Tourism Means More Than Money to the Host Community

Article excerpt

Many rural communities that are located near park and recreation areas are developing tourism to revitalize their economies. Tourism development is often promoted for its potential to create jobs, tax revenues and income for these rural communities previously funded by natural resources. Most planning strategies focus on developing physical resources and amenities with the promise of local investment and employment opportunities. Development plans generally address carrying capacity and multiple use issues and include strategies which focus on park and recreation areas. Less recognized are tourism's non-economic benefits. Development plans have often failed to consider these other benefits as well as the concerns of citizens who are not likely to benefit economically from tourism development. The recognition and promotion of the non-economic benefits of tourism may be a key to developing the support of the local community which is vital to the long-term success of tourism development. Planning a sustainable tourism industry also requires the acknowledgment of those aspects of tourism which require sacrifice on the part of the residents.

Benefits and Costs of Tourism

Residents of tourist destinations enjoy improved shopping and recreation facilities, increased opportunities for meeting and interacting with new people, the creation of an outlet for self-expression, the development of community pride, and improvements to the physical attractiveness of the community as byproducts of the local tourism industry.

Residents can also come to resent tourism. Tourist destination residents often complain about crowding and congestion, increased criminal activity, an increase in the cost of living and changes in the natural environment. Figure 1 outlines the most common non-economic advantages and disadvantages of tourist development.

However, the impacts of tourism are not the same for all residents. Their interests and values affect the way they perceive the benefits and costs. This article discusses the non-economic interests of three types of citizens whose values should be considered when tourism development is being planned. They are the Attached Resident, the Resource User, and the Environmentalist.

The Attached Resident

Community attachment refers to the affectionate feelings residents harbor toward their community. Attached residents enjoy where they live and have developed attachments either to the natural environment or to the people. This sense of community is expressed by a greater interest in local affairs and sadness when forced to think about leaving the community. Longer-term residents, those who have a higher social standing in the community, and those in a later stage of the life cycle are generally the most likely to feel attached. Positive feelings about the community may develop from the social bonds residents establish as members of local organizations.

It is also common to find short-term residents of tourist destinations also emotionally attached. These newcomers may have decided to move into the community after having pleasurable tourist experiences. The emotional bond spawns a deep concern for improving the quality of life in their place of residence. Attached individuals are also concerned about developing economic opportunities for the youth who may otherwise be forced to move away in search of employment. Consequently, attached residents tend to see tourism more positively than those whose feelings toward their place of residence are more ambivalent.

Projects that promise social and environmental benefits will get more support from attached citizens than those that promise only economic rewards. These constituents are most concerned with maintaining the character of their community. They may complain about congestion, traffic, longer lines, or losing their favorite spot in the local restaurant.

The attached resident considers these impacts relatively minor irritants that they would be willing to endure if the end result was beneficial to the community as a whole. …