Blount County Tourism Goes ‘Green’

In an effort to preserve and protect Blount County’s heritage, history and its natural assets, the Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau (SMCVB) recently joined in the nationwide effort to promote eco-friendly tourism with the introduction of Blount County’s new “Low Impact Vacation” campaign. Blount County is one of the first destinations to create such a program.

Low Impact Vacation, a green campaign developed by the Tombras Group and the SMCVB to promote the unique combination of environmentally conscious and stress-free vacations, is intended to promote Blount County as an eco-tourism destination and help establish a sustainable tourism base for the community.

According to the International Ecotourism Society, ecotourism is among the fastest growing travel trends, and it is estimated to be a $77 billion market. Additionally, according to Peter Yesawich, with Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown and Russel, half of those surveyed, were more likely to select a destination that demonstrates environmental responsibility.

“Our goal is to create a sustainable tourism program that will continue to allow tourism to thrive in our community, while at the same time promoting the ‘Peaceful Side of the Smokies’ and maintaining our heritage and culture,” said Herb Handly, executive vice president of tourism for the SMCVB. “To accomplish this goal, we are looking at a variety of programs, campaigns, attractions and initiatives that encourage the preservation of our unique character. Since most of our activities center around the outdoors, a green tourism program was only logical to ensure that we encourage the protection and preservation of the Smokies-the attraction that millions travel to experience each year.”

The campaign includes a website, LowImpactVacation.com, along with an advertising campaign that will run in magazines geared toward outdoor enthusiasts and travelers. The ads focus on travelers enjoying the relaxing, stress-free outdoor amenities the area offers - such as biking, hiking, tubing, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, camping and horseback riding - without impacting the natural surroundings.

“We want to show visitors that they can enjoy the outdoors without disturbing the natural habitats and environment,” said Handly.

“The Low Impact Vacation program provides visitors with detailed information about the area, and more importantly, how to visit and enjoy it while having a low impact on the environment and learning about our area,” said Handly. “We are doing our best to get everyone on the community on-board with this program.”

As part of its mission to establish a sustainable tourism program for Blount County, the SMCVB has established numerous heritage and cultural events, campaigns and initiatives that promote and preserve the history and heritage of Blount County.

The SMCVB’s spring and fall heritage festivals, the Winter Heritage Festival, its numerous demonstrations and educational classes, Herb and Wildflower Day, and the 2008 Pottery Festival are all intended to provide unique, educational opportunities for locals and visitors in order to preserve the heritage of the area.

“We are continually working to promote community activities and businesses that create a unique experience for our visitors while preserving our history,” said Handly. “The visitors bureau also hosts numerous educational events with its partners in the community as a way to encourage visitors who are interested in our culture and history to visit Blount County. This green tourism campaign is another project that we believe will be a win-win for the community-it will attract additional tourists, providing taxes and revenue, while at the same time encouraging the preservation of our natural assets.”

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