Tourism and Fringe Communities

Fringe communities have received little attention in the tourism literature, with the exception of a handful of studies (e.g. Weaver and Lawton, 2001; Weaver and Lawton, 2004; Timothy, 2005; Weaver, 2005; Zhang et al., 2006; Zhang, 2008; Koster et al., 2010). Weaver and Lawton (2001), one of the first substantial works related to the topic, examined resident perceptions of tourism and found differences between long-term residents and newer arrivals, where newer arrivals tended to support and/or work in the tourism sector. Of importance, they noted that, ‘length of residence per se does not associate with perception, but is mediated by such factors as the reason for relocating to the community (such as lifestyle choice vs. employment) and the ability to adapt to tourism-induced changes within the community’ (p. 442). Zhang (2008) also examined resident attitudes and found that while overall perceptions of tourism in the fringe community were positive, there were differences in perception based on individual personality factors and community segment profiles, including support for Weaver and Lawton’s (2001) finding that newer residents tended to more positively perceive tourism than long-term residents. Weaver and Lawton (2004) examined visitor attitudes towards tourism development in a fringe community where they found varying degrees of support that differed by respondent characteristics and trip characteristics. While they found most to be positive towards tourism, it was generally with the caveat that they did not want to see further development that would compromise the natural resources of the area; however, as the authors noted, that is a problematic notion in fringe areas where growth and development are inevitable, which raises concerns for how the delicate balance of urban and rural might be maintained. This idea was also reiterated by Timothy (2005) in his exploration of North American fringe tourism, and Weaver and Lawton (2008) in a study looking at a US National Park in the exurban fringe of a major urban centre.

Finally, Weaver (2005) explored fringe communities in the US and suggested that exurban tourism is a distinct product where the landscape is vital to the success of tourism and the market is characterized largely as day-trippers/excursionists (where some individuals are not technically tourists because they are from nearby urban areas or they are tourists who are still staying in accommodation in urban areas). Conflict and tension are often high in fringe communities because of the quick progression of these areas along the destination lifecycle curve, rapid development and poor planning (Weaver and Lawton, 2004).

With the exception of Weaver (2005) and Weaver and Lawton (2008), most research draws on data from other national contexts. The importance of this was raised by Zhang et al. (2006) who noted that fringe areas are markedly different between countries as population density, land ownership and other factors that can influence the way in which these landscapes are developed. The current study contributes to the paucity of tourism research conducted on fringe communities in the US. Also building on the work that looked at perceptions of tourism in fringe communities (e.g. Weaver and Lawton, 2001; Weaver and Lawton, 2004; Zhang, 2008), differing perceptions between socio-demographic variables towards entrepreneurship (Kline et al., 2012) and other resident attitudes towards tourism studies, this study expands on the literature by using variables such as generation, race, educational background, type of employment, household income, whether they live or work in the county, their location in the rural or urban part of the county and length of residency to look at differences in view of community identity and quality of life.

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