Herald Standard: by Joyce Koballa

A hodgepodge of tourism destinations can be found in community backyards across southwestern Pennsylvania where being local serves as the economic gateway to thinking, buying, investing and visiting area attractions. In Fayette County, a group of tourism and hospitality industry representatives are returning to the helm to promote such opportunities following a fouryear hiatus.
The Fayette County Tourism Alliance will pick up where it left off with creating and enhancing the local tourism industry to support sustainable economic growth. “It’s an opportunity to get back together to rethink and build collaboratively to make tourism stronger,” said Muriel Nuttall, executive director of the Fayette Chamber of Commerce.
The notforprofit group will hold its first meeting at 10 a.m. Feb. 29 in the corporate training center at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus. The alliance is administered by the chamber and the National Road Heritage Corridor< in partnership with the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau (LHVB). The group plans to meet monthly to provide support in education, training, marketing and strategic partnerships.
Because of its structure and administrative agreement, Nuttall said the alliance is able to lobby for various legislative actions and seek grant funds for project activity, which makes it multifaceted.
Nuttall said the alliance last advocated for a state tax on hotel lodging, which supports the county’s nonprofit and forprofit tourism assets. “Tourism takes on a lot of different shapes and sizes for nonprofits that provide different activities, amenities and sites to draw visitors,” said Donna Holdorf, executive director of the National Road Heritage Corridor. The other aspect, said Holdorf, is directly related to economic development and creating opportunities for people who live and want to move here by opening and expanding businesses and services. According to Nuttall, the Fayette County Commissioners stressed the importance of bringing back the alliance to focus on tourism issues that impact the county and local economy. She said the concept was also evident during a recent tourism grant writing program hosted by LHVB to increase visitation and overnight stays and enhance visitor experience in Fayette, Somerset and Westmoreland counties. “In Fayette County, tourism is truly an economic generator,” said Nuttall. “We have added hotels, so we need to fill them up.” One initiative Nuttall said the group hopes to revive is a tourism expo on backyard destinations that initially attracted about 150 people and representatives from 50 to 75 entities.< With Ohiopyle State Park attracting between 1.5 and 2 million visitors each year, Nuttall said the need to enhance the tourism industry is obvious. “It’s a tool, and it can be a billboard to introduce people to an area they’ve never seen before,” said Holdorf. Those interested in joining the Be Local Network can contact Clint Rhodes at 7244397518 or by email at crhodes@heraldstandard.com. Discount cards are available at the HeraldStandard, 8 East Church St., Uniontown, and at the Greene County Messenger, 82 West High St., Waynesburg.