Creating dignified and sustainable livelihoods glocally

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Duke University students partner with NC State’s P1tLab to develop a community-based ecotourism project in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Students from Duke University are collaborating with P1tLab to help rural community members in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, develop their ecotourism business.

Playa Grande is a Mexican ejido, where land is jointly owned by a group of 70 community members. Residents of Playa Grande, like many rural communities in Mexico, participate in government-funded conservation programs where community members receive monetary compensation in exchange for their involvement in the sustainable management and stewardship of communal natural resources. Their conservation activities include fire prevention, protection against illegal logging and hunting, and maintaining corridors for jaguar protection.

Ejido Playa Grande is part of a small group of communities that decided to invest their conservation program earnings into an ecotourism business, which is jointly owned by community members. Their company has been growing but community members are looking to improve their business strategy in order to attract more customers, as well as to transition to a renewable energy strategy to power their tourist center.  

A common problem encountered by rural communities in Mexico is that it is difficult to access experts that can provide specialized assistance in fields such as business, marketing, and engineering. To remedy this situation, students at Duke University have created Economic Sustainability, which is an initiative that connects rural community members to “student experts” that assist residents with their business and engineering needs. Over the summer of 2017, four students traveled to Puerto Vallarta to help the community develop a business plan and a solar strategy that will power the kitchen in their tourist center.

The Economic Sustainability project is also partnering with NC State's P1tLab, whose students, faculty, and staff provide guidance on the community’s marketing and business strategy. Due to the very competitive and vertically integrated nature of the tourism industry in the region, this community is struggling to “capture” visitors from the international enclave destination of Puerto Vallarta.  Through this partnership with Duke University and NC State’s P1tLab members of Ejido Playa Grande will attempt to penetrate local retail monopolies to advertise their services directly to potential visitors.

By Ruxandra Popovic, Duke University, Nicholas School of the Environment

Saturday, July 15, 2017

P1T has taken another dip in online visitation: 2016 to 2017 Second Quarter Analytics

The longitudinal comparison of the previous year’s website visitation performance with the most recent quarterly report provides a snapshot of the overall reach of the People-First Tourism project, as well the performance of the website source links and micro-entrepreneur network pages. Additionally, the report includes data about the reach of the project’s scholarship to the public through select social media tools – e.g., this web blog. Some significant changes in offer and marketing are tracked and have shaped the changes in the performance of the website.

Here is the most recent report, P1T Dashboard Analytics Report for 2nd Quarter of 2017 (see inset below). The report for the 3rd Quarter 2017 will be appearing in an upcoming posting on this blog.
This report revealed that new visitation to the web marketplace during the 2nd Quarter 2017 has decreased significantly (-133%) over the new visits seen during the 1st Quarter of 2016. There has been a much higher decrease (-227%) in returned visitors to the site during this period. Visitation to the site during the 2nd Quarter is the lowest recorded. Visitors to the site decreased (-69%) from the previous quarter. New visits to the site made up nearly 82% of visits; a slight increase over the previous Quarter which indicates that the site continues to generate interest in visitors wanting to discover travel experiences. The visits to the site during the quarter peaked during July. As in previous quarters, most visitors were from the USA, and they arrived at the P1t website through links with partners such as,, and Other important sources of visitors are the websites of partner organizations like North Carolina Road Trips. The report also features the ten most visited network locations of micro-entrepreneurs, which now includes our recently posted Lake Atitlan Guatemala experiences as well as the NC Mountains region and Kruger South Africa experiences. The social media statistics are also indicating that Facebook and Twitter continue to increase awareness of People-First Tourism experiences.

While the primary purpose of these reports is to enable data-driven business decisions through discussions with empowerment agents and micro-entrepreneurs, we also use these reports to ensure transparency in our efforts to drive academic discussions and research on micro-entrepreneurial business analytics. Therefore, we invite the public and the academic community to comment and to advise us on ways to improve this aspect of the People-First Tourism project.

Gene Brothers, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Equitable and Sustainable Tourism

NC State University

Friday, July 7, 2017

P1t Entrepreneur Spotlight - Dan Gridley, Farm Boy Farms

Tell us who you are in three sentences?
I am a husband, father, educator, and farmer. I focus on providing meaningful and memorable experiences with everyone I interact with. I believe in listening to learn and celebrating with high fives!
How did you become a P1t entrepreneur?
NC State University reached out to me a few years ago and I am glad they did! We have participated with P1t at an event at HQ Raleigh (Crank Arm Brewing in Raleigh brewed a beer using our hops and the beer was showcased at this gathering), been interviewed by students by NC State, had local meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner attend the farm to plant rhizomes, and more. Our goal was to support P1t to connect with folks who would be interested in obtaining an experience they might never had known about when visiting a specific region.
When did you start your business and what inspired you?
We started Farm Boy Farms in 2009. I was an avid homebrewer and I was interested in growing my own ingredients for brewing beer. We collaborated with NC State and Appalachian State University from the start to focus on growing quality ingredients (American Malting Barley Association recommended barley and hops that have the largest yield) and are of business industry quality. We started with 20 hops plants and seven acres of barley. We have grown significantly over the years, but continue to focus on quality of ingredients over quantity. Finally, providing beer education has always been our focus. 

What do you think people can gain from your business?
An understanding of how North Carolina agriculture is working toward creating a quality ingredient supply chain to support the craft beer industry. 

What are your 5-year goals? How do you want to grow the business?
With Chatham Park coming to Pittsboro (only five miles east of our farm), it is our goal to continue to offer an agritourism opportunity for craft beer consumers from the dirt to the glass.
Our future goals include:
·        Continuing to collaborate with area universities and research facilities to focus on quality grains and hops to provide the craft beer industry.
·        Continuing to apply data and evidence-based plant management strategies to focus on quality ingredients.
·        Innovate with how visitors can experience Pittsboro (collaborating with area restaurants and sites of interest) by spending the night at our farm by camping;
·        Update our facility to include a playground for kids.
·        Open our farm brewery focusing on ingredients grown on our farm as well as our area growers.

What sets you apart from your competitors?
We are one of a handful of craft farmers in the region who focus on growing quality ingredients to support the craft beer industry. We have focused on our mission since 2009 when there were only 32 microbreweries across the state of North Carolina (currently around 300). Our quality control program ensures only the best ingredients are available, which at times means a decreased amount of product.
What’s your favorite part about working with People-First Tourism?
Connecting with other passionate "off the beaten path" agritourism providers who ensure a true sense of culture is obtained when visiting a geographic location. 

If you could describe the Hop Farm Tour in 3 words, what would they be?
Family. Friendly. Fun!

Picture credits:  Farm Boy Farms