Dark storm clouds sometimes hover over the Smoky Mountains on summer afternoons, but WCU students are predicting a sunny season for the Western North Carolina tourism industry.

As the summer travel season gets underway, a new study conducted by students in Western Carolina University’s Hospitality and Tourism Program indicates that stable gasoline prices and improving economic conditions should contribute to an increase in tourism-generated revenue across Western North Carolina.

Students in a senior-level capstone class taught by Steve Morse, economist and director of the Hospitality and Tourism Program in WCU’s College of Business, analyzed eight years of hotel room demand trends using data supplied by Smith Travel Research, a leading source of information for the hospitality industry, to develop their summer tourism forecast for 21 counties of WNC.

The students examined a variety of data including summer month occupancy rates, average daily occupancy rates and the number of room nights sold in five regions of WNC, said Morse. The students then based their summer tourism forecast on patterns for travel demand and trends for travel across the mountains, he said.

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Originally written by Bill Studenc and published May 26, 2017.

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