Rural Tourism and Arts Entrepreneurship in the North Carolina Appalachian Mountains

Article excerpt


Rural communities throughout North America have relied on entrepreneurship as part of economic sustenance strategies. At the same time, tourism has increased in economic importance to rural communities as traditional industries such as mining, manufacturing, and agriculture have declined (McGehee & Meng, 2006). In the United States, rural tourism and recreation development has resulted in employment growth, higher income levels, lower poverty rates, increased education rates, and lower mortality rates (Reeder and Brown, 2006). Rural tourism can include ecotourism, cultural tourism, heritage tourism, arts tourism, agritourism, nature-based tourism, adventure tourism, volunteer tourism, culinary tourism and much smaller niches such as fly-fishing tourism, horticulture tourism, spa tourism, and within the U.S., African-American or Native-American tourism (Kline & Milburn, 2010). While rural tourism has been studied extensively in Europe and Australia, the mention of it in U.S. based studies does not gain substantial ground until the 1990's (Frederick, 1993; Luloff, Bridger, Graefe, Saylor, Martin, & Gitelson, 1994; Marcouiller, 1997). Brown's 2005 annotated bibliography on rural tourism in America summarizes the content of just over 150 journal articles, book chapters, books, conference proceedings, training manuals, technical reports, newsletter articles, and annotated bibliographies related to rural tourism and written in the last twenty years. While the document is to primarily focus on the U.S., many of the resources are from and focus on other nations. Additionally, articles from peer-reviewed journals only number forty. The research on entrepreneurship in rural tourism is especially limited, despite its contribution to economic vitality (Russell & Faulkner, 1999; Koh & Hatten, 2002). In the entrepreneurial literature, research has focused on four general areas: (a) the characteristics of the entrepreneurs themselves (Bolton & Thompson, 2004), (b) types of entrepreneurial activities or outcomes of entrepreneurial activities (Green & Wise, 2006), (c) the environments that nurture efforts of entrepreneurs (Lordkipanidze, Brezet, & Backman, 2005; Markley, Macke & Luther, 2005), and (d) entrepreneurial processes (Koh, 2006). Within the tourism literature, some studies have focused on the motivations and characteristics of rural entrepreneurs (see for example, Getz & Carlsen, 2000 and 2005; McGehee & Kim, 2004), but few have delved into the environments that nurture rural entrepreneurs. Additionally, studies in tourism development quantify the community elements needed to attract and retain tourists. These elements are sometimes called the tourism "mix" or "package," and refer to the attractions, events, and businesses involved in tourism that incite tourists to visit, stay, spend money, and revisit a destination (Wilson, Fesenmaier, Fesenmaier & van Es, 2001).

This paper merges scholarly research relevant to three areas: tourism supply components (i.e., tourism mix), the entrepreneurial climate of communities (e-climate), and characteristics of tourism entrepreneurs to explore their impact on tourism entrepreneurship. While research has been conducted in each area, the confluence of the three has received limited attention. The research questions investigated in this study relate to each of these areas of influence in rural tourism entrepreneurship within the North Carolina mountain region of the United States, namely, Will a high supply of tourism entrepreneurs will result from: 1) a broad tourism mix (or package), 2) a supportive entrepreneurial climate, and 3) residents possessing entrepreneurial traits.

Tourism Mix Components

Scholars have studied tourism from a supply perspective for several decades. Jafari (1983) provided a strong foundation for framing thoughts about tourism supply components. Components of tourism supply, also called the tourism mix, include natural and cultural resources, destination management, infrastructure, and tourism-related businesses such as transportation, lodging, dining and visitor services. …