NACOGDOCHES, Texas –– Stephen F. Austin State University’s Center for Applied Research and Rural Innovation, in association with the Texas Forest Country Partnership and Texas Forest Trail Region, will host the Rural Texas Travel and Tourism Conference March 7 in the Baker Pattillo Student Center Grand Ballroom on SFA’s campus. 

The purpose of the conference is to educate and promote economic development opportunities through travel and tourism in Texas. Moreover, attendees will have the opportunity to acquire certification and knowledge of best tourism industry practices and will hear from expert speakers, according to Mary Ann Rojas, CARRI executive director.

“The conference will provide a forum for rural communities to showcase tourism attractions and entrepreneurship in rural Texas,” Rojas said. “It also will help build local capacity and strengthen networks among tourism and community champions. The conference also will act as a stage to showcase and highlight existing events that have benefited communities in rural areas and inspired others to learn from each other.”

The keynote speaker for the event will be Jonas Arjes, interim president and chief executive officer of the Branson Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce, who will present “A book, a river, and a hole in the ground: A Branson story.” During the presentation, Arjes will discuss his experience with the transformation of Branson, Missouri, into an international destination. He also will share knowledge of the community challenges, infrastructure, workforce, and social and economic impacts of growth.

“SFA’s CARRI exists to provide and support rural communities through the leveraging of university resources, talent and research,” Rojas said. “We recognize the economic development opportunities and challenges facing rural deep East Texas. We also recognize and advocate supporting tourism as a positive economic driver in our region.”

The conference is open to the public and encourages SFA students, as well as practitioners and community leaders, to attend. Cost of attendance is $100, and registration is open until the day of the event. Register here for the conference

For more information about CARRI, visit the website.

Stephen F. Austin State University, the newest member of The University of Texas System, began a century ago as a teachers’ college in Texas’ oldest town, Nacogdoches. Today, it has grown into a regional institution comprising six colleges — business, education, fine arts, forestry and agriculture, liberal and applied arts, and sciences and mathematics. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, SFA enrolls approximately 11,000 students while providing the academic breadth of a state university with the personalized attention of a private school. The main campus encompasses 421 acres that include 37 academic facilities, nine residence halls, and 68 acres of recreational trails that wind through its six gardens. The university offers more than 80 bachelor’s degrees, more than 40 master’s degrees and four doctoral degrees covering more than 120 areas of study. Learn more at the SFA website