Institute for Integrated Rural Tourism


Todd Comen, Ph.D -- Director

Todd ComenTodd Comen, Ph.D is the Director of The Institute For Integrated Rural Tourism and a Professor of Business and Hospitality Management at Johnson State College in Vermont. Professor Comen earned a Ph. D in Natural Resources from the University of Vermont, a Master's Degree from Cornell University in Hotel Administration and a Bachelor's Degree in Economics from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. His love for rural tourism began in 1982 with the development and operation of a small country inn on a farm in northern California. His experience in creating an agricultural tourist attraction at The Apple Works in Wisconsin and years of living on small farms raising crops and small farm animals, has given Professor Comen a keen sense of emerging opportunities for reinventing rural economies, invigorating rural cultures, and for weaving natural area protection into an overall rural tourism strategy.

Since 1989, Todd Comen has combined research and the study of tourism and hospitality with his practical experience in operations to bring a non-traditional approach to consulting, workshops and courses on hospitality and tourism management. Courses and workshops cover a variety of topics relevant to rural and ecotourism including rural tourism product and infrastructure planning and development, marketing, ecotourism, and quality management of hospitality organizations.

Recent research and workshop engagements have taken him to the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Romania, Poland, Belarus, Honduras and Italy. He has worked with a variety of NGOís as a tourism consultant including CHF International, Partners of the Americas and The Institute For Sustainable Communities. Professor Comen has developed a new strategy for rural economic development and poverty alleviation called Integrated Rural Tourism. His Institute for Integrated Rural Tourism offers leadership, research, consulting and educational programming to people interested in weaving low impact tourism into the economy of their community.

Steve Ames -- Associate

Steve Ames works as a consultant to artists and arts organizations in Northern Vermont - he just completed twelve years at the helm of River Arts in Lamoille County, Vermont where he built community through collaborative programs across fields that benefited from creativity and self expression. In addition Steve has over thirty years experience in the ski industry starting in Western Massachusetts, then New Zealand, ten years at Killington, and seventeen years at the Stowe Mountain Resort. He has founded five other community organizations Including the Rutland Area food Co-op and three public access TV stations - all in Vermont. Steve has worked with the Vermont Council on Rural Development in their Community Visit program, and is working with the Snelling Center for Government to help roll out a new website project and train Municipal Governments in best practices for web use. He is a 2007 graduate of the Vermont Leadership Institute.

Steve has expertise in simple and efficient use of new media in marketing, small business development, and non profit management. He holds a B.A. in Asian Studies and Anthropology from nearby Williams College, is an advisor to the Multi Media and Design Department at Green Mountain Technical Career Center, and is a trustee of the Morristown Alliance for Culture and Commerce.

Valerie T. Rochon -- Associate

Valerie Rochon is the Tourism Director for the Greater Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Chamber of Commerce, where she is responsible for developing and implementing destination marketing initiatives for Portsmouth and the Seacoast.

Ms. Rochonís prior experience includes strategic marketing planning for the Motion Marketing Group, an affiliation of marketing, web, creative and PR professionals providing customized marketing services. During her thirteen years with the Stowe Area Association, a membership organization whose primary mission is to market and sell Stowe, Vermont, she served seven years as Executive Director. She also created the international marketing program for Stowe and served six years as International Marketing Director, working in eleven countries to increase inbound visitor traffic.

Ms. Rochonís experience in the hospitality industry includes management positions in marketing, sales and property management for two major resorts. She has been active in developing partnerships in local, regional, and state tourism and economic development areas in Vermont and New Hampshire, working towards responsible and sustainable tourism.

Ms. Rochon holds a B.A. in Hospitality & Tourism Management from Johnson State College, and is a graduate of the Vermont Leadership Institute from the University of Vermontís Snelling Center for Government. She has been an advisor to and guest lecturer in the JSC Hospitality Marketing Department, and currently serves in an advisory capacity for both the Great Bay Community College and Portsmouth High School hospitality programs.

Active in her community, Ms. Rochon has served on various town, state, community and industry Boards, the Vermont Reparative Board of the Department of Corrections, and is a former Rotarian and Mentor. She currently serves on the board of the New Hampshire Travel Council and the Susan G. Komen VT/NH affiliate.

The Institute For Integrated Rural Tourism Todd Comen, Managing Director (802) 635-1209