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Resident Perceptions of Tourism Development in a Gateway Mountain County Sarah Banks, Ph.D. and Eric Frauman, Ph.D. Recreation Management Program Appalachian State University
Study Setting • Watauga County – northwestern mountains of North Carolina in Appalachian Mountain Chain • Approximate county population = 43,000 • Nearly half of the resident properties are seasonal
Study Setting • Major employers – Tourism, Appalachian State University, Christmas tree farm industry • In 2005, Boone was recognized by travel journalists as the ultimate outdoor adventure destination in the Southeast (Adventure Sports Magazine, 2005) • Watauga County has experienced tremendous growth over the past 20 years • largely due to tourism and second home ownership • resulting in traffic, congestion, overdevelopment • much dissatisfaction among long time residents, newcomers and visitors alike
Assumption and Purpose • Different aspects of the tourism industry and its development affect the destination, quality of life, and its residents differently • To examine resident perceptions toward: • Attributes considered most important in making Watauga County a desirable place to live • Perceived state of the current condition of those attributes
Methods • A 3-page survey with a prepaid return envelope mailed to 1,200 randomly selected addresses taken from the Watauga County tax assessment office in 2006 • Additional 60 surveys with pre-paid return envelope were hand delivered to tourism-related businesses in the county to provide another distinct resident type for the study • 270 surveys returned for a response rate of 21.4% • Consisted of a scale of 34 items, including • 10 environmental, 9 socio-economic, 15 socio-cultural attributes and features of Watauga County • Respondents asked to evaluate utilizing 5-point Likert scales • 1 = Very Unimportant to 5 = Very Important (Importance) • 1 = Poor to 5 = Excellent (Performance)
Methods (cont’d) • Resident types • Permanent Boone resident (n=100) • Permanent resident living in county, but outside Boone (n=75) • Non-permanent county resident (n=54) • Tourism-related business owner (n=39) • Importance-Performance analysis • Attributes/features plotted based on how important they are versus how they are perceived to be performing • Value of Important (4) used as divider on x-axis • Defined according to which quadrant they fall within: I.Not as important and in adequate current condition II. Important and in adequate current condition III. Not as important and in unacceptable current condition IV. Important and in unacceptable current condition
I. II. IV. III.
II. I. III. IV.
II. I. III. IV.
II. I. III. IV.
Importance Summary • Nine of the 10 environmental items were rated as “important” to “very important” (mean ranging from 4 to 5) overall • 5 of the 15 socio-cultural items rated as “important” to “very important” • 3 of the 9 socio-economic items rated “important” to “very important” • Non-permanent residents rated 8 of the 10 environmental items more important than each of the other resident types • Boone residents rated 6 of the 9 socio-economic and 6 of the 15 socio-cultural items more important than the other resident types • Permanent residents living outside Boone and tourism-related business owners rated only 3 of the overall 34 items most important among the resident types
Importance Summary – A Closer Look • Statistically significant differences (p<.05): • Permanent residents and business owners rated the following as more important than non-permanent residents • “Number of jobs”, “Personal income”, “Providing tax incentives to help sustain existing farms,” “Making housing affordable” • Non-permanent residents felt the following was more important than other resident types • “Amount of uncontrolled development,” “Preserving undeveloped mountain tops and slopes” • Business owners and non-permanent residents rated less important than permanent residents • “Encouraging more national chain stores/restaurants” • Business owners less supportive than other resident types • of “Expanding Appalachian State University”
Current Condition (Performance) Summary • No items rated as in “Good” to “Excellent” condition • 21 of the 34 items were rated as only somewhat above “Fair” or less • with 8 of the 10 environmental items in this category • Permanent residents who live outside the county seat felt current condition worse for 8 of the 10 environmental items versus the other resident types • Non-permanent residents tended to be more optimistic about a majority of the socio-economic items • Permanent residents living outside the county seat and tourism-related business owners viewed current condition as worse for a majority of the 15 socio-cultural attributes • In county seat residents least optimistic for 3 of the 34 items
Discussion • Non-permanent residents • Expressed the greatest concern about the natural environment overall • Felt less strongly about some of the socio-cultural and economic attributes than permanent residents • Residents living outside the county seat • More concerned about the protection of open space and farms than other three resident types • Permanent residents • Greater concerns regarding the number of jobs available, personal income, and available affordable housing
Conclusions • Natural Environment main thing that makes area special • Drives the county’s economy • Contributes to the quality of life of both permanent and nonpermanent residents • No items rated as in “Good” to “Excellent” condition overall • Five items evaluated of most concern in current condition • Amount of traffic, amount of uncontrolled development, preserving undeveloped mountain tops / slopes, making housing affordable, amount of noise heard
Recommendations • Research shows where development seems controlled or managed, fewer negative perceptions seem to exist • Decision makers should better utilize resident perspectives to enable appropriate community planning and greater consensus on the direction future development should take • Need to educate policy makers, community planners and business owners on tourism related impacts and resource dependency of tourism industry
The End Questions? Acknowledgements: Thanks to Appalachian State University’s Office of Research and Sponsored Programs for helping fund this research