THE GW TOURISM ALUMNI NETWORK SPRING COLLOQUIUM FEATURES AWARDS AND AWARD-WINNING PANELISTS
Like many rural communities, northern Virginia’s Loudoun County was losing its bucolic appeal. The last general store had closed and its rolling farmland was becoming increasingly fragmented by a patchwork of homogenous subdivisions. But a concerted effort by Visit Loudoun has been instrumental in giving new life to Loudon and making it an attractive and vital visitor destination with heritage and cultural trails linking artist studios, craft boutiques, galleries, breweries, wineries, farms and farm markets, restaurants, hotels and other agri-tourism-based businesses in keeping with the area’s heritage. GW alumni Ben Taylor was so impressed by Loudoun’s success that he nominated Beth Erickson, President & CEO of Visit Loudoun and Kellie Hinkle, Agriculture Development Officer for GW’s 2017 Tourism Innovator Award, which the two received on May 1st at the annual GW Tourism Alumni Network Spring Colloquium.
“I was taught at GW that developing relationships with key stakeholders and creating an inclusive environment was critical to sustainable development and economic growth,” explained Taylor, who currently serves as Digital Marketing and Communications Manager for the destination marketing organization Visit Oakland. Thanks to Erickson and Hinkles, Loudoun now boasts the LoCo Ale Trail, The Loudoun County Artisan Trail and the Loudoun Restaurant/Producer Marketplace, which are key to drawing visitors, maintaining Loudoun’s character and improving its economy.
“This is exactly the type of approach that the industry needs to take more broadly,” said Professor Don Hawkins, who developed the Tourism Innovator Award. “We need to identify leaders, share models of innovation and develop and scale breakthrough solutions in sustainable tourism.”
This year, the colloquium’s theme was leadership and good governance in tourism. Moderated by journalist Elizabeth Becker, author of Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism, panelists included Elliott Ferguson, CEO of Destination DC; Megan Epler Wood, author of Sustainable Tourism on a Finite Planet; and Don Welsh, CEO of Destination Marketing Association International.
“Because 2017 has been designated by the UN as the International Year of Sustainable Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, we were particularly focused on the three aspects of sustainability—the economic, social and environmental well-being of destinations,” remarked International Institute of Tourism Studies Executive Director Seleni Matus. “Our industry is composed of a complex network of individuals, communities and businesses whose success ultimately relies on innovation and integration.”