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Rockport economy could depend on ‘voluntourism’

Posted Nov. 11, 2017, on the Rockport Path to Recovery Facebook page, this photo gives an idea of just how much more work needs to be done before the area can be deemed recovered from Hurricane Harvey. Bringing in tourists who want to help in the cleanup and restoration could be part of the answer. Courtesy photo

Rockport’s economic driver — tourism — has crashed into disaster recovery, which could be the makings of another disaster altogether. Rockport, however, plans to turn that sow’s ear into a silk purse via “voluntourism.” The Rockport Fulton Chamber of Commerce wants to help preserve its $100 million tourism economy by bringing in groups of tourists to tour the city, learn about its history and the hurricane then launch into hands-on recovery work.

The idea is just that for the moment: a concept in development. How to turn that concept into reality has been discussed in recent economic development workshops. A final, wrap-up meeting is 6-7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 11, at the Public Safety Center, 714 E. Concho St. in Rockport.

Rockport was one of the hardest-hit Coastal Bend communities when Hurricane Harvey’s Category 4 winds made landfall Aug. 25. Much of the town was destroyed. Of the 1,300 businesses closed because of the hurricane, only 460 have reopened.

Getting people back into their homes is one of the biggest issues facing the community. Multifamily homes no longer exist in Rockport. Many single-family homes were destroyed as well. Rebuilding efforts could take two to three years, according to experts.

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