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Residents’ Attitudes Toward Tourism Development in a Rural Community: A Qualitative Approach

Alison K. Bender, Deborah L. Kerstetter

Abstract


In North America, many rural communities with rich amenities have experienced increased population, often referred to as “amenity migration.” This type of change theoretically impacts residents’ attitudes toward tourism development but has not been studied in this community context. Thus, the purpose of this study was to use the interaction approach to uncover residents’ attitudes toward tourism development in one rural community experiencing amenity migration. The interaction approach has been commonly used to address residents’ response to “…place relevant matters” (Bridger et al., 2010, p. 2). However, it has rarely been used to address tourism development in rural communities within North America, and never with residents experiencing amenity migration as well as ongoing tourism development.

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 19 residents of three communities in Tucker County, West Virginia. Participant observation and secondary data collection were also employed. Results indicated residents had positive (i.e., an increase in economic development, more recreation opportunities, and positive social interactions); negative (i.e., exploitation and type of job growth, and housing issues); and ambivalent attitudes toward tourism development in Tucker County. Residents’ ambivalence focused on the future of tourism development and what impacts it will have on their communities. The impacts they addressed ranged from increased prices for housing, to changes in community dynamics, to protection of the culture and character of the County. 

The results associated with positive and negative attitudes toward tourism development were generally in line with the literature. The introduction of ambivalent attitudes, however, was unexpected and a contribution to the literature. Further, most residents recognized amenity migration as having a positive effect on the area; this may change as tourism development and the influx of new residents continues. 

Using an interactional approach to uncover residents’ attitudes toward tourism development proved successful as residents’ ambivalence, focus on the need for collaboration and controlled growth in the future, and more would not have been uncovered using traditional quantitative measures. Scholars should continue to use this approach to study residents’ attitudes toward tourism development and use their results to inform community officials, lawmakers, and advocacy groups who are advocating for sustainable tourism development in rural communities throughout North America. 

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Keywords


Ambivalence; amenity migration; development; interaction approach; West Virginia

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.18666/JPRA-2020-10046

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