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Whitney Knollenberg

Assoc Professor

Biltmore Hall (Robertson Wing) 4008J


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Date: 02/02/22 - 7/31/24
Amount: $285,388.00
Funding Agencies: NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources

In 2020, the NC State Park system received a record 19.8 million visitors. This increased visitation rate meant the system supported 1.2 million more visitors than in 2019 and 400,000 more than 2017, the previous record year. Although the record-high visitation in 2020 is largely attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic, which made outdoor recreation a safer and more appealing alternative compared to indoor activities, historic long-term trends show an increase in visitation to parks and outdoor areas in the state of North Carolina as well as around the country. Therefore, the NC State Parks system can likely expect a continued rise in visitation, which will require additional resources to support such visitation. Identifying and understanding potential funding options that can help support growing demands and prepare the NC State Park system for this eventuality are needed. Equity is another pressing issue for the system. Although there is increasing demand, it is necessary to acknowledge some communities in North Carolina have been historically underserved by the NC State Parks. Identifying barriers and opportunities related to park visitation can help state park managers develop strategies for more equitable park access. To continue to be relevant to future generations, it is essential that the NC State Park system foster inclusion and provide recreation opportunities for all residents of North Carolina. In sum, due to the increase in demand on the NC State Parks system resources as well as the need for more inclusive and equitable park usage for all North Carolina residents, the goal of this study is to identify pricing strategies that will support demand, promote more equitable use of NC State Parks, and contribute to more sustainable park management. This goal will be achieved through the following objectives set forth by the NC State Parks: 1. Review existing funding mechanisms and pricing strategies for other state and national recreational areas to identify a variety of options for valuing services (e.g., amenities, facilities, campground reservations, permitting fees); 2. Discern barriers to communities that have historically been underserved by the NC State Parks system, the role pricing strategies can play in limiting future use of NC State Parks by these communities, and opportunities for the parks system to be more inclusive and equitable to all North Carolina residents; 3. Identify locations and dates of high/low visitation activity to inform dynamic pricing strategies, to help reduce crowding, and to identify less visited parks that may benefit from promotion; and, 4. Establish stakeholder perceptions of pricing strategies and feasibility of application for the NC State Park system.

Date: 05/15/22 - 5/24/24
Amount: $94,784.00
Funding Agencies: USDA - National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)

Agritourism, educational or recreational visits to a work farm, offers many benefits to rural communities. Effective marketing strategies are needed to maximize these benefits. Mobile apps, like the Visit NC Farms app, offer one mechanism to reach a wider audience of potential agritourism visitors. This study, a proposed NIFA postdoctoral fellowship, aims to improve the marketing effectiveness of agritourism mobile apps by identifying user typologies, establishing preferences for agritourism visits among different types of app users, and measuring in the influence of the use of an itinerary building feature on app users?????????????????? visits to agritourism farms. This knowledge will allow app developers, agritourism operators, and other local food system stakeholders to improve efforts to market agritourism. Agritourism operators and the rural communities they serve will see economic, social, and environmental benefits from leveraging mobile apps to improve agritourism marketing.

Date: 10/01/22 - 8/31/23
Amount: $50,444.00
Funding Agencies: Visit NC

North Carolina (NC) ranks third for net migration of retirement age adults in the US meaning nearly 20,000 people 60 years or older moved to NC in 2019 . In 2021, places in NC including Asheville , Charlotte , Raleigh/Durham2, and Winston-Salem3 were identified as some of the best places to retire in the US further proving the attractiveness of NC as a retirement destination. And this recognition is happening all as the rate of US retirement has been increasing due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic . With the considerable potential for retirees??? to contribute to the state???s economy and communities it is necessary to understand the factors that drive their decision to retire to NC. Furthermore, a more robust knowledge of how to assess the economic impact of retirees will provide the tools to illustrate one aspect of retirees??? contributions to the state, its counties, and local communities. This study aims to fill these gaps by creating a profile of NC retirees, their motivations to retire to NC, and the influence of travel to the state as a driver in their retirement location decision. To enable future efforts to measure the economic impact of retirees this study will also identify processes for assessing the economic impact of retirees??? ??? including their travels while deciding on a retirement location and once they settle in a new community. The outcomes of this work will help inform North Carolina communities??? efforts to attract and support retirees.

Date: 04/01/19 - 3/31/23
Amount: $1,100,000.00
Funding Agencies: Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC)

This project will develop a comprehensive model program for developing an industry cluster around local foods focused on entrepreneurship, business development, job creation and workforce development, training, providing career ladder opportunities, and growing community leadership for lasting change. This work will be focused in the 7 county ????????????????foodshed??????????????? region of the Southwestern Commission (Region A Council of Governments), which includes North Carolina??????????????????s most distressed counties. and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI).This comprehensive model will build on work that has already occurred in the 7 county region and through grant funding to the Southwestern Commission from the NC Rural Center, through a nascent regional local food advisory council that included participants representing food banks, funders, public health and health organizations, NC Commerce, agriculture organizations (including USDA, NCDA, and Cooperative Extension), academic institutions (Western Carolina and the three community colleges in the regions), the faith based community, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and the Southwestern Commission, and through many of the other partners we are engaging who work in the food systems sector. The work also builds on the expertise and experience of over 24 years of statewide work of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS), a partnership of NC State University, NC A&T State University, and the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. CEFS is excited to bring lessons learned and best practices from a comprehensive list of relevant projects ( to develop this industry cluster with community partners, and together boost the economy of western NC. This project overlaps with four of the five strategic investment goals of the five-year ARC strategic plan including providing economic opportunities, workforce development, leveraging the region??????????????????s natural assets, and building capacity and skills for long lasting change. This project also overlaps with the goal of providing critical infrastructure needed to build a sustainable regional local food economy. The region recognized the opportunity for economic development based in local food systems, as has the Appalachian Regional Commission, which hosted a forum in Asheville NC in 2012 titled ????????????????Growing Appalachian Food Economy???????????????, and funded various food systems and entrepreneurship projects in North Carolina over the last five years, including five in food systems since 2013 for a total investment of $310,000, and four in entrepreneurship training since 2013 for a total investment of $430,000. This project aligns fully with three of the four investment priorities of the POWER initiative, including: building a competitive workforce, fostering entrepreneurial activities, and developing industry clusters. What is unique about this effort is the opportunity to develop an industry cluster through implementing many disparate food systems projects in one target area (vs scattered statewide) as a comprehensive model that can be transferable to other coal-impacted areas in the nation. The opportunity to do a ???????????????deep-dive?????????????????? in this region with ready and willing partners and all of our collective assets makes for a compelling opportunity to build on existing momentum and significantly improve the region??????????????????s economy.

Date: 11/04/21 - 12/31/22
Amount: $9,973.00
Funding Agencies: NCSU Sea Grant Program

On September 6th, 2019 Hurricane Dorian made landfall on North Carolina??????????????????s Outer Banks, causing historic flooding and widespread damage across tourism-dependent barrier island communities. Two communities, Ocracoke and Hatteras islands, were among the hardest hit. As Hurricane Dorian recovery efforts began, the COVID-19 pandemic substantially altered recovery within the tourism sector. Fragile, outdated infrastructure and limited access policies disrupted supply chains and workforce availability, significantly lengthening recovery efforts well into the 2020 hurricane season. Once access was restored, the tourism industry in Hatteras and Ocracoke boomed with visitors seeking a ????????????????safe??????????????? escape from the pandemic, even while business owners were struggling to rebuild and housing shortages continued. The compounding crises of Hurricane Dorian and the COVID-19 pandemic have affected the decisions within the tourism industry in Hatteras and Ocracoke. Through an NSF-funded project ????????????????RAPID: Disaster recovery decision making in remote tourism dependent communities??????????????? the research team uncovered pathways of near-term decision making and integrating these decisions within a broader network of actors establishing a baseline for understanding disaster recovery in remote tourism-dependent communities. Through this research the need for a centralized location to integrate information sources and recovery resources, facilitate sharing of capacity strengths and weaknesses, and foster learning and partnerships among tourism-dependent coastal communities. This proposed project seeks to define inter-community, region-specific components (e.g., resources, information pathways, community interactions, and knowledge brokers) needed to create a virtual community-based disaster preparedness hub. The objectives of this project are designed to build upon the data from the NSF-funded project, by identifying existing community-based planning resources, hosting community focus groups to prioritize resources and actions the community members are willing to take, analyze the feedback from the focus groups, and develop a blueprint for a virtual community-based disaster preparedness hub. This process will identify the infrastructure and management foundations needed to establish and sustain the hub as well as how tourism-dependent community stakeholders would contribute to and utilize a virtual community-based disaster preparedness hub could advance knowledge and practice of resilience strategy development and planning efforts in coastal community contexts.

Date: 09/01/19 - 8/31/22
Amount: $119,784.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Commerce (DOC)

This study proposes to develop a profile of potential shellfish mariculture tourists so coastal communities can capitalize on the growing interest in food tourism. This will be accomplished through a combination of survey, asset mapping, and comparison techniques. First, a survey will be conducted of food tourists who intend to visit Atlantic coastal states to identify potential shellfish mariculture tourists?????????????????? experience preferences and the barriers to their participation. Then community-based asset mapping will be conducted with NC community stakeholders, including tourism and economic development officials, shellfish mariculture producers, residents, and other coastal industry members to identify existing shellfish mariculture tourism assets. These findings will be compared to the current shellfish mariculture tourism product supply in NC coastal communities to identify how demand for shellfish mariculture tourism can be met. Finally, a suite of prototype NC shellfish mariculture tourism outreach materials will be developed which will be tested for their ability to connect with potential shellfish mariculture tourists and stimulate demand for shellfish mariculture products.

Date: 09/01/17 - 8/31/22
Amount: $499,536.00
Funding Agencies: USDA - National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)

This integrated (research, education, outreach) project will measure the educational and market impacts of agritourism among middle school students under three scenarios: unstructured (family recreational visits), semi-structured (school-based farm visits), and structured (farm visits in support of agricultural curricula) conditions. Specifically, it will investigate the impact of farm visits on children??????????????????s?????????????????? agricultural literacy and how that knowledge is transferred to their parents as purchasing intention of local agricultural products. Identifying the most high-impact forms of agritourism in terms of educational and market value will help to forge stronger connections between citizens and their local food producers, which in turn will contribute to the economic, social, and environmental sustainability of local agricultural systems (AFRI??????????????????S overall goal) and strengthen rural communities?????????????????? economies (AFRI??????????????????s Priority 6). Through partnerships with agritourism farmers and elementary teachers across North Carolina this project will use experimental and quasi-experimental approaches to test changes in agricultural literacy (children) and locally-based purchasing behaviors (parents) via pre and post-tests surveys. Project results will help to: Determine which forms of agritourism are most suitable to increase agricultural literacy and stimulate the purchase of local agricultural products (Research); develop a measurement instrument for agricultural literacy (Research); train agritourism farmers so they can modify their programming offerings (e.g., tour content, farm signage) to increase agricultural literacy and locally-based purchasing behaviors (Extension); and enhance agricultural curricula content to strengthen students?????????????????? connection to local agricultural systems (Education).

Date: 02/15/20 - 1/31/22
Amount: $58,934.00
Funding Agencies: National Science Foundation (NSF)

In September 2019, Hurricane Dorian severely impacted remote, tourism-dependent communities in the Outer Banks region of North Carolina. The communities of Ocracoke and Hatteras sustained the most infrastructure damage (e.g., businesses, homes, schools, power, potable water, transportation, and telecommunications). As recovery efforts begin, tourism business owners have to determine whether or not to reinvest, while individuals employed within the tourism industry have to determine whether or not they will remain. These decision processes include utilizing their hurricane experience (both past and present) and a variety of information sources within their local networks to inform perceptions of access to an available workforce or workforce housing, the availability of recovery resources, and the likelihood of future visitors, as well as perceptions of recovery risks. In turn, these perceptions influence recovery intentions and actual recovery decisions. This study specifically explores this decision making process in near-term, post-disaster contexts. The project has three objectives to: (1) identify the information networks accessed by individuals?????????????????? within the tourism industry to inform recovery decisions; (2) evaluate the extent to which recovery information activated through those networks is processed; and (3) document decision making pathways that influence risk perceptions and intended recovery decisions.

Date: 09/01/19 - 4/30/21
Amount: $7,437.00
Funding Agencies: ASAE Foundation

Associations play a crucial role in the success of the tourism industry. One of the most valuable benefits they offer those they represent is advocating for the interests of the industry with policymakers at the local, state, and federal level. Many challenges are faced by association leaders charged with advocating for the tourism industry. They must represent the interests of many different stakeholders within the industry and may have to address a wide range of policy issues that can impact the industry, including those related to social issues that impact visitors?????????????????? image of a tourism destination, funding for tourism marketing and management efforts, or taxation levels. Many policy changes have the potential to develop into crises for the tourism industry. Like in any crisis, it is vital for tourism stakeholders to take action to mitigate risks and the potential impacts of policy changes. In the context of policy-induced crises, advocacy is one way to take action to reduce risks and the impacts of crises. Recently, there have been an increasing number of policy-related crises impacting the tourism industry. Therefore, organizing advocacy efforts to represent the tourism industry??????????????????s interests among policymakers is becoming an increasingly important role for associations and their leaders. However, very little is known about what associations are doing to plan for advocacy efforts on behalf of the tourism industry. In this way, tourism industry associations may not be maximizing the tools and benefits they offer to their members. This proposed research study seeks to identify best practices in advocacy planning among tourism industry associations in order to help all associations deliver services to their members.

Date: 06/27/19 - 12/31/20
Amount: $18,810.00
Funding Agencies: Greater Raleigh Convention & Visitors Bureau

The community engagement strategies (CES) the GRCVB plans to employ have the potential to increase community stakeholders?????????????????? awareness of the organization and its benefits. This could also lead to community stakeholders being stronger advocates for tourism in Wake County. However, the magnitude of the impact that the CES could have is not known. Through in-depth interviews with Wake County tourism stakeholders this study will determine the degree to which CES increase awareness of the GRCVB and its benefits among community stakeholders as well as their intentions to advocate for tourism in Wake County.

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