Fortifying the Tourism Industry Through Advocacy: NCSU’s Whitney Knollenberg Has a Plan

— Written By Maude Dinan

The tourism industry faces a fair share of threats, such as hurricanes and climate-related impacts, which can harm tourism providers and the communities whose economies rely on tourism. Intangible, but hugely impactful, forces such as policy change can also cause crises for the tourism industry. Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management Assistant Professor Dr. Whitney Knollenberg (NC State) in collaboration with Dr. Ashley Schroeder (Assistant Professor, Penn State) seek to determine best practices to address political crises the tourism industry faces.

Political crises for the tourism industry can result from policy decisions at local, state, and federal levels. For example, the recent government closure devastated national parks, while their gateway communities saw a decrease in visitation. More locally, the House Bill 2 in North Carolina – a policy that would require individuals to use restrooms based on the sex listed on their birth certificates – caused negative perceptions of North Carolina for some visitors, resulting in travel bans and cancelled trips to the state.

Knollenberg and Schroeder receive grant award.

Dr. Whitney Knollenberg and Dr. Ashely Schroeder (Penn State University) (center) received the Boeing Travel Research grant to support their proposal “Understanding Best Practices to Improve Advocacy Efforts for the Tourism Industry”. Dr. Bing Pan (Penn State) (left) presented the award. Photo courtesy of W. Knollenberg.

Minimizing the negative impacts of policy decisions requires advocacy efforts by tourism industry leaders. These advocates educate decision-makers on the various impacts of a decision. For the tourism industry, advocacy can be a challenging field to navigate. For one, stakeholders in tourism do not always share the same values and stances on issues, leading to a weaker unified voice. Moreover, many tourism associations are limited in their abilities to advocate because they are funded by public sources.

Knollenberg and Schroeder’s proposed work aims to discover “how tourism associations engage in advocacy planning, who is involved in these planning efforts, what resources associations utilize when planning for advocacy efforts, and what resources are needed to improve their planning efforts.” Interviews and surveys with tourism association leaders will answer these questions, determining what motivates and sustains effective advocacy efforts despite the challenges.

Dr. Ashley Schroeder (left) and Dr. Whitney Knollenberg.

Dr. Ashley Schroeder (left) and Dr. Whitney Knollenberg. Photo courtesy of W. Knollengberg. 

Knollenberg’s research interests surround leadership in planning, policy, and partnerships that fosters sustainable tourism development. Her expertise aligns well with Schroeder’s who studies crisis reduction, readiness, response, and recovery in tourism communities. Friends and colleagues since attended their first conference together in 2012, the two will travel to Melbourne, Australia to receive the Boeing Travel Research Grant at the 50th annual conference of the Travel and Tourism Research Association (June 24-27), which will fund their proposed work.