Date of Award

8-1997

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

History

Major Professor

James C. Cobb

Committee Members

Paul H. Bergeron, Bruce Wheeler, Charles Aiken

Abstract

Focusing on Buncombe County, North Carolina, Blount County, Tennessee, and Sevier County, Tennessee as representative resort areas in the mountain South, this study recognizes tourism as a central factor in the historical development of the region's cultural identity, economy, and landscape. In studying the variant development patterns of resort communities in the southern highlands, it is apparent that tourism has simultaneously produced both continuity and change as well as positive and negative consequences. On the one hand, tourism has often served as a source of economic, cultural, and environmental preservation. Tourism has helped to maintained cultural distinctiveness, historical identity, and a sense of place in the mountain South. Likewise, tourism has also sustained many of the economic qualities traditionally associated with the region, including a dependency on external capital, uneven distribution of economic benefits, an unorganized labor force, and seasonal employment patterns. Moreover, since scenic beauty and healthy climate have long been a main attraction for tourists, tourism has often provided the economic rationale for the protection of the environment.

On the other hand, the growth of tourism has also modified many of the qualities traditionally associated with the region. Considering the environmental changes brought by rapid commercial development and second home construction, or the cultural adaptations induced by contrived attractions and interactions between visitors and local residents in a tourist setting, or the employment, revenue, and economic dependence generated by the mass travel industry, it is clear that tourism has been a major source of change in the southern mountains. In many ways tourism has been an important factor in the transformation of the landscape as well as the modernization of the region's culture and economy over the last century. Depending on the context in which it is pursued, tourism can be a healthy, sustainable development strategy that enhances the beauty of the landscape as well as the cultural foundation of the community, or it can hinder economic diversification, mar the scenery, and destroy the sense of community.

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