Date of Award

8-1975

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Geography

Major Professor

Leonard W. Brinkman

Committee Members

John B. Rheder, Sidney B. Jensen, Edwin S. Hammond, James A. Spencer

Abstract

The purpose of this investigation was to determine the significance of actual place-to-place structural and organizational differences within the non-metropolitan tourist-recreation industry of southern Appalachia and to discover how these differences affected the industry's development and growth in selected locations.

Eight countries with statistically important tourist industries were used as case study areas, so that spatial variation or uniformity in the industry's characteristics could be identified and examined. Those counties were: Rabun, Georgia; Graham, North Carolina; Jackson, North Carolina; Swain, North Carolina; Watauga, North Carolina; Clay, Tennessee; Sevier, Tennessee; and Bath, Virginia. Field investigation and subsequent distribution of questionnaires to all known tourist-recreation businesses in each area yielded detailed information about location, location factors, and structure of the industry. Library research and statistical analysis of census data were also necessary to discover economic and demographic trends in these places during the past three decades.

The research revealed that the most important location factors for the industry in southern Appalachia were historical inertia from previous recreational development, and the past inability of these tourist-oriented areas to attract alternative economic activities. In addition, in only two of the case study areas has the growth of corporate franchises or chains been a significant development trend. For most of southern Appalachia, the tourist-recreation industry is composed of small, family-operated businesses. Labor turnover rates are high because of seasonality and inadequate wages, and operators are generally untrained and inexperienced in the tourist-oriented business sector. These characteristics varied in importance among the case study areas, but for all counties except Watauga, Sevier, and Bath, the tourist-recreation industry has been unable to stimulate economic growth significantly. The industry's relative importance in most of these counties has recently declined because of improving accessibility through highway construction and the resulting attraction of manufacturing and other economic activities.

Several recommendations are offered which could help maximize the economic impact of the tourist-recreation industry in the case study counties as well as southern Appalachia in general. The industry's future contribution to the region is also predicted.

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