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Rural Tourism Toolkit

Tourism is one of the major development strategies communities can use to diversify their economies and improve quality of life. This toolkit is intended to provide a broad overview of rural tourism and what it can do for your community. It will also help get you started on tourism planning in your community via a community assessment and action plan. This toolkit will help your leadership team take an objective look at your community from a tourism perspective and determine future directions.

1. Getting Started – Rural Tourism. Rural tourism development can diversify your community’s economy, encourage entrepreneurship and engage residents in charting a course for their community’s future. This section provides an overview of rural tourism and sustainable community development.

2. Benefits of Rural Tourism - Tourism can do a lot for a rural community but not everyone is aware of its benefits. Sometimes tourism leaders need to advocate for tourism development, so an understanding of the ways it may contribute to your community is important. This section enumerates some of the ways tourism can benefit communities to help you be an advocate.

3. Community Assessment – The best place to start tourism planning and development is with a comprehensive community assessment. Even if you think you know what your community has to offer, you may be surprised at what you will find when you view many aspects through the lens of tourism. An assessment is not something to do one time and then put it on a shelf. It will guide your efforts and should be updated regularly as the characteristics of your community change.

4. Action Planning - When you have completed a community assessment you will have a much better idea of where your community stands and where it needs to go with respect to tourism development. But you are not done yet! In order provide direction and actually get work done, it is a good idea to develop an action plan. This section will provide instruction and a template for developing an action plan.

5. Best Practices - Many people working in rural development have been learning what works and the practices that are effective. This section summarized some best practices in rural development and how they apply to tourism.

6. Case Studies – Colorado has some terrific examples of rural tourism right here at home.  

  • Case A - Crested Butte Wildflower Festival. The Crested Butte Wildflower Festival illustrates several examples of effective rural tourism management.
  • Cases B and C - Leadership and Partnerships. Developing a strong leadership team and partnerships with other organizations is critical to successful tourism planning and development. Kat Papenbrock, Executive Director of the Ouray Chamber Association shares what has worked for Ouray.

7. Rural Tourism Resource Guide - Links to several resources provide more information about rural tourism. Links are provided to organizations that have a rural development focus including tourism.