Academic journal article Journal of Tourism Challenges and Trends

Copreneurship and Rural Tourism: Observations from New Zealand and Future Research Directions

Academic journal article Journal of Tourism Challenges and Trends

Copreneurship and Rural Tourism: Observations from New Zealand and Future Research Directions

Article excerpt



The activities of couples in business have long been recognised, but it was not until the 1980s that this phenomenon was defined as copreneurship (Barnett & Barnett, 1988). Copreneurs are domestic couples who share ownership, commitment and responsibility for a business together or, as Marshack (1994) put it, copreneurship represents the dynamic interaction of the systems of love and work. Copreneurship has typically been included within family business studies, a field where numerous attempts have been made to articulate conceptual and operational definitions of family firms (Chrisman, Chua & Litz, 2003; Habbershon et al., 2003; Sharma, 2004; Astrachan & Shanker, 2006) although the homogeneity of firms described as family businesses is clearly debatable given the contested notion of what constitutes a family.

Couples in business together (copreneurs) are one form of family business. Research suggests that partners in life decide to start copreneurial ventures in reaction to a number of factors including the existence of the 'glass ceiling', and corporate downsizing and redundancy (Smith, 2000), strong economies, easier access to capital and early retirement programmes (Michael, 1999). Copreneurship is often profiled throughout the mainstream media in stories of partnership success (e.g. Dyer & Handler, 1994; Fitzgerald & Muske, 2002). The majority of this work is based largely on anecdotal evidence and small samples (Smith, 2000). According to Marshack (1994), at the time of her research there were only five empirical studies that represented the research literature on copreneurs. Bryson et al. (1976) and Epstein (1971) focused primarily on the marital relationship and Cox et al. (1984), Wicker & Burley (1991) and Ponthieu, and Caudill (1993) focused on business partnerships. Since then, several more research initiatives have been implemented including Smith's (2000) study of twenty copreneurial marital partners in New South Wales, Australia; Fitzgerald and Muske's (2002) work with over 200 copreneurs in the USA; the theoretical models of work-family conflict (Foley & Powell, 1997) or work on the effects of structural changes and economic policy on small business in Britain (Baines & Wheelock, 1998).

Until recently, no published studies discussed the relationship between copreneurship and tourism, which is remarkable, given that many tourism businesses integrate family and partners (Hall & Rusher, 2004). However, the potential significance of copreneurship has been noted. Hall and Williams (2008) in discussing tourism entrepreneurship, observed: the role of couples as entrepreneurs may be far more important than (family businesses) being operated on an inter-generational basis. Therefore, the idea of co-preneurship would seem to be useful avenue with which to investigate such businesses, and others like them in the tourism industry, as part of a life-course approach to examining business development and entrepreneurial behaviour.

Specifically, this paper responds to Hall and Williams (2008); it reports on a study of rural tourism firms in New Zealand. Following a discussion of the literature on rural tourism and entrepreneurship, the paper briefly discusses the results of a mixed method study of rural tourism copreneurs and then presents some observations on the research, along with suggestions for future research directions.


The research reported in this paper explored both roles within and experiences of tourism production whilst in a copreneurial relationship. In order to achieve this, a mixed method research design was employed which aimed to explore the experiences of owners of rural tourism accommodation businesses in New Zealand within the framework of copreneurship. The triangulation of data sources and methods, that's combining qualitative and quantitative techniques, enabled a rich understanding of copreneurial expectations, roles and responsibilities, and of women's experiences in particular. …

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