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Awards & Testimonials

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The Blackstone Valley Tourism Council has won a number of local and international awards for their efforts at promoting and developing tourism programs in the Blackstone Valley region. International and local awards include:

  • UNWTO.Sbest Certifcation of Excellence - United Nations World Tourism Organization - September 2006

  • North American Travel Personality of the Year - World Travel Awards - Sept. 2008

  • Tourism for Tomorrow Destination Award - World Travel & Tourism Council - April 2008

  • Tom Roberts Prize for Creative Achievement - RI Council for the Humanities - October 2008

  • Mary Brennan "Stars of the Industry" Tourism Award by Rhode Island Hospitality Association - December 8, 2008

  • Heritage Award - Pawtucket Foundation - April 2008

  • Ulysses Award from the United Nations World Tourism Organization - May 2006


Read what people have to say about the Sustainable Tourism Lab:

Dear Robert,

Thank you so much for organizing and hosting the Sustainable Tourism forum. I found it to be most thought provoking and useful. My only regret is that I was unable to bring a larger contingent from Newburyport to hear such professional and educational speakers. Should you find your self heading to Newburyport, please give me a shout. I would be honored to give you the insiders nickel tour.
Warmest Regards,

James Shanley

Thank you for taking time to brain-storm ideas for indicators for sustainable tourism. Your creative thoughts and knowledge on the topic has provided us with a starting point for a sustainable tourism monitoring system.

Norma Nickerson
Director, Institute for Tourism & Recreation Research
College of Forestry and Conservation
The University of Montana

We were amazed at how many people from all sectors of the community were around the table. These people understood that heritage tourism is economic development, it is preservation, but it is also community development. Their efforts to reclaim the Blackstone River Valley have brought all of those people together around a common table and they all got it.

Mary Steinmaus
Participant from Appalachian Ohio at the
Sustainable Tourism Summit

As you know, I have been very supportive of your efforts to create a sustainable tourism planning and development laboratory and I would be delighted to provide a strong positive recommendation on this proposed project to the Rhode Island Foundation. In the 14 years that I have been working with the National Trust's Heritage Tourism Program, we have seen a growing interest in not just tourism marketing and development but also in tourism management---managing the impacts of tourism to ensure long term sustainability. While there is a growing need for good information on sustainable tourism practices, there are only a limited number of places for those in the tourism industry to find this kind of information. To the best of my knowledge, no other comparable project currently exists. Thus the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council's project is very much needed and relevant, and the work that you have been doing with the Blackstone Valley Heritage Corridor provides a wonderful laboratory for others to benefit from what you have learned over the years. Bob, your own enthusiasm and in-depth knowledge have proven to be truly inspirational when you have the opportunity to share your experiences with others working on sustainable tourism development. The laboratory is an important project that will fill a much needed gap in current tourism training offerings---and position the Blackstone Valley as a national model for others to emulate.

Amy Webb
National Trust Historical for Preservation

Thanks for asking for my input on the BVTCSTPDL. The first task, of course, will be to shorten the acronym!
In all seriousness, I want to commend the work the BVTC is doing in this regard. The sustainable tourism approach is gaining momentum across the country. However, there are few actual tourism districts to have developed relevant, actionable program curriculum around the subject. Obtaining the grant in question will help all of us in NE, through Blackstone’s Sustainable Tourism Laboratory, focus on key issues and initiatives going forward. We in Mystic are actually looking to your organization for help in developing Mystic as a sustainable destination. Many of us will be coming to the Blackstone Place-Making workshop on October 25 from all around New England to listen, learn and share ideas. Sustainable tourism and the development of sustainable tourism models in places like Blackstone Valley, Mystic and points north, are vehicles for building collaborative regional approaches to preserving a sense of community and sense of place that endures. We consider the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council to be a pioneer and leader in this important work. You can count on our enthusiastic support and continuing collaboration in the months and years ahead.

Peter Glankoff
Senior Vice President
Development and Public Affairs
Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration

To whom it may concern,

The tourist industry, while it is the world's largest and Rhode Island's second largest industry, has never had the "gravitas" or been taken as seriously as urban and/or regional development planners and governmental officials as other, smaller industries as High-tech, Biotech, Medtech, energy, etc. Therefore, unlike the other industries, there has been relatively few research and educational programs that can show people how to take a potential tourist asset or region (be it in the areas of culture, heritage, nature, sports, etc.) and turn it into a profitable tourism product that will both attract tourists, and thereby create wealth and jobs, as well as conserve the asset for the future. Very often, new tourism ideas are developed by local "boosters" who do not have the knowledge or experience in the tourism industry or people from the hospitality industry which is different from the tourist industry.

The Blackstone Valley Tourism Council's Tourism Laboratory helps fill such a need. Its laboratory provides an excellent educational experience for individuals and groups who need to learn about the tourism industry, how it functions and how to develop a tourism asset into a tourism product at both the single site and regional level. Its 5-day program for achieving the above goal is one of the best that I know of either in academia or out. Its other programs fill an important niche in the New England area. It not only has a national reputation for excellence in education and training in tourism, but also at the international level. I often use its facilities and personal to help educate my graduate students at Boston University's program in Tourism Management. I highly recommend it.

Prof. Samuel Mendlinger
Boston University

Highly innovative in scope and ambition, the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council's Sustainable Tourism Planning and Development Laboratory is a unique, hands-on approach to working with relevant stakeholders. Indeed, the Laboratory has successfully managed to bridge the gap between academia and practice in their efforts towards sustainable destination management.

As Chair of the Business Enterprises for Sustainable Travel Education Network (BEST EN), an international consortium of educators committed to furthering the development and dissemination of knowledge in the field of sustainable tourism, it is my pleasure to express our full support of the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council's Sustainable Tourism Planning and Development Laboratory.

BEST EN and the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council have worked together since 2005, among others, during BEST EN’s annual Think Tanks, where research and education in sustainable tourism are advanced. At each Think Tank, the most excellent research papers are recognized with the BEST EN Outstanding Paper Award. In 2006, the paper by Robert Billington Ed. D, Natalie Carter, MS and Veronica Cadoppi, MBA entitled “Stakeholder Involvement, Culture and Accountability in the Blackstone Valley: A Work in Progress” was presented with the BEST EN Outstanding Paper Award in Girona, Spain. Subsequently, the paper has been published in the conference proceedings and special issue of Tourism Research International.

It is with real pleasure and confidence in the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council's Sustainable Tourism Planning and Development Laboratory that I forward our strongest recommendations. Should you have any questions please feel free to contact me at liburd@sitkom.sdu.dk

Dr. Janne J. Liburd
Chair, BEST Education Network
Associate Professor
University of Southern Denmark

It is a pleasure to articulate support of the The Blackstone Valley Tourism Council's work to establish the Sustainable Tourism Planning and Development Laboratory, personally and on behalf of the College. The Laboratory is a natural outgrowth of the Council's continued work to draw in and engage great thinkers, learners, and doers around the notion of Sustainable Place Making. Through participation, I know that many of those great thinkers, learners and doers are "discovered" by themselves and other through their interaction with the Laboratory. The result will be viable place making and orchestration of tourism experiences that perpetuate place value and sustainability.

Paul Harper,
Director of Development
Hocking College

The Blackstone Valley Tourism Council's Sustainable Tourism Planning and Development Laboratory initiative is an innovative approach to provide operational assistance to key stakeholders at the local and regional destination levels. As a complex network of public, commercial and civil society players, destinations need access to action oriented learning tools, best practices and benchmarks in order to be sustainable.  The Laboratory is a concrete way to engage these key actors in a continuous learning and performance improvement process that can achieve "triple bottom line" outcomes--i.e. a reasonable ROI and profits for businesses, community benefit sharing and the conservation of cultural and natural resources. At George Washington University, we have been involved in the general assessment of the Laboratory's pilot testing phase. In our judgment, the Laboratory meets an urgent need for tourism destinations in RI and in other U.S localities.

Dr. Don Hawkins
Eisenhower Professor of Tourism Policy
School of Business
George Washington University

2008 World Travel and Tourism Council, Tourism for Tomorrow Destination Award Winner

Think ‘tourism destination’ and the image that comes to mind is not likely to be a place known for its polluted rivers, abandoned businesses, high unemployment and disenfranchised local communities. Yet, that is exactly what the Blackstone River Valley was when local community members launched the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council (BVTC) in 1985. Their goal was to revitalize the nine communities along the Blackstone River Valley in Rhode Island that formed the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution and then ultimately became a victim of it when the Blackstone became the first polluted river in the Western Hemisphere and its industrial mill economy collapsed. Working with a wide range of multi-stakeholders, BVTC has shown that tourism can play a valuable role in helping to revitalize a downtrodden economy and bring back a river once declared "dead" to the benefit of local people, business, and nature. Through a destination stewardship approach to economic development, including the preservation of the area’s natural, cultural and historical heritage, BVTC has succeeded in helping to rebuild a sense of pride among communities in the Blackstone Valley and linking its history to new economic opportunities. With innovative projects like the Sustainable Tourism Development and Planning Laboratory, the Council continues to grow and share the lessons it has learned with other tourism destinations.

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