University

Start Date: July 2020   End Date: June 2024

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National Extension Tourism Network

NERCRD and the National Extension Tourism Network (NET) have a longstanding partnership, with NERCRD providing substantial staff support to the network since 2018. This page provides a brief historical outline of the ways in which NERCRD and NET have partnered over the years. More information about NET is available on the NET website:

2018-2019: Conference-planning and national survey support

In 2018, NERCRD began providing conference-planning support to NET ahead of its 2019 national conference, which took place in Astoria, OR.

2020-2021: Webinar series launch and strategic planning support

Building on the momentum of the 2019 conference, NET and NERCRD co-launched the NET webinar series in February 2020, which was designed to provide programmatic examples from both the Sea Grant and Land Grant networks to a wide audience.

In March 2020, NERCRD and the other RRDCs sponsored a strategic planning retreat for NET’s leadership, and NERCRD Director Stephan Goetz attended. The facilitated retreat resulted in NET’s first strategic plan (pictured at right).

2021: The beginning of a tremendous period of growth

2021 marked the beginning of a period of tremendous growth for the NETwork. In addition to the successful planning and delivery of the 2021 National Conference that took place in Savannah, GA, NET and the RRDCs carried out a national survey process from 2017 to 2019 to catalog the tourism and recreation programming being conducted by U.S. Extension professionals, resulting in a report, pictured at left and available here. The NET Design Team and NERCRD also partnered on a New Technologies for Agricultural Extension accelerator project, which ran for 18 months (through February 2023) and resulted in numerous outputs, including:

The NET Effect is a 57-page publication that contains eight case studies exploring innovative Cooperative Extension and Sea Grant work in sustainable tourism and outdoor recreation. It features work being done in Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, and West Virginia.

NET logo and marketing materials: With design services provided by the Extension Foundation, NET developed a new logo and display materials to accompany a marketing campaign that included tabling at several national conferences. 

To increase access to the impactful work presented at NET’s 2021 Conference, NET and NERCRD leveraged the NTAE project resources to develop NET’s first conference proceedings. Learn more here.

2023 to present: Ongoing conference and communications support

With the NTAE project concluding in February 2023, NERCRD began winding down the level of support it had been providing in order to allow the NETwork to pursue more sustainable long-term organizational stability. However, NERCRD continued to provide conference-planning support through the 2023 NET Conference, which took place in Milwaukee, WI, and where NERCRD’s contributions to the NETwork were recognized with an award. NERCRD also continues to provide communications support to the network by co-chairing the NET communications committee, hosting the NETwork listserv, and managing the NET website.

Funding Agency: NERCRD's support of this effort is funded by its grant from USDA NIFA. The NTAE project was funded by USDA NIFA through a partnership with Oklahoma State University and the Extension Foundation.

Principal Investigator: Current NET Chair: Xinyi Qian, University of Minnesota Extension

Start Date: June 2018   End Date: Ongoing

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